Author: Llewellyn Link Callaway
Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
This is the story of Montana Territory in the last half of the nineteenth century, when a massive influx of gold seekers brought murderers and robbers into the region and forced the creation of an organization of law-abiding citizens known as the Vigilantes. Led by Captain James Williams, the Vigilantes sought to stop the blatant activities of more than fifty road agents in the Bannack-Virginia City mining area, who were secretly directed and protected by a local sheriff, Henry Plummer. The first instance of taking the law into their own hands occurred when an impromptu group of men captured, tried, and hanged one notorious killer, George Ives. Thereafter, with public approval, the Vigilantes continued to ride across the land, bringing swift retribution to all wrongdoers. Lew L. Callaway, who grew up knowing Captain Williams as a friend to his father, herein recounts the stories of such famous episodes as the trial of Ives and the controversial capture and hanging of Joseph A. Slade, who was carrying the severed ears of one of his victims in his pocket on the day he was hanged. More than a history of the bloody era that spawned the Vigilantes, this is the story of life in Montana Territory, of gold fever, Indian warfare, and the cattle empire that ended, along with Captain Williams’s life, in the disastrous winter of 1887.