A Tombstone Tells Its Story — News Chronology

Ellen Notbohm
May 2009

©2009 Ellen Notbohm. Please contact the author for permission to reproduce in any way, including re-posting on the Internet.

Bismarck Tribune

September 5, 1893A cold blooded murder occurred in Mayville at 12:50 Monday morning when Evan Paulson, night watchman, was shot twice and killed by burglars. Citizens were aroused by the pistol shots, and the body of Paulson was found lying on the sidewalk. Investigation disclosed the fact that Kenny’s warehouse had been broken into, and it is supposed the burglars, being detected in their work, shot Paulson. James Kelly and William Lowe have been arrested, and made partial confessions, and great excitement prevails.

Grand Forks Herald
September 6, 1893

A Fuller Report of the Killing of Officer Even Paulson

Further particulars of the Mayville tragedy of Sunday, in which Officer Paulson met death at the hands of assassins, are given by The Herald’s Mayville correspondent in the following letter which has been unaccountably delayed in the mails:

MAYVILLE, Sept. 3 – Mayville’s citizens were aroused at 12:50 Sunday morning from their slumbers by two distinct pistol shots following by the blood curdling cry of “murder,” and soon after a rifle shot clear to their ears, then a gloomy silence prevailed. The hurried scamper of feet, the fire bell ringing out is now dismal sound made the spectacle most exciting. Many rumors were afloat and the excitement amongst the citizens was intense. The location of the shots was made and the cause for same soon learned. A ghastly sight awaited the eyes of the people. Evan Paulson, one of Mayville’s most noble policeman, serving in the capacity of night watchman for her citizens, an officer ever faithful to his trust and duty, lay stone dead in a pool of his own blood, his faithful dog standing by his side guarding and protecting his body.

The feelings of the citizens were at once aroused. Detective Geo. Kilgore of the Great Northern detective service was pressed into service with the co-operation of Deputy Sheriff O. N. Anderson and Marshal Pete K. Grinager a posse was formed and sent to cover all roads and notify farmers to be on the lookout and seize any strangers seen. They then closely examined the premises and found that R. L. Kenney & Co.’s warehouse was broken into. This solved the mystery; burglary, then murder. A cry of “man under the railroad station” came to the enraged citizens, and all hurried to that place with lanterns, revolvers and guns, pulled from underneath the platform a fellow who pretended to be in a drunken stupor. The police put him in jail, and it later on proved to be a valuable find. The country being scoured, all roads well guarded and three suspects arrested, the tired out populace returned to their homes. About 8:30 Sunday morning, Detective Kilgore, O. N. Anderson, Pete Grinager and David Kenney found a Winchester rifle of .44 caliber near the hiding place of James Kelly (the party who was caught under the station platform, thus making a connecting link and throwing suspicion on Wm. Lowe, employed as a butcher in the city meat market.

Lowe’s room was at once entered and in his trunk was found part of the stolen wet goods. Lowe was at once put under arrest and taken to a private room in the Mayville house, confessed to have loaned the rifle to James Kelly but claims he was not at the place of the shooting when Paulson was shot but had stolen some of the wet goods. It soon became generally known among the farmers and outsiders that the murderers were caught and Mayville was soon crowded with people. Rumors became very thick. Lynching was on every lip and there was great consternation. Groups of men gathered on different corners and low talks were indulged in. The crowd gradually drifted so as not to attract attention (it is surmised), part toward the Mayville house was Lowe was manacled, and part towards the jail, but cooler minds frustrated the attempt, if any was anticipated, of lynching both prisoners. This modus operandi kept up until about midnight, when the crowd gradually diminished and the streets became passable. All the crowd needed was a leader and a different tale would be told. James Kelly will not say a word, keeping a strict silence. A third party is now desired and it is hoped before night that he will be captured. The third party was seen in town during the excitement and being thoroughly posted left the city hurriedly. The police are on his track.

The A.O.U.W. took charge of the remains and conducted the burial services. Paulson’s life was insured for $5,000 in different companies. This was one of the most cold blooded murders ever witnessed and further developments will be made when the third party is caught.

