The story of the infamous murder and robbery of Lewiston merchant Lloyd Magruder and his companions during the 1860s gold rush is legendary in Montana, Idaho, and Washington. Ladd Hamilton constructs a compelling account of the destruction of Magruder’s pack train while traveling on the Southern Nez Perce Trail in the Bitterroot Mountains, and the subsequent quest by Magruder’s friend Hill Beachey to track his killers to San Francisco, escort them back to Lewiston, and then protect them from lynching until they could be tried in Idaho Territory.
By appraising written evidence and community lore, Hamilton has created an intriguing account based on fact and documentation. But he also blends in historical fiction when required to complement the narrative in those places where events are known to have occurred but the historical sources are sparse or virtually nonexistent. Underlying Hamilton’s work is his exact and familiar knowledge of early Idaho Territory, which in 1863 stretched hundreds of miles from Lewiston at the Snake-Clearwater confluence to the gold camps of Virginia City, Bannack, and beyond in what is now Montana.
Hamilton’s imaginative characterizations of Magruder, Beachey, outlaw sheriff Henry Plummer, and large cast of other historical figures in Idaho, Montana, and California is based on his years of knowing many and varied peoples of the West.
Illustrations / maps / notes / bibliography / 280 pages (1994)
“Mr. Hamilton has done an admirable job of re-creating the gritty lives and times of these historical characters. This Bloody Deed is marked by the author’s faithful work among the original documents, his familiarity with that rough Western terrain and his clear affection for the complex people who once roamed and tamed it.”—The New York Times Book Review
“[This Bloody Deed] breathes grisly new life into the case of Lloyd Magruder.”—Seattle Weekly
“It is difficult to imagine how the story of the 1863 backwoods murder of Lloyd Magruder and his companions could be better told. This Bloody Deed combines careful research and analysis with vivid writing. The result is a good story as well as good history. It is tough to put this book down.”—Columbia
“[A] story of murder, dogged pursuit of the perpetrators, and their ultimate execution, Hamilton’s weaving of the tale is compelling and colorful.” —Montana: The Magazine of Western History
“What a buggy ride this book is.”—Bill Hall, Lewiston Morning Tribune
“A fascinating account of Idaho’s most notorious case.”—Merle Wells, former director, Idaho State Historical Society
“A well-written and entertaining historical novel.”—Western Outlaw Lawman Journal
“Wonderfully and richly researched, and beautifully written, filled with detail, drama, and suspense that sweep one along. The time, the place, and the characters all come vividly alive in the author’s crisp, colorful prose, and the narrative is gripping.”—Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., author, The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest