Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Day Murder at Elkhorn

The silver mines at Elkhorn yielded $14 million and the mining camp once had more than 2,500 residents. Three passenger trains arrived weekly on the Northern Pacific’s branch line.

Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives
In 1893, the Fraternity Hall Association built the town’s architectural and social centerpiece. Fraternity Hall was aptly named: the town’s various fraternal organizations, including the Masons, Oddfellows, and Knights of Pythias, shared its upstairs lodge room. Dances, traveling theatrical troupes, graduations, prize fights, and other public gatherings at Fraternity Hall bound citizens together. The building’s outstanding architecture blends the western false front with a sophisticated twist. A unique neo-classical style balcony is suspended above the entry. After the Silver Panic of 1893, the mine began to play out and operated only off and on until 1931 when the Northern Pacific removed its tracks. Fraternity Hall has endured time, neglect, and heavy snows to become one of Montana’s most photographed buildings.

Gilliam's Hall and Fraternity Hall in Elkhorn
Although local lore says that an argument over a dance led to a murder at Fraternity Hall, the true incident actually began at a Thanksgiving Eve dance in 1889 at Gilliam’s Hall, Elkhorn’s other substantial surviving building. A shortage of women compelled Thomas King and George Peters to dance together. Manager Mat Fogarty asked them to stop. The ensuing quarrel later became a huge free-for-all bar fight at Lloyd’s Saloon. Taking their fight into the street early on Thanksgiving morning, King shot and killed Fogarty. Thomas King was hanged at Boulder for the crime in June of 1890, several years before Fraternity Hall was built. And this was especially noteworthy because King’s hanging was the first in the new state of Montana.

P.S. It makes Thanksgiving in Virginia City seem downright tame, doesn't it?

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