Vigilante Days and Ways.  In the last installment we were introduced to Boone Helm, “one of those hideous monsters of depravity” who escaped justice after his brother “Tex” bought off witnesses and spirited him away from Florence. We also learned the fate of notorious outlaw Charley Harper – “the meanest scoundrel of their gang” – who met his demise at the end of rope after beating a barmaid, chased, caught and hung by indignant bystanders. And finally, Langford related the instance of a couple of Florence vigilantes, hearing about the return of a gang member named Fat Jack, shooting through the door of a citizen who had given him shelter from a storm, killing both men inside before disappearing into the night, never to be caught. The reputation of the newly formed Vigilante Committee of Florence is tarnished. In this long and wonderfully detailed chapter, Langford uses the stories of two men, gamblers with opposing views about the Civil War taking advantage of the lawlessness of the mining towns, to illustrate the reasons citizens felt compelled to seek their own justice. The legal systems – including the sheriff and juries – were often corrupt and ineffectual.

Old West saloon, Carson City, NV, 1900. Saloon owners sometimes diluted their good liquor by adding ingredients such as turpentine and ammonia and giving the new mix names such as Tarantula Juice and Coffin Varnish.

Chapter XV: Pinkham and Patterson  No two men filled a broader space in the early history of the Florence mines than Pinkham and Patterson. Their personal characteristics gave them a wide-spread notoriety, and a sort of local popularity, which each enjoyed in his separate sphere.

…They were both gamblers, and lived the free and easy life of that pursuit; a pursuit which, in a new mining camp, next to that of absolute ruffianism, enabled its votaries to exercise a power as unlimited as it is generally lawless and insurrectionary. Indeed, there, it is the master vice, which gives life and support to all the other vices, and that surrounds and hedges them in.

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About the author

Rebecca Wallick

Rebecca is a freelance writer and publisher living near McCall, Idaho. A Seattle native and recovering attorney, she much prefers the quiet, slow pace, and distinct seasons of the West Central Mountains, enjoying the skiing, hiking and running opportunities provided by the nearby Payette National Forest. Rebecca is a Contributing Editor with Bark magazine, and the author of Growing Up Boeing: The Early Jet Age Through the Eyes of a Test Pilot’s Daughter (Feb 2014).

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