The Vigilante movement began in the winter of 1863 in Alder Gulch. While thousands came to the fields to mine gold others came with them who had other ideas for making money. Gamblers, dance-hall girls, and crooks flooded into the area with the miners. While every part of the west had its share of criminals, Alder Gulch had someone to organize them in the personage of Henry Plummer. A smooth, shrewd con man with a rap sheet going back 10 years, Plummer arrived in Bannack in the winter of ‘62-’63. By spring, he had conned everyone and was wearing the sheriff’s badge. Now in control of the law, he began to organize the criminal elements into a cohesive unit that terrorized the thousands in the area.
After suffering through a year of Mr. Plummer’s reign, the honest miners took matters into their own hands. A three-day trial in Nevada City claimed its first “Road Agent,” and George Ives was hanged, and the Montana Vigilantes were formed. During the next two months, the Vigilantes cleaned up the area. The nucleus of the Plummer gang was either hanged or banished and the consummate conman finished his reign at the end of a noose.