- Written by Marshall Trimble
- Published January 01, 2008
Did citizens lynch criminals in the West?
Yes, “lynch law” was prevalent in sparsely-settled districts, where the government was weak and law officers were too few and too powerless to preserve order. Citizens either became impatient with the legal process, or they considered jails too fragile to contain a prisoner.
In 1864, Henry Plummer, sheriff of Bannock, Montana, organized a gang of cutthroats (including his own deputies) who robbed and murdered at will. Vigilantes lynched 22 of the outlaws, including Plummer and his deputies. Ironically, they hanged the sheriff from his own gallows.