Jack “Three-Fingered” Jack Gallager was a frontier outlaw and deputy sheriff who was hanged by vigilantes in Montana.
Born at Ogdensburg, New York, Gallagher made his way west when he grew up. He was in Kansas in 1859 before making his way to Colorado, where he killed a man in Denver in 1863. He then fled to Montana, where he became a deputy under Sheriff Henry Plummer and worked in Virginia City. There, he soon hooked up with several crooked law officers and was thought to have been involved in the murder of fellow deputy John Dillingham in June 1863.
Later he seriously wounded a man named Jack Temple in a gunfight at a Virginia City Saloon and with another outlaw named Bill Hunter, was said to have robbed a Mormon who was on his way to Salt Lake City, Utah. However, the Montana Vigilantes were on to his bandit ways and on the evening of January 13, 1864, while Gallagher and others were drinking and playing faro in a local saloon, the committee was deliberating his execution. According to the tale, Gallager made one of the most truthful statements of his life when he remarked: “While we are here betting, those vigilante sons of bitches are passing sentence on us.”
The next morning, he found out how very right his prediction was, when he, along with Club-Foot George Lane, Frank Parish, Boone Helm, and Haze Lyons were rounded up and hauled to the unfinished Virginia Hotel building. Throwing the ropes over the beams, the five men were hanged. Before he died, Jack was said to have yelled to a friend, “Ray! I’m going to heaven! I’ll be there in time to open the gate for you, old fellow.” All five men were buried in Virginia City’s Boot Hill Cemetery.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated January 2020.