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Shifting Scenes fills in court record holes


April 21, 2017

George Boggs was Carter County’s first sheriff. He had served six years previously as deputy sheriff under Sheriff W.E. Savage in Custer County. During those years he was responsible for the law enforcement of all the county east of Powder River to the Montana Dakota line.

When Carter County was created in 1917, George Boggs was named in the bill as the first sheriff. Geo Boggs was well equipped for this position, he was well known, and respected in the area. The commission minutes reflect Boggs’ influence and presence in the many daunting challenges that were faced in the initial beginnings of the county.

Sadly, serving as an elected official has some high stakes. One of the duties would have been the hanging of one of his very best friends who had been convicted on a charge of murder and sentenced to hang; but before that fatal day, the man took poison which he had hidden in the lining of his coat before being brought to jail (see Shifting Scenes, Volume I – George Boggs).

In reviewing district court records, Fred S. Gillard was found guilty of murder in the first degree and the courts fixed his punishment by hanging. Gillard, “Shorty” as he was referred to, and Carnell Cooper were playing cards in the Acherman-Carr Saloon in Alzada, MT. According to the record, there was very little account of what lead up to Gillard shooting Cooper; they had been playing cards in the saloon.

At some point both left the saloon. Cooper came back in and bought some whiskey and then exited through the back door. Gillard came in through the front door and came through the bar to the back door at which time he shot Cooper. Bystanders took Cooper to the Hotel and Gillard called Sheriff Boggs.

The trial was held and “Shorty” was found guilty of murder. Boggs had built the gallows from which “Shorty” would be hung. On April 19, 1918, Fred S. Gillard was found dead on his cot in the jail. On the cot opposite where he lay was an envelope with Geo Boggs’ name written. Inside was a note written in pencil: “Blame no one else for I got the struknine at my wifes place the day that Dan Dague & I stayed there. If they want my life, all right. but possibly I can keep mother from finding out if I take this method. As God is my judge, I only wanted Cooper to take back calling my mother a hoar. Shorty”

He added a post script: “After I came back from Baker I poured some in N.E. corner of sell on floor and covered it with feathers. Some on top bunk above mine. Moody hunted the sell over, but it was too cutely hidden. The bottle I put down the toilet. There is a rip in the back of my overcoat. Had carried it under the lining ever since Jan 19th until I came back from Baker. May God forgive all, and have mercy on my soul.”

Fred S. Gillard was laid to rest following the coroner’s inquest. This truly tragic story is told in the court records and history books of Carter County. Two tragic deaths, but for the honor of thy mother. George S. Boggs served as Carter County Sheriff from March, 1917 through December, 1922.


Reader Comments

sfarwell writes:

An interesting story about early law and punishment in Carter County. I had not read about George Boogs in Shifting Scenes but will now do so. Thanks to Pam for bringing this story to my attention via her article in the Eagle.


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