Hillsboro Banner
September 8, 1893

Mayville the Scene of the Most Atrocious Crime in Traill County’s History


Last Sunday morning the quiet city of Mayville was thrown into the wildest state of excitement by the news of the assassination of Office Even Paulson, an old resident of that place, who was found in an alley with a bullet wound in his body and another through his brain. The ringing of the fire bell and general alarm soon brought out the entire male population of the town who at once instituted a thorough search for the perpetrators of one of the most cold blooded deeds in the annals of crime in North Dakota. The circumstances attending the murder, as elicited in the coroner’s inquest and at the preliminary trial of the suspected parties is substantially as follows: Nighwatchman Paulson, in his regular round through the city, surprised Jas. Kelly and Wm. Lowe in the act of burglarizing R. L. Kenney & Co.’s warehouse in the rear of their drug store, and to escape arrest one of the burglars fired a shot at the officer, the bullet taking effect in his body. Paulson fell, and the fiend, alarmed by his loud cries for help, jumped across the ditch which separated him from the wounded man, and, placing the muzzle of his weapon close to the victim’s forehead, fired a second shot which silenced him forever.

The two criminals, after completing their bloody work, fled in different directions. One was seen by Mrs. Braathen, who lives near the scene of the murder, running toward the Great Northern depot. A posse of citizens immediately surrounded the place and after some search found Jas. Kelly concealed under the depot platform. When dragged forth he was (or pretended to be) in a drunken stupor. Mrs. Braathen also stated that the man she had seen, while jumping the fence, threw a heavy object against her home. Upon investigation the officers there found a .44-calibre Winchester rifle, which proved to be the property of O. N. Anderson. This led to the arrest of Wm. Lowe, a butcher in the employ of Mr. Anderson. On searching Lowe’s room above the meat market, ten gallons of port wine, stolen from Kenney & Co.’s warehouse, was found concealed in a trunk. Kelly admits the robbery and states Lowe was standing guard outside. Both protest their innocence as far as the shooting is concerned. Lowe claims Kelly came to him in the night and borrowed the rifle. The evidence further brought forth the fact that the two prisoners together with one Murphy, had made a raid on the warehouse at 11:30 Saturday night, in search of whiskey. They secured a keg containing port wine, and later on made a second attempt with the above result.

On Sunday the streets of Mayville were thronged with angry men, a low estimate placing the number between 600 and 700. Loud threats o lynching were made, and but for the noble efforts of Mayor Hanson and the leading citizens of the place speedy justice would have been meted out to the prisoners. Much credit is due Mr. Kilgore, the Great Northern detective, and Deputy Sheriff Heskin, who manfully assisted Sheriff Seaver in restoring the peace.

About 9:30 o’clock Tuesday morning the sheriff quietly took his prisoners from the Mayville jail and drove across country to Buxton where they boarded the train for Fargo, and at this writing Lowe and Kelly are safely lodged in the Cass county jail, awaiting trial at the next term of court.

The verdict of the coroner’s jury was that “Even Paulson came to his death about 1 o’clock Sunday morning by two gunshot wounds, and that said shots were fired by Jas. Kelly and Billy Lowe, unlawfully, feloniously, and with intent to kill Paulson.”

Grand Forks Herald
January 13, 1894

Approaching Trail of the Men Accused of Crime at Hillsboro

- Attracting Considerable Attention in Vicinity of Mayville

– Difficulty at Getting a Jury Anticipated – A Question of Accommodations

MAYVILLE, N.D., Jan. 11 – [Special] – Once more the memories of the cold blooded murder of the faithful night watchman, Even Paulson, of this city, is awakened by the appearance of Sheriff Bill Seaver, of Hillsboro. In our midst, subpoenaing witnesses to appear before the grand jury within and for the Third judicial district before Judge McConnell at the courthouse in the city of Hillsboro, Jan. 16th. Although this dastardly deed on and re-hashed over and over again in the hotels, business places, clubs and at the homes, and opinions freely expressed, owing to the large circulation of The Herald and its readers, yet a jury has been drawn that have not expressed themselves, but will when the proper time arrives. The people now are getting uneasy over the coming trail. It is predicted that Hillsboro will be fairly alive with eager and curious people from all parts of the county. A question here arises which we hope Hillsboro people will look into, and that is, what facilities can she make to accommodate the crowds in regards to sleeping and eating? Your correspondent would suggest that Grand Forks help them solve the enigma. The Great Northern railroad could also make a rate inducement which many would take advantage of, especially between Grand Forks and Fargo, as the trial of the supposed murderers will be closely watched and the outcome of which may prove beneficial or otherwise. A prospectus for North Dakota regarding labor for the coming year may hinge, regarding morality, on this very case. Look at the prison cells of the larger western cities now, and they do generally in the springtime, flooding North Dakota with their “turning outs of prisoners and unemployed,” jeopardizing the interests as well as the lives of North Dakota citizens. It is time the citizens of this state should look into this matter and prepare themselves for coming times. Some may ask: “What shall we do?” The answer is: Protect your city officers and assist them in their performance of their duties at all hazards.” Now is the time to do your planning, and any suggestions of ideas will be in order.

