Around Christmas of 1908, Sheriff Fleming of Deer Lodge County was in Butte and recognized a black horse, that belonged to Sheriff J.D. Kennedy of Granite County, tied up at the livery stable. Seems there were three men in the Butte Jail that had horses stabled at the livery. When Fleming telephoned Kennedy he found out that the horse had been stolen. The jailed men had a forged "Bill of Sale" on their person and were turned over to Sheriff Kennedy to be prosecuted in Granite County.
The men, named Sam Gohlson, Frank Lalonde alias Turner and Clarence Black had taken the animals from the range on "Porter's Ridge." Two of the horses belonged to Sheriff Kennedy, one belonged to the Hickey Brothers on East Fork and the fourth horse belonged to the Quinlan Brothers on upper Rock Creek.
Apparently the horse thieves did not like the jail accommodations and with the help of Herbert Porter, jailed for stealing an overcoat, dug their way out of the County Jail on January 17, 1909. According to mud slinging during the following election the original hole had been dug while David H. Morgan had been jailer and was known to be there but never reported or repaired. As soon as the prisoners were missed Sheriff Kennedy and Under-Sheriff Scott started in pursuit and with the aid of lanterns were able to track the men by their high heeled cowboy boots imprinted in the snow. The trail went past the Electric Light Plant, down the railroad tracks to Schoonover's land and into Durfee's lane. Going back to get his horse Sheriff Kennedy then tracked the trail from the slaughter house and past Hermanson 's place. But by the time he got to the top of the hill such a storm was blowing that he lost all signs of any trail. After searching all the known cabins down Sluice Gulch to the Mungas sawmill he returned to the jail and notified surrounding law enforcement of the escape. The next morning they continued the search but to no avail. Near evening young George Higley, about 18 years of age, arrived at the Sheriff's office. He was employed at the Crawshaw place in Antelope Gulch and told the sheriff that four men were hiding there. Apparently Sam Gohlson had worked at the Crawshaw place the previous fall and knew the area well. They had shown up about the prior evening and found young Higley alone. On Monday Higley told them he had made arrangements to spend the night with a friend and would have to go or they would come looking for him. George gave his word that he would not tell anyone they were at the Crawshaw place. He then rode straight to town and notified the Sheriff.
Kennedy left immediately with D.A. McLeod and Forest Ranger Harry Morgan. The men spent the night at the Breen Ranch and at daylight surrounded the Crawshaw ranch house. They called for the men to come out:
They complied reluctantly and emerged, several of them but partially clad. An inspection of the cabin disclosed a double barrel shotgun loaded and ready to use and two rifles not loaded. One of the guns was lying in one of the bunks apparently between two of the men while they slept. All the guns belonged to the ranch. A team was procured from the Breen ranch and the captives were brought to town, arriving at the jail about 1pm.
The four men plead not guilty on Monday March 2, 1909 and had a trial date set for March 8th. The trial did not happen though as Lalonde, Gholson and Black changed their plea to guilty and were sentenced to three years in Deer Lodge Prison. Then Porter saw the wisdom of not going to trial and plead guilty for stealing the overcoat and was sentenced to six months at Deer Lodge.
The jail break created a lot of controversy and the outcome was the pseudo hanging captured in the following picture from the Tex Crowley Collection.
This view of the pseudo hanging is at the intersection of Sansome and Broadway where the stop light now hangs. The person taking the picture was probably near the McDonald Opera House in the area where the current Town Hall and Library are located. The building in the left of the picture is the side of what is now known as the Sayr building.