Jamestown man murdered in Calif. in 1912

Fred Kneebone was successful during his 25 years living in Jamestown.

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig
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By all accounts, Fred Kneebone was a successful and well-liked member of the Jamestown community during his roughly 25 years as a resident.

He moved to Jamestown as a child with his parents and attended school here. An 1888 article in The Jamestown Alert noted he had perfect attendance during the month of October of that year.

When he got a little older, he enlisted in Company H of the North Dakota National Guard, rising to the rank of corporal.

When he married his sweetheart in 1897, it appears they were serenaded by the Jamestown city band of which he was a member.


He also represented the city of Jamestown in a Fargo chess tournament in 1897 where he had a three-win and 10-loss record.

Professionally, Kneebone was a barber starting at the shop in the Gladstone Hotel before operating his own barbershop sometimes in partnership with others. He was successful enough to have a home in Jamestown and a summer place on the shores of Spiritwood Lake.

Somewhere about 1907, Kneebone left the successes he’d enjoyed in Jamestown and moved west to San Diego, California. His wife and children accompanied him.

There, in January 1912, he was murdered in his barber chair.

The crime was widely reported in the North Dakota press as a popular former resident of the state killed in California.

At first the crime was reported as random. However, within days the culprit was identified as Fred Harrington, a real estate agent who Kneebone had had dealings with. This fueled speculation the two had disagreed on a deal although no specifics of this ever came to light.

Harrington attempted to take his own life in jail while awaiting trial. This may have prompted Kneebone’s widow to send a bouquet of flowers to Harrington’s wife as was reported in some of the newspapers of the day.

In the end, alcohol abuse was listed as a contributing factor in the crime, and Harrington’s attorneys argued an insanity plea to no avail.


The last mentions of Kneebone in the Jamestown newspapers came in March 1912 when Harrington was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Keith Norman can be reached at

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