Montana January 12, 2018
This County In Montana Was One Of The Most Dangerous Places In The Nation In The 1860s
Beaverhead County sits in the southwest corner of the state — but despite being Montana’s largest county, it’s also one of the least populated. And it happens to be home to Bannack State Park, one of our earliest settlements and first territorial capital.
These days, Bannack is a peaceful ghost town that is well-maintained and fun to tour. But in the 1860s, it was a very dangerous place to be.
Bannack was settled in 1862 after a major gold discovery.
At its peak, the population here was about 10,000. This remote area was connected to the world only by the Montana Trail.
In 1863, a man named William Henry Plummer was elected sheriff.
Henry (as he was called) had been accused of some crimes over the years, but they were committed in self-defense... for example, he killed a man who was abusing his wife and threatening Henry.
In 1863, the rate of robberies and murders in and around Alder Gulch increased significantly, and the citizens of Virginia City and Bannack grew increasingly suspicious of Sheriff Henry Plummer.
The robberies and murders were traced to a road gang called the "Innocents," and people began to wonder if Henry was secretly leading them.
On January 10, 1864, a group of 50 men went to find Henry and his two main deputies, Buck Stinson and Ned Ray.
The men were part of a group of vigilantes who were tired of all the crime. Henry was hung by the vigilantes without ever receiving a trial. The other two deputies were also executed.
To this day, no one knows for sure if Henry Plummer was guilty of the crimes he was accused of.
While he certainly had the means to do it (the office of sheriff was the perfect cover for operating an effective and deadly criminal ring), it is also possible that he was not involved with the Innocents and just had a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The vigilantes who hung Henry went on to hang the rest of the Road Agents that they could locate, and eventually, the crime rates dropped.
However, the vigilantes then became the bullies, lynching many more people over the next several years and terrorizing the community until 1867, when the local miners finally warned the vigilantes not to hang any more people or the citizens would retaliate.
Needless to say, Montana is a much safer place now. In fact, this story makes our
list of most dangerous cities seem very tame.