On January 10, 1864 a group of citizens, known as Vigilantes, took the law into their own hands, gathering up then Sheriff Henry Plummer and his two deputies, Buck Stinson and Ned Ray. The three men were marched to the very same gallows that Plummer, himself, had built. First to be hanged was Ned Ray, followed by Buck Stinson. Plummer, the supposed leader of the Road Agents, was the final one to be hanged on that could windy day in January.
Some people now wonder if Plummer was innocent. In 1993 he was given a posthumous trial, which led to a mistrial. The jury was split 6 to 6. His wife Electa had heard of his death through a letter, and she always maintained he was innocent of the crimes he was hung for.
Many claim the criminal activity decreased after the hanging of Plummer. But some accounts say that robberies went up and were more organized than before. Many believe the whole thing was a cover up story, to hide the lawlessness in the Montana Territory. Many believed the acts of the Vigilantes themselves, the tactics and activities, that they used to get information out of people, were just as ruthless as the criminals they had sworn to stop. When a preacher's son by the name of Bill Hunter expressed outrage over the Vigilantes, by calling them "stranglers", his frozen body was later found dangling from the limb of a cotton wood tree. In March of 1867 fed up miners issued their own warning that if Vigilantes hanged any more people, the "law abiding citizens" would retaliate "five for one". A few more lynchings did occur but the time of the Vigilantes was at an end.
Come out to Bannack State Park on January the 11, 2020 at 2P.M. and decide for yourself. The Just-Us Old West Reenactors will perform the piece titled "Men Do Your Duty" , directed by Stan Smith. This reenactment will be performed on the same site, where the hangings took place one hundred and fifty-five years ago.