First, a little about Bunn. He was born in Philadelphia, served as a Union soldier, and was wounded and captured in the Civil War. After the war he became a wealthy newspaperman. He put some of his wealth into mining claims in Arizona and Idaho. As a businessman, he thought it might be convenient to live near one of those claims. He lobbied to be named Territorial Governor of Arizona, without success. In 1884 he had better luck with a new president, Chester Arthur, who named him governor of Idaho territory.
Bunn loved the social life. In Philadelphia he was an active speaker at events and was known for his flamboyant dress. That reputation followed him to Idaho, where he became known as the “dude governor.”
But that gunplay.
Some 40 years after the fact—if it was a fact—S.H. Hays, a onetime Idaho attorney general, recounted a story that involved a gun, Bunn, and (maybe) Fred T. Dubois, who was the US Marshal for Idaho Territory when the incident did or did not take place.
According to Hays, the gunplay happened shortly after both houses of the Territorial Legislature passed the Mormon Test Oath bill in 1884. Voters would be required to sign an oath that stated they were not practitioners of polygamy, nor were they members of any organization that ever believed in polygamy.
The bill hit the Governor’s desk and languished there. Bunn was not a fan of polygamy, but he wasn’t inclined to sign such a bill.
Enter H.W. (Kentucky) Smith of Blackfoot, George Gorton of Soda Springs, and US Marshal Fred T. Dubois. Literally. They entered Bunn’s office, demanding that he sign the legislation. As Hays told it, Smith pulled a gun on the Governor, saying, “Governor, you will not leave this room alive unless you sign that bill and sign it at once.” Whether that account is accurate or not, Governor Bunn signed the bill.
Dubois had another version of the story, again, according to Hays. As Dubois told it, “Kentucky” Smith did threaten the Governor at gunpoint, but he entered the office alone.
But wait, there’s more!
Dubois and Bunn were friends, which calls into question the first account of Hays as related above. At one point, Bunn gave Dubois the honor of naming Bingham County after one of his friends. Bunn also appointed a slate of officers for the newly named county that Dubois had submitted. Almost. Bunn refused to name one officer submitted by Dubois.
This resulted in a confrontation between the two men at the Overland Hotel in February of 1885. Dubois verbally attacked the Governor, and by some accounts, grabbed him by the collar, shouting into his face. By one account—that of Governor Bunn—Dubois threatened him with a gun. The Governor walked away from the confrontation without involving the local constabulary. Dubois was later said to have regretted the incident.