Legendary Lawman Henry Plummer

What is most interesting about this man is that his life has been more thoroughly examined in the late 20th Century than it was just following his death.


Some said that Plummer’s election had the opposite reaction intended. They claim that the crime rate in Bannack increased markedly after Plummer took office and that more than 100 citizens were murdered in the following months. Plummer’s deputies were commonly called the “Innocents”. Some citizens in Bannack, Virginia City and nearby Nevada City formed the Vigilante Committee (aka Montana Vigilantes) to “investigate” the increase in crime. If this was the case or that there intent was to run Plummer out of office, we will never know.  Shortly thereafter, suspected outlaws began getting late night visits from masked men. Posters began showing up around town with a skull-and-crossbones and the “mystic numbers” 3-7-77. There are so many theories regarding these numbers I don’t have space to investigate them here.

When the vigilantes got around to hanging twenty-four men, Plummer spoke out that they were all denied due process. When one of the accused fingered Henry Plummer as the gang leader it was all they needed to go after him. Vigilantes decided that Plummer was in fact the gang leader (without trial) and on January 10, 1864 some seventy-five men hung Henry Plummer and two of his deputies, Buck Stinson and Ned Ray, from the very gallows that had been erected by Plummer. Several accounts claim that the men were not hung with the knot to the side and dropped which was the custom to produce a quick and painless death, but with the knot to the back and hoisted, thereby causing a long, slow, suffocation.

Some three years after Plummer’s execution, the Vigilantes virtually ruled all the mining districts. There was no concrete evidence that Plummer had commited any crime in Bannack and several citizens, including the Territorial Governor, Thomas Meagher, would speak out against the Vigilantes. Some even claimed that the committee perpetrated the crime spree themselves.

Finally, on May 7, 1993 - Sheriff Henry Plummer received his trial. The Twin Bridges Public School District requested a posthumous trial. Presided over by Judge Barbara Brook, the 12 registered voters who made up the jury were split on the verdict 6-6. The mistrial would have resulted in Sheriff Henry Plummer being released as a free man. For a man who isn’t that well known, I’ve run into dozens of texts regarding the events surrounding his life. If you’re interested in further discovery on this subject try Google and be prepared to sift through an enormous amount of information.

 

About The Author:

Charles Bennett was born in our Nation's Capital and grew up in the Maryland suburbs. Mr. Bennett has been working in all aspects of the publishing industry since the late 1980s primarily in the fields of commercial photography and magazine production. Moving to California in 1992 to attend college resulted in B.F.A and Masters degrees. California also supplied Mr. Bennett with his wife. The two of them are avid sports persons and participate in shooting, scuba diving, surfing, running and bicycling. As a long time hobby Mr. Bennett has studied the legends of American law enforcement which led to his writing these columns.

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