In September of 1882, Jamestown residents were wondering if there had been a murderer living in their midsts or if it was a case of mistaken identity.
The incident traces its roots back six years to a dispute among a couple of railroad construction workers in Indiana. Dispute is probably too nice a word for the situation:. It was a knife fight that left one man dead and the other fleeing the region back in 1876.
A relative of the victim made it his mission to track down the killer. He reportedly found Patrick Lynch working on the railroad maintenance crew out of Jamestown in late August of 1882 and identified him to Sheriff Archibald McKechnie, who made the arrest.
But Lynch then claimed his name was Patrick McCarty and he never murdered anyone.
“I never committed any crime save to get drunk at times and raise the devil,” he proclaimed to reporters who talked with him.
The man explained to the reporter that when he got hired by the Northern Pacific Railroad, he’d given the name Lynch because it was easy to spell.
The reporter then checked with the Jamestown Police Department which reported that Lynch had a habit of “getting drunk and disorderly as often as pay day came around.”
A local magistrate also noted that he gave the name of Patrick Pinder the last time he was arrested.
Personally, I think Pinder was easier to spell than Lynch, but that is just my opinion.
Some local attorneys tried to get a federal judge out of Fargo to review the case before Lynch was transported to Indiana. Whether they didn’t get their request in on time or it was declined by the judge is unclear in the newspaper accounts.
Following the case, Indiana newspapers reported that Lynch was sentenced to four years in prison for the murder in January.
At the same time residents of Jamestown were dealing with the Indiana killer with multiple names, there was a rumor going around Jamestown about some bad characters in the community.
The Jamestown Alert reported that “many sensible people residing within a radius of 10 miles of Jamestown are firmly of the opinion that Frank James, the noted bandit, is in this section with a lot of his pals.”
This would have been just five months after Jesse James had been killed in his home in Missouri.
The rumor seemed to be based on an increase in horse theft between Jamestown and Fort Totten although McKechnie called it “absurd.”