© 2022
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Bowdon Murder

6/8/2006: An alarmingly brutal murder took place on this day in 1902.


An alarmingly brutal murder took place on this day in 1902. The murder took place in Bowdon as a result of an attempted robbery on a blind pig west of town. The victim of the murder was a German man named Fred Prillipp, but who was better known in the area as “Dutch Fred.” Dutch Fred was a recent arrival to the area from Iowa, and had come to Bowdon to open a blind pig establishment. The county of Wells was shocked by the viciousness of the killing, and deemed it “the most brutal murder which has ever occurred in this part of the state.”

The men implicated in the crime were five recent arrivals from Bemidji, Minnesota. The five men were frequent customers of the blind pigs in the area, and had been out painting the town on the eve of the murder. After returning to their shack around two in the morning, three of the men retired to bed. The other two men, Thomas Davis and James O’Brien, said that they would prefer to sleep outside or in an abandoned railroad car, and left the shack.

The following morning, Bowdon resident Bill Taylor discovered the mutilated body of Dutch Fred lying on a mattress in his shack. The man was unconscious, but still breathing. Taylor noticed Thomas Davis leaving the shack with a pair of Fred’s shoes tucked under his arm; he ordered Davis to leave the shoes, which he did, before fleeing from the scene. The entire stock of liquor in the building was missing and all of the furniture and items in the room were smashed. At the scene of the crime, it appeared to officials that a robbery attempt had turned ugly in the hours of the early morning.

Authorities did not realize the extent of Dutch Fred’s injuries until a doctor was summoned to examine the man. It was found that Fred had been beaten around the head by a blunt object, and had been choked or kicked in the throat. The beating had formed blood clots in the man’s brain and crushed his windpipe, and doctors were unable to resuscitate him. He passed away shortly before midnight, and authorities began searching for the men responsible. The death of Dutch Fred changed the criminal charge from robbery to murder, and a manhunt was launched to find the five men from Bemidji, who were suspected in the crime. O’Brien and Davis were later caught and charged with the murder. Davis was discovered hidden in a haystack near Bowdon, and O’Brien was found wearing Fred’s coat and watch near Fessenden.



Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, June 9, 1902: p. 3.