Turkey Track Trouble
William Molash – better known as Turkey Track Bill – had a bad day about this date in 1912. It started off okay. In fact, he and a group of friends were partying it up pretty good.
Turkey Track had set up an illegal saloon, or blind pig, on Morris Carlson’s deserted ranch a short distance from Shields, and among his customers that day were Mr. and Mrs. Guy Bolton and their 13 year-old son.
According to the Minnewaukan paper, Turk and Bolton got into an argument of some kind. At some point, Bolton left for a while, and when he came back, he found his wife and Turkey Track in a second story room of the shack. The fight began again, and then it seems everybody moved on to Turkey Track’s house, because Bolton wanted more beer. Turk was out, but he had a couple bottles of whiskey at home.
The group, including Shorty Long and Bill Smith, gathered down on the banks of the Cannonball River. Everybody overindulged, and pretty soon Turkey Track and Bolton started arguing again. Turk pulled his gun a few times, but Mrs. Bolton always grabbed it and made him to put away.
A man named Jacob Jaros happened to come along, about this time, looking for Turkey Track. He noticed people some 80 yards away by the river and was walking down the hill when he saw Bolton stand up. Jaros then heard a shot and saw gun-smoke rise from the grass below. When Mrs. Bolton screamed, Jaros turned around and headed to Shields for help.
At the coroner’s inquest, Turkey Track said, “I was up at the house when the shooting happened, and I heard the shot and went back to where the whole bunch had been lying in the grass. Bolton was dying when I got there. No, I didn’t shoot him, and what is more, I don’t know who did.
“I had my gun when the bunch was lying around sopping up booze, but it dropped out of my pocket when I went up to the house. I know, because when I heard the shot I felt for the gun, and it was missing. After the shooting we looked all around for the gun, but we couldn’t find it.
“Bolton was drunk,” he continued, “about as soused as a man can get, and he was calling down his wife. He usually did bawl her out when he got tanked. I was about seventy-five yards away when the shooting happened, and don’t know who did it. I am not worrying about the result of the case and only hope I get out in time to take in the fair.”
Whether Turk got out in time for the fair isn’t known, but we do know Mrs. Bolton’s account of the killing was quite different than his. She said she and Turkey Track were sitting about eight feet apart and that her husband was standing behind her when she heard him say, “My God, don’t shoot.” She heard the shot and was turning toward him when he fell.
Mrs. Bolton said she didn’t know if Turkey Track had a gun in his hand or not, but they were both terrified when they realized her husband was dead. They started for the house, weeping, and on the way up the hill, she said Turk put his revolver to his head and said, “Well, I’m done for now. I guess I’ll kill myself.” She grabbed his gun away, saying he’d done enough damage for one day.
Turkey Track stood trial for shooting Guy Bolton, but nobody witnessed who fired the gun, and the murder weapon couldn’t be found. Suspecting Turk had thrown his revolver into the Cannonball, Constable Carlson searched the river until he found it. But, it was too late. Turkey Track Bill Molash had already been acquitted by that time.
“Big Murder Case on Now.” North Dakota Siftings. Minnewaukan, ND: 5 Sep 1912.
Johnson, Larry. Farwest. (As credited at: <http://www.dakotacrossroads.com/dakota_archives.htm>)
Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm