Tiger on the loose in 1909

The Jamestown Capital reprinted the Forum article, calling it “interesting and thrilling reading.”

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The circus came to Jamestown in 1909 but it wasn’t just trapeze acts and clowns.

A late-night wind storm blew down the tent trapping two elephants under the collapsed canvass.

“In their efforts to free themselves,” wrote The Jamestown Capital, “(the elephants) overturned a cage of tigers, but the animals did not escape.”

Or did they.

A few days later, The Fargo Forum reported that a farmer at Spiritwood had a narrow escape with a tiger. According to the article, Emory Bursch came out of his farmhouse on the morning of July 27, 1909, and found a “large Bengal tiger wandering at will over his farm and investigating his barnyard.”


“Bursch did not tarry to discover whether the tiger was motivated by friendly motives …. But did a hasty climbing stunt and ensconced himself on the roof of his barn,” wrote the Forum.

Now, according to the Fargo newspaper account, Bursch became concerned that his children would come out to do their morning chores and come face-to-face with a tiger so he swung off the roof into the hay mow door, armed himself with a pitchfork and went down to the farmyard.

“When he appeared in the doorway,” wrote the Forum editors, “The tiger emitted a series of sounds terrifying enough to lift the smoke off the creek.”

Evidently, the kids were on their own then because Bursch retreated once more to the barn roof. A neighboring farmer then yelled across a field enquiring why Bursch was up on his roof on such a pleasant summer morning.

The neighbor’s hired man evidently had some experience in roping Bengal tigers and was called over. Together they “lassoed and skillfully bound” the tiger, according to the Forum article.

“Bursch has a perfectly good Bengal tiger on his hands,” continued the article, “but, inasmuch as it does not match the rest of his barnyard menagerie, he is willing to consider a trade.”

The Jamestown Capital reprinted the Forum article, calling it “interesting and thrilling reading.”

Jamestown editors did some checking with the Spiritwood postmaster and found out there was no person named Bursch living in that area and chalked the story up as an entertaining story.


“The question then arises,” wrote The Jamestown Capital at the end of its article, “was the tiger ‘blind’ or was it the writer.”

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