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Arthur LeSueur, A Minot Socialist


Arthur LeSueur of Minot had a real talent for stirring up controversy in 1911. LeSueur was a reformer who wanted to clean up the city. His goal was to shut down illegal gambling dens. He wanted to close all saloons in Minot, which were unlawful. LeSueur also wished to eliminate bawdy houses of prostitution, then rampant in Minot. He also stirred up emotions because he was a Socialist.

In 1909, Minot’s voters elected Arthur LeSueur as president of the City Commission, an office equivalent to mayor. LeSueur got votes because he was a reformer, not because he was a Socialist. In fact, North Dakota’s Socialists labeled themselves as “Independents” on ballots because the very word “socialist” scared most voters.

Since his arrival in Minot in 1900, LeSueur made a name for himself as a dynamic lawyer for the Great Northern Railway. As commission president, LeSueur made good on his promises to clean up the city. Under his firm hand, the city cracked down on vice, closing the illegal “blind pig” saloons, shutting down illicit gambling, and eliminating prostitution.

Opponents of Arthur LeSueur believed he had gone too far in his cleanup and had concentrated too much power in his own hands. In order to accomplish his reforms, LeSueur had forced the police chief, William Bakeman, out of office by charging him with drinking evidence confiscated from an illegal saloon.

The backlash against the reforming power of LeSueur came to light on this date in 1912 when a newspaper headline read: “Socialists Lose Out In Minot.” In a city election, Minot’s citizens ousted one of the city commissioners, a Socialist, and voted in two new commissioners who opposed LeSueur’s Socialist administration. Vocal critics of LeSueur called for him to step down. A month later, Arthur LeSueur resigned, for his power base had eroded.

The clean atmosphere in Minot eventually reverted to its old muddy ways. By the 1920s, Minot was once again a center of vice under the control of the “gambling and liquor rackets” in the Prohibition era.

As for Arthur LeSueur, he ran for statewide office in 1912, losing in the election for the U.S. House of Representatives. In that same year, Socialists elected mayors in Rugby and in Hillsboro.

LeSueur (born 1867, died 1950) later stirred things up in North Dakota as a leader in the Nonpartisan League. LeSueur always “seemed to have . . . a terrible, wonderful lust for the fight.”

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, History Department, MSU Moorhead.

Sources: “Socialists Lose Out in Minot,” Grand Forks Herald, April 5, 1911.

“Minot Elected City Officers,” Grand Forks Herald, July 20, 1909.

“LeSueur Resigns His Position As Mayor of Minot City Commission,” Bismarck Daily Tribune, May 16, 1911.

“Public Excluded From The Police Investigation,” Ward County Independent [Minot, ND], October 20, 1910, p. 1.

“The Beer Questions Partially Solved,” Ward County Independent[Minot, ND], October 20, 1910, p.8.

“Chief of Police Bakeman Ousted,” Ward County Independent [Minot, ND], October 27, 1910, Section 2, p. 1.

Peter Anderson, “Once Upon A Time: Chapter 11; LeSueur,” Our Neighborhood [Minot, ND], April 1994, p. 6-7.

“Rugby City Election,”Pierce County Tribune [Rugby, N.D.], March 1, 1912, p. 1.

“Socialists Win Out,” Rugby Optimist, March 22, 1912, p. 1.

“Reading America; Crusaders: The Radical Legacy of Marian and Arthur LeSueur, Wisconsin Magazine of History 68, no.3 (Spring, 1985), p. 210.

Jackson Putnam, The Socialist Party of North Dakota, 1902-1918, M.A. Thesis, University of North Dakota, 1956, p. 99, 102, 103.

“Henry R. Martinson,” North Dakota History 43, no. 2 (Spring 1976), p. 18.