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1912, News from Around the State


On this date in 1912, there were several dramatic stories circulating around the state.

In Fargo, 25-year-old Julius M. Hanson was accosted by highwaymen outside the Lincoln School. Coming out from around the corner of the building, they surprised him and told him to put his hands up. Instead, he called for help.

One of the robbers pressed a revolver to Hanson’s stomach and fired. The bullet severed a main artery, and neighbors found him lying in a pool of blood on the sidewalk. Hanson told them there were two men, both white and wearing masks; both were short and stocky.

The robbers ran away empty handed – without Hanson’s watch or the $35 in his pockets. Hanson was rushed to the hospital but died before doctors could get him onto an operating table.

The description of the two robbers didn’t give authorities much to work with, but it was the second murder in a year that highwaymen had committed on that same street. Police deduced the robbers were locals, and Mayor M.D. Sweet put up a $200 reward for their arrest.

Elsewhere in the state, farmers were reaping bumper crops. In Valley City the rye and wheat harvest was finished, with predictions saying it was the best yield in 15 years. A newspaper story read, “Wheat as a bumper crop is a thing of the past in this state, but Barnes County will reach top figures in yield this year, the average being between 10 and 12 bushels to the acre.”

Barley, on the other hand, was so heavy, it was lying down in the fields. Oats, too, was expected to have superior yields.

Ironically, the excellent harvest was posing a problem at the state penitentiary, where the inmates made not license plates, but twine. A report out of Bismarck read, “Western North Dakota is facing a shortage of binding twine on the eve of the best harvest in the history of the Missouri slope. The state penitentiary has been sold out for a month and could sell forty more cars of twine if it had them. The International Harvester Company sold seventy-nine cars in the past ten days in the slope country. Twenty-four cars of twine were received over the Soo Line in three days. Where twine cannot be supplied farmers will use headers.”

Back in the eastern part of the state, there was a great to-do over H.R. Chaffee’s “lost will.” Chaffee was a wealthy bonanza farmer from Amenia, and he and his wife were aboard the Titanic when it went down in the north Atlantic. Chaffee got his wife into a lifeboat, but when she pleaded with him to stay with her, he said no. He went down with the liner.

Chaffee’s estate was estimated at two million dollars – an enormous amount in 1912. In his will, he had set aside money for two Minneapolis organizations, the Plymouth Congregational Church and the Minnesota division of the International Sunshine Society.

When Mrs. Chaffee returned to her home and found her husband’s will was nowhere to be found, she began a legal battle to prove the contents and carry out her husband’s wishes.

A story in the Hansboro News read, “It is said that her two sons oppose this action and will demand that the estate be divided according to the inheritance laws of North Dakota.”

Source: Hansboro News. 9 Aug 1912.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm