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On This Date in Montana--February 21, 1863

Montana’s first civil suit was filed in Missoula by Tin-Cup Joe. Seems that Tin-Cup and his Indian wife asked “Baron” Cornelius O’Keefe if he and his wife could spend the night. The Baron and his brother David were just leaving to find Captain Mullen at his camp east of the Missoula Valley. They Told Tin-Cup he could stay, but to keep his horse out of the seed oats. Seems the O’Keefe brothers had raised a prize crop of oats the year before and had saved the seed in hopes of an even better crop the next year. When they returned from their journey, there was Tin-Cup’s horse feasting on the oat seeds. The Baron went into a rage and frightened the horse so much that it stumbled into a root cellar and died. Tin-Cup and his wife barely escaped with their lives.

Tin-Cup told a fellow named Frank Woody about his experience. Woody said “file suit!” He did. Tin-Cup and the Baron faced off in front of one Judge Brooks. Frank Woody represented Tin-Cup and the Baron represented himself. When he came up to the bench, the Baron demanded the judge tell him by whose authority he was judging. The judge pulled a pack of cards from his pocket and told the Baron that these were his credentials. The judge then asked how the Baron suddenly became a lawyer. If credentials were so important, what credentials did the Baron have? The Baron punched the judge between the eyes and replied, “These are my credentials!” Pandemonium ensued and the judge ran for his life. Later, he fined the Baron $40. No one had the courage to approach the Baron for the money, Since there was no sheriff to do the court’s bidding, the money was never paid.

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