began as usual for George Ferguson on May 23, 1886.
He awoke and arrived at the livery stable at Glendale, where
hitched his two horses to a stage coach. He
loaded his passengers and luggage, and proceeded
to Melrose. There, his passengers disembarked and he
greeted his new
customers seeking transportation on the return portion of George’s
trip. Those passengers included Narcisse
tavern owner; Thomas Merchant, a commercial traveler; two young Miller
and one unidentified girl.
The stage departed on time with Mr.
Merchant sitting on the bench beside Ferguson. About
2 miles from Melrose,
they were stunned when a person
appeared in the middle of the road in front of them.
The driver was commanded to stop and
immediately a shot was fired from the bandit’s shotgun.
George fell forward and he was returned to
seat by his passenger. Mr. Merchant then
noticed that the gun had been turned on him, but it failed to deliver
life threatening round. He then sped the
team, coach and passengers to Glendale,
with the near lifeless George Ferguson at his side.
They arrived in front of Ed Alward’s Pharmacy
and the victim was removed to the inside, where he was pronounced as no
alive. Merchant immediately offered a
$25 reward for information leading to the capture of the brutal
that reward amount eventually grew to a sizable $700.
In less than an hour, a posse was
formed to find the killer. Dr. Jones,
J.B. Losee, James Bateman and A.L. Pickett were a few of the highly
citizens, whom were part of the group. The
group searched throughout the night with hopes
of finding the
assailant that took the life of one of Glendale’s
citizens. They scoured the area from Trapper Creek to Birch Creek, and
the next morning with a couple of masks and a double barrel shotgun,
found near the scene of the crime.
The search continued and a tipster
reported the sighting of two suspicious men in the Frying Pan basin. The posse’s efforts began to focus in that
region. It was
learned that the two had helped themselves to food from one of the
the area before eluding their followers. The
murderer and his partner was tracked to the
Point of Rocks, Twin
Bridges, through Pipestone Pass and into Silver Bow
County. Sheriff Sullivan of Butte
Sheriff Jones of Beaverhead
that the two had
been captured and were being held in jail until they could be sent to
Dillon. Jones immediately traveled to Butte,
two and decided that they were not the pair in question.
They were released.
With the help of a witness in the
case, the Beaverhead County law man then arrested Thomas Harding
still in Butte. He was questioned and then taken to be
imprisoned in the Dillon jail. A
preliminary hearing was scheduled to present the circumstantial
against Harding, evidence that would show jurors that it is quite
he pulled the trigger.
The proceedings at the county Court
House were presided by Justice Schmalhausen, of Glendale. W.S.
Barbour, a Dillon attorney conducted the
examinations of the
witnesses for the Territory
of Montana, while
defendant, without counsel, represented himself. The
evidence was presented and it was decided
that there was enough to send the man and the case against him to trial. Harding maintained his innocence and stated
that he was mining during the time that the brutal attack occurred. Justice Schmalhausen concluded that there was
reason to hold Harding without bail and wait for the action of the
Before a trial of his peers, Thomas
Harding was convicted of the crimes charged against him and sentenced
death. March 25, 1887 was his last day
to live. Up until the last minutes
before his appointment with the hangman, Harding’s counsel, Mr. Duffy,
convince the governor of the Territory to save the man’s life, but
success. Harding was served his last
breakfast at 9:00 A.M. and was then taken to the barber shop for his
shave. At 2:30 P.M., the convicted
Harding was removed from his cell and taken to gallows.
His final remarks were ones of
innocence. He was then hung and when his
body was completely lifeless, it was cut down and buried in the local
George Ferguson was buried in the Glendale Cemetery. His
head stone still stands in tribute as a
memory of a life which was taken before his time.
to Historical Happenings.