Sketch of Charles Bailey

The following sketch of Charles Bailey, the first settler in what is now Marshall County, was obtained by the writer from authentic sources and from persons acquainted with him before is arrival here.

The Baileys, of whom there were several brothers, lived in Browns Valley, Minnesota, whence the subject of this sketch waylaid a supposed rival in a love affair and shot him but not fatally. For this criminal offense he served some time in the penitentiary at Stillwater. He was finally pardoned before the expiration of his term, and in a few days married a young lady but fifteen years old, and engaged to work a man’s farm. The proprietor called one day to see how he was getting along and found the house, locked. An investigation disclosed the fact that Bailey and his wife had skipped the country, taking the proprietor’s oxen, wagon and other useful articles.

The next heard of him was at Waubay where several old acquaintances happened to accidentally find him, where he had located a claim about the year 1879. This claim he sold and located in a timber gulch in what is now Victor Township, this county, and known as the Underwood farm (Sec. 12). He located here in 1881 and was the sole occupant of Marshall County for a time. The next year a few pioneers reached his neighborhood and settled there. This portion of Marshall County contained several gulches or coulees, which at that time embraced considerable timber. He sold a relinquishment of his claim to several different parties on the same day and pocketed the proceeds and, like the Arabs, silently folded his tent and stole away, taking several horses with him. The horses, three in number, had been surreptitiously abstracted from their owners. An Indian coming from the Devil’s Lake country met him and on his return to the Reservation described the missing horses; which, however, did their proper owners little good, as Bailey had then eight days the start, and pursuit was out of the question. The next thing heard of his whereabouts was in the summer of 1883. The following account of his sudden demise and the cause leading to it, is perhaps as nearly correct as any, as it was obtained by a gentleman who visited the locality where it occurred. It appears that after leaving Marshall County he located in the Mouse river country. His nearest neighbor was an old well-to-do bachelor who had considerable stock and money. After a while this neighbor was missed by his friends and on inquiry at Bailey‘s they were informed that he had gone east to visit and that he, Bailey, had been engaged to look after his stock. This apparently satisfied the missing man’s friends, as they heard him speak of a contemplated visit. This occurred along in the winter of ’82-’83. Along the next summer the neighbors one day missed Bailey and his stock he was caring for. Some fifteen or twenty neighbors mounted on horses started in pursuit and soon came up with him. He was requested to explain his position in driving off his neighbor’s stock; Bailey stated that he had received a letter from his neighbor ordering him to bring the stock to a designated point where he would meet him; on being requested to produce the letter he failed to do so, stating that he had lost it. It was determined that Bailey must return with them, to which he agreed without any hesitation. On their route back they had to cross a deep coulee and, as he was closely guarded, he requested that some of the men assist his wife in driving the stock over. Two guards, well armed, went ahead with Bailey, pleasantly chatting with him in their ascent on the other side; after reaching the top or bank of the coulee they stopped to rest some distance in advance of the other party, when Bailey suddenly struck one of the guards, felling him to the ground and, grasping the guard’s rifle, started off at the top of his speed. The other guard, who was some distance away at the time, started in pursuit, calling Bailey to stop or he would shoot. Bailey replied, “Shoot and be d–d,” at the same time discharging his rifle at his pursuer. The guard then fired twice, mortally wounding him. When Bailey was informed that he could live but a short time he made a confession of which the following is the substance: He had killed his neighbor in the winter, cut a hole in the ice on the lake near there and dropped him in, and when captured was on the way to British America with the murdered man’s money and stock. Such was the crime committed for filthy lucre. Bailey is said to have been a genial, pleasant, and extremely hospitable man.

Since writing the above we learned that he squatted on the banks of Skunk Lake, a fine location, previous to his location in Victor Township. He induced a Mr. Ross to purchase his claim at a handsome figure, who purchased it and built a large hotel in anticipation of a railroad that had been surveyed. He hauled his lumber from Wahpeton and spent a small fortune in building. After he had completed it he was informed that his claim and hotel were on the Indian reservation. Several surveys were made and Mr. Ross was out every dollar expended. Bailey, no doubt, knew that he had located on the reservation and did it to take in some one. The hotel is unoccupied and going to ruin.


Hickman, George; History of Marshall County, Dakota: Its Topography and Natural History, and Sketches of Pioneer Settlers, with the Names of Actual Settlers where They are From, and where They Live; Also the Military and Sisseton Reservations; J.W. Banbury, 1886.

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