Monday, October 2, 2017

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 2

October 2, 1903 – In a pitched battle between a sheriff’s posse and a gang of tramps near South Haven, Wright County, 20 miles from Buffalo, Minn., just off the Soo Road this afternoon, the leader of the tramps was killed, one of the band mortally wounded and another man badly shot.

Wright County Railroads1

This morning the sheriff, with one deputy, started in pursuit of a gang of thieving tramps that has been marauding in this area. It was known that the men had gone in the direction of South Haven. The sheriff located the men in a box car and not knowing they were armed, jumped into the car and demanded their surrender. The tramps covered the sheriff and his deputy with guns, made them throw up their hands and disarmed them.

Sheriff Young went into the town of South Haven and called a posse together. He secured plenty of volunteers, for the residents have been terrorized by the tramps.


Young and his men found that the tramps had vacated the box car and taken to the fields. Their trail was followed for some distance, when, without warning, a volley was fired at the pursuers from ambuscade. None of the shots took effect and the members of the posse returned the fire.

They couldn’t see into the corn field, but many of the men were armed with shotguns and rifles and their fire was followed by screams of pain.

“We surrender,” shouted one tramp, standing up among the corn.

There had been six men in the tramp party. When the sheriff and his posse closed in, one lay dead, another was near death, a third was badly wounded and the others carried bullets in their skins.

The wounded men were brought to Buffalo this evening. There is much excitement and the survivors of the gang were hustled to jail through a crowd of 700 people who were of a temper to string them up.


Axel Younger is said to be the name of the leader of the gang who was killed.

The prisoners were searched and in their possession were found a set of railroad signals, evidently procured for the purpose of train wrecking. Each of them was supplied with two Colt revolvers. One of the men had papers to show he was a member of a Rochester, N.Y., labor union. The coroner has decided to hold an inquest over the dead man.

It develops also that the tramps had a crude chart of the South Haven country and it is the consensus that they were plotting a train robbery on the Soo Line and were waiting for a good opportunity to strike.

The court room in Buffalo was turned into a hospital for three of the wounded. The body of the dead man was taken to South Haven and from a statement made by one of his pals, it is believed he is Gerald Shannon of Rochester, N.Y. Officials are communicating with Rochester and hope to get further light on identification.

The men are middle-aged and are tough appearing characters. The two who were only slightly hurt are in the Buffalo jail. The train robbery theory has further support in the fact that a quantity of dynamite was found near the men.

The Minneapolis Journal; “Robber Band Shot to Pieces. Wright County Sheriff and a Posse in Desperate Battle With a Gang of Tramps. Leader of the Band Killed and the Others Wounded, One of Them Mortally. Evidence Seems Conclusive That a Plot to Hold Up a Train Was Hatching.”; Oct. 3, 1903; p. 1.




If you are interested in finding out more about your family history in Minnesota, I specialize in researching  genealogical and historical records in Minn. and western Wis., including:
census records,  birth records,  death certificates, obits, grave site photos, ship passenger lists, marriage records and declarations of intent/naturalization records.  I will visit locations to research local history and county records, as well as take photos. Quick turnaround on MNHS records. Both short searches and family history reports available.


Discover your roots, and watch the branches of your family tree begin to grow.

Website: > click on Family History

Contact me at:

No comments:

Post a Comment