Oct. 6, 1885
Fifty French-Canadian loggers hired by Bill Thompson, the future mayor of Butte, hike up a wooded canyon above the Hell Gate River and start felling trees. It sparks the bloodless Cramer Gulch war.
The Hammond brothers, who operate mills in the vicinity, have already established a camp in the gulch near Beavertail Hill to help feed their new operation in Bonner, which will open next year. Robert Coombs, Hammonds’ manager at the Bonita mill at the mouth of Cramer Creek, leads a gang of men up the gulch to confront Thompson’s “invaders.”
“The Thompson crowd didn’t take kindly to the invitation which Coombs gave them to get out of the gulch; perhaps it was not courteous enough,” Missoulian editor Arthur Stone will relate in 1912.
A Thompson foreman named Miles offers to fight Coombs or any one of his men to decide who gets to log the gulch. Hand-to-hand fights break out as Thompson’s men attempt to load some logs they’ve cut. Eventually Coombs retreats.
Tomorrow he’ll order a “fighting lumberjack” named Bill Harris to address the situation. Harris will offer to fight any one of Thompson’s crowd, then two, then three, but there are no takers. A tense bushwhacking contest will develop over the next weeks as both companies battle for the trees. Foremen will wear guns on their hips, and small acts of sabotage are rampant until company heads reach a compromise. It’s agreed that both groups will log in peace.
“There were few gulches in Montana which were stripped of their timber faster than was Cramer gulch that winter,” Stone is to write.
Oct. 6, 1885