Historical Happenings
Glendale, Montana



DRY GULCHED
AT TRAPPER CROSSING,
STAGE HELD UP AND DRIVER SHOT




          The day began as usual for George Ferguson on May 23, 1886.  He awoke and arrived at the livery stable at Glendale, where he hitched his two horses to a stage coach.  He loaded his passengers and luggage, and proceeded to Melrose.  There, his passengers disembarked and he warmly greeted his new customers seeking transportation on the return portion of George’s round trip.  Those passengers included Narcisse Ledoux, Glendale tavern owner; Thomas Merchant, a commercial traveler; two young Miller girls 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 another 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 longer alive.  Merchant immediately offered a $25 reward for information leading to the capture of the brutal attacker, and 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 respected 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 returned the next morning with a couple of masks and a double barrel shotgun, which were 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 cabins in 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 notified Sheriff Jones of Beaverhead County that the two had been captured and were being held in jail until they could be sent to Dillon.  Jones immediately traveled to Butte, interviewed the 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 while 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 evidence against Harding, evidence that would show jurors that it is quite probable that 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 the 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 grand jury.

            Before a trial of his peers, Thomas Harding was convicted of the crimes charged against him and sentenced to 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, tried to convince the governor of the Territory to save the man’s life, but without success.  Harding was served his last breakfast at 9:00 A.M. and was then taken to the barber shop for his last 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 cemetery.

            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.




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