Did a crooked sheriff hide a treasure of stolen gold near Bannack, Montana?

Sheriff Henry Plummer with a beard and mustache

Sheriff Henry Plummer

A gang of men with cowboy hats and bandanas around their faces riding horses

Plummer secretly led a gang of robbers

CASE DETAILS

When gold was discovered in Alder Gulch, Montana, in 1863, hundreds of prospectors descended on the boomtown of Bannack. Among them were outlaws, eager to collect their share of the spoils

Plummers gang holding up a stagecoach at gunpoint

Plummer’s gang targeted miners transporting gold

In the spring of that year, a group of such outlaws called the Road Agent Gang nearly wiped out the prospectors. It’s been said they stole more than a thousand pounds of gold in nuggets, coins, and gold dust.

Henry Plummer, the town sheriff, was an ex-convict and secret leader of the gang. According to author and historian Dick Pace, Plummer had been released just four years earlier from a brand new California prison called San Quentin:

“Henry Plummer was a very pleasant looking individual. He was the only man in Bannack, practically, that always tipped his hat to a lady when he saw her on the street. Well, you could call him the consummate conman of his day, so he was able to con people into thinking he was a competent man to be the sheriff. And, of course, he knew that being a sheriff would give him a perfect cover.”

Plummer and his gang targeted miners trying to transport their gold to a major railhead.
It’s estimated that in four months, Henry Plummer and the Road Agents killed more than 120 miners and stole what today would be $6 million in gold.

Finally, in December of 1863, the gang went too far. A well-liked young man was cruelly murdered by the Road Agent Gang. One of the local ranchers found the body and brought it into town. Dick Pace said it was the final straw:

“They formed a posse and during the next six weeks the vigilantes were picking people up, giving them a trial. And we know they hanged about 22 men, at least.”

When the outlaws were caught, they started pointing fingers. One Road Agent about to be hanged identified Henry Plummer as the gang’s leader. The vigilante posse raced to Plummer’s house.

A gang member firing off a revolver leaving a cloud of gunsmoke

The gang killed more than 100 miners

Only seven months after the Road Agents had begun their reign of terror, Henry Plummer marched to a scaffold he himself had built in his role as sheriff. But before he was hanged, he made an unusual request; if given two hours on a horse, he would return with his weight in gold. The vigilantes had already heard enough. Henry Plummer hanged without telling anyone where his treasure was buried.

Immediately after his death, prospectors started searching for Plummer’s booty. According to local historian Jim Edwards, two mysterious gold hunters may have found it in the early 1900s:

“They went into the local store that had a vault and asked if they could leave this box in there all night. And one of the men stayed there riding shotgun on the vault. The next morning they disappeared. Nobody knew who they were or where they went or what they dug up.”

A posse of cowboys riding horses with guns

A posse finally caught up with Henry Plummer

Even if one box of Plummer’s gold was found, there’s probably a lot more out there. Two local men have been hunting for the treasure for years. Bill Jappe said he and his partner are confident that Plummer’s gold still lies buried somewhere in the area:

“Nobody would bury their eggs in one basket. He was the sheriff of both counties at the same time, so it’s understandable that he has someplace where he has access to it. I bet there’s a thousand pounds or better in different places, maybe from Virginia City to Bannack.”

Perhaps the location of Plummer’s buried gold will never be found – if it was ever there in the first place.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season two with Robert Stack and season two with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

 

9 Comments

  1. Otto Au

    Maybe he spent it all on whiskey?

    Reply

  2. Fred

    May be someone along time ago found the gold and didn’t tell anyone? May be there was more then one person that found the gold? Maybe it still there? You see it seems like to me that someone could already found it and not said nothing about it they wanted to keep a low profile or maybe there was more people in the gang then they thought they? Then they took the Gold you se all I am trying to say is there could of been someone back in then in that mob that hung them could of found the gold. It just a thought as i have heard the story’s and watch Josh Gates on his show I was just thinking about it.

    Reply

  3. Kevin

    the vigilantes kept all the possessions of the so called outlaw gang for their own.
    Now I ask, who were the REAL gangsters?
    History is written by those who win or in this case those who murdered and call themselves Vigilantes.

    Reply

  4. Reno

    There sits a time and place of new age with which can expose the where abouts of the gold. due to the fact that people hear one thing and believe proof. Amitting your guilt by gold weight is proof he knew about it but wheres the proof he was the leader. Even sickly ill and knowing the viglianties were coming for him than why didnt he run? he had the oppertunity to run but chose to stay. theres more to the story than we all know! dont make acutatuations until physcial proof is presented.words of wisdom- the truth will revale the truth but rumors can turn a sweet peach in to a sour apple. Think about it before making a rational decision.

    Reply

  5. Brian

    I clearly think that Henry Plummer had known all along that his actions to secretly be apart of this vigilante group came forward when he said that I can bring you gold in a couple hours by horse he was practically admitting that he was apart of this terrorizeing group. The only way to find this Gold you would of had to been apart of this Vigilante group. The course to learning the wherabouts of this Gold truely lies within the 2 hour horse trip “13 to 15 miles” from Bannack in any direction where there are mountain ranges and creeks to hide it. Soo the question that you ask yourself is how do you hide your Loot for noone to be able to find it? I clearly think that Henry hid it away in a rock cavity soo it would of not been disturbed instead of burying it in the ground for water to get to it. What you realize is at that time of era very few things was sturdy enough to hold alot of Gold if your going to hide it away in something. I would think that he put the Gold in a strong enough box to protect it like a wooden trunk. In my mind I would want a quick turn around hideing my Gold within arms length to me makeing it easily excessible and convienent to get to when I need it. He had soo much Gold hidden that he could of been his own Fort Knox stowing away more than a couple thousand pounds of it in secreted locations. The only way to find this Gold secreted location is to think like Henry Plummer would.

    Reply

  6. Pecospete

    Why is it that we hear one side of a story on tv shows but we know that there are two sides such as this tale of Sheriff Plummer? I know about the legend that he was the leader of the gang that stole gold and killed people,and I have heard the reporting of his guilt. From television stories I have never heard the other side although I have heard and read the other side from reading and listening to other accounts. The reason why is it probably is a BETTER STORY, maybe not truth but a better story.

    Reply

  7. Dennis

    Since Sheriff Plummer preached “Due Process” and fair trials he would not have been a friend to the vigilante group. Get rid of the sheriff and the vigilantes could do as they wanted. The newspapers made a profit as well with exciting tales of murder and mayhem. Who was the actual leader of the vigilantes?

    Reply

  8. James K Ranger

    Do some research before you broadcast a show! If you do a thorough research about Sheriff Plummer you will see that there is no evidence that he was this gang leader and murderer. The true murderers were the Vigilantes. A secret mafia that terrorized those communities.

    Reply