From The Undeveloped West; or, Five Years in the Territories
By J. H. Beadle
Philadelphia: National Publishing Company, 1873

IN THE HANDS OF VIGILANTES The regular [Benton] routine of business, dances, drunks and fist-fights met with a sudden interruption on the 8th of August. Sitting in a tent door that day I noticed an altercation across the street, and saw a man draw a pistol and fire, and another stagger and catch hold of a post for support. The first was about to shoot again when he was struck from behind and the pistol wrenched from his hand. The wounded man was taken into a cyprian's tent near by and treated with the greatest kindness by the women, but died the next day. It was universally admitted that there had been no provocation for the shooting, and the general voice was, "Hang him!"

Next day I observed a great rush and cry in the street, and looking out, saw them dragging the murderer along towards the tent where the dead man lay. The entire population were out at once, plainsmen, miners and women mingled in a wild throng, all insisting on immediate hanging. Pale as a sheet and hardly able to stand, the murderer, in the grasp of two stalwart Vigilantes, was dragged through the excited crowd, and into the tent where the dead man lay, and forced to witness the laying out and depositing in the coffin.

What was the object of this movement nobody knew, but the delay was fatal to the hanging project. Benton had lately been decided to be in the military reservation of Fort Steele, and that day the General commanding thought fit to send a provost guard into the city. They arrived just in time, rescued the prisoner, and took him to the guard-house, whence, a week later, he escaped.

But the excitement thus aroused seemed to have created a thirst for blood. I had just retired to the tent when I heard a series of fearful screams, and running to the door, saw the proprietor of a saloon opposite beating his "woman." He was a leading ruffian of the city, and of a hundred men looking on not one felt called upon the interfere. At length he released his hold, and struck her a final blow on the nose which completely flattened that feature, and sent her into the middle of the street, where she lay with the blood gushing in torrents from her face, mingling with the white dust and streaking her clothing with gore. The provost guard arrived again, after it was all over, and took the woman away, but paid no attention to the man. Four days after, I saw them together again, having apparently made it up and living on the same free and easy terms of illegal conjugality. Two more rows wound up the evening, the last ending with a perfect fusillade of pistol shots, by which only two or three persons were "scratched" and nobody "pinked." For a quiet railroad town I thought this would do, and began to think of moving on.

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