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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

100 years ago in Montana: Killing by newspaper reporter related to GOP rift between ‘wets’ and ‘drys’

 (Spokesman-Review archive)

From our archives, 100 years ago

Miss Edith Colby, 43, became “violently hysterical” as she watched, through the bars of her Thompson Falls, Montana, jail window, the funeral procession of A.C. Thomas, the man she shot.

After an hour of treatment by a doctor and nurse, she was able to regain her composure. Colby had recently moved from Spokane to Thompson Falls to be a reporter for a weekly paper, and had become embroiled in a bitter factional political dispute with Thomas, the county Republican chairman.

A correspondent reported that Colby told the sheriff right after the incident that she did not intend to shoot Thomas, and she did not, in fact, believe that any of the three bullets had hit him. She told the sheriff she “scared him good and made him run.” She believed she was being arrested for firing a revolver in city limits.

On the other hand, the state was claiming that she told at least two people the previous night that she intended to shoot Thomas.

“It is generally believed here that her defense will be emotional insanity,” the correspondent said.

The shooting revealed a serious rift within the county Republican Party. The cause of the dispute appeared to be the most highly emotional issue of the era: the fight between the “drys” (against prohibition) and the “wets.” The story did not specify which sides of the issue Thomas and Colby were on.

Sentiment in Thompson Falls itself was against Colby, said the correspondent, but the “order is decidedly reversed” in the outlying districts of Sanders County.