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February 14: A Valentine’s Day Attack

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For many, Valentine’s Day is a time for love and gratitude for the people in our lives, and it’s been celebrated since the early 1700s. Around this time in 1910, you could attend a Valentine’s Day social in Bismarck, or buy a card that professed your love and devotion from Finney’s drug store.

There are some, however, who were not exactly on theme with the spirit of the holiday. On this date in 1913, brakeman T.R O’Neil was the victim of an unprovoked attack at the local diner in Minot. The railroad employee was enjoying a meal at the Kozy Lunchroom when a man approached him wielding a loaded revolver. The man was later found to go by the name George Strong, and he was from Great Falls, Montana. Upon reaching the hapless victim, Strong whirled O’Neil around in his chair and struck the railroad employee on the head with the butt of his revolver. O’Neil sustained a deep gash from the blow just above his eyebrow. As O’Neil fell back against the counter, Strong aimed his revolver at him and threatened to “fill him full of holes.” Fortunately for O’Neil, the safety on the attacker’s gun was still engaged. Strong’s futile attempts to pull the trigger gave the victim enough time to regain his senses and fight back. O’Neil tackled Strong to the ground and pinned his left arm, then attempted to secure the gun. While other patrons dining at the Lunchroom took the weapon from the attacker and summoned an officer, Strong threatened to shoot anyone who interfered.

Strong was put on trial on March fifth and the jury found him guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon. However, they did not find that Strong had the intention to kill. What’s so intriguing about this case is that the newspaper or court records never indicate Strong’s reason for the attack. Study of court records reveal a suspicion of intoxication on Strong’s part, which would explain his recklessness. Another interesting detail is that some court documents find the weapon to be a knife, rather than a gun. The cause for these discrepancies and their implications is all left to speculation.

Dakota Datebook by Olivia Burmeister


  • The Bowbells tribune. [volume], February 14, 1913, Image 6
  • The Fargo forum and daily republican. [volume], March 07, 1913, Image 2
  • The Fargo forum and daily republican. [volume], March 05, 1913, Image 2
  • The evening times. [volume], March 12, 1913, Image 2
  • 40438 Ward Count. Clerk of Court, Criminal Case Files

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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