As railroad construction continued and industry expanded in the late 19th century, the gap between the upper and lower classes grew. With an influx of people looking to work along the tracks, complications arose, leading to an increase in crime. Although the introduction of the Northern Pacific and SPM&M improved economic opportunities, with it came prostitution, alcohol consumption, and conflict.
1913 School Shooting
On March 5, 1913, Bennie Tinjum began a dispute with school teacher Anna Skeim, leading to gunfire and casualty. Details of the incident vary from story to story, including the exact date as well as the spelling of Miss Skeim’s name.
Students recall the day their teacher was shot at a schoolhouse near Glyndon, MN. A man, believed to be the teacher’s boyfriend, appeared and requested to speak to Miss Skeim in private. After a few moments of the two conversing in the cloakroom, the children heard a couple of gunshots. The teacher came running out of the cloakroom and attempted to hide. The school children, terrified, ran out the door and into zero degree weather without as much as a coat or gloves. The schoolhouse was located in a rural area so the children had nowhere to escape. Miss Skeim was seen running out of the schoolhouse towards a nearby church. The shooter, Bennie Tinjum, continued to fire his weapon until Miss Skeim was shot in the neck and collapsed. She was shot six times before the assailant then shot himself in the head, ending in his fatality.
The teacher was found sitting at her desk when help arrived. Miss Skeim survived her attack and spent two weeks in the hospital. No children were shot with the exception of one boy being slightly grazed by a bullet in the arm. Although it is still unknown what happened to Miss Skeim, according to the MN death certificate database, an Anna Rebekka Skeim died June 11, 1951.
John Rooney: The Last Execution
John Rooney was the last person to be executed in North Dakota. Convicted of the murder of farm worker Harold Sweet, Rooney shot and killed the victim during a robbery near the railroad tracks in Fargo. Rooney was sentenced to death by hanging on March 31, 1903. Rooney maintained that the shooter was actually his partner, “Kansas Slim.” His appeals went as far as the Supreme Court, but to no avail. He was hanged on October 17, 1905 at the Cass county prison. It was the first private execution to be held in a prison rather than in public.
The death penalty was abolished in 1915 in North Dakota. It was restored from 1939 to 1977, although no one was executed during that time.
On April 25th, 1872 Edward Curran, also known as Shang Stanton, and Dan “Slim Jim” Shumway began a dispute, leading to a shootout within a local saloon. Stanton and Shumway, both infamous gamblers, had been following the Northern Pacific Railroad in pursuit of wealth and willing opponents. The shootout, located where the Moorhead Mall parking lot now resides unraveled as follows…
After a dispute the day before, both men entered the saloon, coming in contact with the other. Stanton was the first to fire his weapon, discharging into Shumway’s abdomen. Shumway returned fire and a duel ensued. Stanton fled the scene to another saloon while Shumway continued fire, inadvertently shooting Orleans Club owner Daniel Thompson, ending in his fatality. Shumway continued shooting outside of the saloon until he collapsed. He was disarmed and died due to his injuries in early May. Shang Stanton was later apprehended but released under the terms of Justifiable Homicide.
-Intro to Museum Class, 2012