Old Snag, and a Little History on James Bouton

One of the fake spirits of James Bouton’s seances was presented as “Old Snag”. Bouton made great sport of him, had him always desiring alcohol and tobacco, and in “Two Years Among the Spirits”, wrote, “I knew very well that he was drunk when he was killed, for I stood within twenty feet of him when he was shot dead from his pony in Montana. We could not get a straightforward answer to any question unless about whiskey or tobacco.”

This made me wonder if Snag, perhaps, was a real individual, and if he was would I be able to find anything on him. Googling around, I discovered the following in the 1882 book “The Vigilantes of Montana, or, Popular Justice in the Rocky Mountains” by Thomas Josiah Dimsdale.

In proof of the insecurity of life and property in places where such desperadoes as Plummer, Stinson, Ray and Skinner made their headquarters, the following incident may be cited:

Late in the spring of ’63, Winnemuck, a warrior chief of the Bannacks, had come in with his band, and had camped in the brush, about three fourths of a mile above the town. Skinner and the roughs called a meeting, and organized a band for the purpose of attacking and murdering the whole tribe. The leaders, however, got so drunk that the citizens became ashamed, and dropped off by degrees, till they were so few that the enterprise was abandoned. A half-breed had, in the mean time, warned Winnemuck, and the wily old warrior lost no time in preparing for the reception of the party. He sent his squaws and papooses to the rear and posted his warriors, to the number of three or four hundred, on the right side of a canyon, in such a position that he could have slaughtered the whole command at his ease. This he fully intended to do, if attacked, and also to have sacked the town and killed every white in it. This would have been an achievement requiring no extraordinary effort, and had not the drunkenness of the out-laws defeated their murderous purpose, would undoubtedly have been accomplished. In fact, the men whom the Vigilantes afterward executed were ripe for any villainy, being godless, fearless, worthless, and a terror to the community.

In June of the same year, the report came in that Joe Carrigan, William Mitchell, Joe Brown, Smith, Indian Dick and four others had been killed by the Indians, whom they had pursued to recover stolen stock, and that overtaking them, they had dismounted and fired into their tepees. The Indians attacked them when their pieces were emptied, killed the whole nine, and took their stock.

Old Snag, a friendly chief, came into Bannack with his band, immediately after this report. One of the tribe, a brother-in-law of Johnny Grant, of Dear Lodge–was fired at by Haze Lyons, to empty his revolver, for luck, on general principles, or for his pony–it is uncertain which. A number of citizens, thinking it was an Indian fight, ran out, and joined in the shooting. The savage jumped from his horse, and, throwing down his blanket, ran for his life, shouting “Good Indian.” A shot wounded him in the hip. (His horse’s leg was broken.) But though badly hurt, he climbed up the mountain and got away, still shouting as he ran, “Good Indian,” meaning that he was friendly to the whites. Carroll, a citizen of Bannack, had a little Indian girl living with him, and Snag had called to see her. Carroll witnessed the shooting we have described, and running in, he informed Snag, bidding him, and his son ride off for their lives. The son ran out and jumped on his horse. Old Snag stood in front of the door, on the edge of the ditch, leaning upon his gun, which was in a sole leather case. He had his lariet in his hand, and was talking to his daughter, Jemmy Spence’s squaw, named Catherine. Buck Stinson, without saying a word, walking to within four feet of him and drawing his revolver, shot him in the side. The Indian raised his right hand and said, “Oh! don’t” The answer was a ball in the neck, accompanied by the remark, enveloped in oaths, “I’ll teach you to kill whites,” and then again he shot him through the head. He was dead when the first citizen attracted by the firing ran up. Carroll, who was standing at the door, called out, “Oh, don’t shoot into the house; you’ll kill my folks.” Stinson turned quickly upon him and roared out, with a volley of curses, topped off with the customary expletive form of address adopted by the roughs, “Put in your head, or I’ll shoot the top of it off.” Cyrus Skinner came up and scalped the Indian. The band scattered in flight. One who was behind, being wounded, plunged into the creek, seeking to escape, but was killed as he crawled up the bank, and fell among the willows. He was also scalped. The remainder of them got away, and the chief’s son, checking his horse at a distance, waved to the men who had killed his father to come on for a fight, but the bullets beginning to cut the ground about him, he turned his horse and fled.

The scalp of old Snag, the butchered chief, now hangs in a banking house, in Salt Lake City.

Another account of the murder of Snag is found in “Perilous Passage, a narrative of the Mongana Gold Rush, 1862-1863” and gives a slightly different story:

Tom Pitt and I rode over together from Big Hole and reached Bannack about four o’clock in the afternoon. We found the people of the town labouring under the great excitement about the killing of ‘old Snag,’ an old Indian who had been murdered a few hours before by Hays Lyon and Buck Stinson. Three or four Indian Lodges had been pitched down the creek for several days before, with the inmates of which the most friendly relations had been cultivated by the whites in and about the town. About noon old Snag, in company with his son, came into the place to visit Jimmy Spense’s squaw, who was reputed to be old Snag’s daughter, and who lived in the rear of Phil’s Butcher shop. His son left him here, and shortly after the old man started up to see a little Indian girl living with Mr. & Mrs. Caroll, whose house was in the rear of the town, at the foot of the hill, over which the main road runs to Rattlesnake.

