The Lamoni Chronicle
July 21, 1906
MORE CONCERNING GRAHAM MURDER.
As Told by Fred'k M. SMITH - Visits GRAHAM Home - Children Sorely Grieved - Notes of Travel.
Bemidji, Minn., July 11
Editor of Chronicle:
As many of your readers, especially in and around Lamoni, are acquainted with William GRAHAM and family, who about two or near three years ago moved from Lamoni to North Dakota to take up claims, they will be interested and grieved to learn something of the details of the sad tragedy which deprived the children of mother and possibly father a few days ago.
F. A. SMITH and I were, during the closing days of June and till the third of July, attending a reunion of the L. D. S. at Duluth, North Dakota, Mrs. GRAHAM and daughter Birdie were expected at the reunion, but did not come. We
wondered why, and the explanation came about the middle of the reunion in a letter from a neighbor who wrote that Mrs. GRAHAM had been murdered and that Mr. GRAHAM was missing. The sad news grieved us much, and as we were so well
acquainted and so long acquainted with the family, F. A. and I decided that at the close of the reunion we would make a visit to the stricken home, feeling that a visit from home folks would be welcome to the children, and possibly of some comfort.
So on the morning of July 5 we left Dunseith, driving twenty miles to Bottineau. Thence we went by rail to West Hope where we were met by John GORDON and driven to his home, ten miles west. On the morning of the 6th he took us by wagon to the home of Wm. SPARLING, eleven or twelve miles still father west, the home of "Jim" SPARLING, a Graceland boy. Jim hitched up his team and drove us south to Mohall about ten or eleven miles, to the home of Martin SPAULDING, father of the SPAULDING boys who have for the past two years been in Graceland. After dinner, in company with Mr. and Mrs. SPAULDING, we went by team to Lansford, twelve miles south and east of Mohall, thence about nine miles south and a little west and reached the GRAHAM residence about the time Morgan and Charles were doing the chores. We were heartily welcomed to the sad home. We
staid with them over night and learned from them as much of the details of the tragedy as are known, which we will give briefly.
Up until the time of the sad day of June 24, everything had been going smoothly and well with the GRAHAMs. Charles, Morgan, Birdie and Mr. GRAHAM had all taken claims, three of them being contiguous, thus giving them all a section
of fine Dakota prairie land. Good improvements had been put upon them, three hundred and fifty acres were in cultivation the crops promised much, and the farm was well stocked and well equipped with good machinery. The outlook was indeed bright. But from out of the clear sky came the fateful bolt.
On the evening of June 24 the school teacher of that district gave a dance, and the GRAHAM children responded to the urgent invitation to be present and about ten o'clock in the evening, twilight in that far northern county, Morgan, Birdie and Ella started for the home of Mr. Riley, where the dance was to be hold. They left their mother happy and well at the house, and their father was a half mile or so west of the home watering some cabbage plants which had been set out in the morning. Everything seemed so pleasant and the prospect so good, the GRAHAMS were happy.
About two o'clock in the morning the young people returned, and while the girls went into the house Morgan began putting out the team. Before his task was done, screams from the girls at the house took him to their side. On going up stairs they had found their mother, whom they had so shortly before left happy and well, dead, with a bullet hole clear through her head. Their father was gone. A near neighbor was called in to stay with the girls who were frantic with grief, while Morgan aroused the neighborhood. Every assistance possible was given by the kind-hearted neighbors. Scores of men volunteered their services, and for days the search lasted and for miles it extended from the home. Men on horseback scoured the country, riding through the many "sloughs" filled with clear water. No trace of the missing father could be found. Up till the time we left on the morning of the seventh, not one clew had been found which throws light on the terrible affair.
All that is missing from the house, so far as can be learned, is a rifle and a revolver. Who did the deed, how was it done, why it was done, cannot be answered. By some it is feared that Mr. GRAHAM in a moment of mental aberration, may have been the instrument through which the dread blow fell, and upon a realization of its terribleness fled. Since being severely hurt in an accident with a team on a hayrake some six years ago, he has shown some signs of mental aberration, but none which were considered serious or dangerous. Until some trace of him can be found, the mystery will likely remain unsolved.
The poor children are bearing the terrible blow bravely. Their hearts are wounded sore, but their admirable self-control holds them up. The strain of suspense is terrible on them. The terrible cloud is made still blacker by the
awful thought that possibly their own father is in some way responsible. And if not, then what has become of him? We can only hope that something may soon develop which will throw light on the deep mystery. Almost anything in the way of development would be better than the present awful tension.
On the Tuesday following the tragedy Mrs. GRAHAM was buried at Lansford, the third to be buried there. We did what little we could to offer comfort to the sad ones, but it was indeed little we could do.
On the morning of the 7th we left, driving to Lansford, where we took train for here.
By the way of news we may add that Charles, who was for so many years one of B. D. FLEET's best clerks, works in a large store in Minot part of his time, spending the rest on his claim. Minot is about twenty-five or thirty miles
south and east of where the GRAHAM claims are. The claims are good ones, on that wonderful North Dakota prairie in what is known as the Mouse River loop. So level is the land, and so clear the atmosphere, that at one time on our ride from Dunseith we could see the elevators in a town which lay nearly forty-five miles south of us. About two miles to the north of the GRAHAM'S is where Elgie CLUM's claim lies.
Bemidgi, where we are now, lies in the midst of the Minnesota lumbering woods, on a beautiful body of water called Bemidji lake, through which the Mississippi River flows. From where I am writing this, one can hear the sound of one of the largest lumber mills in the northwest. It runs day and night, and gives employment to about five hundred men.
Today we crossed the Mississippi River on an ordinary, low, on-span wagon bridge. The stream here is hardly so large as at Burlington or Keokuk.
Last night were at a house about eight miles north of here, right in the woods, and for the first time in my life I heard a pack of timber wolves howling. They were near the house and for a few moments they made the woods ring. It
was a doleful concert. I was glad they were not looking for me.
FRED'K M. SMITH
A letter received here by a friend of Miss Birdie is to the effect that up to date of same no trace had been received of the missing father. - Ed.
Copied by Stacey McDowell Dietiker
June 7, 2003