A Hard End for a Vigilante Leader James Williams' fortunes took a drop after his lynching days.

james williams true west
James Williams

James Williams gained a certain amount of success and notoriety when he led the Montana Vigilantes in 1864. The group hanged 21 men in just one month, cracking down on criminal activity in the territory. It was all downhill from there.  He married in 1866 (and had seven children) but found the union unhappy.  In the 1870s, he lost his ranch and belongings to debt collectors.  And after he recovered, the deadly winter of 1887 killed off his herd.  Distraught, he wandered into his pasture one cold night and committed suicide by overdosing on laudanum.

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Mark Boardman

Mark Boardman is the features editor for True West Magazine as well as the editor of The Tombstone Epitaph. He also serves as pastor for Poplar Grove United Methodist Church in Indiana.