David Hilger recalled climbing the tree’s dead branches as a youngster and examining rope burns on its lower limbs. He and his friends played marbles beneath it. On April 30, 1870, vigilantes interrupted their game for the lynching of Arthur Compton and Joseph Wilson. Once the double hanging was over, according to Hilger, the boys resumed their game. These were the last two recorded hangings on the Hangman’s Tree.
Records show that some of the tree’s victims were buried in various Helena cemeteries, but the burial places of others are unknown. At least two coffins have surfaced in the neighborhood where the Hangman’s Tree once stood. In 1900, a workman digging a foundation for an addition in a backyard uncovered one coffin. A crew hit the other working on gas lines on Davis Street in 1931. Were these victims of the Hangman’s Tree? Both burials were in close proximity to the spot where the tree once stood.
|This photo of James Daniels' hanging in 1866 clearly shows his high-topped boots.|
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, 948-124