Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Patrick Largey’s Murder

Patrick Largey, Butte’s fourth Copper King, was president of the State Savings Bank, located on the site of the present Metals Bank Building. In January of 1898 miner Thomas Riley gunned Largey down as he sat at his desk. The shooting took place nearly three years to the day after the great powder explosion in the warehouses of the Kenyon Connell and Butte Hardware companies. Illegally stored dynamite caused the blast that killed at least fifty-nine and injured one hundred others. Riley lost a leg in the blast and held Largey personally responsible. Though Largey owned stock in the hardware business, he had no part in the disaster. But Riley, who could no longer work, demanded compensation. Largey and Riley had several violent quarrels, and the last culminated in Largey’s murder.

Portrait of Patrick Largey from A Brief History of Butte, Montana, The World's Greatest Mining Camp
Via the Butte-Silver Bow Public Library's Flickr photostream

Charged, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison, Riley went to the federal prison at Deer Lodge in 1898. He kept his union membership in Local No. 1. In 1910, 170 members signed a petition asking the governor and the Board of Pardons to review Riley’s case. But the influential Largey family made sure that nothing came of it. Riley wrote letters to friends, lawyers, priests, and legislators to no avail. Nearly forty years later, Governor Roy Ayers met Riley during a prison inspection. He found no bitterness left in him and granted seventy-year-old Riley a full pardon. Riley left Deer Lodge in 1937. He died in 1938 after little more than a year of freedom.

From Montana Moments: History on the Go

P.S. Remember what happened when a couple of prisoners tried to escape from the Deer Lodge prison?

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