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Lewistown hosts re-enactment of 'Rattlesnake Jake' shootout

Lewistown brought back their tradition of reenacting the tale of Rattlesnake Jake
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Posted at 7:21 PM, Jul 04, 2024

In Lewistown after the Independence Day parade on Thursday, the town brought back their tradition of reenacting the tale of Rattlesnake Jake, a cattle rustler and gunslinger, on the 140th anniversary of the legendary wild west shootout that took place downtown.

He is said to have gotten the nickname “Rattlesnake Jake” because he was missing two of his lower front teeth, and would flick his tongue through the opening.

According to the story, Rattlesnake Jake and his friend were getting rowdy in one of the saloons, terrorizing residents and making them jump over bullets.

Resident John Dony wasn’t pleased, and a gunfight ensued, killing Rattlesnake Jake in the street.

The reenactment was performed in the exact location on Main Street the gunfight occurred, performed by members of the Judith Mountain Players and community volunteers.

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The re-enactment was a Lewistown tradition, but hasn’t been performed in around fifteen years.

Emily Eckhardt revived the tradition this year while doing research for her children’s book based on the events, titled Rattlesnake Jake: How Lewistown Was Won.

She also wrote the script for the reenactment. Eckhardt also painted a mural of the Rattlesnake Jake gunfight that now hangs above the gunfight’s location on Main Street and 3rd Avenue in downtown Lewistown.

Eckhardt says, “Cool story and just an integral part of our history, you know, to know that vigilantism was still alive, you know, in the 1880s, and people were meting out their own justice. What an honor to have my art here on Main Street and to have the depiction of the scene right up top where it actually happened and for people to see as they walk by.”

A skull that is said to belong to Rattlesnake Jake is on display in the Central Montana Museum in Lewistown.