Thursday, December 14, 2006
A peculiar legal episode was reported from Hankinson, North Dakota on this day in 1903. The story involved a recent Swedish immigrant named Olaf Ramsett and a Swedish loan of five-hundred kroners. Supposedly, Ramsett had borrowed that amount from a Swedish merchant in 1893, ten years previous. Shortly after doing so, Ramsett had emigrated from Sweden to the United States and the merchant had lost word of him. After ten years at five percent interest, this loan was now over $200, and the merchant was still attempting to collect on the debt. In early December, the merchant tracked one of Ramsett’s acquaintances down and learned of his whereabouts in Roberts County, North Dakota. The merchant, acting through an intermediary in this country, moved quickly to snag Ramsett.
He contacted Attorney Turner of Sisseton and divulged the story. This attorney then contacted another attorney, Attorney Strohm, who lived near Ramsett’s farm. Attorney Strohm informed the men that Ramsett was packing up his belongings at the moment, intent on moving himself to Canada. Strohm was asked to prevent Ramsett from leaving until settlement could be made on the claim. Attorney Turner then brought the case before Justice Herbert to force Ramsett to pay judgment on the claim. The justice was unaware that by exceeding $200, the debt also exceeded his own jurisdiction, and he quickly sent a marshal to serve papers on Ramsett. In the meantime, clever Ramsett had secured representation of his own in the person of Attorney Dwyer. Dwyer pointed out that this case was beyond the jurisdiction of both the judge and the marshal and that both men were now guilty of exceeding their authority. Now, the marshal was arrested on the order of a second judge from Wahpeton!
Somehow during the course of this tangled mess, Ramsett was able to contact the Swedish merchant and strike a deal on the payment of the loan. Leaving the legal mess behind him, the settler then hopped in his car and drove off to his new home in Canada.
The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican (Evening ed.). December 14, 1903: p. 10.
–Jayme L. Job