Law and order, sheriffs and marshals

We found this great Ken Petts watercolor for sale at, with the title Henry Plummer Sheriff and Outlaw.

Local lawmen and the U.S. Marshals Service

Is Zane Gunther crazy? Possibly. At the very best, he lacks all sense of social propriety and personal responsibility ~ and could use a good speech teacher. 

With that, permit me to introduce the sheriff of 1879 Eagle Rock, Idaho — a composite of real and fictional lawmen of the town and territory featured in my upcoming historical fiction Cat’s Cafe. 

Readers recognize a tragic character when they meet one and, as tensions mount between the wildly incompetent Zane and the evil town mayor Luther, Zane has doom written all over him. More about that in Book Two. For now, let’s just say he keeps his Colt pearl-handled six shooters loaded for all occasions whether festive or fiery.

In fact, Zane Gunther is based on real-life Sheriff Henry Plummer, who did arrive in the Eagle Rock area prior to 1879 trying to distance himself from his band of outlaws known as The Innocents and certain hanging. With that background, my fictitious Gunther was willing to do as he was told, and his disregard for the law made him the ideal pawn to do the mayor’s dirty work – anything to avoid the noose. 

No one takes him seriously, but he’s all they’ve got in a day when the real day-to-day “law” is provided by more remote private agencies such as land clubs, cattlemen’s associations, mining camps, and wagon trains (The Independent Institute, The Culture of Violence, Myth Vs. Reality);  and, in the case of Eagle Rock, whatever the most corrupt official and the most powerful family want – namely, Mayor Luther Armstrong and the vicious Clancy Clan. Henry Plummer was hung by an angry crowd of citizens when the murders in the area skyrocketed under his service as a territory sheriff, just days before his official designation as the US Marshal for the territory arrived.

The role of the U.S. Marshals in the West, introducing Fred Dubois

However, there was a higher power who covered a broad territory as often as possible. According to the U.S. Marshals Service website,  “As our young nation expanded westward, U.S. Marshals embodied the civilian power of the federal government to bring law and justice to the frontier. For every new territory, U.S. marshals were appointed to impose the law on the untamed wilderness. Virtually every significant point over the years where constitutional principles or the force of law have been challenged, the marshals were there – and they prevailed.  Nikayla Mattison’s article on the history of the U.S. Marshals Service provides portraits of three famous U.S. marshals — Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and James Hickock.

PictureWyatt EarpPictureBat MastersonPictureJames Hickock

Another influential U.S. Marshal was Illinois’ Fred Thomas Dubois who moved to the Idaho Territory in 1880, became U.S. Marshal two years later, and went on to become a U.S. Republican Senator known for opposing the gold standard and successfully disenfranchising Mormons due to their practice of polygamy. According to William Hathaway in Images of America, Idaho Falls, Dubois also used his connections to get support for a bill making Idaho the 43rd state in 1890.

Fred Dubois was the son of Jesse Kilgore Dubois who was an official at the U.S. Land Office in Palestine, Illinois, a former judge and state legislator, an early supporter of the Republican Party, and a close friend of fellow Illinois Republican Abraham Lincoln. (From Wikipedia source  “The Politicians: Jesse K. Dubois (1811-1876)”. Mr. Lincoln and Friends. Retrieved October 11, 2015.)

Book One introduces Fred Dubois and sees him unravel one of Luther’s schemes to seize private property – a satisfying case where territorial authority trumped ruthless local rule … for once.

Americanfrontier, #WildWest, #LawandOrder, #USMarshalsService, #IdahoHistory

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