Friday, November 18, 2011

Wilbur Fisk Sanders

Over the course of more than a century, many illustrious men—and women—have served Montana as legislators. Our current lawmakers follow in some very big footsteps. One of the best known is Wilbur Fisk Sanders, whose long career as an attorney famed for his speechmaking began with a famous trial in Nevada City on a snowy December day in 1863.

Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, 944-853
Sanders was the only man brave enough to prosecute George Ives, a suspected road agent accused of a brutal murder. Ives’s trial, conviction, and swift hanging on Nevada City’s main street served as catalyst to the forming of the famous vigilantes a few days later. Sanders’s first home in Virginia City and his second home—now the Sanders Bed and Breakfast in Helena—are important historical sites. Throughout his long career, Sanders was always outspoken and not easily intimidated. One winter day in Helena Episcopal Bishop Daniel Tuttle and Sanders met on a steep and icy street, and at that moment Sanders slipped and fell. The Bishop looked down on the prostrate man and observed, “The wicked stand in slippery places, Mr. Sanders.” Looking up, Sanders shot back, “I see they do Bishop, but damned if I see how they can.”

From Montana Moments: History on the Go

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