Sometimes doing your job can create conflict.
William Paulson was a brakeman on a westbound Northern Pacific one day in 1913 when he evidently had a conflict with a transient, a hobo of the day, who was riding the train illegally.
The hobo, identified as Edward Williams at the time, pulled a revolver and fired shots at two of the brakeman wounding Paulson before jumping off the train somewhere between Eldridge and Jamestown.
Newspaper accounts indicate the train reversed course and returned to Jamestown with the wounded Paulson and alerted authorities which started a manhunt.
Williams traveled away from the tracks on foot to the Jack Vessey farm. He asked for a drink of water from the well and was asked to tend a herd of sheep for the day most likely in exchange for a meal.
Still, Williams aroused suspicion with local people noting he “was not in his right mind.”
Somebody called Dana Wright, Stutsman County sheriff, who at least suspected this was the man who shot the trainman.
There wasn’t any 911 service back then but a phone call still alerted the authorities.
Wright went out there out of uniform acting as if he was looking to buy some sheep. Wright asked Williams if he had a gun to shoot some jackrabbits that were nearby. When Williams produced a gun, Wright took the weapon and arrested the temporary sheepherder.
Two days later Williams was brought to court for arraignment. Newspaper accounts described him as “a rather dull fellow” but noted he went wild early in the proceedings threatening officials.
Later in the proceedings he calmed down and pleaded guilty to shooting with the intent to kill.
Less than a week later he was back in court for sentencing.
First, Williams clarified that his actual name was George Barrington and he was a 46-year-old immigrant from England.
Barrington was also given a chance to explain his actions.
Evidently, according to the newspaper reports in The Jamestown Alert, he was “a cigarette fiend and whiskey boozer,” who claimed he couldn’t get either in Jamestown.
Barrington told the court he was able to get to get tobacco but not cigarette papers in Jamestown so he was headed to Montana to find the supplies for his addictions.
I’m going to speculate he hadn’t tried all that hard to find cigarette papers or booze in Jamestown. The town seemed to always be arresting and prosecuting bootleggers so there was always booze and several shops promoted tobacco and associated products.
The paper noted Barrington was going to have a chance to reform his bad habits.
He was sentenced to eight years in the North Dakota penitentiary.