Frank Parish – Hanged By Vigilantes


Frank Parish Grave

Frank Parish Grave by Kathy Weiser-Alexander

Frank Parish (or Parrish), though a crippled rancher by trade, was accused of being in cohorts with Henry Plummer’s gang of Innocents, and was hanged on January 14, 1864, by Montana Vigilantes.

Hailing from Tennessee, Parish was lured to the west by glowing reports from a relative and at the age of 25, arrived at Grasshopper Creek near Bannack, Montana. He and a partner soon pooled their resources and bought a claim which was obviously profitable as Parish and two other partners established a ranch on Rattlesnake Creek along the Virginia City-Bannack Stage Route. Some of the area miners suspected that Parish had stumbled onto a rich mine and after following him back to his ranch and seeing no signs of a mine, became suspicious. Soon, afterward, Parish froze his feet and hands so badly that he was left a cripple and unable to work his ranch land. However, with its convenient location on the stage route, his Indian wife began to prepare meals for stage passengers and travelers along the road, and the couple also provided a bar.

In November 1863, Parrish became so ill that a doctor was summoned from Virginia City who found that his fever was so high that he probably wouldn’t survive. However, Parish did survive and on January 14, 1864, made the mistake of traveling to Virginia City for supplies. Unknown to Parish, the Montana Vigilantes had been meeting, and soon after his arrival, he was surrounded by armed men and arrested. When he asked why, he was told: “For being a road agent, thief, and an accessory to numerous robberies and murders on the highway.”

To this, Parish quietly responded, “I am innocent of all, as innocent as you are.” He was then hustled to a building at Wallace and Jackson Streets for a “trial.” Vigilante President Paris Pfouts and several other men were present and soon proceeded to severely interrogate the rancher. Before it was said and done, Parrish had confessed to rustling cattle and horses, providing food to outlaws, and robbing a stagecoach. Though numerous town members were well aware that Mrs. Parish would serve anyone along the road and that the crippled rancher was bedridden during the time of the stage robbery, no one stood up for him.

Hangman's building in Virginia City, Montana

Hangman’s building in Virginia City, Montana by Kathy Weiser-Alexander

Other “trials” were also taking place that day, and in the end, five men, including Parish, Boone Helm, Hayes Lyons, Jack Gallagher, and “Clubfoot George” Lane would be hanged from a beam of an unfinished building. His body was buried in Virginia City’s Boot Hill Cemetery.

By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated January 2020.


Also See:

Adventures in the American West

Old West Vigilantes

Outlaws on the Frontier

Who’s Who in American History