|This photo of Long George Francis was taken at the Great Northern Montana Stampede in Havre|
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, 952-167
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Long George Francis
One of the most colorful characters of the High Line was an old time cowboy who came to a hideous end. Long George Francis was well known on the rodeo circuit. He lived along the Milk River west of Havre on a small ranch.
But Francis lived by the old range rules, believing unbranded stock was fair game. Times were changing, range laws evolving, and opinions about Francis were divided. Some were outraged when the court convicted Francis of grand larceny for the theft of a bay mare. Others saw Francis as a cattle rustler and approved of his conviction. But after sentencing in 1918, Francis went into hiding. He was on the lam for two years until he finally grew tired of running. On Christmas Eve, 1920, he prepared to give himself up to serve his sentence. But first he determined to make one last trip to visit his schoolteacher girlfriend near the Canadian border. He loaded his car with apples and gifts for her and the children and started out on the journey. It was snowing and cold. Thirty miles northwest of Havre in the middle of nowhere, he wrecked his car and broke his leg in the accident. Fashioning a splint from an apple box, he tried to crawl for help. Exhausted and in pain with little hope of rescue, Francis slit his own throat and bled to death in the snow.