Dorothy Sloan -- Books

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Written by the First Great Booster of Conserving Yellowstone

76. LANGFORD, Nathaniel Pitt. Vigilante Days and Ways the Pioneers of the Rockies the Makers and Making of Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming... With Portraits and Illustrations in Two Volumes. Boston: J. G. Cupples Co., Publishers, The Back Bay Bookstore, 1890. xxvi, 426 pp. + xiii [3], 485 [7] pp., 15 plates (mostly photographic portraits), text illustrations. 2 vols., 8vo, original dark blue pictorial cloth decorated and lettered in gilt and red, floral endpapers, t.e.g. Moderate shelf wear and a few spots on binding, lower hinges of both vols. cracked (but strong), generally a very good set.

     First edition of an early authority on Montana history and one of the two basic books on the Montana Vigilantes, the other being Dimsdale's book, The Montana Vigilantes published in 1866. Adams, Guns 1280. Adams, One-Fifty 94: “One of the standard works on the Montana Vigilantes and the Plummer gang of road agents.” Bradford 2909. Cowan I, pp. 134-135:  "Much and valuable frontier history is to be found in this work, in which the author presents with clear view the strange scenes and singular characters of that strongly colored period." Flake 4741: “Trip to Salt Lake City in 1864, and his impressions of Mormonism.” Graff 2390. Holliday 632. Howes L78. Jones 1661. Littell 615.  McCracken, 101, p. 34: “Like Thomas Dimsdale’s Vigilantes of Montana, Langford attempts to explain the whys behind the formation of vigilante groups.  He paints a dark picture of lawlessness on the frontier and the plight of the law-abiding citizen. While he will concede that there were groups of vigilantes that were as bad, if not worse, than the outlaws they were persecuting, he claims most were normal people driven to unusual lengths to protect their families and property.” Plath 667.  Smith 5682.

     Langford (1832-1911), vigilante, explorer, and conservationist, here recounts his experiences as a vigilante lawman in the 1860s, with details on the Plummer Gang, Joseph Slade, Langford Peel, and John Biedler. Langford was a participant in much of the activity, although he was absent when the original Committee was formed. His account is filled with numerous references to cattle and horse thieves and ranches in the region.

     The section on Yellowstone, “An Interesting Adventure” (Vol. II, Chapter XXIV, pp. 373-416) includes an account of the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition of 1870, one of the first accounts of the Yellowstone region. Around the campfire on the night of September 19, Langford and others determined that the area should be acquired and preserved as a national park, and it was Langford who became the chief booster of the idea.  Langford went on to become the first superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, although he visited it only once in that capacity.  ($400-800)

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