At Rest in Boot Hill Cemetery

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 like this.
In the late 1800s, Virginia City flourished as one of the richest placer-
mining discoveries in the world, yielding more than $2.5 billion in gold by
today's prices.

It seemed inevitable that into this major gold strike armed robbers would soon
be drawn. Even the town's sheriff, Henry Plummer, was tempted into the
corruption. Taking the law into their own hands, a group of vigilantes formed
in 1863, and in Kiskadden's Store on Wallace Street they took the Vigilante
Oath for the "...laudable purpose of arresting thieves and murderers 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 Sheriff Plummer
and several others. Virginia City residents lined the streets as the
Vigilantes hanged the suspects from a beam in what's known as Virginia City's
Hangman's Building. Five of the bodies now lie entombed in the community's
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 and the
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 of three
popular Boot Hill Cemetery residents known as Speedy, Squeaky, and Sneaky.
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 guilt.

You see, Speedy, Squeaky, and Sneaky all committed unmentionable crimes at the
train station. One was trapped and killed for trespassing, embezzlement, and
hazardous defecation; another for smuggling stolen goods and leaving messes;
and the third for looting, arson, and crawling up lady's dresses. Without
remorse, Doyle took their ultimate punishment into his own hands...."with the
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, birth and
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 rest in
peace, and justice reign henceforth in historic Virginia City, Montana.

Copyright 1999 by Bob Carter. All rights reserved.