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Major Fawcett

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North Dakota strictly upheld prohibition laws after entering as a dry state when it joined the union in 1889. However, some residents had a hard time abiding by this law. Such was the case on this date in 1894, involving a man by the name of Major Fawcett. Though it may seem strange, that was his legal name, as confirmed by naturalization records bearing his signature from 1888, making him an official US citizen.

In a court case from 1894, Fawcett, who was operating a drug store in Cando, was given a sentence of 90 days and a fine of two hundred dollars for selling liquor. On this date that year, the Bottineau Pioneer used the Fawcett case to criticize another paper, the Cando Record, for not being an advocate against prohibition laws. The paper said Fawcett was “a better man to-day than the editor of-some newspapers.” Meanwhile, Fawcett was transported to Devils Lake to serve out his sentence.

This was not the first time Fawcett was in court, nor would it be his last. Mr. Fawcett continued to be a topic of interest in many counties of North Dakota, in both the court systems and the county newspapers. Fawcett would reappear in 1897 and several times in 1898 for prohibition-related crimes, the latter episode requiring bail of 300 dollars. In 1901 Fawcett applied for a druggist permit “for the sale of intoxicating liquors for medicinal, scientific and mechanical purposes.” With this permit he opened a drug store in Pembina. All seemed well until he was found guilty of blind pigging in 1904 – a blind pig being the name for an illegal liquor establishment. During this trial, the Pioneer Express stated, it is “nothing new for the Major.” The last trial he appeared at was a year later in 1905, with his business partner J. H. Gallagher. They were both tried on the complaint from the state’s prohibition enforcement league. The league was manned mostly by employees of detective agencies. Fawcett and Gallagher were acquitted, and Fawcett eventually went to work in Munich, North Dakota, where he was described as a “first class pharmacist.”

Major Fawcett’s story ended with his death on July 31, 1915, with only a brief report in newspapers, a quiet end for a man with such a chaotic history.

Dakota Datebook by Olivia Burmeister


SHSND 40958 Pembina Court Records

Bismarck Weekly Tribune, February 2, 1894, Page 2

The Hope Pioneer, March 23, 1894, Page 2

The Bottineau Courant June 13, 1901, Page 8

The Bottineau Courant August 15, 1901, Page 5

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, April 25, 1904, Page 12

The Pioneer Express, April 29,1904, Page 5

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, December 20, 1905, Page 12

The Evening Times, March 23, 1906, Page 8

The Evening Times, March 26, 1906, Page 5

The Evening Times, March 27, 1906, Page 8

The Evening Times, June 20, 1906, Page 8

Courier Democrat, August 19, 1915, Page 4

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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