When I first began researching Granite County history, almost twenty years ago, the first news article I found was the above headline. Research at that time, consisted mainly of going to the Montana Historical Society Research Library and reading the available newspapers on microfilm. Wonderful strides have been made since and one can now sit in their home and read a large amount of downloaded articles archived on the internet. But with all of these changes there are still some questions, I have been unable to answer. After reading this, maybe one of you can provide the answers.
The Philipsburg Call May 11, 1893 began their story “ Joe Gird’s Murder-Two bullets do their deadly destruction. J. Brown fires both shots. The population of Granite County was startled last Saturday evening with the news from Flint Station to the effect that a shooting scrape had taken place there in the saloon of Brown & Clay and that Joseph A. Gird, an old and respected resident of Willow Creek, had been the victim at the hands of a cold blooded assassin in the person of J.W. Brown, one of the proprietors. On the receipt of the news in Philipsburg, Sheriff (John) Cole started at once for the scene of the trouble. On arriving there he found Gird lying dead in the saloon with two bullet holes in his body and his face blackened with powder from another shot that must have been fired when he and Brown were in close conflict. Upon inquiring for Brown, the sheriff was informed that he had started on foot to Philipsburg for the purpose of giving himself up. With this information Sheriff Cole dispatched a deputy to go down the track from Philipsburg to meet Brown, which was done, but the murderer was no where to be seen, and then the officer became suspicious that the criminal was making his escape. All night the sheriff and his deputies kept a lookout up and down the valley, but no trace of Brown was seen and his whereabouts is still a secret, probably to himself alone, yet it is the general belief that his partner Clay assisted him to escape and if anyone knows where Brown is, Clay is the one.”
James Campbell and Eugene Sifton were the only witnesses and they both related the story that Gird, Brown and Campbell had traveled by train to Philipsburg earlier in the day and upon their return went to the stable to pick up their saddle horses. Campbell asked the group as they were leaving the stable if they wanted to stop for a drink and agreeing to the invite the group hitched the horses to the fence near the saloon and settled in to have a drink and shake dice for who payed for the drinks. Gird and Brown then began to play poker and a disagreement over a dollar bet ensued. Next Brown got up and Gird took Brown by the shoulder saying” You had the best of me once with a Henry rifle, didn’t you Brown?” without answering Brown walked behind the bar and took out a gun and began shooting. Gird started to run and was hit in the chest then as he turned was shot in the back under the left shoulder blade. Gird went to his horse and attempted to get on but asked Campbell who had followed to assist him. Gird then fainted and Campbell ran back to the saloon for help. Brown and Sifton helped carry Gird back to the saloon and Campbell then mounted his horse and rode three miles to Horton’s to report the shooting and telegraph Philipsburg for a doctor. By the time Campbell returned to the saloon, Gird was dead, a crowd had formed and Brown was no where to be seen. Dominic Byrne, Gird’s father-in-law was about seven miles from the scene and hearing of the trouble headed for the saloon. He came upon two men and recognized Brown. Asking whether he had done the shooting Brown said no and when questioned drew his revolver “and with gun in hand ready to shoot spurred his horse and rode off into the valley.”
Gird, age 33, was buried in the Philipsburg cemetery beside his mother and child. He was survived by wife Mary and five small children. Four of the children’s names (I think) were Ella, Joseph, Emmett and Dominic. The only surviving headstone at the cemetery is Dominic’s.
Shortly after Joseph Gird’s funeral the Granite County Commissioners offered a $250.00 reward for J.W. Brown’s capture believing that would entice anyone knowing of his whereabouts to come forward. A friend of Brown who had been in Boulder Gulch claimed to have seen Brown and talked with him. Brown said he did not plan to leave the county or become a fugitive, but thought knowing the feelings against him by Gird’s friends it was best for the time being to “remain in a prison he had selected for himself until the heat of excitement had passed.”
No article was discovered in the newspapers about how or when J.W. Brown was found or turned himself in. But the July 20, 1893 Mail carried the article that the trial for J.W. Brown had started. Fifty men were interviewed before a jury of twelve men without bias were determined. The jury went out to deliberate at 8pm on Saturday and returned with a verdict at 8:30 am on Monday morning. Two witnesses disclosed that Gird had told them a few months prior that he wanted to kill Brown and this caused the jury consternation as to whether the killing had been cold blooded murder against an un-armed man. J.W. was convicted of 2nd degree murder and sentenced to ten years in the State Prison. The August 3, 1893 Mail stated Brown was taken to Deer Lodge by Sheriff Cole via horseback.
A man named John Roberts was in the Granite County Jail for check forgery in September, 1893 and it was believed that he used a gun, meant to be given to J.W. Brown to escape, as the vehicle to commit suicide. The September 14, 1893 Mail stated “ George Suppinger, the jailer rushed into the cell and there on the floor lay the prisoner Roberts, in a pool of blood issuing from a bullet hole in his head.” A letter was found in Robert’s pocket when the body was being prepared for burial that requested his father be notified of his death but not to disclose he had died by his own hand. “The gun I shot myself with was given to me on coming out of the court house. I would have shot the jailer too but he was not worth the lead.” The gun was determined to be the one the jailer had lost two or three months before while J.W. Brown was a prisoner. The gun was searched for at length and it was finally determined that some prisoner had taken it out of the jail after serving their sentence.
The Anaconda Standard carried an article on June 3, 1894 that the saloon where the murder took place was burned to the ground and it was believed the fire had been deliberately set. Right after Joseph’s death his wife began filing estate notices. By 1895, Mary Gird had leased the Sharp Boarding House and was opening a first class restaurant. In January,1898, she returned to the ranch and by September 23rd announced the ranch was up for rent on a two to four year contract. The ranch was identified as a 320 acre tract of land on Willow Creek with 180 acres fenced, with the address Stone Station.
It is unknown if the ranch was rented but by January, 1900 The Mail carried an announcement that the Gird ranch would be sold at a private sale on February 5. Also beginning in February Mary had a notice of private sale of water rights posted in The Mail. One right was a one-fourth interest in 125 inches conveyed in “The Little Ditch” from Willow Creek to Elkhorn Bar and the second right was for sixty inches of the water of Willow Creek awarded May 15, 1871.
A November 8, 1900 article stated “Fugitive who killed Sheriff Young of Springdale is believed to be J.W. Brown, the murderer of Joseph Gird in 1893.” Obviously he was released for good behavior early!
Helen Gird married Harry B. Miller in 1910. Was she the fifth Gird child? William Gird living in the valley attended Joseph’s funeral. Was he a brother? The 1880 U.S. Federal Census lists Joseph age 20 living with other boarders in New Chicago. This census lists Lucy Gird age eight as an orphan living with Joseph and Isabella Henderson and Louisa Gird age twelve and William Gird age four as adopted by Joshua and Sarah Donegan. Research has failed to identify who these three Gird children belonged to. How many children did Joseph’s father A.J. Gird have?
We know the family transferred from the Bitter Root before Kate Perry moved from Philipsburg to the Gird Ranch in the fall of 1867. Does anyone know the date the Gird's left the Bitterroot?
Father, A.J. Gird originally arrived in the Bitterroot Valley in the winter of 1862 with George Orr, when Joseph was two years old. Research does not disclose whether the family followed later or was with A.J. and George at the original time of arrival. The Gird family operated an inn named The Travelers Rest in the Bitterroot and it appears used that or a similar name at their rest stop that Kate Perry worked at in the winter of 1867 in the Lower Flint Creek valley near the present Gird Creek.