At Rest in Boot Hill
There's something about an historic
cemetery that intrigues and beckons me.
So, during a recent visit to Virginia City, Montana, I made my
way up the hill
to take a look at the five marked crosses. The story goes something
In the late 1800s, Virginia City flourished as one of the richest
mining discoveries in the world, yielding more than $2.5 billion
in gold by
It seemed inevitable that into this
major gold strike armed robbers would soon
be drawn. Even the town's sheriff, Henry Plummer, was tempted
corruption. Taking the law into their own hands, a group of vigilantes
in 1863, and in Kiskadden's Store on Wallace Street they took
Oath for the "...laudable purpose of arresting thieves and
recovering stolen property."
For two months the Vigilantes took
the law into their own hands. Among those
accused and hanged, without the benefit of a legal trial, were
and several others. Virginia City residents lined the streets
Vigilantes hanged the suspects from a beam in what's known as
Hangman's Building. Five of the bodies now lie entombed in the
small Boot Hill Cemetery.
While there, I discovered something
strange and that demanded an explanation.
It didn't take long for me to discover the tale of Ritchie Doyle
infamous tale of Speedy, Squeaky, and Sneaky.
Ritchie Doyle doesn't consider himself
a vigilante. He's a creative performer
who often takes part in the Virginia City Gold Rush Medicine
Show performed at
the Virginia City Train Depot. He's also the innovative executioner
popular Boot Hill Cemetery residents known as Speedy, Squeaky,
They all lie buried beneath 11-inch high inscribed tombstones
and in a special
mini-site on the hill.
According to Doyle, "Like the
vigilantes of yore, I did them in without due
process and without consulting the law or the sheriff."
In fact, he admits
with a smile in his voice, he did it without warning and without
You see, Speedy, Squeaky, and Sneaky
all committed unmentionable crimes at the
train station. One was trapped and killed for trespassing, embezzlement,
hazardous defecation; another for smuggling stolen goods and
and the third for looting, arson, and crawling up lady's dresses.
remorse, Doyle took their ultimate punishment into his own hands...."with
help of a trap," he adds.
Today, the three mice graves are
found neatly and solemnly arranged atop Boot
Hill with other criminals from the past. Their individual names,
death dates, and unforgivable crimes marked on separate tombstones.
During early mining days, justice
was often swift and unforgiving. Perhaps
some things haven't changed all that much. May both men and mice
peace, and justice reign henceforth in historic Virginia City,
Copyright 1999 by Bob Carter. All