Thursday, December 21, 2006
Seven children appeared in Fargo’s juvenile court on this day in 1939. The five girls and two boys, ranging in age from eight to fifteen, were accused of stealing checks, money, and goods on several instances. Police caught the young gang a few days earlier, when a check for $175 was stolen from a local mailbox and cashed at a Fargo bank. It was found that a young girl in the gang had cashed the check, and the identities of the other gang members were found out through her. Authorities traced the children back to a room full of merchandise, all of which had been stolen or bought with stolen funds.
The items found included a great amount of clothing, “…shoes, dolls, diaries, shoe skates, [and] perfumes.” Members of the gang contended that they planned to give the stolen items as Christmas gifts to friends and family members. Authorities claimed that the work of older gangs paled in comparison to the amount of loot taken in by the young adolescent group. Police spent two days sorting through the room of ‘evidence,’ attempting to distinguish between stolen goods and those goods actually purchased, albeit with stolen funds. It also proved difficult to trace the huge amount of goods to individual stores in the area.
When the children appeared in court on December 21, they were chastised for their delinquent actions and threatened with attending the state training school in Mandan. The five girls, who appeared to be the leaders of the bunch, replied that they “anticipated a swell time together” at the reformatory. It was also found during the early proceedings that the children had been stealing and drinking alcohol. “One girl of fourteen boasted, ‘I can hold my liquor with the best of them’.” While most members of the gang had stolen multiple checks from area mailboxes and cashed them at grocery stores, sometimes buying food for the other members in the process, other members became more creative in their illegal maneuvers; one girl testified that she had been given money by her mother to pay for a dress, but had instead stolen the dress and split the money amongst the gang members. Although the exploits of the young gang were shocking to most, few could deny the degree of success with which the gang was met.
The Fargo Forum and Daily Tribune (Morning ed.). December 20, 1939: p. 9.
The Fargo Forum and Daily Tribune (Morning ed.). December 21, 1939: p. 1.
–Jayme L. Job