Dakota Datebook

Contested Land

Friday, November 9, 2007

FA contested land case reported by the Grand Forks Herald on this date in 1901 resulted in some surprising testimony.
It seems that the wife of Nels Johnson was contesting the sale of a quarter section of land that she and her husband had homesteaded. Her husband had sold the quarter section of land near Northwood, North Dakota to the Northwood Trust and Safety Bank. Mrs. Johnson claimed to Judge Fisk that the land equally belonged to her, and could not be sold without her consent.
Mr. Johnson had been one of the more prominent farmers near Northwood for many years. It was a well-known fact by the people in the area however, that there was some marital trouble between Nels and his wife. It was not until Mr. Johnson’s testimony however, did anyone realize just how much trouble there really was.
Testifying from the stand, Mr. Johnson reported that his wife always insisted on doing things her own way. Seven years ago, his wife announced that she could no longer live on the farmstead, and wanted to move to back her own farmstead a few miles away. So, off they went with the children to Mrs. Johnson’s old farmstead.
The new living arrangements didn’t seem to improve the Johnson’s marriage relationship however. After two years, Mr. Johnson moved back to the original homestead by himself.
Questioned why he moved back, Mr. Johnson reported that things “just started to get too hot.” On one occasion he reported, Mrs. Johnson attacked him with a butcher knife and stabbed him. Mr. Johnson went on to say that this incident “he did not take very kindly to.”
On another occasion according to Mr. Johnson, his wife attempted to “use him for target practice.” She apparently chased him from the house to the barn, firing several shots from a revolver at him. When asked about her possible motive, Mr. Johnson could only offer that “she’s not in her right mind at all times.”
The attorney for Mr. Johnson tried to prove that Mrs. Johnson refused to live on property. Because of this, the land could be sold without her consent.
In the courtroom, Judge Fisk couldn’t help but notice the scowls and head-shaking given by Mrs. Johnson upon hearing her husband’s testimony.

The Grand Forks Herald, as reported in The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, Saturday Evening, November 9, 1901. pg. 3.

Written by Dave Seifert

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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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