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Mock inquest explores the death of Thomas Francis Meagher - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

Mock inquest explores the death of Thomas Francis Meagher

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Mock inquest explores the death of Thomas Francis Meagher Mock inquest explores the death of Thomas Francis Meagher
HELENA -

A mock inquest into the death of Thomas Francis Meagher was held Friday at the State Capitol in the old Supreme Court room.

A part of Meagher Fest, the inquest explores the mysterious disappearance of the Irish rebel and Montana leader from the 19th century.

Just like his life, Meagher’s death was controversial.

The mock inquest into his alleged drowning in the Missouri River in Fort Benton provided a chance for the public to come to their own conclusions.

Relph Steele, who played an Irish attorney in the mock inquest, said a real verdict is reached at the end of the night.

“We pick a real jury and they make a factual determination as to what caused the demise of Thomas Francis Meagher 150 years ago,” Steele said.

The actors dressed in authentic attire for the period and read from real testimony during the original inquest.

For Meagher’s enthusiasts, the mock inquest is a chance to raise awareness about an important historical figure in both U.S. and Montana history.

“People should pay attention to Thomas Francis Meagher. There’s a county named after him. He was a seminal figure in U.S. history and Montana history,” Steele said.

Click here to read more about Meagher.


New York Times best selling author Tim Egan says that, toying with the idea of a "New Ireland" in the West, Meagher accepted an assignment as Montana Territorial Secretary, only to find the current governor running out of Bannack the same afternoon he arrived.

Best-selling author Tim Egan noted, "The very stage that had brought Meagher in, the governor is now getting on that stage. he hands a bunch of papers to Meagher and says 'You're the governor. I'm outta here.' And that's what makes Thomas Meagher (Montana's) acting governor."

"He's the most popular man in Montana. He gives these huge speeches. He arguably would have been a fantastic governor if he had more than 17 months."

After coming down sick for a few days, Meagher boarded a Fort Benton steamer, vanishing over the side in darkness.

Was he pushed, perhaps assassinated? Or just drunk? It's still debated.

But Egan, with family ties in Butte, says the mystery can't obscure what Meagher meant to the Irish.

"He'd lived 12 lives in this one, short life," Egan said. "It's such an amazing story. And I don't think people in Montana realize how well known this person is, all over the world."

"He was, arguably, the most famous Irish-American in our history until John F. Kennedy."

A bold claim? Perhaps. But then again, Thomas Francis Meagher lived a bold life 

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