Bismarck TribuneAberdeen Daily News

Waterloo Daily Courier

Daily Huronite

Duluth News-Tribune

January 17, 1894


Lowe and Kelly, Who Killed Policeman Paulson at Mayville, N.D., in Court.

HILLSBORO, N.D.; Jan. 17 – Sheriff Seaver has returned from Fargo, having in charge Lowe and Kelly, charged with the murder of Policeman Evan Paulson in Mayville, this county, last July. Paulson had surprised the prisoners while in the act of burglarizing Kenny Bros.’ drug store, and to escape arrest one of the prisoners fired a rifle bullet through Paulson’s brain. This was followed by a second shot after the brave officer had fallen to the ground. A lynching was barely presented at the time, but the sheriff succeeded in removing the men to the Cass county jail for safe keeping. Their trial takes place at this term of the district court.

Hillsboro Banner
January 26, 1894

Is What Twelve Men Good and True Say James Kelly Must serve

To Atone for the Murder of Even Paulson at Mayville

The verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree and sentence to life imprisonment at hard labor, rendered by the jury at three o’clock this morning, ends the famous murder trial which has occupied the attention of the district court for nearly two weeks. State’s Attorney Carmody and his assistant in the case, Mr. C. E. Leslie, labored faithfully and earnestly in the cause of justice and presented a strong case in behalf of the state, which precluded all hope of acquittal of the prisoner. Attorney Ames, with the assistance of Mr. Tilly of Fargo, left no stone unturned to save their client, but in vain. A complete chain of strong circumstantial evidence that could not be broken, decided the fate of the defendant.

Bismarck Tribune
February 3, 1894

Evidence Connecting Him Directly with the Paulson Murder

HILLSBORO, N.D.; Feb. 3. – Lowe, the man on trial as an accomplice in the Paulson murder case, is being brought to the front as the principal. By evidence produced by the state it was shown that he threatened some days previous to the murder to blow Paulson’s brains out, and produced the gun and said that gun would do it. The same gun was afterward used to kill Paulson. Paulson was a very efficient officer, and had incurred the dislike of the hobo elements and especially Lowe, who ran a bootlegging establishment.

Hillsboro Banner
February 9, 1894

Found Guilty of Homicide and Will Spend the Rest of His Days in the Pen

The last act of a bloody tragedy enacted in Mayville last September came to a fitting close at 2:40 o’clock yesterday morning when the jury brought in a verdict of guilty, fixing the penalty at life imprisonment. The story of the murder is well known and need not here be repeated. The bulk of the testimony presented by the state was the same as that produced in the Kelly trial, with some additional evidence that materially lessened Low’s chances of acquittal. It was clearly proven that the defendant was the principal in the crime, having planned all the details of the execution.

Both prisoners were sentenced this afternoon and will be removed to Bismarck Monday morning.

Mayville Tribune
February 15, 1894Hon. William B. McConnell won the approval of all by the fair, impartial and wise discharge of his duties in the Paulson murder trials. We have heard nothing but good words for him in that connection.

The Formal Sentence

Through the courtesy of Mr. H. G. Twomey, court stenographer, we are enable to give the formal sentence of the court on murderers Low and Kelly:


The defendants, James Kelly and William Lowe will stand up.

This is the hour fixed by the Court for pronouncing judgment upon the verdict in your case. The Statute says that the Court, at this time, shall inform you of the legal steps that been had in your case in Court, and then ask you whether or not you have an legal cause to show, why judgment should not be pronounced against you.

At this term of court the grand jury returned a join indictment against you, charging you with the murder of Even Paulson, at Mayville, on the third day of September last, by shooting him with a loaded gun.

To this indictment you each entered a plea of not guilty and demanded a separate trial, which the law allows in cases of felony, but in other cases it is in the discretion of the Court.

A jury was sworn, and, after a trial lasting several days, in each case, the jury returned a verdict of guilty, and fixing, as your punishment, that you be imprisoned in the State Penitentiary for life, and at hard labor.

