by Gary Severson
In the January and March 2000 issues of The Fourth Decade,
two Lee Harvey Oswald (LHO) appearances in North Dakota were described
by John Delane Williams and myself. My interest in the possibility that
Oswald spent time in North Dakota was piqued in November of 1998, when
I first ran across information about John Armstrong's research. 
As a native North Dakotan, I became intrigued by Oswald's possible connection
to North Dakota. Through research, peripheral data has continued to
develop which has allowed a larger perspective to emerge. In this article,
I plan to suggest that it is plausible for the information gleaned from
the Stanley, North Dakota, interviews to have a basis in reality. To
do this I will take a multifold approach, describing events that occurred
in North Dakota and people who lived there during the years leading
up to the assassination of JFK. There seem to be an unusual number of
coincidental connections of people, organizations and occurrences in
North Dakota history that may relate to the events of 1963. Is there
a connection between Richard Case Nagell's account of a 9/63, JFK assassination
attempt, the Alma Cole letter to LBJ in 12/63, and Aline Mosby's U.P.I.
release of Oswald's defection to the U.S.S.R.?
Mosby's U.P.I. Release
The immediate question following Armstrong's discovery
of the Alma Cole letter to LBJ and the Aline Mosby interview of LHO
moving to North Dakota is "how could North Dakota possibly have
any significance in Oswald's history, especially in light of the possibility
that the abbreviation "N. D." as used in the interview was
simply a typo which should have read "N.O." for New Orleans
instead of "N.D."? This was found in Mosby's November 1959,
U.P.I. story from Moscow concerning LHO's defection to the Soviet Union.
If we grant that there is enough ambiguity involved in the F.B.I. processing
of Mosby's first and second U.P.I. releases on 10/31/59 and 11/13/59,
we can delve deeper into hypothesis one, the possibility that Oswald
actually was in North Dakota, or hypothesis two, that a legend was created
in North Dakota for LHO whether he or an impostor was there. 
(These hypotheses are two of five proposed in Parts I and II
previously published in The Fourth Decade.) Are there reasons
to consider either of these scenarios as plausible? I believe there
The Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (S.I.S.S.)
of Senator James Eastland questioned Abba Schwartz of the U.S. State
Department in August of 1964, concerning his knowledge of LHO's State
Department file. Mr. Schwartz,
on two occasions during that hearing, denied knowing about any communist
activity by LHO in North Dakota. It is interesting to note that the S.l.S.S. chief consul questioning Schwartz was Julien Sourwine. Sourwine
appears to be a part of a larger agenda when we consider he was an active
player in the so-called Bayo-Pawley raid on Cuba. 
We must ask if Sourwine's politics help explain the question asked by
him of Schwartz about the reference to Schwartz's possible knowledge
of LHO's communist activity in North Dakota. Do we simply dismiss this
inquiry by Sourwine as an innocent query about Alma Cole's letter to
LBJ on December 11, 1963? In this letter she told LBJ about her son
William Timmer and his recollections about meeting a young man named
Oswald in the summer of 1953 in Stanley, N.D. 
Do we also assume that Sourwine was misled by Aline Mosby's possible
U.P.I. typo, and that he was only repeating the misunderstanding of
N.O. as N.D.?  Did Sourwine
believe Mosby's story that Oswald found Marx's Das Kapital on a library
shelf in North Dakota in 1953? Do these beliefs explain Sourwine asking
Schwartz if all that information was in Oswald's State Department file?
Maybe, but are there other reasons to believe North Dakota would be
a fertile ground to create an Oswald legend? I say yes and will turn
to those reasons now.
Richard Case Nagell and North Dakota
Richard Case Nagell's story may provide insight into
LHO activity in North Dakota. In Dick Russell's book The Man Who
Knew Too Much, there are numerous references to an assassination
plot that Nagell became privy to upon infiltrating a New Orleans anti-Castro
cell in August of 1963.  An
Oswald was part of this cell and Nagell tape-recorded these meetings.
