When I ran the B & B at the ranch, each bedroom had the name of one of Helena's unsung heros. The Ah Chow room showed a breath-taking view of the mountains and you could catch a glimpse of the "Gates of the Mountains" on the Missouri River where Lewis and Clark came through.
Vigilantes Were Alive in Helena
Ah Chow, a Chinese immigrant, drove a logging wagon in Helena when the city was still in it's infancy. It was the period between the lawless rough-shod mining camps and strict laws that bind a city together.
John Bitzner, a miner, on his nightly round of saloon-hopping , passed Ah Chow's house and caught a glimpse of Jasmine, Ah Chow's beautiful wife. Driven by drunken lust, Bitzner forced his way into Ah Chow's house and tried to take advantage of her. Although Ah Chow's shooting arm was in a sling from a logging accident, he tried to ward off his wife's assailant. Bitzner grabbed Ah Chow's gun from a wall hook and as the struggle ensued, Bitzner was shot.
Bitzner fled from the house leaving a trail of blood as he dragged himself to the Kiyus Saloon. There, with plenty of listeners, he told his story of twisted lies that portrayed Ah Chow as the culprit who deliberatly shot him. Bitzner died in the sloon and immediately the Vigilantes were on their horses hunting down Ah Chow in the subzero February weather. Word went out to the Chinese community that it meant death to anyone who gave Ah Chow shelter. He was easily captured and the Vigilantes did their dastardly deed.
In as much as this ends in a tragedy, the focus of the story is on the love between Ah Chow and his wife. Jasmine was helpless as the Vigilantes dragged him off to the hanging tree but she remained by his body long after the town folk had gone back into their warm cabins. Shivering beneath her tattered shawl, Jasmine kept her long vigil for the man who gave his life protecting "her honor."
I researched all my stories at the Historical Society where I had access to the original yellowed, fragile papers. The ranch wasn't exactly location, location, location so all guests got their information from my website. There, I always described the rooms and had pictures so guests could ask for a specific room. Yes, it was work but meeting many wonderful people was a joy.