In this State the jury, in such cases, so fix, or may designate the death penalty. During all these proceedings you were represented by able counsel in Messrs. F. W. Ames and J. W. Tilly. The court now asks you whether you have any legal reason to assign why judgment should not be pronounced on the verdict against you. As neither you, nor your counsel, make any such showing, it is taken for granted that none exists, and the Court does not know of any.

It is not necessary for the Court, at this time, to review the evidence; it is too recent and too fresh in your minds.

Your intelligence must appreciate its character and its force: how you were enveloped in such a network of circumstances as left you no place for escape, that, placed, as it was, before a fair and impartial jury, the inevitable conclusion must be  reached –GUILTY.

Did you hope that the jury might waver in their duty and extend to you an avenue of escape through sympathy for you? If so, stop and consider whether or not you showed to Even Paulson any sympathy or mercy. Did you stop and consider that he was an honorable citizen: a faithful officer and in the performance of his duty? Did you stop to consider his father and mother in Norway, and his sisters here, and how your act must so cruelly wound the love and affection they had for this son and brother? How cruelly your act must break the heart ties that bound them together? How for them, by your hand, “The silver cord has been loosened, the golden bowl has been broken?”

Why was this done? If murder was not in your hearts, if it became necessary, why was a loaded .44 Winchester rifle taken to the place of your crime, so powerful a weapon of destruction? When you were breaking the eighth commandment, “Thou shalt not steal,” you also broke the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”

Your motive was for gain, for money.

“The greed, the gain, the thirst for power. The lust that blackens while it burns. At these, the whitest soul deflower! And one, or all of these, by turns, rob a man of his divinest dower.”

Laws are enacted and punishments are provided that the citizens of our commonwealth may be secure in their person and property. That the strong and the wicked shall not overcome and prevail against the weak and the innocent. That out upon our prairies, where men have established their homes, wives, sisters and mothers; husbands, brothers and fathers, may receive protection from the crack of the rifle shot of the midnight burglar and assassin.

Penalties are provided with two objects in view, in addition to the direct punishment of the guilty; one for the reformation of the criminal, and the other by way of example. But, when a man has become so wicked and abandoned as to deliberately murder his fellow man, society and the law hold him beyond reformation and fit only for the punishment of his crime, by way or example.

When a man sinks so deep in wickedness, sin and crime as to deliberately kill, in cold brutality, his fellow citizen and without a moment’s warning, society, law and justice, each demand his banishment forever.

It is indeed a sad spectacle to see one of your years appear before the Bar of Justice to receive such a sentence – banishment for life, from all the objects, hopes, anticipations and pleasures of life – and to think each of your merit such a desperate penalty.

There is nothing further for the court to do at this time, except to pronounce the judgment of the Court, which is: That you James Kelly and William Lowe, each, be imprisoned in the State Penitentiary, at Bismarck, North Dakota, for the term of your natural life, at hard labor.

The sheriff will see that this judgment goes in force at once by delivering you to the warden of the Penitentiary.

Bismarck Tribune
May 11, 1896A movement is said to be on foot at Mayville to get a new trial for Lower, convicted of the murder of Policeman Paulson, and now serving a life sentence in the pen. K. P.’s are said to be interested.

Mayville Tribune
May 11, 1899HILLSBORO TIMES: Application will be made to Gov. Fancher on May 29 for the pardon of William Lowe, one of the murderers of Even Paulson, a night policeman in Mayville, in the fall of 1893. Lowe and his pal, Kelly, were caught in the act of stealing a cask of wine from a warehouse in the rear off one of the drug stores, and in order to escape arrest they shot Paulson down in cold blood. They had their trial in this city and were sentenced to life imprisonment for the crime, which was considered a lenient way of meting out justice to such red-handed murderers. We believe that we voice the sentiments of the people of Mayville and Traill County when we say that no pardon should be granted.

Mayville Tribune
July 14, 1899

Gov. Fancher Says No

To the Petition of the Murderer of Even Paulson

Bismarck, July 13. – Governor Fancher yesterday denied the application for a pardon for William Lowe, convicted with one Kelley of the murder of Policeman Evan Paulson at Mayville and sentenced to life in the penitentiary for the crime. The application for the pardon of Lowe was made some time ago and argued before the governor a couple of weeks ago.

In denying the application, the governor says: “… After a careful consideration of the papers submitted in this case and mature deliberation, I am unable to find sufficient cause why I, as executive of this state, should interfere with the decision of the court. I am there compelled reluctantly to deny the petition for pardon.”

