ask the marshall true west Montana Vigilantes

What is 3-7-77, associated with the Montana Vigilantes?

Dave Quinn
Carson City, Nevada

This has long been a Western historical puzzle. The Montana Vigilantes never revealed the meaning of 3-7-77, which has led to speculation about its meaning.

The most plausible explanation comes from a 1974 article in Montana: The Magazine of Western History, which suggested the numbers represented the three emigrants from Minnesota who formed the first Masonic lodge in 1862 in Virginia City; the seven Masons who formed the vigilance committee; and 77 to refer to a Mason who died, whose funeral was attended by the remaining 76 Masons.

Today, the emblem is worn on the shirts of the Montana Highway Patrol, on the flight suits of the Montana Air National Guard and on the flight patch for the Montana Army National Guard Medevac.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at

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