Black Sheep Sunday – Milo and Walter Long, the family murderers

I am writing today’s post in response to a blog writing prompt on, which is a great website devoted to providing ALL types of blogs about genealogy.  They suggest for a slow, lazy Sunday, to write about those black sheep of the family.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I love black sheep.  What I love about my own family is that everyone seems to be a black sheep.  None of us are like each other at ALL and if we were in a normal family, we’d all be the total weirdos, cast off, like day old bagels.  But Andrew has got some nasty ones in his family.  Sometimes I just have to remind him, when I feel like maybe he’s forgotten, that he has murderers in his family and it runs in his blood.  He usually just rolls his eyes.  But I know deep down that he’s taking it to heart.

Andrew and I got married last year, after a lengthy courtship of like…7 years.  By the time we got to planning our honeymoon we were mostly thinking about a sensible trip.  Something that will be warm in December, but close enough that we won’t waste a ton of time traveling, and cheap enough that we won’t have to put anything on a credit card.  Well, two out of three ain’t bad.  We ended up in Saint Augustine, Florida, which we loved.  It was in this country so travel was relatively easy.  It wasn’t super expensive.  It was, however, freezing.  So all those nights we had planned to have drinks out on the deck of some precious tucked away bar fizzled when we got there.  So we spent a lot of nights in.

One night I got on the laptop (yes, we brought the computer on our honeymoon) and we were just sort of watching a House Hunters International marathon (so romantic, I know); and I was just messing about on Andrew’s tree as he was in and out of sleep.  I was doing the census record searches for a cousin of his, Milo Long, and it looked like he was in prison in Montana.

I was very confused about this and looked at the records and noticed a Walter Long as well.  Turns out they were brothers.  And they were actually in jail in Montana.  I just kept wondering how these two farmville Indiana boys ended up in a Montana prison.  After a short bit of research I came upon the answer!

Both Milo and Walter went after the family of John Hayes after a “claim dispute” in Montana.  According to the local paper, they had supposedly abandoned the claim, near Culbertson, Montana.  When they found out someone had taken up residence in that spot they headed over there and gave this man a warning.  The Long brothers, with up to 14 more ruffians, threatened the family and said they had 24 hours to get off the property.  24 hours later, they came back and the family was still there.  The group proceeded to shoot up the property, killing John Hayes and his 11-year old daughter, Augusta.

This is horrible, obviously.  But what I found amazing, was that there was only one census record of them in prison.  So I looked into it more and it turns out they were only sentenced to 13 years for the murder of two!  I guess that’s early Montana for you…

Milo and Walter were incarcerated at Old Montana Prison at Deer Lodge, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places.  The prison housed its first inmate in 1871 and closed up shop in the late 1970s.  There are all sorts of ghost stories attributed to the prison, but that’s nothing new for a prison, right?  Looks like the next time Andrew and I are visiting Big Sky country we might have to make a stop to see where his cousin’s hung out for a short time.  They have tours!

This is an older picture of the Old Montana Prison before it was shut down in the late 1970s.

Now, once they got out, Walter got married and had three kids (one of them, a girl, named Delight – I swear).  Milo got married a few times to a Helen, a Lola, and then a Nevada.

True to life Black Sheep here. I wish I had pictures of these guys.

10 thoughts on “Black Sheep Sunday – Milo and Walter Long, the family murderers

    • And by “good stuff”, I mean fascinating stuff. I’m amazed that you were able to track it all down. Nothing actually “good” about it.

      What’s good, though, is Sheila’s comment. How cool is it that she has such a rich story of survival and strength. That actually is very good stuff.

    • That is a great idea! I hadn’t even though of it. It would be interesting to know what processing records they have in general. I didn’t see any pictures from the newspapers I found stories in, but there might be something out there. Somewhere.

      I have a whole list started of places I would like to go for family research and I’m adding this one to my list. I would love to visit Montana again, anyway.

  1. I wonder whether the Long brothers’ band of ruffians was more like a gang or a vigilante/lynch-mob mentality. The latter might make more sense, unless they were also held accountable for the murders. After all, “claim-jumping” was commonly dealt with by violence in those days.

