The Story Of Outlaw Clubfoot George Lane Might Be One Of Montana's Weirdest Tales
We’re no stranger to weird places and odd stories here in Montana — after all, we’re home to the remains of the
world’s largest steer. However, it’s especially odd that we have the remains of some deformed foot bones sitting in a museum in Virginia City. They belong to Clubfoot George Lane, a mysterious outlaw from Montana’s early days.
Clubfoot George Lane was a shoemaker by trade.
He was given that rather politically incorrect nickname because of his crippling birth defects. George was born in Massachusetts, eventually making his way west to mine for gold.
George's first brush with crime was in 1862, when a Lewiston, Idaho, rancher accused him and another man of running off horses. He faced a similar charge elsewhere before escaping criminal charges and heading to Montana.
George ended up in Virginia City, working for Dance and Stuwart’s Store mending harnesses and making and repairing boots.
It wasn't long before George connected to Henry Plummer’s gang of Innocents, one of the most notorious crime rings in Montana's settler days.
George came under suspicion when he rode to Bannack and informed Henry Plummer of a trial taking place in Nevada City. Plummer wasn't there at the time.
The next month, the Vigilance Committee met and accused George of being a spy for the outlaw gang, the Innocents.
On January 14, 1864, he was arrested at his place of employment for being a road agent, thief, and an accessory to robberies and murders. George swore he was innocent, and despite a lack of evidence, he was arrested.
George had quite a few people who believed in his innocence, but he was still found guilty at his trial.
George was sentenced to be hanged. At his execution, he spied a friend, called out, "Goodbye, old fellow, I’m gone!" and jumped off the box without waiting for it to be removed.
About 43 years later, some locals became curious about what was in each unmarked grave of the men who had been executed when George was. In 1907, a former vigilante claimed he knew the order of the graves and which one was Club Foot George’s.
To prove his point, the city dug up the grave and found George's deformed foot bones. For some reason, they were then placed in a cabinet in the courthouse. And today they are here, at the Thompson Hickman Museum in Virginia City.
So, was George a criminal, or just someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time? And why is his foot in a museum? We’ll never know for sure.
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Virginia City, MT 59729, USA