Ned Ray was a professional gambler, lawman, and outlaw who was hanged by vigilantes in Montana.
Before making his way to Bannack, Montana Ray worked as an engineer in Benicia, California, but spent the vast majority of his time as a professional gambler. Later, he made his way to Salt Lake City, Utah where he was convicted in the theft of two mules and sent to prison. However, he escaped in 1863 and by mid-May, he had made his way to Bannack. It is not known if Henry Plummer had been previously associated with Ray while they were both in the California area, but Plummer appointed Ray as a deputy after he was elected Sheriff on May 24, 1863.
Though Ray was known as a “rough” and associated with known outlaws, there is no record that he was ever accused of or committed any crimes while in Bannack. However, when the Montana Vigilantes were formed in December 1863, he came under suspicion when Erastus “Red” Yager was hanged on January 4, 1864. The Montana Vigilantes claimed that Yager had named Henry Plummer as the leader of the gang called the Innocents. The vigilantes acted swiftly and on January 10, 1864, they rode into Bannack from Virginia City and apprehended Henry Plummer and his two deputies, Buck Stinson and Ned Ray. Marching the three men to the gallows in a military-style, the three were lifted up and dropped to their deaths. The three bodies were left hanging until the next morning. Plummer’s was the only body placed in a wooden coffin and none were buried in the cemetery, but instead, all three were buried in shallow graves in Hangman’s Gulch about a hundred yards up from the gallows.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated February 2020.