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Beer and Bloodshed


Prohibition in North Dakota was in full force in 1910, and on this date of that year, the question in Minot was, “Who Stole the City’s Beer?” The story read, “When a number of blind pigs about the city were pulled recently, the amber fluid was confiscated and stored away in the archives of the city hall as evidence. It was placed under lock and key and Chief Billy Bateman given the key. Another key was left in the desk of the Sergeant.

“The other day when an inventory of the beer was being taken, it was discovered that it had leaked very mysteriously from all but six of the six hundred bottles. The evaporation must have been great – mayhap, it leaked down the throats of certain thirsty police officers, city officials or their friends.

“At any rate, the beer was absent when the roll call was taken, and President Arthur Le Sueur is very much incensed... ‘It does not seem quite right to me,’ [he said], ‘when we are having so much trouble in the city enforcing this law that one of the joints should be running in the city hall.’”

About a month earlier, on September 20th, raids on bootlegging joints in Devils Lake ended in bloodshed. Assistant State’s Attorney Traynor had gotten arrest warrants in Starkweather the day before. Officials knew exactly where the raids were to take place, and at 2 a.m., Sheriff Belford and Deputy Sheriff Flummerfelt dispersed some twenty townsmen to stand guard at the blind pigs until they arrived to make their arrests.

The Ward County Independent reported, “In a building said to be used as a warehouse for a brewery concern, 150 cases of beer were seized and [four men] were arrested. The famous Nellie Rogers place was ransacked, and Nellie Rogers was placed under arrest.”

More arrests followed until, at 5 a.m., the job was done, and the citizens were allowed to go home. But, one man didn’t quite make it.

The Devils Lake Daily Journal reported, “The blush of shame was brought to the face of every decent citizen of Devils Lake this morning when the news quickly spread...that Editor Dan V. Brennan of the Inter-Ocean was the victim of a would be assassin’s bullet. That the cowardly act is the direct outgrowth of the well-known opposition of Editor Brennan to the reign of lawlessness which has disgraced and besmirched the fair name of Devils Lake under the McClory administration is the general opinion of all who are at all familiar with local conditions.

“This is the third attempt which has been made upon the young man’s life, and all that prevented him from being killed instantly was his agility in springing to one side, receiving through his left arm a bullet which was intended for his heart.”

The story went on to explain that after the raids, Brennan went back to his newspaper office to make a call, when he heard a noise in the hallway. He turned out the light and pulled out his gun.

The story reads, “...as he opened the door of the hallway...a revolver was thrust in front of him. He struck the arm holding the gun [and it] discharged, the bullet tearing through his left arm between the elbow and shoulder... He shot at the man, who jumped out of the window at the end of the hall and made his escape. The screen on the window indicates that it had been cut with a knife, and it is believed that the man entered the hallway through the window. Mr. Brennan at once gave the alarm, but as usual – same old story.”

Sources: Devils Lake Daily Journal. 20 Sep 1910.

The Ward County Independent. 22 Sep 1910.

The Ward County Independent. 18 Oct 1910.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm