Night of Fright, Fight and Flight
By Dawn Graves
Back when Sidney was known as a wicked town, it was generally run by the criminal element – gamblers, outlaws, and those modeling themselves after the Molly MaGuires, or the Irish mafia.
Things became so bad that the Union Pacific railroad, the lifeblood of Sidney, threatened to pull out of the town and leave it high and dry if things didn't improve.
This announcement, coupled with recent shootings by Jack “Red” McDonald and Tom Ryan, brought the citizens' anger to a head.
The law-abiding people of the town formed an armed vigilante group, overcoming and arresting 15 of the baddest figures in Sidney … with the intent to hang them all.
The event, which came to be known as the Night of Fright, Fight and Flight, was reported in newspapers all around the region, with such headlines as
“CITIZENS OF SIDNEY DETERMINED TO CLEAN OUT THE CUT-THROATS AND DESPERADOES IF IT TAKES ALL THE ROPE IN THE STATE!”
And, “SIDNEY'S SINFULNESS, THE RIGHTEOUS RISE UP IN THEIR WRATH AND DEAL OUT JUSTICE.”
A notice was crafted and signed by 64 of Sidney's leading businessmen which made clear that any and all other individuals who chose not to follow the law would be dealt swift punishment, as demonstrated by their lynching of “Red” McDonald the night prior.
“Thus the peaceable and law abiding people have been driven to the necessity of organizing for self-protection and are united and determined,” the document stated. “All murderers, thieves, pimps and slick-fingered gentlemen … must go.”
Some 200 people left Sidney immediately as a result, and the town must have breathed a sigh of relief.