by James Griffith
In 1863, the weapons one carried, determined the validity of law. With almost nonexistent law enforcement, the law was what men made it. Men and women found that traveling the Bannack Trail, from Salt Lake City, Utah to Bannack, and Virginia City, Montana required courage. They did not realize the amount of fortitude required until ruthless highwaymen waylaid them, taking everything they had, including their lives. Stage lines and freighting outfits had many problems, including unruly Indians. Most dangerous were highwaymen, spurred by greed and big profits in the gold they carried from Bannack and Virginia City, to civilization.
The town of Bannack Montana with a gold strike on Grasshopper Creek, and southeast of Bannack was the Alder Gulch gold strike, known as Virginia City, both towns Just over the border of Idaho. Thirty million dollars in gold came from Alder Gulch in three years the value of gold at the time was fourteen dollars per ounce. The highwaymen had a large and heavy problem. Fifty thousand dollars in gold was a common amount for their effort. That much gold weighed in at over one hundred seventy pounds. Their common tactic was to bury the gold, make their getaway, than come back later to retrieve the gold. If caught, Highwaymen knew a trial and court was at the nearest hanging tree. Bandit’s doubts about their future were firm, right and wrong had no play in their vocabulary. It was kill or be killed and they murdered without thought.
Some captured highwaymen bartered their way to a lesser sentence if they revealed where the treasure was and no one killed. Others, so terrified of the vigilantes, left the territory never returning for their plunder. The rest were either hung or shot, and took their secret with them to a shallow unmarked grave. In Idaho, there are at least ten gold caches, buried by highwaymen, and have never been found, except for possibly one. This is a story about the one, stolen by Jim Kelly and Charlie Small, incorporating the violence, evils, misfortunes, and hardships of the men and women in this tale.
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