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Lulu's Lockup


Lulu Knapp Quick was born on the Helena Farm near Cooperstown on this date in 1902. This farmsite later formed the nucleus for Revere, reputed to be the only town on the Great Northern railroad town with a depot on the south side of the tracks.

Lulu’s parents were Mamie Remington, who was born in Ontario, and Mason Knapp, who was born near Kalamazoo, Michigan. They were married in Amenia, ND, in 1893, had a son named Gail five years later, and four years after that, Lulu was born.

Mamie was severely injured in a fall when Lulu was just a year old. She struggled with crutches for about a year, but then became confined to a wheel chair. Mason moved the family to a nearby farm with more space for his large herd of sheep, but in trying to help his wife, he lost everything.

Lulu later wrote, “I was four years old when one stormy day we were loaded into a sleigh... Papa had nailed canvas over the top of a sleigh box and we had a lantern in there to keep us warm. We were moving to Cooperstown to live in the basement of the courthouse.”

It turns out Mason had been elected sheriff of Griggs County, and his four year term began New Years Day of 1907. It might not seem so unusual for the Knapps to live in the courthouse basement – except that’s also where the county jail was housed.

Lulu said, “I had lots of fun...The prisoners were good friends of mine, gave me money for candy and had me speak and sing for them!...The hall was long going to the furnace room with cells on each side for prisoners. This made a wonderful place to roller skate. Papa bought me a pair after he found out I could skate so well on borrowed ones. Oh, for fun we had! Other children came there and skated, too. Now I wonder how well the prisoners liked it – all that noise.

“There were all kinds of people in the cells,” she wrote, “– some insane ones overnight or for a few days until Papa could take them to Jamestown, one or two who had committed murder waiting trial and then to be taken to Bismarck to the penitentiary, others to sober up and others just serving a few days to 30 or 60 days.

“One time Papa was notified two safe crackers might hit Cooperstown and to be on the lookout for them,” she wrote. “Someone saw two suspicious characters get off the train and saw them go into a cafe so they called Papa. He took along his deputy and went to the cafe. There they sat up to the counter, the only two strangers in there, so Papa pulled a gun on them. They were armed but didn’t go for their guns. The deputy took them to jail. They had a little bag with them with their tools in for cracking safes and a bottle of nitroglycerin. After they were securely locked in, Papa buried the nitroglycerin as it’s so terribly explosive.

“The one man, Tom Tracy, as he gave his name, was wanted some place far away. He was known as the second best safe cracker in the world – so it was said. I have no way of knowing for sure. He was taken away. The other one, Joe somebody (I forget), was there a year. The last month of his time Papa would let him out of his cell and give him work to do around the house or down at the livery barn. He ate at the table with the family and was so good to Mamma. He pushed her wheel chair around wherever she wanted to go. I remember the day he was to leave. All morning he played our phonograph and visited with Mamma. When he said goodbye, he cried.”

Lulu wrote that her mother was confined to her bed the last two years of her life. When Mason’s term was up in 1911, he filed a claim in Montana, but before he could move his family there, Mamie died and was laid to rest near their first farm in Helena Township.

Source: Knapp-Quick, Lulu. Cooperstown, ND, 1882-1982 Centennial. Page 21.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm