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Mistaken Identity


A curious incident was reported by the Fargo Forum on this day in 1916. Although resulting from a simple case of mistaken identity, it resulted in a close call for a popular Minot couple, and almost cost a pair of Pinkerton detectives their jobs. The incident occurred a few days earlier, but an investigation ensued before further action could be taken on the matter.

It all began weeks earlier when the Great Northern Railroad Company noticed missing inventory in the Minot vicinity. It was discovered that goods were being stolen from the boxcars parked on the Minot railroad sections. The Great Northern sent a pair of regular railroad special agents to investigate the matter, but the agents did not come up with any suspects while the goods continued to disappear. Finally, the company sought out a pair of Pinkerton special agents to act as detectives in the case. The detectives staked the trains out for several days before any further action was taken. Observing from the nearby Great Northern right-of-way, the detectives were able to witness men robbing the railcars, although they never caught the suspects. Finally, several nights later, the detectives thought they had the men. They saw a car driving along the highway which greatly resembled the getaway vehicle driven by the boxcar thieves. The detectives opened fire, sending two shots toward the car. One of the shots hit the vehicle, while the other went wide.

When the car stopped, though, the detectives were very surprised that they were actually shooting at Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Nomolke of Minot, a highly respected family. Minot residents were outraged after hearing the news. The flames were further fanned by the fact that the shooting occurred several hundred feet from the railroad tracks. It seemed that the trigger-happy Pinkertons were all too eager to catch their culprits.

Written by Jayme Job


Fargo Forum and Daily Republican (Evening ed.). July 13, 1916: p. 2.