In the Fall of 1920,
two couples pulled into a campsite just off the famous Yellowstone Trail. A few weeks later, one couple drove away, while the other simply vanished. The identities and fate of the couple left behind didn't hit newsstands until three years later. In one of the most sensational murder cases ever played out in a Montana court, Seth Orrin Danner put up a fight for his life and lost. The state executed Seth on July 18, 1924, at the Gallatin County Jail, but did he commit the crime?
When I was about 5 years old my family visited a museum in downtown Bozeman, Montana to cool off on a hot day. All I remember is the brick of the building, but my Dad vividly remembers the gallows located inside the building. He remembers how much it bothered him visually, but that is all he remembers. The story was missing and has been missing until 25 years later when I became curator at that same museum, the Gallatin History Museum.
To cope with having such a grim reminder of mortality to walk under every day I decided to face that darkness to try and find a light. And I did. It’s not a glimmering light of overwhelming hope or joy, no, it’s a light of illumination. I can say that I understand life a little better, the extreme hardships those in our past have faced and those we still face today. That human life is interesting, complicated and yet so very simple. I hope those who read this book see this paradox of qualities in the character of Seth Danner and those who condemned him. - Kelly Suzanne Hartman