Datebook listeners may recall the story of Ella O’Keefe, who appears to have been a likeable person who spent most of her time traveling. Ella’s real name was Marie Ricks and local authorities were quite baffled as to what to do with her. Marie had become a well known celebrity of sorts, but not the kind you would welcome into your community. She had arrived in Jamestown in 1895 and worked for a family for a while, but then moved on to Minnesota where she appears to have developed an obsession for breaking windows when she was depressed. She was placed in a hospital, but supposedly escaped. However, hospitals have many windows, so it may be more appropriate to say she moved on, probably with some encouragement.
Homeless and alone, she soon found herself in the Fargo Women’s Home, and being depressed she found a need to break windows, which she did. Without fanfare she was placed on a train for Grand Forks and thus began her many journeys from one town to the next via the railroad. She may have enjoyed her time onboard the train, for there appears to be no indication of broken train windows, and the railroad authorities did not ban her from traveling. By the time Marie Ricks arrived in Bismarck in February of 1896 she had adopted the name Ella O’Keefe to cover her identity. Again she became despondent while in Bismarck, and the Bismarck Tribune announced that Ella the Window Smasher, with funds from the City of Bismarck, had been placed on a train to Jamestown where she was told to report to the hospital.
Upon her arrival in Jamestown, she was stopped from breaking more store windows, but was not welcomed at the hospital, which also had many windows. Miss Ricks, alias Ella the Window Smasher was then sent to Fargo where she was arrested for her window breaking escapade the year before. Under escort, she was taken to Wahpeton or points south where it was believed she had family, and the merchants and hospital directors breathed a sigh of relief. Marie Ricks, alias Ella the Window Smasher was gone.
Or was she? On this date in 1897, the Jamestown Capital announced that Marie Ricks, the “window smasher” had arrived in Grand Forks from the west. Funds were raised and Marie was sent on her way, but this time her train fare was paid all the way through to Wisconsin.
Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis
The Jamestown Capital July 20, 1897
The Bismarck Daily Tribune February 6, 1896 Page 3
Jamestown Daily Alert February 7, 1896 Page 3.