Dakota Datebook


Friday, June 22, 2012


One afternoon in June of 1890, several gunshots were heard in the city of Minot. George Lewis was seen running from the railroad yard toward the local doctor’s house, exclaiming along the way that he shot a man.


Within five minutes of the shooting, a large crowd formed around the wounded man, William Palmer, who was still conscious, though in obvious agony. Palmer repeated his story several times over: George Lewis had struck another man and Palmer had been upbraiding him for it, when Lewis pulled out his gun and shot Palmer.


Lewis said he acted in self-defense, and that Palmer had pulled a knife. Of the witnesses, some claimed they saw a knife, but some had not.


Palmer was prepared for death, saying: “I’m not afraid to die and am ready to go now, but I hate to think that I had such a dirty, mean trick played on me and that I have got to be put out of the world like this.” It did look dire. Local doctors Coe, Nutting and Read all examined Palmer, and all said that his chances were about a hundred to one, though he might “linger” a day or two. Palmer had been shot four times, with two of the bullets passing through his body, and the other two remaining inside.


The doctors wanted to send Palmer to Brainerd, Minnesota. The hospital there practiced antiseptic surgery and was ranked highly. Palmer begged to be sent home to his wife and children in Helena, instead. He thought he would never see them again if he was sent to Brainerd. They convinced him to go anyway, but by the time a train arrived, he was too weak for the trip, and was instead put in the local Inter Ocean Hotel, on the brink of death.


But on this date, Palmer was still alive. His family came from Montana to be with him. And he finally did make it to Brainerd, where doctors there performed “a very difficult but successful operation, which probably saved his life.” Palmer had beaten the odds and he returned to Helena with his family a month later.


Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker



The Mandan Pioneer, Friday, June 20, 1890

The Mandan Daily Pioneer, June 27, 1890

The Bismarck Tribune, July 22, 1890, p3

The Bismarck Tribune, June 18, 1890


This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

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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