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A Cleanup in Devils Lake

There was a great deal of excitement in Devils Lake on this date in 1910. Dan Brennan of the law firm Brennan and Brennan had been shot following a raid to clean up the city’s blind pigs and bawdy houses.

Citizens of Devils Lake were concerned after several months of steadily increasing crime. They blamed city officials for allowing crime to flourish, with officials involved with protection rackets and corruption. They put the blame on Mayor P.J. McClory and Police Chief Barnes. They said both men knew the city was going to “rack and ruin,” but did nothing to stop it.

It was said that illegal drinking establishments known as blind pigs operated as openly in Devils Lake as any licensed saloon. Gamblers had also invaded the city, operating games of chance. But the games were fixed, and the gamblers took advantage of the locals. It was common knowledge that a building advertising furnished rooms was actually a bawdy house. A cold storage house supplied cold beer, which could even be delivered to local homes.

Prominent citizens and businessmen banded together with the acting state’s attorney Fred Traynor to address what had become an intolerable situation. Together they planned a raid to put an end to the illegal activity.

After Traynor secured warrants, Sheriff Belford deputized a number of men. They were successful in make numerous arrests. Four men were arrested for distributing beer, Nellie Rogers was arrested for running a house of ill-repute, and a variety of gamblers and proprietors of blind pigs were also hauled in.

After assisting with the raid, attorney Dan Brennan stopped at his office before returning home. As he left, he heard someone in the dark vestibule. When he felt a revolver against his chest he dodged aside. The bullet hit him in the arm. He drew his own pistol and fired, but missed. The man escaped out a window. Brennan ran out and saw someone race away down an alley.

Another attorney in the building roused the police to report the shooting. Brennan’s wound wasn’t serious, and the doctor arrived to treat him. The day fortunately ended with no fatalities.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Devils Lake Inter-Ocean. “Devils Lake Has a General Housecleaning.” Devils Lake ND. 23 September 1910. Page 1.

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