As he dismounted from his horse, Buck Stinson and Hays Lyon stepped up to him and made the remark, ‘We will learn you to kill white men,’ one of them put his six shooter to his head and deliberately blew his brains out. Old Snag had a rifle encased in a buckskin cover in his hands, but on discovering their intention to murder him, as they approached he rested his gun on the ground, leaning against his body, and raising his hands said “Me good Indian. Don’t do it. Don’t.” But the words were hardly out of his mouth before he lay gasping in death. At the same moment, and as if by preconcerted action, a cry was raised in different parts of the town, that the Indians were murdering the whites. Believing this, many of the best disposed citizens rushed into the streets with their firearms…

I find in another book that the Bannock Indians were “erroneously called Snake Indians (a name that whites gave to the Shoshonis) because they were closely associated with the Shoshonis…” They were instead a branch of the Northern Paiutes who had left Oregon for Idaho, and were enabled by horses to range into Montana and Wyoming.

This then must be the Old Snag who J. B. Bouton puppeted about in his seances and of whose murder he so callously purported to be a witness. But was James B. Bouton present at he shooting of Snag? Or is this yet another lie of his?

A history of Montana gives the Gallatin Town Company as formed December 30 1862 by Alfred Ray, N. W. Burris, James Bouton, Edmund Ash, George Lemley, M. R. Burris, Felix Burton, Albert Green, William Townsley, Benjamin Townsley, B. B. Burchit, E. House, S. Stimpson, George Wiliford, Dr. Glick, P. C. Wood, H. P. S. Smith, Monroe Atkinson, J. B. Cowen, A. F. Watkins, E. P. Lewis, John Ault, C. M. Davis, G. M. Stapleton and Samuel McCann. I also find that Gallatin was founded by a group of Missourians who expected to cash in on the discovery of gold but had picked a poor location for it.

Looking at the 1862 residents roster for Bannack, Montana, N. W. Burris and Felix Burton are observed, both of whom were founders of Gallatin. Bouton isn’t listed but it becomes more and more sensible that James Benedict Bouton was the same J. B. Bouton who was in Gallatin, and that he was also perhaps at Bannack when Snag was murdered.

Now, for a little census history on James Bouton. He was in Missouri at the time to be one of the Missourians who went into Montana and founded Gallatin.

James Benedict Bouton Jr. was born in Victory, Cayuga, New York in 1826. He married first, on December 25, 1849, Phebe Wheeler, in Oswego, New York, where she was born in 1824. They first moved to Sterling, Whiteside, Illinois in 1853, and then to Macon County, Missouri in 1855. Here, Phebe died Aug 17 1859. Their children were Electa b. 1847 in Sterling d. 1847, Adelbert b. 1849 in Oswego d. 1850, Ida May b. 1855 in Sterling d. 1876, Albert b. 1853 in Macon d. 1857, Charles b. 1857 d. 1857, Alda Estella b. 1859 in Macon, died at age 18 while on visit to California.

James, Phebe, and Adelbert are in the 1850 census in New York.

1850 Oswego Oswego New York
James Sharp 29 miller PA
Lydia 11 NY
Alice 11
Frances 1
Phebe Boughton 24
Adelberet 8/12
James 24

James’ first family was one tragedy after another. Electa died in 1847, Adelbert in 1850, Albert and Charles both in 1857, and then Phebe in 1859.

In 1860, James married the widow, Mary Hooper Gibbs Ware, in Chillicothe, Livingston, Missouri. Their children were Alice Bea. b. 1862 d. 1904, James Chester b. 1863 d. 1921, Arthur b. 1867 d. 1868 and Lloyd R. b. 1870 d. 1965, all in Chillicothe.

I don’t find James or the surviving children from his first marriage in 1860 in Missouri. Neither do I find Mary Ware and her children.

The 1861 Journal of the House of the State of Missouri had before it an act to change the name of Alda Estella Bouton. It passed. From then on, in the census, the spelling of Boughton is Bouton.

We see James Bouton and his second family in the 1870 census with Ida, from James’ first marriage, but not Alda.

1870 Chilicothe Livingston Missouri
BOUTON James 44 house carpenter 1500 250 NY
Mary 42 MO
Ida 15 IL
Alice 9 MO
James 7
Ware Lilla 11 CA
John 7

The couple divorced March 16, 1877 and James moved to Bates County, Missouri. On July 26, 1878, James married Mary Polson (Poulson) who was born in Belmont County, Ohio in 1853. In 1880, Mary Hooper Gibbs Ware Bouton was in Rich Hill, Livingston, Missouri with her children, while James Bouton was in Walnut, Bates, Missouri with his third wife and new family.

1880 Rich Hill, Livingston, Missouri
Bouton Mary 52 b. MO parents b. VA
Alice 19 MO KY MO
James 17
Loyd 10
Ware John 26 son MO Rhode Island MA

1880 Walnut Bates MO
Bouton James B 52 MD b. NY parents b. Conn.
Mary M 27 b. OH parents b. OH
Bertha 5 b. MO
Claude B. 11/12

James Bouton and this third family moved to Liberal and a “Bouton-Boughton family” history gives them as living there until November of 1889. Their children were Clyde b. 1880, George Walter b. 1881. O. E. Harmon’s book on Liberal instead gives Clyde Walter as Walser and possibly the first child born in Liberal.

The 1900 census shows, in Ozark, Barton, Missouri, Mary Bouton, widowed, who is 52, born in Ohio, George W., is 18, born in Missouri, and Harry, 11, was also born in Missouri.

I’ve seen James Bouton given as leaving Liberal about 1889, the year his youngest son, Harry, was born. If this is so, I’ve no idea where he went. But, as can be observed, his family was still in Liberal in 1900. I also find the family was in Liberal in 1891 when daughter Bertha married William Fast. As she was underage there’s a note on the license that she had her father’s written consent.

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One Response to “Old Snag, and a Little History on James Bouton”
  1. kaye drake says:

    Dr. Bouton’s widow Mary married Gilbert Oregon Adams who was widowed. They were married many years. Gilbert was my great grandfather, a drummer boy in the civil war.

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