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Dunseith Vigilantes


Located near the present-day International Peace Garden, the North Dakota town of Dunseith is named for a Gaelic word meaning “city of peace” – although there have certainly been times in the city’s history when peace was in short supply. June of 1893 was just such a time, when a mysterious cowboy appeared in the small town and caused quite a bit of trouble.

Despite its modest size, Dunseith had a bustling downtown in 1893, with a grocery, a new bank, and even a modern jewelry store. Farmers and ranchers from the surrounding area often came into town to make purchases and conduct business, even from the Canadian side of the border. So, when the stranger wearing dungarees was seen around town, no one took notice. Although he was around for a few days, no one learned anything about him, not even his name.

On the evening of June 16th, the stranger rode his horse up to the Turtle Mountain Bank around 8 o’clock. Cashier J. C. Tucker was just closing up when the cowboy entered the bank and drew his pistol. Threatening Tucker with the revolver, the bandit managed to persuade the cashier to open the bank’s safe, which he quickly emptied. He then marched Tucker out to his horse at gun-point. Although early in the evening, few people were out and about, and no one noticed as the cowboy mounted the horse and rode off into the mountains. Tucker quickly sent up the alarm, however, alerting the townspeople of the robbery. The bandit, meanwhile, decided that the $1,000 he had stolen was not enough, and turned his horse around. He decided he would also rob Kotchevar’s jewelry store.

Returning to town, he went into the store and ordered the clerk, James McRae, to hand over cash and jewelry. McRae attempted to overpower the stranger, but was shot in the struggle. By this time, the townspeople had begun to organize themselves to discuss the robbery and put together a posse to follow the bank robber. When they heard the shot from the jewelry store, they rushed to the scene with guns drawn. The citizen posse chased after the cowboy, and soon caught up with the nameless bandit, shooting both him and his horse.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job


Hennessy, W. B. 1910 History of North Dakota: Embracing a Relation of the History of the State from the Earliest Times Down to the Present Day : p. 214. The Bismarck Tribune: Bismarck.

Bismarck Weekly Tribune . “Around the State,” June 23, 1893: p. 3. Bismarck, ND.

Bismarck Weekly Tribune . “Around the State,” July 7, 1893: p. 7. Bismarck, ND.

St. Paul Daily Globe . “He Dared and Died: A Lone Desperado Robs the Turtle Mountain Bank of Nearly $1,000,” June 18, 1893: p. 1. St. Paul, MN.,_North_Dakota