Mayville Tribune
June 20, 1901
Murderer William Lowe


Indignation in Mayville

The people of Mayville and of Traill County were very much astonished and greatly disgusted this week to learn that a second desperate attempt was being made by the Grand Forks friends of William Lowe, the murderer of Even Paulson, now serving out the life imprisonment in the state penitentiary at Bismarck, along with his partner in the crime, Kelly, to which he was sentenced a few years ago by a lenient jury, to secure his release through the trusting mentality of the newly created state board of pardons. Two years ago, Gov. Fancher turned down a similar attempt and very few if any in this city were aware that another attempt was under way… Mayor Schlosser circulated a remonstrance strongly protesting against any suggestion of a pardon for William Lowe, which everyone will sign, and the A.O.U.W., of which Even Paulson was a member, met on Tuesday afternoon and adopted resolutions of protest. It is not thought here that the board of pardons will for a moment, now or hereafter, seriously consider for proposition to pardon Lowe when properly informed as to the facts of the case, but the remote possibility of such action is sufficient to arouse the citizens of Mayville, who have a vivid recollection of the crime, into vigilant activity.

Mayville Tribune
September 12, 1901


Judge William B. McConnell, when he imposed sentence of imprisonment for life on murderers Lowe and Kelly, at Hillsboro in February, 1894, took occasion to deliver the remarks which we reproduce below. This same William B. McConnell, a few years afterward and after he had removed from the state, signed a request asking for the release of  murderer Lowe. Comment is unnecessary. McConnell said:

(Reprint of full text of sentencing remarks)

Grand Forks Herald
December 24, 1901


Bismarck, N. D., Dec. 23 – At the session of the state board of pardons here William Law, who was sent up for life from Mayville for the murder of Evan Paulson, succeeded in getting his case considered. The board decided to commute the sentence to a 15-year imprisonment, with good behavior, beginning Dec. 21. Law has served eight years. The Knights of Pythias have been especially active in their efforts to secure Law’s release, as he is a member of the order. The murder was regarded as an especially cold-blooded one. Paulson was the night watchman at Mayville at the time he was killed.

Mayville Tribune
January 23, 1902

Has a Word on the Pardon of Lowe – Guilty Beyond Shadow of a Doubt

To the Tribune:

Since the morning of the cold-blooded murder of brave Even Paulson Sept. 3rd, 1893, the undersigned has carefully followed the case through its various sages and has had opportunities for knowing all there was to be known regarding the foulest crime ever committed in Traill County.

It has been offered on behalf of William Law, one of the murderers, recently ordered paroled under a fifteen-year sentence instead of life imprisonment, that he was convicted entirely on circumstantial evidence. Such is not the case. Several member of the jury who found him guilty of murder in the first degree and placed the punishment at life sentence in the state penitentiary, have stated that Law’s confession, or his own statements of his whereabouts on the night of the murder and loaning the rifle to Kelly, had more weight in determining his guilt than all the other evidence brought into the court.

Doubtless many will remember that Law and Kelly requested to be permitted to appear before the coroner’s jury, and after being fully warned and instructed as to their rights, persisted in testifying under oath on their own behalf. That their testimony would be fatal in this case was fully demonstrated by the effort put forth by the able attorneys for the defense to prevent the introduction of their testimony to the jurors. The trial judge, McConnell, allowed the state and attorneys for the defense the fullest latitude to argue the propriety of the so-called confessions to be read to the jury. The two confessions when placed together formed a complete chain of evidence covering the time from the first visit to Kenney’s warehouse until the time committing the murder. As to Law being the instigator of the theft which led to the murder there remains not the shadow of a doubt. The stolen half-barrel of wine was carried to Law’s bedroom over Anderson’s butcher shop. According to Kelly’s confession it was Law who proposed to go back and get the whiskey which was the object of the robbery.

It was during the second visit to the warehouse that Paulson discovered the warehouse door open and fearlessly approached to ascertain the cause and protect the property of the citizens that he was foully murdered to cover the crime of their theft, in the vain hope that the eye of man would never behold his assassins.

No prisoner ever placed on trial in the judicial district had abler counsel. The court granted the widest latitude, the case lasting several weeks and costing the county considerably over $5,000 to convict Paulson’s murderers.

