Wednesday, December 30, 2009
A few residents of Jamestown wrote to the Fargo Forum on this date in 1898, relating a practical joke that some in the city had played on a certain prohibition officer. The Jamestown residents wrote after reading about officer’s arrest for selling confiscated liquor. Detective Hamre, the prohibition officer, was with the North Dakota State Enforcement League. It was weeks earlier that he had been jokingly been accused of criminal acts.
It all started with a common story in Stutsman County of a clever thief. The particulars of the story had long been lost, but it was said that a man committed a robbery, and then took off running down the street. In order to divert attention from himself, the man began pointing ahead, yelling, “Stop, thief!” As others joined the chase, the man was soon enveloped in the crowd and was able to sneak away. Since the story was common knowledge in the area, it became a sort of practical joke, with friends chasing friends yelling the phrase or accusing them of other indecencies.
After a particularly questionable arrest of several bootleggers in Jamestown, Detective Hamre escorted the accused to the county jail. Upon leaving the jail, Detective Hamre was accosted by an unknown man, who began chasing the detective down the street yelling, “Stop, thief!” The man, an unknown visitor to the area paid by friends of the accused bootleggers, continued to hound the detective for quite a distance. Stirring up a gaggle of onlookers, this caused the detective some embarrassment. Little did city residents know at the time, that the detective was in fact accusing those bootleggers of the same crimes he himself was committing right under their very noses.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job
Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. Friday (Evening ed.), December 30, 1898: p.1.