Charles Bannon was the hired man for the Albert and Lulia Haven family of Schafer, a small town just east of Watford City. According to the book “End of the Rope” by Dennis Edward Johnson, Bannon got in a verbal tussle with one of the teenage Haven boys during morning chores. Bannon pulled a gun on the teen and it went off, killing the 18-year-old. Before long, the whole family of six was dead.
Bannon hid the bodies and told visitors to the farm that the Havens had moved to Oregon, leasing the farm to him. Neighbors and the authorities were suspicious, and Bannon was eventually charged with murdering the Haven family. Bannon never saw a day in court because a mob formed, pulled him from jail and hung him from a bridge.
This piece of North Dakota history is important to the Stillwell family not only because my grandparents and great-grandparents lived in Schafer and then Watford City.
My dad, LaMoine “Larry” Stillwell, his siblings and his parents, Orrin Wesley and Mabel Stillwell, may have been the last people to see the ill-fated Haven family alive!
Whenever we passed through Shafer, Dad would like to stop and show us the Shafer Jail. He talked about the mob that lynched the killer by hanging him from a bridge. For some reason, it was only when I was an adult that he told me the Haven family had come over for Sunday dinner on Feb. 9, 1930. He also told me about some extended family members he believed participated in the lynching. I think these last two point were hush-hush, perhaps because the Stillwell family didn’t want to come under suspicion for being the last to see the Havens alive.
A census record taken just two months later shows the ages of the Stillwell family. Orrin Wesley 48; Mable 43; Beatrice 22; Carl 21; Roland 15; Lester 12; LaMoine 2.
The ages of the Haven family were Albert, 50; Lulia, 39; Daniel, 18; Leland, 14; Charles, 2; and Mary, 2 months.
Given the ages, I imagine Beatrice was helping prepare company dinner and keeping an eye on my dad, the toddler. Carl, Roland, and Lester would have been age-compatible chums for Daniel and Leland. I can just imagine my Dad and little Charlie playing with toys on the parlor floor as the adults conversed and fawned over two-month-old Mary. All oblivious to what daybreak tomorrow would bring.