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Casselton Capture


Gossiping tongues could hardly keep still on this date in 1889 in Casselton. The evening before, Magdalena Sands had been captured near the city’s train station. Magdalena, the wife of Deputy Sheriff John P. Sand of Little Falls, Minnesota, was wanted for freeing her husband’s prisoner … and eloping with him!

By most accounts, Deputy Sheriff Sand was an unlucky fellow, and his second wife ultimately led to his downfall. John Peter Sand was born in Luxembourg in May of 1848 to Peter and Angelique Sand. At the age of seventeen, John Peter settled with his family in LeSauk Township, Minnesota, near the modern-day town of Sartell. Ten years later, John Peter married his first wife, Helena, and took the job of Deputy Sheriff of Morrison County. They lived near Pierz and had three children together, but Helena died while the children were still quite young. To help raise the infants, John Peter quickly married a German woman named Magdalena, and together they had two more children. Then, late in September of 1889 came the arrest of John Mitchell, who was caught near Little Falls and accused of highway robbery. Judge Baxter sentenced him to serve two years at the brand new St. Cloud Reformatory. However, on the night of October 2nd, and just days before Mitchell’s transfer to St. Cloud, Mrs. Sand snuck into the Little Falls’ jail.

The forty-year old woman had fallen for the convicted thief half her age. She freed him, and with her husband’s stolen wallet and pistol, she eloped with Mitchell on the midnight train west, leaving behind not only her husband, but their five children. The two ended up in Casselton, where they took a room in a nearby boarding house. Magdalena was captured two days later, and although Mitchell escaped, the felon was later caught in Canada. Magdalena was taken back to Little Falls, where a thoroughly embarrassed husband, and a divorce petition, awaited her arrival. Despite her pleas, John Peter never forgave Magdalena for ruining their reputations; he lost his job over the matter, became a laborer, and passed away in 1902 at only 53 years old.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job


Dill, Joseph (ed.). 1988 North Dakota: 100 Years: p. 5. The Forum Publishing Company: Fargo, ND.

The Daily Argus. Saturday (Morning ed.), October 5, 1889: p. 1.

http://heschistory.blogspot.com/2012/02/sifting-sands-circa-1889.html (Minneapolis Tribune, “The First in the State,” September 25, 1889; Minneapolis Tribune, “Eloped with a Prisoner,” October 4, 1889.)