The fact that there were two in the commission of the crime and that it could never be proven which of them fired the fatal shots caused the jury to be merciful enough to place their punishment at life imprisonment instead of ending their days on the scaffold, as they richly deserved.

While there scarcely remains a shadow of a doubt that Law was the arch criminal of the two, his sentence has been commuted, while Kelly, who is friendless and unknown, is still condemned to end his days in a felon’s cell.

When the bill had passed creating the Board of Pardons, representatives in the Legislature from Traill County waited on Governor White and recommended a resident of Traill County for a position on the Board of Pardons – a gentleman thoroughly familiar with the entire case, one who is above suspicion of any act of unfairness or injustice in all his public acts during a residence of twenty years in this county. The gentleman recommended had no personal spite or vengeance treasured up against Law

or any other inmate of the penitentiary. Te very reverse, he would have listened to all the arguments on behalf of Law – and calmly weighed the matter and decided justly between Law and the citizens of the state.

The Governor saw fit to ignore the recommendation and make other appointments. Gentlemen who in all probability were as well qualified to deal with ordinary cases but certainly not as well fitted to render a just decision in Law’s case.

Time will fully demonstrate the fact that the other murderers confined in the penitentiary will feel encouraged to hope and work for a commutation of their sentences or a full pardon. Rumor already has it that Remington of Cass County, who committed the brutal murder of an elevator agent at Arthur for the purpose of robbery, will apply at an early date for a full pardon. If murderers of Law’s type are to be pardoned because they have fraternal friends who persistently press the matter, while other much less guilty are to end their days in a criminal cell, the wisdom of the enacting of the law creating the board may be doubted. Give every man accused of the commission of a crime a just and fair trial, and if proven guilty let them suffer the penalty of their crime as a warning to others and for the protection of society.

Thomas Harrison

Mayville Tribune
July 18, 1907

Professes to be a Martyr and Succeeds in Making People Believe It


Grand Forks Times. To be imprisoned in the North Dakota state penitentiary thirteen and a half years for a crime which, according to his own story, he is not guilty, was the fate of William Law, who arrived in Grand Forks this morning from Bismarck. To be convicted of the murder of Policeman Paulson of Mayville in 1893, and to be sentenced to imprisonment for life, later to have that sentence commuted and to be released a year and a half before the time was up on account of good behavior, is the record of this man, who declares he is innocent.

“I will show the people of North Dakota that I am innocent of the crime,” said Law. “I am going to secure work as soon as possible, and will win out.”

It is a much different man that returned from North Dakota’s pen today from the one that went behind the gray walls of that institution over thirteen years ago. He was 28 years of age when the gate closed behind him – he was 41 years old when the doors swung outward to freedom.

It was for the murder of Policeman Paulson that Law was convicted over a decade since. Mr. Law had been in Fargo for some time, engaged in butcher work. He became mixed up with bad associates and decided to go to a smaller town, leaving for Mayville. There he was employed by a local butcher, and part of his work was to kill stock. Kelly and Murphy, two tramps, had a camp a short distance from the slaughter house, and quite frequently they assisted Law in his work in exchange for chunks of meat. On one occasion, Kelly and Murphy borrowed Law’s rifle. That night Policeman Paulson discovered the two men burglarizing a store, and the two men this trapped, shot and killed the official. Law was arrested, while Kelly was also caught. Murphy escaped. Law’s rifle had been left by the burglars, and it was claimed that he was connected to the case and knew all about it. At any event, Kelly and Law were convicted and sentenced to prison for lie. William Law was a member of the Knight of Pythias lodge, and through the of member of that organization, the sentence was commuted to fifteen years. Tracy Bangs and Judge C. J. Fisk were among those who assisted Law to secure this commutation, and it was because of this fact that Law came to Grand Forks.

While in prison Law learned to cook, and he will endeavor to secure employment in Grand Forks, either as a cook or a butcher. He is well appearing and talks well. He insists that he is innocent of the murder of the Mayville policeman.

As a sad aftermath of the conviction of William Law, Mrs. Law, his mother, became insane and died some time afterward in an asylum. A sister of the convicted man died shortly after the affair of a broken heart.

Mayville Tribune
December 14, 1911The state board of pardons last week commuted the sentence of Kelley, one of the murderers of Officer Paulson of Mayville, from life to twenty years… so Mr. Kelley will be at liberty two years from next February and can then join Mr. Lowe in Minneapolis and talk over old times. Lowe was pardoned about five years ago.

