Living History Days in Bannack, Montana- Part 2

During Living History Days, past residents of Bannack, prominent and ordinary, famous and infamous, are portrayed by volunteers of the Bannack Association.

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After panning for gold with miners on the creek we went to see doctor Glick, who operated on a wounded prospector in front of his office. He extracted a long Indian arrow from the prospector’s leg. The doctor’s office was located in an unpretentious log cabin, which had a sign next to the door “The doctor is in.” The door to the office was opened all the time due to frequent visitors. Doctor Glick welcomed us and introduced himself as a graduate of McDowell medical school. The doctor had grey hair, a mustache, attentive gray eyes, round spectacles, and a coarse, rasping voice. He told us that he is the only practicing doctor in Bannack because his colleague, another doctor, is panning for gold in the creek. He also told us that he treats everything from headache to cholera, to rheumatism, to diarrhea, and an occasional lead poisoning. He probably meant shot gun wounds. While talking with us he prepared a few pills made of mercury and a few ones made of opium to treat different ailments. He also told us that he takes care of sanitation in Bannack, especially drinking water and the personal hygiene of miners to prevent epidemics. He also told us that he charges $10 in gold per visit and he doesn’t take any healthcare insurance. He warned that if we don’t have any gold we would have to go to the creek and fetch it.

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After this remarkable introduction he invited me to take a seat in front of him and asked me about my health. While I was trying to come up with some ideas, a teenage boy came into the office. The boy looked distressed and nursed his right arm, which looked pretty awkward. The boy told the doctor that a horse ran him over. The doctor gave all of his attention to the injured boy. He helped him to lie down on a bed and carefully pulled his dislocated arm to fix it. The boy bravely underwent a painful treatment and a few minutes later he was back on his feet.
Then the doctor invited my husband to talk about his health and receive a treatment. Dr. Glick offered my husband a health plan to treat headache. First, he offered him to take a trip to the creek and get some bark from cottonwood trees, grind the bark into a powder, and make a tea with it. My husband was to drink such tea twice a day. If this didn’t help the doctor would prescribe opium pills. The last alternative treatment would be drilling a hole in my husband’s head to release the pressure from his brain. At this point I was about to run away from his office and my husband’s headache had miraculously disappeared.
“Do you have any other complaints, such as joint pain or back pain?” asked the doctor in his raspy voice, looking inquisitively over his spectacles. My husband admitted that he has a back pain occasionally. “Well, go to the creek and get some bark from a cottonwood tree, grind it, infuse it with a cup of hot water and drink two times a day,” the doctor continued enthusiastically. “You can also make a mustard patch by spreading mustard on a damp cloth and wrap it around your back.”

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There were other visitors who were waiting to talk to the doctor. We thanked Dr. Glick and walked around his house to see other rooms. The house was very neat and clean. Walls were covered with floral print or white wallpaper. There were a few paintings on the walls. The wooden furniture became dark with age. A headboard of a bed and a wooden desk were inlaid with carvings. There were a few books on a desk and a few kerosene lamps on the desk, on a table, and on the nightstand. Beautiful vases and fine china were displayed in a cupboard and one large vase with a floral pattern was on a dinner table, which was covered with white tablecloth. In the middle of the back room there was an old fashioned stove. Pots, pans, kitchen utensils and household tools echoed the time of the gold rush in Montana in the 1860s.

 

When Henry Plummer, a notorious outlaw, was elected sheriff of Bannack in May 1863, he and his gang members committed multiple highway robberies and murders. During their criminal pursuits some of them were shot. Dr. Glick, under threats of murder, was summoned by Plummer to treat their wounds and extract bullets. He also had to treat Henry Plummer, when he was wounded in the arm by Hank Crawford during their shootout. Crawford was the sheriff at that time and Plummer continuously challenged them to a duel in order to shoot him in self-defense. Plummer was an excellent shooter and Crawford had to flee Bannack after the shootout.
Under threats of death, Dr. Glick operated on Plummer’s arm. He could not find a bullet but the operation was a success and Plummer recovered. That saved the life of the doctor, who already had a horse saddled in his backyard to flee the area. Dr. Glick had to keep secrets about treating the outlaws, otherwise he would be murdered. After the execution of Plummer in January 1864, Dr. Glick was free to speak and he confirmed multiple holdups after which he was forced to treat the wounds of Plummer’s gang members.

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We left the doctor’s cabin and went to see a blacksmith at work. A forge was set under a large tent and we watched how the blacksmith worked using his tools and skills. He pumped air into bellows to build a fire. He hammered a red hot metal rod on an anvil to give it the desired shape. Then he shoved the red hot rod into a bucket of cold water, which caused a cloud of hot steam. The dexterity of the blacksmith’s hands and his craftsmanship were accompanied by his stories about the life of miners in Bannack during its heydays of the gold rush.

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He showed us what equipment miners used for mining gold. He had to fix it often. He also told us that he shoed horses but it was a dangerous business. Eventually two guys who owned the stables took over this business. Apart from being an active member of the Bannack Association, the blacksmith told us that he is an owner of a large ranch in Montana. He also hosted an international meet up of cattle ranchers on his property. There was a smaller tent next to the forge. It had two beds, a furnace, and basic furniture inside.

