Tenderfoot in Montana
Reminiscences of the Gold Rush, the Vigilantes, and the Birth of Montana Territory

by Francis M. Thompson
and Kenneth N. Owens

edited by Kenneth N. Owens

published by Montana Historical Society Press

  • Frank Thompson's lively memoir details his experiences in the upper Missouri country at the beginning of the Montana gold rush. A young man at the outset of the Civil War, Thompson supported the Union cause but realized that military life was not for him. Turning to the frontier, he headed west from St. Louis in 1862, arriving aboard the first steamboat ever to reach Fort Benton, in what would later become Montana Territory. Thompson's sojourn was relatively brief—he returned east after only two and a half years. But in that time he hunted for gold, ran a Bannack City mercantile business, traveled to the Pacific Coast and back, served in Montana's first territorial legislature, and became a speculator in mining properties. Thompson also formed a relationship with controversial sheriff Henry Plummer. Thompson knew the sheriff well, but he early stated his dark suspicions about the gold camp lawman. Drawing from his intimate knowledge of the circumstances and players involved, Thompson vividly describes one of the deadliest incidents of vigilante justice in U.S. history. A self-styled tenderfoot, Frank Thompson recalls his days on the mining frontier with clarity and insight, making him an unmatched eyewitness for Montana's formative era.

304 pages, 5.5 x 8.5, 7 b/w photos, 5 illustrations, 2 map(s), index, 40 softcovers per case, Paperback

ISBN 10: 0972152229
ISBN 13: 9780972152228






Tenderfoot in Montana
Reminiscences of the Gold Rush, the Vigilantes, and the Birth of Montana Territory

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A native of Massachusetts, Francis M. Thompson, headed West on a steamboat leaving St. Louis in 1862 after he thought better of joining the Union cause.  Following a failed attempt at placer mining at Gold Creek, Thompson opened a general store in Bannack and a sawmill near Virginia City. It was in these gold camps that Thompson became a reluctant member of Henry Plummer's wedding party and eventual executor of his estate. At the same time, he maintained a close friendship with Wilbur Fisk Sanders, "the acknowledged leader" of the vigilante movement. He lobbied for the creation of Montana Territory in 1864, and following the organization of the territory by his friend, territorial governor Sidney Edgerton, gained a seat in the upper house of the territory's legislative assembly.

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).  Owens is also the editor of , 1862-1863 by Edwin Ruthven Purple (Montana Historical Society Press, 1995. He is currently professor of history and director of the Capital Campus Public History Program at California State University, Sacramento.

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