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December 2: Coal Miner Killing

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A coal miner was murdered near Kenmare in late November of 1912, and it doesn’t appear his death was ever solved. The deceased was Carl Hanson, a 29-year-old born in Norway. A Soo Line section foreman discovered his body near the shore of Des Lacs Lake after following a bloody trail from the tracks.

Hanson had been beaten on the head with a metal bar and robbed. On this date in 1912, newspaper readers learned the details of an inquest into Hanson’s death. Sixteen witnesses testified.

Evidence suggested two or more assailants attacked Hanson and threw his body over a five-foot barb-wire fence and dragged it to the lakeshore. Strewn around his body were a shoe, a stocking, a gray felt hat, a black and bloody sateen shirt, a seaman’s union membership card, two razors, a pipe and a package of tobacco. The inquest revealed that Hanson might have carried money in his stocking.

Former sailor W.R. Casey was arrested for vagrancy and held in the jail in connection with the killing. Casey was charged with murder, but was later released for lack of evidence. He did plead guilty to attempted jail-breaking and was sentenced to six months. Allegations suggested Casey had visited “a house of ill fame near Kenmare” on the night of the killing and might have brought Hanson with him. From there, on their way home, Hanson might have been ambushed. Also, the section foreman who found Hanson’s body alleged that Casey and another man were prowling around his home the night of the killing, and that Casey even entered the house before being kicked out.

Authorities also arrested a miner named Mickey Burns, but he was able to produce five witnesses who corroborated his alibi, and a judge let him go after a hearing in Minot.

After January of 1913, the case disappears from North Dakota newspapers, so it’s doubtful that anyone was ever held responsible for Carl Hanson’s death. Authorities kept his body for about a week, but no family member came forward to claim his remains. He was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Kenmare.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura


  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1912, December 2. Page 2: Inquest had for bloody murder
  • The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. 1912, December 2. Page 3: Foul murder case at Kenmare
  • The Ward County Independent. 1912, December 5. Page 17: Carl Hanson, a coal miner beaten to death at Kenmare
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1912, December 9. Page 3: Kemare murder still unsolved
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1912, December 26. Page 1: Kenmare murder case continued
  • The Bowbells Tribune. 1913, January 3. Page 6: ‘Mickey’ Burns taken in custody
  • The Ward County Independent. 1913, January 9. Page 11: State finds more evidence
  • Courier Democrat. 1913, January 23. Page 1: Around the county
  • Grand Forks Herald. 1913, January 27. Page 2: Pleaded guilty
  • The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. 1913, January 28. Page 4: Pleaded guilty

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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