Downstairs at the Court House

I was born October 3, 1902 on a farm near Cooperstown, North Dakota, called the Helena Farm what is now the town of Revere.  The little house still is there just as it was then.  My father, Mason Knapp, owned the farm then.  Later we moved a few miles northwest to another farm.  Papa, Mamma, and my brother Gail, four years older than 1.  Here Papa had more room for his big herd of sheep.  This farm we called the Johnson Farm.

When I was one year old my mother fell and never walked again.  Papa spent his two farms trying to get help for her but all in vain.  The first year or so she went about on crutches, then in a wheel chair and the last two years of her life she was confined to her bed.

I was four years old when one stormy day we were loaded into a sleigh, my mother, brother, Papa's sister, and husband, and their little girl Grace, and Papa.  Papa had nailed canvas over the top of a sleigh box and we had a lantern in there to keep us warm.  We were moving to Cooperstown to live in the basement of the courthouse.  Papa had been elected sheriff of Griggs County, his term to begin January 1, 1907.  He served four years of which time I had lots of fun.  I was into everything and nothing much missed entering my young mind.  The prisoners were good friends of mine, gave me money for candy and had me speak and sing for them.

I started school when I was seven and used to pick Crocus on "Winger" Hill (vinegar).

I used to enjoy visiting the courtroom and the many offices in the courthouse.  Sometimes we'd climb to the very top and view the town.  One could get such a good sight of town and country from there.

The hall was long going to the furnace room with cells on each side for prisoners.  This made a wonderful place to roller skate.  Papa bought me a pair after he found out I could skate so well on borrowed ones.  Oh, for fun we had! Other children came there and skated, too.  Now I wonder how well the prisoners liked it - all that noise.

There were all kinds of people in the cells - some insane ones overnight or for a few days until Papa could take them to Jamestown, one or two who had committed murder were waiting trial and then to be taken to Bismarck to the penitentiary, others to sober up and others just serving a few days to 30 or 60 days.  One time Papa was notified two safe crackers might hit Cooperstown and to be on the lookout for them.  Someone saw two suspicious characters get off the train and saw them go into a cafe so they called Papa.   He took along his deputy and went to the cafe.  There they sat up to the counter, the only two strangers in there, so Papa pulled a gun on them.  They were armed but didn't go for their guns.  The deputy took them to jail.  They had a little bag with them with their tools in for cracking safes and a bottle of nitro-glycerin.  After they were securely locked in,

Papa buried the nitro-glycerin, as it's so terribly explosive.  The one man, Tom Tracy, as he gave his name, was wanted some place far away.  He was known as the second best safe cracker in the world - so it was said.  I have no way of knowing for sure.  He was taken away.  The other one, Joe somebody (I forget), was there a - year.  The last month of his time Papa would let him out of his cell and give him work to do around the house or down at the livery barn.  He ate at the table with the family and was so good to Mamma.  He pushed her wheel chair around wherever she wanted to go.  I remember the day he was to leave.  All morning he played our phonograph and visited with Mamma.  When he said goodbye, he cried.

Once my father was called away to be gone overnight.  He gave the housekeeper the keys to the two back doors and front door of the jail and told her to lock up early.  She fed the prisoners early and went to get the keys to lock up and as she was about to close the door, two walked right by her and escaped.  They had taken a watch spring and sawed two bars and bent the bars over with a table leg.  One was recaptured but the other they never found.

My father, owned a livery barn and had many racehorses, one he named "Lulu-gail" after us two children.  She was a great trotter and won many races.  Little Dick Lockart was a pacer and won races at Cooperstown, Fargo, Jamestown, Wimbledon, and the nearby towns.  I loved these horses and many times was with my father while training them.  I used to curl up with him on the high banks of horse blankets to sleep.  Little Dick would eat anything from tobacco to candy.  After school, my brother would put a sack of peanuts in his pocket and Dick would snoop around until he found them and then eat sack, peanuts, and all.

In 1910 my father went to Montana and filed on a claim.  His office of sheriff ran out January 1, 1911.  We then moved to a small house until Father could straighten his business and move to Montana.  My mother was in bed very bad at this time but looked forward to going to Montana so much, but on July 1, 1911 she slept quietly away at 7 p.m. and on the 3rd we laid her to rest beside my father twelve miles west of Cooperstown.

In September I started my second year of school but only went two months.  The latter part of October we bade North Dakota goodbye.  My father and brother with furniture, farm machinery, Bess and Oakwood and Little Dick, two cows and a calf started for Montana in a boxcar.  Our housekeeper and I left on the afternoon train.  Many girl friends were at the train to say goodbye.  Helen Stone gave me a box of chocolates, my first, and I was very proud of them.

Lulu Knapp Quick

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial page 21

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