Q. What do Mondak, Wheelock, and Fort Buford have in common?
A. A rail road that carried both good and bad.
Old west stories of bad guys and wild west tales of murder. That’s the stuff books, movies and tall tales are made of. That’s true of these three stories.
In 2021, stories of dastardly dark deeds from old western North Dakota caught the reader’s attention thousands of times on the Beautiful Badlands website.
Wheelock — Two Families Murdered
Stories of mass murders at Wheelock seems to be the most popular murder story we’ve published. Last year, it was read by 2,000 people.
It’s the story of two mass murders, two families who met their grizzly deaths, plus a third murder of a banker from when Wheelock was a bustling community. It was a time when western North Dakota was just getting settled. The railroad was the bloodline to civilization, but also an easy way for madmen to do their deeds. They would disembark from the train to hike into town to do their dirty work.
Mondak — A Wild West Murder Story about a Sheriff and a Migrant Worker Lynched
The second most popular western North Dakota murder story is about the same time as the mass murders near Wheelock – but 50 miles farther west, at Mondak.
It’s a strange tale of a double murder and a lynching. What makes this story particularly visual is that the jail where the lynching began is still standing. It’s on private property across the road to the north of Fort Union Trading Post Historic Site.
It happened when workers were thick in the area. Mondak was bustling and many were working on the nearby lift bridge. The Snowden Lift Bridge was under construction. Back in the day, background checks never happened. If they did, this fellow would have been weeded out. He had a long black background.
Marmarth — When Minding your own Business Wasn’t Enough
And then there is the little forgotten town of Marmarth down in the very southwest corner of North Dakota. The Little Missouri River cuts through here and begins its artistic sculpting of the Badlands.
Downriver from Marmarth were “resorts” where lonely cowboys could resort to lustful activities.
It seems that Marmarth was a busy town for law enforcement — so much so, folks in other parts of the county complained how much the county was spending on trials.
In town, people lived simply, even though the town was a bustling rail depot and stockyard. It was a railroad town, a mining town and a livestock town.
A murder there caused a little debate about the details, but in the end, the bad guys were identified.
We’ve found tales of murder in most of the western North Dakota and Badlands towns we’ve explored. Of course the last lynching in the state happened in McKenzie County outside of Watford City. A movie is planned for that tale of murder. The one in Amidon is quite interesting and we’re planning on telling you about that one, too. Follow us on Facebook to stay up to date on what’s happening in the Badlands and the old west stories.