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October 1911


Some wild and crazy things were going on about this time in 1911. Out west, a woman was going after the Dickinson City Council. A Fargo Forum article read, “Mrs. Anna Lenneville sent a communication to the city council in which she cited the fact that she had been a resident of Dickinson for thirty years and that without her permission the city authorities had permitted a sewer to contaminate the Heart river running through her farm southeast [of town]. In the communication Mrs. Lenneville said that the water in the river had become very impure, in fact, poisonous for stock, as health reports already made to the council indicated. In view of this fact she suggested that the city either buy her farm or pay her $100 per month damages.”

The aldermen agreed something should be done. Until 1910 – a year earlier – a simple septic tank had been sufficient for handling impurities from the city sewer. But that no longer worked, and Ed Lenneville had previously submitted a claim to the Council for the death of his horses after they drank from the river.

Trouble was also brewing in the center of the state. The Fargo Forum reported, “...Sheriff Lyness of Fessenden went to Harvey with a posse armed to the teeth... The injunctions were against the Bank of Harvey, the Fisher Grain elevator and the Renfree Grain elevator. Many alleged blindpiggers (or bootleggers) were arrested, among them an aged woman named Mrs. Wibery, who was, however, released on her own recognizance, she being old and a cripple. The other piggers are professionals.

A headline in the Ward County Independent read: “Many Prominent Citizens Under Arrest [for] Violating Prohibition Law. Say Elevator Gave Beer for Each Load of Grain Bought.” It’s a bit confusing, but it seems the bank – working with bootleggers – storing liquor in bank-held containers at the train depot. Then, when farmers delivered their grain to the two nearby elevators, they were rewarded with bottles of booze wrapped in grain sacks. Because of this special bonus, the elevators took business away from Fessenden’s elevators – which was also good for the Harvey bank. Businessmen claimed the accusations were made out of spite, saying nearby towns merely wanted to “close up the town of Harvey” by getting its bank closed down.

Over on the east side of the state, four boys were under the influence of the media as told by the Forum in a story that read, “Dime novels or great train bandits and hold ups lead Elmer Carlson and Leslie Bordener, with other boys, to attempt to wreck the Great Northern passenger train No. 198 near Amenia...last Wednesday. The two boys were arrested today at Casselton by [a] special agent of the Great Northern and they confessed... [They] are now in the Cass County jail. It is thought that they are too young to prosecute. Other youngsters are implicated in the attempted wrecking, and it is expected that some more arrests will be made.”

The previous evening, Archie Wahowski of Amenia had been returning home from Casselton, when he spotted a pile of debris on the tracks. He notified officials, and stations along the route were alerted. Fortunately, the No. 198, which was soon due to arrive, slowed to a stop in time to avoid a collision.

“It seems [the accused] belong to a gang of alleged tough boys in and around Casselton,” the story read. “It is charged that they have placed stones on the tracks before, but not being satisfied, Wednesday placed the fire box of a threshing engine on the track with some other obstructions. Officer Davis [called for the culprits] in their school rooms...They state that they had been reading stories of Jesse James and other novels which caused them to attempt the wrecking.”


“Dime novels and bad boys.” Fargo Forum. 6 Oct 1911.

“Alleged sewer causes damage.” Fargo Forum. 7 Oct 1911.

“Prohibition rampage is on.” Fargo Forum. 7 Oct 1911.

Ward County Independent. 12 Oct 1911.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm