Of all the individuals involved in the historical events that are the basis of “Calamity Jane- How the West Began,” Dr. Jerome Glick may have been the most controversial. Plummer is controversial today, but his character wasn’t much argued back then. Glick is not much noted today, but his character was controversial in his own time, at least in his younger years.
The most detailed description of Dr. Glick comes from Langford in “Vigilante Days and Ways,” (pp. 157-161). In the first couple pages of that passage, Langford describes Glick’s attempt to find a bullet in Plummer’s arm (see my essay “Dr. Glick’s Nurse”). Then he continues:
“Dr. Glick came to Bannack with a party of emigrants, of which he was captain, in 1862. The company were bound for the Salmon River, but were arrested in their progress by the reputed richness or the Grasshopper mines. Glick had lost a handsome property in the early part of the war, and came to the gold mines to replenish his broken fortunes. He was accomplished in his profession, especially in surgery, and was the only physician in practice who had the confidence of the people,-Dr. Leavitt, also an able practitioner, being, at the time, engaged in mining.
“His services were in almost daily demand by the road agents, to dress wounds received in broils among themselves, or while engaged in the commission of robbery. It was impossible, from his frequent contact with them, and the circumstances with which ofttimes he found them surrounded, for him to avoid a knowledge of their guilty enterprises. But he neither dared to decline to serve them, nor to divulge their villainy, well knowing that in either case, he would fall a victim to that summary vengeance, so promptly and fearlessly exercised in the case of Dillingham. He foresaw also, that a time must come when all the guilty misdeeds which he had been obliged to conceal, would be revealed, and that then the lovers of law and order would suspect the integrity of his motives, and possibly class him among the men of whom he justly stood so much in fear. But there was no remedy. He knew that his actions were narrowly watched, and that a word or glance indicating his suspicions would cost him his life. It was a happy day for him when, by the death of Plummer, his lips were unsealed.”
Please read my essay “Revisionist History” for the rest of that passage if you are interested.
Note that Langford says that Glick did not come forward until Plummer was executed. From that we can infer that Glick held his tongue about Plummer during the trial of the outlaw Ives, (after which the trial of Lefty, et al is patterned in “Calamity”), where he told of treating the injuries of wounded robbers (Dimsdale, “The Vigilantes of Montana,” p. 116). Not only did he not tell the crowd, but he did not use the opportunity to tell those who had arrested Ives. We can infer that by the fact that when the vigilantes heard a captured outlaw (Yager) implicate Plummer later, they were astounded.
Langford’s bio of Glick sounds to me defensive, as though there was substantial sentiment against the doctor in certain quarters. That could be due to his holding his tongue, but as well it could be due to his being an ardent Southern sympathizer, which would of course be a cause of antipathy among Northerners. Evidence of his Southern sympathies is seen in a passage from Larry Barsness in his book “Gold Camp” (p. 21):
“The Confederate majority kept the Union b’hoys stirred up with all sorts of malicious rumors, which there was no way to prove wrong. Though the Northerners labeled any rumor as coming from ‘Dr. Glick’s Grapevine Telegraph,” they couldn’t help but feel disturbed at the persistent story that Washington, D.C. was captured and Lincoln held prisoner of war.”
Being a Southern sympathizer would antagonize many Unionists; being a leader in that faction would antagonize more, and being thought to be the source of malicious rumors would antagonize more still.
One of the things I love about this episode in history is the wealth of detail available. The historical events are complicated (and required a lot of simplification for my “Calamity,”) but so many individuals wrote first-hand accounts of the events that we can even tease out the factors that cast Glick in a bad light. The following elaborates on that, from the book “Medicine in the Making of Montana,” by Paul C. Phillips, (p. 84):
“Dr. Glick may have felt some embarrassment because of his work for the road agents. In 1864 he abandoned his large practice in Madison County and moved to the wild, drunken mining community of Blackfoot City…”
Phillips continues in a section about Glick’s break-up with his partner, Dr. Brooke (p. 100):
“Dr. Glick was under a cloud from his associations with the road agents, and Dr. Brooke was an ardent secessionist and was soon acting with them politically. In a December meeting he boldly stated that he would never vote for a man who had helped put down the South…. He (Glick) could not afford to alienate his pro-Northern patients by close association with Dr. Brooke, an open rebel.”
Wait a minute- “associations with the road agents?” That’s more than just being accused of holding his tongue. It sounds like collaboration. Where does that come from? Here’s a clue: Glick’s obituary in the Helena Independent Newspaper, Aug. 29, 1880 tells us:
“…on account of his Southern Sympathies he was arrested and for awhile imprisoned in Denver.”
We haven’t heard anything up to this point that should merit an arrest, and the obituary doesn’t elaborate. For that information, there is this little-known account by Charles Beehrer, found in “Dimsdale’s Vigilantes of Montana” by Al Noyes, (p. 264):
“So when I got there, this man, who was an honest fellow, said to his brother, ‘You had better not take this boy (Beehrer) in your gang,’ and he turned to me and said, ‘You had better not go. You don’t know what kind of men they are.’ He told me they were highway robbers. I replied that I did not believe it, and that I would go and see the camp. So I went over to the camp about seven or eight miles, and I walked down and counted the horses. There were 48 men in camp besides myself and two were out someplace, and there were only 46 saddle horses. So I said, ‘Boys, I can’t go with you.’ And they wanted to know why, and I said, ‘There are only 46 horses and there are fifty of us altogether.’ They replied that that was all right; that they would pick up horses enough at the first ranch they came to, and that I should go. I repeated that I would not go. I told them no. Then they threatened to kill me, and told me I had to go. I repeated that I would not go, and that if I had done anything for which I should be killed, to go ahead, as I would not go with them. I … had a long talk. They told me if I made a solemn promise not to tell, they would let me go. I remember that there were men in that bunch that I saw afterwards, in Montana. Dr. Glick was one of them, and also John Wagner and Jack Gallagher.
“I saw Dr. Glick, John Wagner, Jack Gallagher, John Heffner and Wilfert, among others, again in Montana. It was on account of finding such men as Wagner and Gallagher in the outfit that caused me to take but little stock in them, and was one reason why I did not go.”
Wagner and Gallagher were later part of Plummer’s gang, executed by vigilantes in January of 1864. Dicey company for Dr. Glick. Beehrer continues:
“Shortly after I left there, they captured a government train that was loaded with supplies for Fort Collins. An assistant wagon boss brought the news to Denver, and Capt. Weis went out with a company of cavalry, and brought them to Denver and put the whole gang in jail, but they had some friends who let them out, and they scattered- many of them coming to Montana.”
How close was Glick’s association with these men? Remember, Langford tells us he was their captain on their journey to the gold fields.
Later in his career Glick became a pillar of the community, as implied by Langford; loved and respected. This can also be seen in Ellen Baumler’s “Girl from the Gulches” (p. 135) about Mary Ronan, the girl on whom I based the vignette of children gleaning gold from sluices in “Calamity” (see my essay “Urchins of Frontier Montana”).
“Everyone loved Dr. Glick. He put his profession before all other considerations. He was prompt at every call no matter what the weather or what the distance. How splendid he looked on the beautiful, spirited horses he kept for riding on his calls. Once in his sad, broken, last years, when his mind was beginning to fail, Mr. Ronan brought him to stay for a time at the Jocko Agency, hoping that happy surroundings might restore him somewhat. Though sick in mind, he was not a difficult guest for he was gentle and tractable and childish play amused him. The pathos of his condition was poignant to those of us who had known him in his vigorous days of supreme service.”
In his earlier years, “(h)e wore his hair very long and wore a large black hat. He rode a spirited white horse. Mexican tappederos on his stirrups always attracted attention.” (“Montana Moments” by Ellen Baumler, pp. 117-118).
With that image, for this story, Dr. Glick rides off into the sunset, the controversy of his younger years behind him.