My Adventures in the West
by Joseph Wegley 1867 - 1946
I had been saving my money, and I was getting tired of working for someone else. I wrote Nick saying that I was through and that I was going to stay down there for a while. Nick came down and asked what was the matter. I told him, and he said, “I don’t blame you, but I hate to see you go. Joe, as long as I have two horses, you can have one of them. Anytime you want a carload or a herd, come up and I will sell them to you right; or you can take them and sell them and pay me when you collect for them. Now, there isn’t much that you don’t understand about the business, and I advise you to buy and sell.”
I followed his advice and made good money. I finally took in a partner in Langdon—a banker named W. A. Laidlow. We bought for cash, sold on time, and did fine. I accumulated a nice little stake.
I used to go to Montana each year and buy horses and renew old acquaintances.
Finally, in 1904, I moved to Williston where I live at present. I first went into partnership with W. H. Denny who was then cashier of the First National Bank. We handled horses and did well. Later we dissolved the partnership, and went into the grain, flour, and fee business. I handled a few horses on the side and made lots of money.
Well, when I came to Williston in 1904, it was a railroad and cowboy town. I got off the train Sunday afternoon, and saw a fight on Main Street. There were eleven saloons or blind pigs on Main Street and lots of them in the alleys. In 1905, the village was organized into a city. Denny was elected first mayor, and I was elected to the city council.
Blind pigs prevailed and ruled the city. I took a stand against them. The mayor was for them. The council divided, and Denny resigned before his time was up. The council elected me mayor.
I immediately instructed the police to clean the town up. They started, but it was some job as some were entrenched solidly. I told the chief to go to the pigs as usual and say nothing. He was to report to me each night as to who were selling, buying, etc. He did.
When I got plenty of dope, I told him to go and tell them what he had been doing, and that they had one, and only one, chance to quit. Well, all of the little fellows quit, but the big boys who had been accustomed to doing as they like, didn’t quit. They, in some cases, had their own property and were well organized. They had some would be bad men at their command. They decided to try me out and see if I had any sand.
Among the bad boys were Slim Jones, Davis Chase, and Dwire who had a pool hall, restaurant, and gambling den. It had kind of a rooming house upstairs from cellar to garret. They had almost everything there. There were the Golden brothers, Dick Adare, Hobo Jack, and many others. Any place south of Hedderich’s store was a bad district.
In going by the Chase and Dwire place one evening, Jack Dwire called me in. He himself had once been a cowboy. He said, “Have a cigar.” I said, “Thanks, Jack, I don’t smoke.” I walked out. I had an idea he had something further to spring.
The next day, he called me in and said, “Have a drink.” I said, “No thanks, Jack, I don’t drink.” Then he said, “Take some home for medical purposes. It is good stuff.” But I said, “There is no one sick at my place.” He said, “Say Joe, what are you going to do about the private poker games in town?” I said, “Jack, do you consider yours private?” “You have every implement in the gambling catalog and no kid is barred. What is private about that? I have been busy with blind pigs, Jack, and hadn’t calculated to interfere with gambling just now, but since you asked me, I will tell you. It must be stopped, and
(missing two lines of text here)
this is direct from the mayor.” Jack started a little sarcasm. I said, “Say Jack, if I can’t get policemen to come and get you, I am a good policeman myself.” He said, “If that is how you feel about it, we will quit.” I said, “Fine.” And walked out.
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