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56 Counties: The Vigilance Committee

Henry Plummer (left)

In 1864, when Idaho was declared a territory, Congress adjourned before allotting any funds or assigning any authorities to oversee the territory. Soon after that, a gold rush on Alder Creek near Dillon brought a huge rush of people into the region, many with questionable backgrounds. The lawlessness that pervaded this new territory led to a movement among the locals to take the law into their own hands, eventually leading to the hanging of the local sheriff, Henry Plummer, and two of his deputies. An account of the events of this period was published just a couple of years later by Thomas Dinsdale, the editor of the local newspaper, the Montana Post. But much of Dimsdale’s account has come under question in the decades since the vigilantes were immortalized in his book, The Vigilantes of Montana. For this episode, I explore some of these events in more detail, with some surprising twists.

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