Dakota Datebook

The Motive Was Revenge

Friday, October 25, 2013


A terrible tragedy took place on this date in 1913 near Ray, North Dakota. Three people were brutally shot down. The motive seems to have been revenge.

The Dillon family farmed near Ray, in Williams County in western North Dakota. It was the second marriage for Mrs. Dillon. She earlier was married to Maurice Culbertson, whom Mrs. Dillon divorced because of mental and physical cruelty.

The former Mrs. Culbertson eventually married a Mr. Dillon from western North Dakota. She and her daughter from her first marriage then settled in to the family business of farming.

Things ran smoothly for the Dillon family, until Mrs. Dillon’s first husband, Maurice Culbertson again entered the picture. Apparently he had not gotten over the divorce and was now looking for revenge.

Seeking out his former wife and daughter had led Culbertson to the Dillon homestead. Finding Mr. Dillon alone in the barn, he inquired if he might spend the night with them. After refusing Culbertson’s request, Culbertson became angry and immediately fired four shots into Dillon’s back.

Culbertson then rushed to the house, where he encountered his former wife running to the barn to investigate the shots. Without a pause, he shot his former wife in the chest. Going into the house, he found his daughter getting ready for bed. As she turned to face him, he shot the thirteen year old, who later died without regaining consciousness.

Culbertson immediately headed for the nearby city of Ray. Thinking no one would soon discover the bodies, he registered at a local hotel. The next day he hopped a baggage train heading east.

Culbertson didn’t get far. He was arrested by the freight conductor who had received a tip that the murderer might be on his train.

Somehow, Mr. Dillon survived the shooting and was able to identify Culbertson.

Had it not been for a heavily armed posse and jail guard, the frenzied citizens would probably have lynched Culbertson.

The report indicated that if Mr. Dillon lived long enough to make Culbertson’s identification possible, the would-be lynching mob would no doubt get their wish.


Dakota Datebook written by Dave Seifert



The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, Saturday Evening, October 25, 1913. pg. 2


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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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