Mayville Tribune
December 28, 1911

(From the Ryder Journal)

The wholesale pardoning episode of the board of pardons of this state last week aroused curiosity as to its personnel.

The query suggests itself, why do these men presume they have a better knowledge of the facts and evidence than the judge an jury that sentenced these convicts? Even a casual study of psychology should convince these estimable gentlemen juries are notoriously lenient to malefactors, especially in murder cases involving life and death. And yet these fine gentlemen take the responsibility upon themselves of setting free James Kelly … (one) of the most despicable murderers in the history of the state.

We are enable to speak of the man Kelly through intimate knowledge of every circumstance that led to his apprehension and conviction for the foul murder of Even Paulson, Mayville’s brave night watchman, who was brutally murdered by this man Kelly while in the performance of his duty as an officer, some seventeen years ago. Law, Kelly’s accomplice, and possibly the most guilty of the two in having harbored and supplied Kelly the means for murder, was released some three years ago because, forsooth, he was an exemplary prisoner, or in other words a snitch and lick-spittle of prison guards. This is all in the main an exemplary record in prison amount to.

Kelly and Law robbed a Mayville store house of a cask of port wine, thought by them to be whiskey they knew was there. Wile in the store room Paulson approached the door that showed tampering with and opened it, calling for anyone secreted within to come out. The answer was a bullet from a Winchester through the abdomen. The awful yells of a man thus mortally wounded reverberated and awakened the town. Another rifle shot rang out and Paulson was silenced forever with a bullet through the brain from a Winchester at close range by the men who ran out of the store room. From the premises through an alley to under the depot platform this man Kelly was traced within the hour and taken to jail, where in a half-drunken stupor he repeatedly asked if he was taken for a murderer, when no mention of a murder committed had been broached.

Next morning the rifle was found thrown by him behind a screen of shrubbery in his flight, the noise of the fall leading directly to his apprehension thru the information of the family thus notified somebody was passing, and looking out they saw a man go under the depot platform and so informed authorities fifteen minutes later. Cause and sequence were never more closely connected in solving a murder mystery. The rifle was found to be one belonging to a local meat market where Law was employed, and the remains of the port wine cask they attempted to burn was found in an out house, while the wine itself was found in Law’s quarters. If ever men were found guilty in the annals of uncontrovertible circumstantial evidence, Kelly and Law ere guilty of the murder of Even Paulson, and yet, yet – think of it – in the face of this damnable conclusive evidence, Law and Kelly are pardoned and given an opportunity to again mingle amongst men to repeat a dastardly and brutal murder.

Without knowledge of whom comprises the state board of pardons, isn’t it time men were asking themselves where American jurisprudence leads to? What are we coming to anyhow? The sickly sentimentalist who is opposed to taking life in a judicial way will continue to maintain his fanatic attitude, we suppose. The dead, ushered into the great unknown unshorn and unprepared, are dead. Often, a nasty, cowardly murderer is eventually given freedom. Our board of pardons is composed of the average man who placed in a position of arbiter loves to extend clemency, for did not Christ on the cross forgive the thief? He did, but the fallacy of the men who comprise of board of pardons in the comparison of not compatible and ground claimed by them on that score would only meet with the contempt and scorn they deserve.

The remedy probably lies in a pardon for capital offense being made amenable to a review by the state supreme court, men of trained ability to weigh and consider evidence and above the cheap claim of erring on the side of mercy.

Mayville Tribune
May 16, 1912


The following is taken from The Reflector, a paper published by the convicts of the State Penitentiary, Bismarck:

Nineteen years and four months ago in the city of Mayville, N. D., a man lost his life and two transients were arrested, and, upon circumstantial evidence they were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. After nine years one of them succeeded through his slick tongue and petting ways to the officers in gaining a pardon, but the other, whose name we do not feel in duty bound to use, had to stay, but after his stay of 19 years he still maintains his innocence, and on Thursday of this week he stepped out into the world a free man. Now, the question is: who is guilty of the murder in Mayville? Was it either of these men, or someone else? We are not able to say – and neither are you, so let us wish him God-speed and give him the benefit of the doubt, and believe him innocent until we are more competent to prove him guilty.

If he was an innocent man may God have mercy upon our State law that will through its weakness confine a man to this Hell-hole for 19 years, thereby taking away from him that Liberty which God himself gave to him. But if he is guilty may God have mercy upon his soul and judge him according to his merits.