The as yet unrecovered recordings would verify Nagell's contention that
an attempt would be made on JFK's life in late September of 1963. Specifically,
in other parts of Russell's book the time frames between 9/24/63 to
9/29/63 and 9/26/63 to 9/29/63 are mentioned. 
noticing these references, I remembered JFK had made a visit to Grand
Forks, North Dakota, approximately two months before his murder in Dallas.
I was 15 years old at the time and was present when JFK received an
honorary degree from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.
My buddy and I had skipped school that day in order to witness JFK's
arrival. There were already 25,000 people present in the arena and outside
around the helicopter landing field when we arrived late on the scene.
We made our way unimpeded through the bowels of the arena to where JFK
would receive his degree. Surprisingly, we were able to find two seats
immediately in front of the podium. There was no visible security along
our route through parts of a building that housed many other athletic
facilities in addition to the main arena where 12,000 people waited
to hear JFK's speech. The date was September 25, 1963! I had forgotten
the exact date for 36 years until I saw Richard Nagell's story referring
to the September 24-29 time frame for an assassination attempt on JFK's
Conservation Tour of JFK- September 1963
From JFK Library in Boston
September 24th leave D.C. (Tuesday)
2. Ashland, Wisconsin
3. Duluth, Minnesota
September 25th (Wednesday)
4. Grand Forks, North Dakota
Arrived 10:30 a.m., Departed 11:30 a.m.
5. Laramie, Wyoming (University of Wyoming)
6. Billings, Montana.
September 26th (Thursday)
7. Great Falls, Montana
8. Hannaford, Washington
9. Salt Lake City, Utah
September 27th (Friday)
10. Tacoma, Washington
11. Tong Point, Oregon
September 28th (Saturday)
12. Whiskey Town, California
13. Las Vegas, Nevada
14. Palm Desert, California
September 29th Return to D.C. (Sunday)
On September 20, 1963, five days before JFK arrived in
Grand Forks, Nagell walked into an El Paso, Texas, bank and fired two
bullets into the ceiling in a fake robbery attempt. He calmly walked
outside, sat down on the curb, and waited to be arrested. 
On September 17,1963, Nagell had written J. Edgar Hoover warning the
F.B.I. that he had uncovered the September plot on JFK's life. 
Nagell's arrest at the El Paso bank apparently allowed him to be safe
in jail if the conspirators wanted to retaliate against him for blowing
their cover by writing to the F.B.I. His arrest also had the effect
of derailing the plot against JFK because the plotters would assume
that Nagell would be talking even more extensively to the F.B.I. about
So the assassination attempt of September 24-29 during Kennedy's western
states Conservation Tour of 1963 did not happen. But a short two months
later assassins were successful.
North Dakota Economics
What geopolitical and economic factors were at work in
North Dakota to create a milieu for a presidential assassination? North
Dakota's history as a colony of the Minneapolis/St. Paul wheat milling
industry is one of the most significant factors in the shaping of its
history from its 1889 statehood to the present. 
Conditions were oppressive enough from 1989 to 1920 that North
Dakota farmers turned to radical socialist political and economic solutions
that remain in place today. North Dakota has a state industrial commission,
a state bank, and a state mill for wheat processing. These came into
being to temper the effects of the big city business interests from
Minneapolis/St. Paul. Add to this Senators Gerald P. Nye and Senator
William (Wild Bill) Langer from the 1930's '40's and '50's and you have
an interesting formula. These Senators were leaders in the isolationist
anti-war movement called America First, the largest anti-war movement
of this century and probably of all American history. 
League (NPL) was the populist/socialist political movement that North
Dakota farmers turned to in the 1920's to prevent their exploitation
by the grain companies. The NPL remained a strong influence in North
Dakota until the 1960's. In 1933, the ND legislature actually debated
seceding from the Union.  In North Dakota,
the joke was that if we did secede from the union we would immediately
be the third largest nuclear power in the world because of the presence
of the two nuclear missile bases at Grand Forks and Minot. At any rate
the profile of North Dakota was on the radar screen of the conservative,
anti-communist powers-that-be in American society.
