The Strange History Of 3-7-77 In Montana Law Enforcement
At some point or another you have probably interacted and had the joy of meeting one of our Montana Highway Patrol (MHP) officers as you try to get through the east end of our state in the quickest way possible. Or, you were seeing how the new car handles in the Wolf Creek Canyon. Either way, you may have noticed the numbers 3-7-77 associated with the law in Montana. Maybe on the vehicle itself, or even on the badge of the officer. Ever wondered what those 4 digits mean in our state?
Controversial, Mysterious, Shrouded in Secrecy
Growing up in Montana one of the classes in school involves the history of our state. While I can't be sure, (it's been a few years since I was there), I don't overly remember this being addressed in schoolbooks. However, it is something that most of us have probably heard at some time. 3-7-77 has been associated with law enforcement since 1956 when it was placed on the badges of the MHP. But the numbers actually date back further to the vigilante groups in the early days of Montana.
4 Leading Theories as To the Origins of The Numbers
The website Montana Trooper gives us 4 main theories behind where these numbers possibly came from.
- One of the most recognizable and perhaps most plausible is it represents the dimensions for a grave. 3 feet wide, 7 feet deep and 77" long. The idea being the criminal had 3 hours, 7 minutes and 77 seconds to leave town or find himself buried.
- Many of the vigilantes came from California to follow the gold in Montana. Many were assigned a number there. Some theories suggest that 3 men from California started the vigilante use in camps, and their numbers were 3, 7 and 77. The same theory is used for Colorado as well.
- The 3rd theory uses the same as idea as above, only it was 3 lawyers, 7 merchants and 77 miners who formed the first of the vigilante posse.
- The fourth and final theory involves the Masonic Order. Some people have suggested that there were 3 members present at the first Masonic meeting, 7 in the quorum and 77 at the first activity in the territory, a funeral for one of the members.
Personally, I tend to lean towards the first of the theories, as vigilante justice was pretty swift, and probably led to the saying of the 3 S's...shoot, shovel and shut up. What do you think? Hit us up in the comments on our socials or email me here!