Thursday, January 16, 2014

Henry Plummer"s Gold - Montana Journalism Review by Alison Mills

Henry Plummer"s Gold - Montana Journalism Review by Alison Mills
Towner’s smile is brighter than the ginger-blond streaks defying the rest of his gray hair. The Montana native collects ounces of the flecks and dust, making a living as a miner and explorer. Crowned with a well-worn baseball cap, Towner wears a heavy khaki jacket and boots caked in mud. He has sifted and sorted across the world, from Venezuela to Ghana to India.

“I’ve always been a treasure hunter,” Towner says. “I just got a knack for finding stuff.”

Towner’s current mine site is about 35 miles away from Bannack where Henry Plummer hanged in 1864. The crooked sheriff may have been involved in the murders of more than 100 miners in the mid-1800s, and legend has it he cached more than his weight in gold.

Historian Zoe Ann Stoltz is not won over by the allure of gold and bandits.

“It’s not romantic,” she says. “It was a horrific time.”

She followed up with a recommendation to read Frederick Allen’s “A Decent Orderly Lynching.” Allen’s vision of the Wild West doesn’t match the legends most Montana schoolchildren grew up with. Most of the stories told around schoolyard playgrounds and campfires err on the side of indecency and chaos.

The true beauty of history is that it’s lost. Plummer’s secrets — money and thoughts alike — haven’t weathered the winters as well as Bannack’s faded, falling buildings.

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