Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Vigilante Hanging

Nevada City and the surrounding area, which included Virginia City, got their start when gold was discovered in Adler Gulch in 1863.

Nevada City was apart of Idaho Territory, until 1865, when it became the capital of Montana.

At this time, there was no law enforcement in the area—there was only a “miners court.”

Plummer Gang
robbing stagecoach.
So when George Ives, a member of the Plummer Gang * murdered a young Dutchman by the name of Nicholas Tibalt, in cold blood, it was vigilantes that responded.

Tibalt had been given gold by his employers, Burtchy and Clark, to buy mules. On his return trip, he was murdered, and the remaining gold and mules were stolen.

Ten days later, the body of Tibalt was brought back to Nevada City in a wagon. Ives, as he arrived in Virginia City, with the mules, had openly bragged, “the Dutchman would never trouble anybody again.”

Hearing about Ives’ boast, twenty-five men rode out to capture him. He was returned to Nevada City and put on trial. This proceeding, held outdoors, lasted three days as 2,000 area residents watched.

During his trial Ives’ “criminal friends”—including Sheriff Plummer of Virginia City-- tried to help him by planning his escape by intimidating witnesses—but neither worked.

Henry Plummer
Sheriff Plummer never arrived to lead the gang’s plan to help Ives, for he stayed away hearing vigilantes were looking for them, and the escape plan was thwarted because vigilante guards with loaded shotguns guarded Ives.

The miner’s court convicted Ives of the charges, and quickly arranged his hanging. A forty-foot pole was run through the window of an unfinished house, and a rope was draped over it.

Just fifty-eight minutes after he was found guilty, George Ives was hanged. He was buried next to his victim Tibalt—it was believed at the time that this would let Tibalt know his death had been avenged.

Outdoor museum Nevada City
Shortly after Ives’ hanging—the infamous Montana Vigilantes group was formed. Within the first month, twenty-four men found guilty by the vigilantes were hanged. Most of these men were apart of the Plummer Gang.

Just six years later, in 1869, the gold boom in Alder Gulch had ended, only a hundred people remained. By 1872, Nevada City was a ghost town.

During its heyday the placer mines of Alder Gulch yielded over thirty-five million dollars in gold.

By the early 1920s, many of the buildings in Nevada City had been destroyed.

In the 1950s a couple, Charles and Sue Bovey who collected Old Montana buildings bought Nevada City, and started to place other historic frontier buildings along the back streets of this ghost town.

They were careful to keep the original layout of the city intact.

In 1997, the State of Montana purchased the town. Today the Montana Heritage Commission runs Nevada City, as an outdoor museum. The last of the ninety historic buildings were placed on the site in 1978.

One hundred and fifty years after George Ives was hanged, three employees of the Montana Heritage Commission, Dan Thyer, Bill Peterson, and John Ellingsen were doing a research project at the site.

Historic Marker
Peterson took a photograph of Thyer and Ellingsen standing next to a historical marker that shows the spot where Ives was hanged.

When this photo was uploaded to a computer, the two men were not even in the shot. Instead, there is a mysterious, transparent figure of a man, who the three did not recognize.

They concluded this must be the ghost of George Ives.

The mysterious photo that was taken.
In the following short video Dan Thyer discusses the history of the Ives hanging, plus there is a clear shot of the mysterious figure that Peterson captured in the photograph.

* The Plummer Gang were Road Agents or highwaymen led by Sheriff Plummer. This was during the Civil War, and many wounded soldiers from both the North and South landed in Montana Territory. This made for a hostile atmosphere.

In May of 1864 Montana Territory was created by an Act of Congress and signed by President Abraham Lincoln. This insured Alder Gulch was under the jurisdiction of the United States—or the North.

The “vigilantes” were former wounded Northern soldiers who were there to ensure none of the 30 million dollars in gold mined in the Gulch in just 3 years from 1863 to 1866 reached the South.

So these vigilantes in remote Montana actually played a role in the outcome of the Civil War.

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