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SHSND Home > Education > Chateau De Mores Lesson Plans > "Frontier Justice in Dakota" > Determining the Facts > Reading 1: Shootout at Little Missouri

Determining the Facts - Reading 1: Shootout at Little Missouri

This unfortunate shooting was the result of threats made against the life of the Marquis de Mores by a hunter, Frank O'Donnell (or O'Donald), who was accompanied on the day of the shooting by two other hunters, Riley Luffsey and Frank Wannegan (also called John Rueter and Dutch Wannegan). Apparently, Frank O'Donnell, among other things, was disgruntled over the fact that one of the Marquis's fences crossed a trail which had long been in use by the hunters. A few days before the shooting, the three hunters had been in the town of Little Missouri and had been drinking quite freely. It is also reported that these men had been doing some promiscuous shooting around the town. Threats against the life of the Marquis were made in the presence of an employee who carried the word back to the Marquis. Thereupon, the latter took steps to have O'Donnell arrested. Excerpts from the following newspaper account give the Marquis's version of the incidents leading to the fatal shooting of Riley Luffsey:

The Marquis stated that O'Donnell was one of the first men that he had met when he came to Little Missouri and that he had hunted with him. He said that he had offered him sheep, employment, and any favors he might ask. On Friday the Marquis had returned from Miles City, and on Saturday evening Paddock informed him that O'Donnell had threatened the Marquis with his life. The Marquis went to Mandan on Sunday to secure a warrant for O'Donnell's arrest. He was advised by the judge to defend himself. Upon returning to his home Monday evening he spent from 5 to 7 o'clock at the depot, armed and prepared for the worst. About 8 o'clock O'Donnell, Luffsey, and Wannegan approached the depot, and the Marquis made for the brush where he met Paddock. They were followed closely by O'Donnell's gang. Marquis took shelter in Paddock's house and remained on guard all night. In the meantime they sent a telegram to the sheriff in Mandan asking for protection. The next morning, Tuesday, O'Donnell "laid" all forenoon for the Marquis. About 11 o'clock O'Donnell and Luffsey advanced toward the Marquis's house from different directions. When the Marquis grabbed his rifle they both retreated. At 12:30 Howard Eaton went to meet the sheriff who was coming on the train and to inform him that the three men (the hunters) were at the depot awaiting his arrival. Also that the Marquis's men had been stationed on the various roads leading from the town. Frank Miller and the Marquis guarded the road to O'Donnell's camp, Capt. Paddock and his nephew watched another, and Dick Moore a third. When the train arrived the three men were seated on their ponies facing the train and their guns in hand ready to shoot. When the sheriff began to read the warrant they answered that they wouldn't be taken alive.

About a half hour later the Marquis saw them riding rapidly on the road toward where he was stationed. Their firearms were in position for action. When they caught sight of Miller and the Marquis the firing commenced resulting in the death of Luffsey and two ponies. O'Donnell was wounded in the right thigh. As he ran, Dick Moore came to the assistance and shot the pony from under him. O'Donnell and Wannegan were captured by Paddock and his nephew, Tommy Crothers, and were turned over to the sheriff who brought them to Mandan.

Reading 1 was excerpted from Arnold O. Goplen, The Career of the Marquis de Mores in the Badlands of North Dakota. Bismarck: State Historical Society of North Dakota, 1994.

Questions for Reading 1.

  1. In what ways had the Marquis shown friendship to O’Donnell (O’Donald) in the early days of his arrival?
  2. What circumstances created the struggle between the men to bring about the altercation?
  3. What was there about the Marquis’ background that may have contributed to his reaction to the threats

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