Story of Nearly Century Old Crime Passed Down Through Generations


You could say Frances Olson is something of a local historian.And that’s a good thing-
because there’s lots of details to learn about North Dakota’s last lynching. 

The story, in a nutshell, goes like this. Charles Bannon worked as a hired hand for the Haven family who lived on a farmstead. 

“Charles originally said he got in a fight with the older son and accidentally killed him,” explains Olson. 

And the rest of the family members, including mother and father and three other children, were to follow. Bannon eventually confessed to the crime. His father, James, charged as an accomplice.

“There’s probably some that figure he had something to do with the actual killings. But there’s probably a lot of them that don’t think he had anything to do with the actual killing, but probably helped clean up so to speak,” says Olson. 

While imprisoned at the Schafer Jail, a vigilante mob broke in, dragged Bannon from the jail, and eventually hanged him. Pamela Johnson-Haugan’s grandfather was the town sheriff at the time.

“My family always told the story that [the mob] sat on him. He was six foot six, never carried a gun. So he was helpless to do anything in that respect. But there were so many of the mob, or vigilantes as I always heard them called, that there was nothing he could have done anyway,” says Johnson-Haugan. 

And if the ladies know who the members of the mob were, and some of them say they do, they’re not telling.

“In its own way, justice was served,” says Johnson-Haugan. 

And as the details of the story are told and retold, some fact, some more like local legend, Bannon’s acts are remembered and recounted. And the Havens?

They’re often remembered too,

“I currently live not too far from where the Havens live so I go by often and think of them. They were not a very sociable people. And yet, maybe that’s why the mob was thinking about them and maybe had we befriended them, could we have helped them in some way?” says Johnson-Haugan. 

Gone, but still remembered all these decades later.

Bannon’s father, James Bannon, was put on trial, convicted, and released in 1950 after spending close to twenty years in prison.

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