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)