Project recounts 1930s murder, Lynching
Wiliston Hearld, July 10, 1985
City - The brutal slaying of a family in 1930 Just east of here, about 1
mile from what used to be Schafer, still sits heavy with some of the locals. So
much, in fact, that 71-year-old Ivan Johnson tells the story like It happened
Haven, his wife and their four children were murdered, probably on Feb. 10,1930.
About one year after the murders, Charles Bannon confessed. He later was hanged
from the Cherry Creek bridge by the mob.
feeling after the people found out that he was hung was that It was too good for
him," said Johnson, who was 13 years old at the time. "He should have
been burned for what he had done."
Haven-Bannon case was brought back to life during the McKenzie County Fair as a
grand champion 4-H display by
13-year-old Vawnita Hovet of
the Keene Lucky Leaf club. Her display included the original gavel and
stenographer's notebooks from the trial and the rope used to tie Bannon's hands
behind his back before he was hanged.
the reports are sometimes conflicting, the general consensus is that Bannon
brutally murdered the Haven family.
Hovet, Vawnita's mother, said they received newspaper clippings from Bennett
Rust, the nephew of Mrs. Haven. The Iowa resident said there are still
questions that remain unanswered.
following Is a synopsis of the murders:
Bannon worked for the Havens on and off as a farm hand. One day, while milking
cows in the barn, Bannon and two of the Haven boys, 19-year old Daniel and
16-year-old Leland, got Into a scuffle. The start of the argument, however, is
who was known to have had a short temper, pulled a 25-20 rifle from the Saddle on
his horse and shot Daniel. Reportedly frightened, he also shot Leland.
hearing the gunshots, Albert went to the barn, where he was also shot. It Is
reported that Bannon then went to the house and stabbed Mrs. Haven about 15
times before killing her and her 3-year-old son Charles (who was named after
Bannon) and an Infant.
the following days, Bannon buried the family In various sites. The reports are
that Bannon cut Mrs. Haven Into pieces, because she was too heavy to carry
murders were not brought out until almost one year later. After making up
numerous stories, Bannon finally confessed to the murders.
kind of kept up on it because It was Intriguing," said Johnson, who, since
1946, has owned the Bannon homestead. "No one liked Charles, but his dad
(James) was well liked. It was brought out later In the. trial that Charles was
an illegitimate child."
Hovet remembers her mother talking about the murders. "It was a scary time.
The people kept low profiles and kept their doors locked for quite some
feeling 6f the townspeople was that of shock, Johnson said.
preliminary trial took place In Watford City, but Bannon was kept In the Crosby
Jail because of the local people's feelings, Johnson said. But, because the
trial was to start early the next morning, Bannon was kept in the Schafer Jail
one night - it would be his last.
night, Jan.29, 1931, a mob of about 70 people broke Bannon out of the Jail and
brought him to the Cherry Creek bridge, where they would hang him.
was a strong feeling like that all over," Johnson said. "I would have
liked to have been along with the guys who hung him."
was finally pressured into confessing when he and his father. James, had run the
Haven farm for almost one year. They sold most of the cattle, grain an some
land. No one heard from the Havens during that period, which caused many close
friends to start investigating.
told those who Inquired that the Havens had take a trip to Oregon. He gave them
a address to send mall, but his father, James, was in Oregon intercepting the
letters. James was finally caught picking up mail, which linked Charles to the
was hanged before the trial was completed and the full story may never be known.
unclear topic is t] skull of a 16-year-old girl that was found by the remains of
Mi Haven in a rock cave.
possible explanation was that two years before working for the Havens, Bannon
worked for family that also had children including a 16-year-old girl. Upon
returning from town one day. The parents found their house burn to the
ground and no sign of the children. It is believed by some that Bannon cut the
girl's head before burning the house with the
lynching of Bannon believed to be the last one in North Dakota. There were 11
other cases of "frontier Justice" between 1888 and
the hanging of Bannon.
According to newspaper
reports, the lynching was partially prompted by the knowledge the 22-year-old
Bannon could never be executed officially, because
capital punishment was abolished in 1915.
No action was taken against the mob that hung Bannon even
though it was known who many them were. Johnson, in fact, knew is quite a few
who were with the group that night, including it’s leader.
self-determined project took Vawnita Hovet about two years to complete. She also
received newspaper clippings from Hans Nelson, the sheriff at the time
of the murder, who now e resides in Moorhead, Minn.
defense lawyer, W.A Jacobson, still lives in Watford City.
because Bannon was hanged before the story was told, the complete picture will
probably remain a mystery
needs to be set straight on 1930s murder
To the Editor:
am writing this letter to set straight a couple of mis-statements in a feature
story in tHe July 10 Williston Herald regarding the 193O’s murder and lynching
in McKenzie County.
of all. Hans Nelson claimed to have been sheriff at the time of the trial and
lynching. Hans Nelson was never, never sheriff in McKenzie County. nor was he a
deputy sheriff, unless it would be a brief assignment to police at a dance or
other public gathering. My dad, S. A. Thompson, was sheriff at that time and
Pete Hallan was deputy. 'Also, at no time was Charles Bannon Incarcerated in
the Crosby Jail. He was held in the Williams County Jail all during his trial.
following the lynching, James Bannon (Charles' father) was tried for complicity
in the crime, and he took a change of venue, so his trial was moved to Crosby,
with attendant expenses to this county for transporting witnesses and officials
to Crosby. James Brannon also demanded protection of the National Guard, and a
unit was assigned there throughout his trial. James Ban-non was subsequently
found guilty and received a life sentence in. the state prison.
for letting me set this straight.
H.D. (Catherhie) Johnson Watford City
justice means whole story won't be known
To the Editor:
On July 10, your paper
published an article recounting the 1930 murder of the Haven family and the
subsequent lynching of the suspect, Charles Bannon. According to a nephew of
Mrs. Haven. there are still unanswered questions.
In my humble opinion, there
has been and still is too much speculation on all aspects of the case since the
mob saw fit to execute the only person who possibly knew everything that
It stated in the article that
Charles was not very well liked and that later it came out in the trial that he
was illegitimate. May I ask how that can be relevant to the case? There are only
irresponsible people who neglect to get married before a child is born. Adoption
used to have the same stigma attached. Also, "Bannon was known to have a
What would you call the
tempers of the mob? Why was it so expedient to keep Bannon from testifying? He
would. no doubt, have been proven guilty and received Just punishment.
Rumors have floated about
also that Charles Bannon was interested in the daughter of a former employer
whose farm home burned down along with four children. It was rumored that
Charles had been fired.
It also stated the daughter
was 16 years old, and there was speculation about the skull in a cave. I know
positively, the daughter was 13 years old, her birth date being Jan.20, 1912,
and the date of her disappearance or death being Oct. 5 19, 1925, the date the
house burned down. This was five years before the Haven murders, which time
Charles would have been 17 years of age.
Charles was fired by the victim's parents should not reflect on the employer as
being unreasonable and deserving revenge, thus making the victim the guilty
question I would like have answered is: Who was the leader of the lynch mob, and
why was he so intent upon it? We sees often on TV the Iranians being stirred up
by a director or leader. Perhaps something can be learned from
this, but my opinion is that the whole story will never be known in this life.
The mother of the children
died at the age of 95, having lived for 57 years never knowing what happened to
her children before or during the fatal fire. These parents is
lived with agony and pain. Can't we let this "intriguing" case rest in
peace like the victims? So much for lynch and mob speculations.