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One of the most impressive and well preserved buildings in Bannack is the Masonic Lodge and School House. The school is on the first floor and the Masonic Lodge is on the second floor. The school was built in 1874 by free Masons of Bannack Masonic Lodge # 16. Before that children were taught in the living room of the log cabin, where Chief Justice Edgerton and his large family lived. Edgerton’s niece, Lucia Darling, began teaching in the fall of 1863 and was the first teacher in Bannack. Later, in 1864 the school moved into another log building because the number of students increased. The school accepted children from K to 8th grade and it stayed open until the early 1940s.
However, the Bannack Historic Masonic Lodge 3-7-77 still has annual meetings and its members from all over the world are active in preserving the history and the buildings of Bannack. The Masonic Lodge has the Masonic emblem, the “square and compass,” at the top of the building under the roof.

Freemasonry is a fraternity which originated in Medieval Europe and England. The members believe in a Supreme Being, recognition of the brotherhood of man, and the Immortality of the soul. These principles of Masons helped them to withstand and fight the corruption and lawlessness, which thrived in the area in the early days of the gold rush, in the 1860s.

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When we entered the school we were welcomed by a teacher, who showed us books that were used for teaching students at that time. Families purchased McGuffey readers to use for the whole family. He also told that in winter snow was blown inside the classroom by the wind in the holes between the boards. We sat for a while at tiny desks in a large bright classroom with a blackboard across the front wall.

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Then we went upstairs to see the Masonic Lodge located on the second floor. The hall was closed but we could see through the glass door some old fashioned furniture inside and symbols of the Masonic order. From the top of the stairs there was an awesome view of the town, two jails, Hotel Meade, Grasshopper creek, and the surrounding hills.

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Our next stop was at a mercantile store which was run by Mr. and Mrs. O’Neal. During the early days this building hosted an assay office, where minerals, discovered by miners were appraised for its gold and silver content. There was also Mr. Oliver’s stagecoach station in this building at one time.

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When we entered the door of the mercantile store we were greeted by Mrs. O’Neal. She told us that she and Mr. O’Neal bring merchandise to Bannack on a wagon train in the spring, when the snow is gone and leave Bannack in the late fall, while the roads are still passable. They charge customers in gold and they don’t take paper money. Their store, in fact, looked like a museum of food and other goodies, used in the 19th century. There were canned and packaged food, toys, candles, soap, yarn, pots and pans, household hardware, grinders, churns, coffee makers, furs and a large collection of rifles, shotguns, and pistols.

The assortment of canned food was impressive: cherries, peaches, strawberries, pumpkin, beets, salmon, herring, oysters, and shrimp, sausage and soups. Cocoa, chocolate and mustard were sold in packages and coffee and different kinds of beans were stored in large wooden barrels. Colorful candy and dry fruit were on display in large glass jars. There were also eggs in boxes, fresh turnips, round yellow squash, fresh apples and black plums on display in large round baskets. Mrs. O’Neal told that they brought these plums from their orchard in Washington State and graciously let us taste it. It was the sweetest plum I’ve ever had.

Mr. O’Neal told us about his extensive collection of guns used during the time of the Civil War. There were mostly “ball and cap” guns. He showed us a very powerful pistol that was able to shoot down a horse. These pistols were used to protect travelers from hostile Indians and road agents.

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At that time we heard a loud announcement that a miner’s court will take place in a few minutes, in front of the former Court House later turned into the Meade Hotel.

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The residents of Bannack, men and women, started gathering on the main street. Men were carrying guns or had their pistols in holsters. We saw some familiar faces: Dr. Glick, his young patient, two miners from the creek, with whom we were panning for gold, the President of the Miners’ Association, Mrs. O’Neal, a school teacher, and a bartender from a saloon. Ladies had a friendly banter and all residents looked excited and concerned discussing the murder of a miner and the forthcoming court proceeding.

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Two armed men escorted a prisoner from the jail to the place where his quilt would be determined. The accused man had his hands tied behind his back. Then, the President of the Miners’ Association announced the beginning of the trial. He announced that the residents who knew something about the murder, the accused, or the victim should go to the left. Then, jurors were selected from the residents on the right, who didn’t know about the murder. Another miner helped the president in his legal duties. Together they questioned all witnesses. One witness said that he saw the accused with a gun snooping around the victim’s house and looking into his windows. Another witness said that he saw the accused and the victim quarreling the day before the murder and that the accused threatened to kill the victim. Still another witness said that he heard gun shots while playing cards with other miners in the saloon. He ran out and was told that the miner, who worked on a claim next to his claim, was shot. This witness was dismissed. Dr. Glick was called to the place of the murder but the poor miner died anyways. Dr. Glick confirmed to the court: “He died indeed!”

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After questioning all six witnesses, all of the residents, who came to see the trial had to vote. They found the accused guilty. The President announced to the accused that he will be hung by the neck tomorrow at noon. The guilty man just grinned unrepentantly, when he heard his verdict and was escorted back to the jail. Before all of the residents of Bannack came back to their daily businesses, they had their picture taken on the stairs of the Meade Hotel.

Volunteers of the Bannack Assosiation
Volunteers of the Bannack Assosiation

To be continued.

Resources used.

Vigilante Days and Ways. Nathaniel Pitt Langford.

https://www.legendsofamerica.com/

 

 

 

3 comments

  1. There’s nothing like reliving history to get a sense of how our forebearers experienced the world. This sounds like a fascinating reenactment of times past. I love the way you weave historical detail into your text. It proves there’s still room for a good narrative in these digital days!

    Liked by 1 person

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