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The Famous Wedding Fight

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On this date in 1912, Michael Jahner was acquitted of charges of assault with a dangerous weapon with attempt to kill. It was the final act in a series of events that began several months before.

In June, 1911, there was a dustup at the Catholic church in Odense, a township in Morton County. For an undisclosed reason, the priest wanted to keep certain members from attending the church service. He posted several men at the door to direct parishioners to their seats. The men were instructed not to allow the banned members to join the service.

Three people banned by the priest took offense when the guards prevented them from entering, and the altercation turned physical. According to newspaper reports, “heads were freely bumped” and a general free-for-all ensued. Three men were arrested for assault and battery. One man wound up in the hospital with a severe head injury.

The news of the church fight fell off the front page as North Dakotans lost interest in the story. But it rebounded after the hard feelings erupted again about a month later. This time the fracas broke out at a wedding. The church brawlers came face to face, and an all-out brawl ensued. Wendelin Swartz was beaten severely over the head There was speculation that if the victim succumbed to his injuries, a murder charge would result. Swartz eventually recovered, but only after a long operation and a lengthy hospital stay. One witness thought Swartz was dead as he lay on the floor after the fight.

Following the wedding George Becker, father of the bride, went to Bismarck. He swore out a warrant for the arrest of brothers Alex and Michael Jahner. The charge was assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. Both men were taken into custody and remained locked up when they were unable to make the bail of two thousand dollars each.

Since the victim eventually recovered, no murder charge was filed, but Alex Jahner was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced to four years in prison. The jury determined that Michael was not at fault, and he was set free.

Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher

Sources:

Bismarck Daily Tribune. “Fierce Fight in a Church.” Bismarck ND. 6/17/1911. Page 1.

Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. “Scrap in Church.” Fargo ND. 6/19/1911. Page 2.

Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. “Church Fight to Be Aired in Court.” Fargo ND. 6/28/1911. Page 2,

Bismarck Daily Tribune. “Odense Church Fight May Result in Murder.” Bismarck ND. 8/12/1911. Page 1,

Hope Pioneer. “Is Not Guilty.” Hope ND. 1/18/1912. Page 1.

The Evening Times. “Got Four Years.” Grand Forks ND. 1/2/1912. Page 2.

The Evening Times. “Echoes of Fight.” Grand Forks ND. 7/20/1911. Page 2.

Bismarck Daily Tribune. “Father of Bride Will Prosecute.” Bismarck ND. 7/8/1911. Page 5.

Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. “Case Proves to Be Very Humorous.” Fargo ND. 12/22/1911. Page 2.

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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