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Sec A Page 2 Missoulian Centennial Early Missoula Homicide Like a Western Thriller

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Early Missoula Homicide Like a Western Thriller

What is reported to be the first homicide in the Garden City reads pretty much like a western thriller.

It was in December of 1865, not very long after the site of the town was moved from Hell Gate to its present location. The victim ran a saloon in what is believed by some to have been the first house built in what is now Missoula. This small structure, which William T. Hamilton said he built in 1858-59, was about 400 feet west of the mouth of Rattlesnake Creek. This would place it just east of the north fill for the Madison Street Bridge.

The late Will Cave told the story this way:

“A big red-bearded native of the north of Ireland, named Matt Craft, had drifted into the country, had become a genuine bad man, had killed a man named Crowe near Hell Gate and had otherwise conducted himself in such manner that the few pioneers here, though by no means lacking in hardihood, were all very considerably inclined to avoid trouble with Craft.

“Craft had bought the Hamilton ‘first house’ and in it conducted a saloon. Thomas Haggerty, known as Black Tom, was another son of Erin’s Isle, of a type directly opposite to that of Craft. He was a small dark, quiet, ordinarily inoffensive man.

“I have never learned what brought about the difficulty, but Haggerty was the victim of an unmerciful beating at the hands of Craft. The lots upon which is now located the Union Block were owned by Thomas M. Pomeroy, who had built a small house on the back of the lots.

“One evening Charles Schafft and Matt Craft were in this house: Craft sitting in a chair opposite the window, while Schafft was sitting on the table, patching his trousers by candlelight. Black Tom slipped up to the window, waited until Schafft had his arm raised with needle and thread, fired under Schafft’s arm across the table, killing Craft instantly.

“The killing was done in cold blood, but everyone in the community breathed more freely now that a dangerous man had been removed, and no attempt was ever made to bring Haggerty to account for the act.”

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 March 2017 19:56