Perilous Passage
A Narrative Of The Montana Gold Rush, 1862-1863

by Edwin Ruthven Purple
and Kenneth N. Owens

edited by Kenneth N. Owens

published by Montana Historical Society Press

  • In 1862 Edwin Ruthven Purple seized the chance to strike it rich in the newly discovered goldfields of the northern Rocky Mountains. With an introduction and thorough annotations by Kenneth N. Owens, Perilous Passage offers Purple's never-before-published, first-person narrative. On hand for the crimes that led to vigilante justice, Purple chronicled the story of a raucous, sometimes murderous life among bonanza miners.

215 pages, 5.5 x 8.5, 28 b/w photos, 16 illustrations, 1 map(s), index, 42 softcovers per case, Paperback

ISBN 10: 0917298373
ISBN 13: 9780917298370


    During his time spent in and around the gold fields, Purple encountered the trials and exhilarations of the trail and a lawless, wide-open mining frontier, replete with wanton murder and vigilante Justice. Purple's accounts include the election of Henry Plummer as sheriff of Bannack City, Plummer's murder of Jack Cleveland, and the rising tensions in the gold camp just a few months before Plummer and more than twenty others were hanged by vigilantes.





Perilous Passage
A Narrative Of The Montana Gold Rush, 1862-1863

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Edwin Ruthven Purple was a native New Yorker who joined the California gold rush in 1850 and spent nearly a decade in an unsuccessful quest for wealth in the mining camps and boomtowns of northern California's Mother Lode region.  In 1861, after a  brief sojourn at Fort Yuma, California, Purple moved to Salt Lake City where he managed the local office of the Butterfield Overland Mail Company. The following spring, reports of gold in the High Rocky Mountains enticed Ed Purple to cancel other plans and organize a wagon train expedition to search for rich diggings.  After some furtive meanderings around south western Montana, Purple eventually landed in Bannack City in the winter of 1862. There he became a firsthand observer of Bannack's development during its boom era, a period of high expectations, reckless living, and intense social turmoil.

With a career-long interest in Montana's early political and legal history, Kenneth N. Owens has written extensively about territorial government and politics in the New Northwest.  Among other works, Owens has edited an essay collection, John Sutter and a Wider West (1994), and The Wreck of Sv. Nikolai (1985).  He is currently professor of history and director of the Capital Campus Public History Program at California State University, Sacramento.

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