3-7-77 was the symbol used by the Montana Vigilantes (Vigilance Committee) in Virginia City, Montana, USA in the 19th century. People who found the numbers '3-7-77' painted on their tent or cabin knew that they had better leave the area or expect to be on the receiving end of vigilantism.

Montana Highway Patrol patch

The numbers are used on the shoulder patch of the Montana Highway Patrol, who claim they do not know the original meaning of the symbol, though the Association of Montana Troopers website says "Regardless of its meaning, however, 3-7-77 is emblematic of the first organized law enforcement in Montana. The Montana Highway Patrol, in adopting this early symbol, honors the first men in the Montana Territory who organized for the safety and welfare of the people. For that same reason, the Association of Montana Troopers has carried on that tradition by placing the legendary 3-7-77 on their patch as well. It has been suggested the numbers represent the date the Vigilante Oath was signed in Bannack Montana, the first seat of Justice in the state. You can visit the Masonic Temple in the now ghost town and see the Oath for yourself hanging on the wall. It is dated March 7, 1877. (3-7-77)"[1]

The symbol also appears on the flight suits of pilots of the Montana Air National Guard, and the Flight Patch of the Montana Army National Guard Medevac unit 1189th GSAB – Vigilantes. Further, it appears under the bottle cap of certain varieties of Big Sky Brewing Company beer.[2]

OriginEdit

Various theories have been put forth about its meaning, including:

  • The numbers represent the dimensions of a grave, 3 feet by 7 feet by 77 inches.[3]
  • Frederick Allen, in his book A Decent Orderly Lynching, says the number meant the person had to buy a $3 ticket on the next 7:00 a.m. stagecoach to take the 77-mile trip from Helena to Butte.[4]
  • The number set may have something to do with the date March 7, 1877; the numbers were first used in that decade and first appeared in print later in that decade of the 19th century. The first Masonic meeting in Bannack, Montana took place March 7, 1877. Many members of this lodge were also the original Vigilantes.[5]
  • The Bannack Masons applied for a charter for a Masonic Lodge in 1863. Later in 1871 Bannack Lodge 16 was chartered and remained open until 1921, when it consolidated with the Dillon Masonic Lodge. In 2000 Bannack Historic Lodge 3-7-77 was organized through the Grand Lodge of Montana.
  • The same source (the Bannack State Park Guide) also says in 1874 realizing the need for a school, Bannack Masonic Lodge 16 built the combination lodge and school. However, this suggests that the first Masonic meeting in Bannack was well before March 7, 1877.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Association of Montana Troopers | 3-7-77 Information". www.montanatrooper.com. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  2. ^ Long, Nick. Personal interview. 13 Aug 2009. Interview.
  3. ^ Maclean, Norman (1992). - A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. - New York, New York: Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster). - pp. 33. - ISBN 0-671-77697-5.
  4. ^ Allen, Frederick. A Decent Orderly Lynching. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004.
  5. ^ Allen, Frederick, ‘Montana Vigilantes and the Origins of 3-7-77’, Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Vol. 51, No. 1 (2001)