Dakota Datebook

Good Roads Woman

Monday, May 20, 2013


What’s in a name? As Shakespeare asked, “Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?” Certainly a name can alter one’s expectations of a thing, or even a person. Good Roads Woman, an early 20th century Siouan woman living in western North Dakota, proved in 1904 that you can’t judge a book by its cover, or more accurately, its name. With the mysterious death of her fourth husband in 1904, Good Roads Woman may have actually been a black widow of sorts.

In May of 1904, Good Roads Woman and her husband, Milton Fowler, were farming on the Fort Berthold Reservation near Elbowoods. Fowler, an Arikara, was Good Roads’ fourth husband, and rumors swirled that she had actually murdered her third. In mid-May, neighbors visiting Good Roads Woman were surprised to find her husband absent, especially since his team and wagon were still at home. Good Roads replied that he had taken some calico cloth to the Russian settlement to trade for potatoes. Given the distance to the settlement, the fact the wagon and team were still home, and probably factoring in the rumors concerning the fate of her previous husband, the neighbors became suspicious. They alerted authorities at the Elbowoods Agency, and the following day a search of the farmstead turned up Fowler’s body. He had been struck in the face with a hatchet, wrapped in quilts, and buried in a shallow grave in the stable.

Good Roads Woman denied any knowledge of the murder, but eventually admitted that they had recently argued. The constable concluded from the evidence that Good Roads had killed her husband while he slept. Despite her pleas of innocence, Good Roads found herself in the Elbowoods jail on this date, and the cause of some excitement on the reservation. A sheriff later arrived and transferred her to Stanton, where she was to go before the district court. Later, while being held there, she confessed to an alternate story in which a stranger came to their house, witnessed Fowler beat her severely, and then killed and buried him in retaliation in front of her. Unsurprisingly, Good Roads Woman was not believed this time around, and was charged with Fowler’s murder.


Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job



Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. Thursday (Evening ed.), June 16, 1904: p. 1.

http://www.infomercantile.com/dakota_death_trip/Good_Roads_Woman_1334867832.html (Dakota Death Trip blog posted by D. Dahlsad, Bismarck Daily Tribune, May 20, 1904; May 24, 1904; June 15, 1904; July 28, 1904).


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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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