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Court Cases in Devils Lake

On this date in 1915, Herman Klick, a long-time farmer near Devils Lake, accused Leonard Scharf, another longtime area pioneer from Cato Township, of causing damage to his property in an unusual way.

Klick said that two years before, Scharf had taken a wash boiler, basically a large metal basin used to wash clothing, and tied it to the tail of one of Klick’s bulls. Obviously, this would not have gone over well for the bull, or anything near the bull. Klick said his animal and property suffered from the trick, and that he deserved some sort of settlement. After two years of seeking reparations, he finally took the matter to court with only a week to spare before the legal option expired.

Multiple newspapers reported on the odd incident, saying: "Tying cans to the tails of stray dogs is recognized as a rather rude prank … But attaching wash boilers to the extremity of more or less spirited bulls is something which has never before been tried, so far as can be ascertained."

Klick and Scharf were both well-established and respected, so the accusation was surprising. Scharf was from a farming family that moved to Devils Lake from Germany in 1889. He also served a while as president of the school board. Klick was a well-to-do farmer who had lived in various communities around Devils Lake over a number of years.

Yet this was not the first time Herman Klick had an interesting experience with the justice system; he was briefly taken into custody in 1887 because he resembled German-born anarchist Louis Lingg, who was accused and convicted of bombing Haymarket Square in Chicago during a labor rally. It seemed Klick had been a resident of Chicago around the time of the bombing. During the hunt for Lingg, Klick was taken in as a suspect. He was soon let go when the actual Lingg was found.

As for the bull – Scharf may have paid some sort of settlement after all, as the story soon fizzled without any follow-up. Either way, on this date in 1915, the action was being touted as the “prize-winning bull story” of the northwest!

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker


Grand Forks Daily Herald, May 14, 1915, p3

The Weekly Times-Record, May 20, 1915, p2

The Evening Times, March 10, 1914, p5

The Devils Lake World and Inter-Ocean, July 22, 1915, p5

Devils Lake Inter-Ocean, November 19, 1887, p1

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