Blood Bath At Watford City, North Dakota

On February 10, 1930, five miles east of Watford City on what is now the Disenchanted Highway, 21 year old Charles Bannon murdered all six members of the Haven family. Charles Bannon was a hired man who lived on the Haven farm.

After the murder of husband Albert Haven, his wife Lulia, and their four children Daniel, Leland, Charles, and Mary, murderer Charles Bannon remained on the farm. He invited his father James Bannon to come and work the farm with him.

In the weeks following the murder, the post master complained that the Haven family had uncollected mail piling up. It was noticed that there were some past due bill notices in their mail. No one in the area had seen the Haven family since February 9th. The Sheriff went to the Haven farm, and found Charles Bannon living there. Charles Bannon told the Sherrif that the Haven family had moved to Oregon, and that he was renting the farm.

In the Fall of 1930, when Charles Bannon began selling the Haven livestock and grain, the residents of the area became upset, and the Sheriff  arrested Charles Bannon for larceny. Charles Bannon was taken to jail in Williston, where his mother and his attorney urged him to tell the truth. His first confession was a lie that was not well thought out, he told the location of all the family members’ bodies, but said it was the wife who murdered the family, she paid him to hide the bodies and left. Her body was found also. Finally, Charles Bannon said that he had accidentally shot the eldest son Daniel, and when the family turned on him, he got scared and had to kill them too.

Charles Bannon and his father James Bannon were placed in the McKenzie County jail, only one mile from the Haven farm where the murders had taken place, to await trial. In January of 1931, a well organized mob of 75 men wearing hoods, arrived at the jail. They took the Sheriff  into custody, they cut the phone line, they used a large timber to break into the jail, took the deputy into custody, then broke down the jail cell door. The mob took Charles Bannon out of jail, demanded that he confess the truth, tried to hang him at the Haven farm but were denied access, so the mob hung Charles Bannon from the Cherry Creek Bridge.

Following the lynching, the Governor of North Dakota was very angry about it, and he sent several government officials to McKenzie County to investigate. The North Dakota Council of Churches also investigated. No one would cooperate or identify any of the mob participants. No one has ever been identified, and no one has ever confessed. A state’s attorney living in McKenzie County who later wrote a book about the incident, said that he believed that everyone at the time believed the right thing had been done. Charles Bannon had murdered a woman and young children at the Haven farm. At a previous farm where Charles Bannon had worked as a hired man, that family’s young girls were found dead in their burned down house after the mother and father returned home from going to the movies.

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