Of course, North Dakota politics
were not any more monolithic than any other state. The same interests
prevalent at the national level had their power bases in North Dakota
as well, i.e. business interests vs. agrarian reform interests. The
American Communist Party (CPUSA), for example, was interested in organizing
farmers. Ella Reeve Bloor, one of the most famous female party members
of the century, spent five years trying to recruit members in the Stanley
N.D. area.  The party had
a strong presence among the Mountrail County Finnish population. 
Lyle Aho, mentioned in Part II of this essay, told of seeing Ella Reeve
Bloor, or Mother Bloor, as she also was known, passing out communist
literature on the streets of Stanley ND.
North Dakota Oil Boom and the Hunts
In 1951, the first
oil well in North Dakota was drilled 20 miles from Stanley, by the small
town of Tioga. One of the most visible oil companies working the Stanley
area was Amerada-Hess. Hunt Oil of Dallas, Texas, also owned wells in
that area. H.L. Hunt was in North Dakota on numerous occasions to meet
with the representatives of the North Dakota Geological Survey. These
meetings were used to process paper work for leases involving the oil
drilling in the Williston Basin, the geological formation where oil
My next-door neighbor in Grand
Forks was C.B. Folsom, a petroleum engineer with the North Dakota Geological
Survey located at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. When
I was a teenager, he would occasionally discuss with me his meetings
with H.L. Hunt which took place in various locations around western
North Dakota. He said all Mr. Hunt wanted to talk about at their business
meetings was the John Birch Society and how much he hated John F. Kennedy.
After the assassination of JFK in November 1963, and continuing well
into the 1980's, Mr. Folsom expressed his feeling that L.B.J. was behind
the assassination. Another geologist at UND during the same period mentioned
that a son of H.L. Hunt, William Herbert Hunt, came to his office in
the geology department in Grand Forks to discuss company business. Upon
examination of the oil drilling records of the Stanley area it is possible
to identify exactly which section of land the Hunts were drilling on.
Whether these records are revealing of any relationships with specific
residents in the Stanley area is not clear, but it does establish the
Hunt Oil Company's presence in the area in the 1950's when LHO was possibly
in the area. One has to assume that the Hunts, because of their vociferous
anti-communism, would be well aware of the socialist history of Mountrail
North Dakota enacted prohibition upon achieving statehood in 1889. The
effects of prohibition on North Dakota's society were corrupting. Unlike
South Dakota, which dissolved prohibition by 1895, North Dakota maintained
prohibition until 1933. Of course some counties in the state and in
Minnesota remained dry until 1947, while a few maintained prohibition
until the 1980's. In any case North Dakota was dry for a period of 44
years. This extended time period, along with North Dakota's 300+ mile
open border along the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan,
allowed the development of numerous opportunities for bootlegging.
Minot, North Dakota, 50 miles east of Stanley, was known as the gangster
capital of the western United States.  Stanley and Minot are 50 miles south of the area known as the "three
corners" where the borders of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and North
Dakota meet. Because of tighter Manitoba liquor laws, the Canadian liquor
industry blossomed along the Saskatchewan border, specifically in the
city of Yorkton. There were many loopholes in the Saskatchewan liquor
laws which allowed distillers to operate more easily, but it meant their
American bootlegging contacts had to meet them at the "three corners"
just north of Northgate and Portal North Dakota on the Saskatchewan
border. This border crossing from the Canadian border to Minot and to
a lesser extent to Stanley became known as "Whiskey Gap" (Highway
52 in the U.S.) (These towns are on the route of the transcontinental
Empire Builder passenger train running from Chicago to Seattle. A 17
year old Oswald could have boarded a train in New York City and changed
trains only once, ending up in Stanley, North Dakota in 1953.)
The liquor company
operating out of Saskatchewan was eventually known as Seagram's. By
1922 it was based in Brandon and Winnipeg, Manitoba before eventually
being moved to Montreal in 1928 and on to New York City later. This
bootlegging culture had the effect of corrupting local governments.
North Dakota functioned as a colony of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St.