  2. I have spent some quality time in Deer Lodge, I even still know a few people there, though I never took the prison tour. Crazy to think some of the in-laws lived there for a time. Small world!

  3. I was doing some research for my family tree and to my complete surprise came upon your blog about the “black sheep” of your family.

    You see, I am the granddaughter of one of the surviving little girls. My great grandmother and her five remaining daughters survived the Long brothers’ horrific and brutal murderous attack and, in fact, the little girl died in my grandmother’s arms.

    Who would have thought over one hundred years later, our families would be communicating via “the internet”? This is absolutely amazing.

    I wanted to let you now, that in spite of this great American tragedy, I am happy to say that my family, in true pioneer spirit, survived thanks to our matriarch, Janet Hayes. After the murder of her husband and daughter, she refused to leave the property in Montana and actually took the homestead in her husband’s name. She also acquired an additional 320 acres in her own name which is still in our family today.

    Her struggles to raise five girls and educate them will never truly be known and would have been impossible for someone that did not possess the courage and faith displayed by Janet. The John Hayes family suffered many hardships and faced many sacrifices through the years but Janet was able to keep the family together paving the way for hundreds of their decendents to follow in her footsteps.

    My grandmother shared countless stories of adversity and heartache during her childhood as she and her sisters and mom, with only a few hired hands, were able to maintain their vast property on their own, even though the girls were just children themselves. These amazing young ladies were some of the first authentic and liberated American women even before women had gained the right to vote. My great grandmother, my grandmother and her sisters passed on their strength and spirit of the fighting Irish to each of their offspring and their legacy will live on forever.

    It was very disheartening to learn that the killers did so little time in prison. However, there is no bitterness here because God uses all things, good or evil, for his purpose and the proof is in the legacy of love, gratitude and success of our family. In short, the Hayes family in 2011 is standing on the broad Irish immigrant shoulders of giants who shall never be forgotten.

    p.s. Janet Hayes and her five daughters are all deceased now but each lived long healthy lives with all of them nearly reaching the age of 100 before they passed, leaving a large family tree with roots firmly planted here in America.

    God bless you and yours.


    • Wow, Sheila. I am completely shocked! The whole story felt so completely separate from reality because I don’t know any of these people. I honestly don’t know any of the Long family. I would be very interested to see what happened to them as well. But it’s great to hear what happened from the actual family involved.

      Thanks so much for writing. I am so glad to hear that your family was able to overcome such an insane and useless tragedy. It was also shocking to me that people who committed such a heinous crime were jailed for such a short time. I guess it was a different time and a VERY different place then.

      Thanks again for writing. I’m so glad you found my blog! I am still just totally amazed at the luck that you stumbled onto it. Thanks, Internet! :-)

  4. You’re welcome. I, too, am so glad to have found your blog. These really are amazing times. Family history is all but lost on most “American” families and yet such an important part of understanding our past, present and future. Thanks again for your thoughtful reply. In some small way, thanks to you, my family has been able to speak to the Longs from beyond the grave to say that which did not kill us made us stronger. A truly remarkable turn of events indeed!

  5. This is interesting Shelia. As you probably know I’ve did quite a bit of writing about the Hayes family and it was published in the local newspaper years ago. I was just thinking about doing some rearing of some of it and putting it on My blog, Deanna’s Place. I have a few more details than what this said such as Agusta or Gussie as I think they called her was only six at the time she was killed. And the Long brothers harassed the Hayes family over a long period of time before they actually came to killed grandpa Hayes and his daughter.
    Now another little interesting thing is about the time we were in the process of moving from our farm in Mt. Over here a cousin of mine. it would have been from my grandpa Lynds side wrote to me saying one of her in laws was a relative of the long brothers. This person was going to contact me. I had completely forgot about it and the person never did get ahold of me. I’ll have to call the cousin and find out more about it. If you’ve never read the stories I wrote you might find them interesting. Thank you much for sending this. It’s amazing how small the world is. Thanks again. Deanna

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *