In the 1860s, organized law enforcement in the Montana Territory was scarce. Prospectors were mining in western Montana and their finds were transported across the territory, making stagecoaches and trains popular targets for thieves and gangs.
It was during this time that a large gang, called the Innocents, formed and robbed travelers and gold shipments between Bannack City and Virginia City. Because of the activities of these “road agents,” the locals banded together to form the Montana Vigilantes in 1863. Their aim was to catch and hang suspected criminals, often done in public without a fair trial.
The Innocents were eventually blamed for the deaths of over a hundred people, along with numerous gold thefts. In response, the Vigilantes arrested dozens of men thought to be responsible. Some of these men were publicly lynched, while others were run out of town on the threat of death in they returned.
Suspects began to point toward Henry Plummer, the town’s sheriff, which led people to believe that Plummer was the head of the gang. Shocked at the thought that their own sheriff could be a mastermind outlaw, he was arrested with two of his deputies in 1864. Plummer was led up onto the very gallows he had built as sheriff.
Plummer was given no trial. However, he did say that he had stashed a fortune in a hidden location and he offered to retrieve it if he was allowed two hours on horseback. He claimed the amount of gold he’d bring back would be equivalent to his weight. Yet, Plummer was hanged before he revealed the location of his cache, and with no true evidence of his connection to the Innocents and the crimes committed by the gang.
Since then, many people have searched around the area in an attempt to find Henry Plummer’s lost gold. Several people have claimed to find the gold, but none of those claims have been proven. In fact, no one is even sure if such a treasure exists. It remains one of Montana’s most popular unsolved mysteries to this day.