Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Charity Dillon

Priscilla Jane Allen is not the name she left behind when she died. She is known to posterity as Charity Jane Dillon, and her grave, high above Canyon Ferry Lake, is perhaps the most visited site in Broadwater County.

There are several accounts of her life and death, but the common threads recount how this young woman came west, alone and on horseback looking for her errant lover.  She came to Diamond City, twenty miles northeast of present-day Townsend, in the mid-1860s and eventually found him happily married to another woman and the father of several children. She kept her true identity and heartbreak to herself, and never revealed the man’s name. Under the assumed name of Jane Dillon, she settled near a spring on the stagecoach road between Hog ‘Em and Radersburg where she built a log cabin inn. The inn was not an overnight hostelry but rather a place where travelers could stop and have a drink or a meal. The hospitality of this half-way house was well known. Some old timers claim that she was called Charity because of her kindly acts, but others believe that her name came from the inn’s geographic location near Charity Gulch. In 1872, passersby found Charity Dillon dead in her bed, a bottle whiskey hidden underneath. While some conclude that she died an alcoholic, she may have simply stored the whiskey—which she kept for customers—there for safekeeping.  Others believe she died of ptomaine poisoning from contaminated canned goods, a fairly common occurrence. Still others insist that Charity Dillon died of a broken heart.  Whatever the cause, it is this poignant mystery that brings visitors to her grave.


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