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November 2: Anamoose Espionage Charges

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In the fall of 1917 as the Great War was raging, eight prominent businessmen of Anamoose, North Dakota, were caught up in espionage charges. The accused included a former state senator and his brothers, as well as the Anamoose mayor and several store owners.

The men were arrested for violating the recently passed Espionage Act of 1917. They were accused of conspiring to hamper military enlistments, the sale of Liberty Loan bonds, and the work of the Red Cross; and of giving false reports and statements in connection with enlistments. The arrests stemmed from “repeated reports of disloyal activities” in the Anamoose area, which the Grand Forks Herald noted was “heavily populated with Germans.”

The men were arraigned in Minot and released on bonds of $500. But upon closer examination, the case against them seemed to fall apart.

A letter to a federal marshal from an unnamed Anamoose businessman had led to the arrests. But the subsequent investigation found that only one of the defendants had exhibited “any semblance of disloyalty.” One of the men had even been arrested after giving a speech in support of the Red Cross!

Several of the men claimed to have no contact with many of the others, telling the marshal there was clearly no grounds for a conspiracy.

One defendant told the Fargo Forum, “We have a splendid record in Anamoose, and we are right proud of it.” He said the men had given aid to Liberty Loan sales and to the Red Cross, and had worked locally to advance the United States’ war plans.

On this date in 1917, about a month after the arrests, Bismarck and Fargo newspaper readers learned of the charges being dismissed after a hearing in Anamoose. Seven witnesses testified. Their testimony “showed that the men all took a prominent part in patriotic affairs and had made contributions to the American Red Cross fund; and as far as evidence indicated, there was nothing to show conspiracy of any kind to hamper the work of the government.”

Other North Dakotans were charged under the Espionage Act for seditious utterances, including 10 men cleared by a federal judge in 1918.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Sources:

  • Grand Forks Herald. 1917, October 8. Page 1: Violation of espionage law charged to 8
  • The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. 1917, October 9. Page 8: Patriotic, says Ebbert; claims record shows it
  • The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. 1917, October 10. Page 3: Espionage cases to be probed by U.S. attorney
  • Jamestown Weekly Alert. 1917, October. 11. Page 4: Dakotans violated Espionage Act, alleges Hildreth
  • The Bowbells Tribune. 1917, October 19. Page 1: Anamoose men are under arrest
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1917, November 2. Page 1: Cases against Sen. Albricht are dismissed
  • The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. 1917, November 2. Page 1: Dismiss cases against eight Anamoose men
  • Jamestown Weekly Alert. 1918, June 20. Page 8: Personal and political grievances
  • Asp, D. (Updated 2022, August). Espionage act of 1917 (1917). Retrieved from: https://mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1045/espionage-act-of-1917

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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