U.S. Marshal William McDermott

William McDermott, Third State Senate of Montana, 1893
Courtesy of Montana Historical Society – Photographic Archives

William McDermott, 8th U.S. Marshal of the District of Montana

William McDermott was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 24, 1850 and was educated in Chicago. McDermott worked for his father, a civil engineer, and later as a bridge builder for the Northern Pacific Railroad between the Red River and Missouri River valleys. He was also in charge of re-building bridges in Chicago after the great fire of 1871. In 1874, he moved to Jefferson County, Montana to placer mine and worked as a millwright. In 1876, McDermott built the Centennial mill in Butte; two years later he built his own mill, the Clipper and was part owner of the Bell mine. Over the years he bought and sold several mining interests and properties at Meaderville, Butte and Spokane Falls, Washington. An active member of the Democrat Party, McDermott served fours years as a city alderman in Butte and was a state senator. March 6th, 1894, President Glover Cleveland appointed McDermott US Marshal for the District of Montana and served until February 1898. A month into his public service, Marshal McDermott was confronted with one of the most colorful episodes of Montana law enforcement - Coxey’s Army.

Marshal McDermott sent in a letter of resignation to the president on February 5th 1898 and returned to private business and as a staunch supporter of copper magnate William Andrews Clark, in his bid to be the U.S. Senator form Montana. The Montana Legislature of January 1899 had the duty of selecting the next US Senator for the state. Clark formed a private committee consisting of McDermott, Clark’s son, Charles, A.J. Davidson and Attorney John B. Wellcome. Clark and the committee were accused of bribing state senators with $139,000.00. Clark was not permitted to take his seat in the U.S. Senate due to the scandal.

In 1900, McDermott moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. For his loyalty; McDermott was hired to oversee the construction of W. A. Clark’s San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad and examine mining properties for Clark in Alaska, Nevada and Utah. Upon completion of the railroad; McDermott took on the operation of Clark’s United Verde copper mine at Jerome, Arizona until the spring of 1904. He then went on to become the superintendent/ general manager of the Twin Buttes Mining & Smelting Company and the Twin Buttes Railroad, near Tucson in 1907. After three years at that position, McDermott ventured out, on his own, developing real estate and mining properties in the Tucson area. During the year of 1913; he served a term as the President of the Tucson Chamber of Commerce.

1) History of Montana, Joaquin Miller, 1894, pp. 204-205
2) Helena Daily Herald, 3/12/1894
3) Letters to the Attorney General of the United States, RG70, NARA
4) 1880 United States Census
5) Polk’s City Directory - Butte 1897
6) Polk’s City Directory – Butte 1900
7) The War of the Copper Kings, C.B. Glasscock, 1935, Chapters 12 – 13
8) Montana, The Magazine of Western History, winter 1987, p. 48, “W.A. Clark & the Las Vegas Connection”
9) Sandra Beagles, Tonto Basin, Arizona
10) Arizona, The Youngest State, James H. McClintock, 1916, vol. 3, p. 766 – 770
11) Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce