Henry Plummer | Overworked & Lonely

**Don’t miss Part 1 and Part 2  of the Henry Plummer Series

With his affairs in order in Bannack, Plummer took off for the Sun River Farm, ready to be reunited with his soon to be wife, Electa Bryan. Little did he know that in his absence Ms. Bryan was questioning her intent to marry Plummer. Her sister, Martha Vail, who had never liked Plummer questioned her intentions; and, Francis Thompson, a family friend of the Vail’s warned about Plummer’s questionable reputation. The steamer that Electa could have taken back East was delayed because of the shallow waters, or she may have been gone when Plummer arrived. Electa insisted that they wait for Reverend Reed to arrive, but Plummer did not intend to be away from Bannack for such a long period of time and was quickly getting anxious. It was finally decided that Father Minatre could perform the service, and the couple was married on June 20, 1863. The following day they took off on the week-long journey to Bannack.

Fort Benton, Montana
The Fort Benton Levee, from fortbenton.com

Plummer had purchased a town lot located just one block off Main Street; it was here that Electa would be spending the majority of her time. Electa quickly found that her husband’s duties would keep him out of the house often and grew lonely after only a short time in Bannack. One of the only social activities for which women left the house was for an evening of dancing at the City Ball, but even for this there is no record of Electa’s participation.

Upon his return to Bannack, Plummer learned that his district had increased significantly (by a nearly 80-mile radius), and as Sheriff he would be expected to regularly patrol the Alder Gulch and Virginia City area. In addition, he learned that in his absence his deputies had gotten into a quarrel which resulted in the death of JW Dillingham who was said to be “the best among them.” Even with these setbacks, Plummers involvement with the people of the region increased and it was believed that he “was making exhaustive efforts to protect the people and their property.” While Plummer seemed to be increasing in popularity, his home life remained one of speculation, with reports of bitter arguments and angry words.

Hard times had hit the farm in Sun River, and Martha and James Vail made their way to Bannack. Even her sister’s arrival was not enough to keep Electa from leaving. Some said it was Plummer who sent her away, while others suggest that she left of her own volition because he was cruel. On September 2, 1863, Electa left to return to Iowa, never to see her husband again. At nearly the same time, a new justice – Sidney Edgerton and his family arrived in Bannack with preconceived opinions of a ruthless Sheriff.

**Stay Tuned. Part 3 and 4 continuing Henry’s time in Southwest MT and Part 5 on the discrepancies in his story.


Much of the research done for this series came from: Mather, R. E., & Boswell, F. E. (1998). Hanging the sheriff: A biography of Henry Plummer. Missoula, MT: Historic Montana Pub. Purchase their book on Amazon.