There was a mysterious disappearance in Stutsman County in November of 1899.
Well, at least it was a mystery to the residents, law enforcement and media here in the county.
It would seem that a relatively successful farmer and immigrant from the Pingree area left without talking to any of his friends or neighbors.
James Fisher appears to have driven his horse and buggy to Jamestown on Nov. 7, 1899, left the animal at a livery stable and was never seen in Stutsman County again.
Earlier that year, Fisher had purchased a section of land and employed someone to do fall plowing on 200 acres in preparation for planting a spring crop. Officials noted he had borrowed money for these transactions but was not past due on his debts or facing any collection actions.
None of his neighbors knew much about Fisher other than his father still lived in England. Speculation among officials and newspaper reporters came up with three possible explanations for his disappearance: Fisher may have returned to England without discussing it with anyone here, he may have suffered an accident and his body couldn’t be found, or he might have perished at the hands of criminals.
For several weeks, no new information came to light. On Dec. 14, 1899, newspapers reported that the Stutsman County sheriff sold at auction Fisher’s horse and buggy as abandoned property at the livery stable.
In case you were wondering, a buggy sold for $35 back in 1899.
Officials pursued the investigation and had written a letter to Fisher’s father in England inquiring if he knew his son’s whereabouts.
The father’s reply wasn’t received until February of 1900. The father didn’t share his son’s location but did indicate to North Dakota investigators that he knew where his son was residing. Newspapers speculate he had simply returned to England or maybe was setting up a farm in Africa.
With that information and the fact that no payments had been made on the land loan, the debt was foreclosed on and auctioned by the sheriff in February of 1900.
Obviously, communications were much slower in 1899. Contacting the father in England and getting a response took the better part of three months. Today, emails cross the pond in a fraction of a second.
And people traveling the world left little if no paper trail even in international travels. Today, any number of government agencies in the United States and England would have a record of every segment of Fisher’s travels.
Or if he had had a better friend back in Pingree that knew about his plans, there wouldn’t have been any mystery.