Page 9 - MFM March 2016
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Montana Freemason                  March 2016           Volume 92 Number 2

                     Hands of the Workmen
                   Thomas Josiah Dimsdale

   Thomas J. Dimsdale, was born in Thursby,                        “When will the time of safety come on our
   England (between 1825 and 1831,                                  routes so a man can take his hard earnings
records vary on this information).                                   home? If nothing is done to bring these
                                                                     gents to rope, times will be tougher than
   His parents intended for him to serve                             they were last winter.”
within the church and they sent him to
Oxford to complete his education and                                 A report of a hanging by vigilantes of a
enter the ministry was cut short due to                             highwayman in the September 24, 1864,
family financial setbacks and prevented                            edition of the Post concluded:
him from attending beyond his sophomore                            “The whole proceedings were conducted
year. He emigrated to Ontario, Canada and                      with a solemnity and decency not usually seen
with the discovery of gold in the west found                in older communities. Among those present at
his way to Virginia City. In the winter of 1864 he      the execution, were many of the worthiest and most
gave up working in the mines, and sought to make        influential citizens of the neighborhood.”
a livelihood by teaching, and there were no schools
established and he was able to succeed fairly well in      Professor Dimsdale was a public spirited citizen,
this vocation.                                          he was an ardent worker in the cause of eduction,
                                                        often overtaxing his strength in his labors. He was
   Thomas J. Dimsdale, was often described as           active in the practice of his Episcopal faith and
being a sickly British school teacher, most people at   conducted the first service of that denomination in
the time did not realize that tuberculosis had taken    Virginia City.
hold of him.
                                                           His work became intermittent, for the disease
   When the Montana Territory was created in 1864,      from which he suffered had taken fatal hold and in
Governor Sidney Edgerton appointed Dimsdale             the summer of 1865 confined him to his room. In
as the first Superintendent of Public Instruction a     his sickness his long time friend Col. W. F. Sanders
position he held for two years.                         was almost constantly at his bedside, it is said that
                                                        he died in the arms of his friend (sources vary on his
   The Montana Post, the first newspaper printed        age, he would have been age 35 to 41).
in the Territory hired Dimsdale as the first editor-
in-chief. As soon as the paper was well on its feet,       Thomas J. Dimsdale was a member of Virginia
Editor Dimsdale set about the publication of the        City No. 43 (now No. 1) and later a member of
Vigilantes in its columns. It was an immense drawing    Montana No. 2, he was present at the formation of
card for the subscription department. The work was      the Grand Lodge, and was appointed Grand Orator,
a recital of the doings of the famous organization      delivering a short address before the communication
which stamped out the carnival of crime that had        closed. Speaking of Montana he said “How stands
been running riot in the embryo territory for a year    the record of Masons as citizens of this land? I
prior to the capture and execution road agents. It was  am proud to say it is unstained and brilliant. They
a graphic description of the robberies and murders      remembered the old adage, “when bad men combine,
committed by the road agents whose crimes made          good men unite.”
life a dreary burden to the inhabitants of the region;
the measures of their arrest and extinction and tragic     When the second annual
fate which befell the thugs and assassins at the hands  communication was called
of the self-constituted ministers of justice.           to order, the Grand Orator
                                                        was dead.
   Dimsdale’s book, The Vigilantes of Montana
or Popular Justice in the Rocky Mountains, first                                                                Page 9
appeared in the newspaper in a serialized format
in 1866. Dimsdale’s editorial perspective regularly
appeared in news stories announcing suspension of
a messenger service due to robberies committed by
highwaymen:
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