During this week in 1884, a post office was established at Morganville on the old stage route between Bismarck and Ft. Stevenson. Morganville was nothing more than a farm on the west edge of what is now Beulah, in Mercer County.
The owner and postmaster was an unusual man who went by Frank C. Morgan, Morgan Spencer and Long-Haired Morgan.
Nobody seemed to know where he came from, but it was apparent the fellow was well educated. Perhaps with a romantic notion of the western frontier, he had chosen a lifestyle of hunting and trapping. He was colorful and somewhat eccentric, wearing his black hair long and flowing. He always carried a bowie knife, an object that later led to a significant event in his life.
Morgan lived on Spring Creek in a cabin built of logs, rocks and sod. Inside, a trap door opened into a 300 foot tunnel, which ended in thick brush along the creek bank. With no explanation of the tunnel’s purpose, some neighbors began speculating that Morgan was on the run from the law. No one knew, but several years after Morgan established his post office, he disappeared.
In the early 1890s, Long-Haired Morgan abruptly reappeared with a traveling entertainment show. Now his black hair was tied back with a red bandana, and he dressed in heavily-fringed buckskin and gleaming black high-topped boots.
Having honed his skills, Morgan had put together a perilous knife-throwing act. His show booth consisted of a wall of planks, against which stood a pretty woman – his new wife – with her arms horizontally outstretched. Morgan would step back eight paces and select a bowie knife from his prop table. Then, one by one, he outlined her body with eighteen knives.
Morgan moved on with the show and reportedly wasn’t heard from again. However, word drifted back to Mercer County that his aim had finally failed, and his wife was dead.
Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm
Rolfsrud, Erling Nicolai. “‘Long-Haired’ Morgan.” Extraordinary North Dakotans. Alexandria, MN: Lantern Books, 1954.
Wick, Douglas A. North Dakota Place Names. Bismarck: Sweetgrass Communications, 1988.