Paul. This meant that organized crime from Minneapolis/St. Paul had
an easier in-road into the political scene in North Dakota. The Isadore
Blumenfeld (Kidd Cann) gang was an extension of the Meyer Lansky crime
syndicate out of Miami. Kidd Cann controlled the Twin Cities rackets
in the 30's and 40's. This influence spread to places like East Grand
Forks, Minnesota, also known as "Little Chicago".
 In the 30's and 40's East Grand Forks resembled the Las
Vegas of the same period. East Grand Forks was described by Ripley's
Believe it or Not as having the most neon lights of any place in the
world. The nightclubs with their liquor and slot machines were all illegal,
but payoffs first to the county seat in Crookson, Minnesota, and then
on to the capital in St. Paul were normal operating procedure. 
In 1951, the North Dakota Attorney General was indicted for bribery
involving Minneapolis/St. Paul slot machine operators who were trying
to make North Dakota a total fiefdom for gambling interests. 
Minot, 200 miles west of Grand Forks continued to be involved in prostitution
and gambling until 1969 when the city was finally cleaned up.
Luce and North Dakota
Another interesting bit of history concerns a 1927 graduate
of UND, Edward K. Thompson, who went on to become the managing editor
of Life Magazine from 1949 to 1967. As long as Thompson stayed
within the ideological parameters of Henry Luce, Life's owner, he was
given a free hand to run the magazine. Thompson said, "1 realized
very early on that Luce didn't care how you voted, as long as you didn't
vote Communist."  If
Thompson had a fault, it was that his boundless energy resulted in his
micro-managing the magazine. 
Interestingly, the Bayo-Pawley raid on Cuba involved Life Magazine in
that pictures of the raid were printed in Life. That particular issue
helped pay the costs of the raid and other incursions like it.
C. D. Jackson, Luce's publisher, had a more visible hand in the arrangements
with the Bayo-Pawley raid, but it is certainly interesting to speculate
about possible roles Ed Thompson may have played. The Bayo-Pawley and
other raids on Cuba subsidized by Luce, were explicitly designed to
challenge Kennedy's steps towards detente with the Soviet Union.
 UND gave Mr. Thompson an honorary degree in 1958, just as
it gave JFK an honorary degree in 1963. Mr. Thompson passed away in
Hopefully continued research
into North Dakota history will provide further support to strengthen
claims that Oswald was in North Dakota. Perhaps if events in North Dakota
can be pieced together and related in a larger context, we can discover
the forces present in Dallas.
1. Patoski, J. N., "The Two Oswalds",
Texas Monthly. November 1998. pp. 135 & 160
2. Newman, John. Oswald and the CIA. Carol & Graf Publishers.
1995. Chapter 2 and Chapter 5.
3. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, 1963-65, 1232-1233.
4. Scott, Peter Dale. Deep Politics and the Death of JFK. University
of California Press. 1993, p. 116.
5. Cole letter to President Johnson. December 11, 1963. FBI file. Minneapolis
105-2464; Dallas 100-10461. Reprinted in Robertson, J. (1999) Denial
#2. Volume Two. The John Armstrong Research. Lafayette, IN: Author.
6. Lee Harvey Oswald Sightings. (1999). Dallas, TX: JFK Lancer.
7. Russell, D. The Man Who Knew Too Much. Carol and Graf Publishers.
1992 Preface, p. 21.
8. Ibid. p. 163, 241, 408, 412.
9. Ibid. p. 444-448.
11. Robinson, F. History of North Dakota. University Nebraska
Press. 1966. pp. 220-22, 272-78, 338-39.
12. Kaufman, B. America First. Prometheus Books. 1995. pp. 18,
19, 20, 21.
13. Interview of Claude Crockett, April 7, 2000. Son of North Dakota
legislator involved in 1933 debate.
14. Ella Reeve Bloom papers. Orin G. Libby Manuscript Collection. University
of North Dakota. Collection #920, accession # 83-1226.
15. Voting Records. Mountrail County Historical Society. Stanley, North
16. Interview of Lyle Aho by John Williams and Gary Severson. 8/3/99
17. Anderson S. Interview with Gary Severson. 12/17/99
18. North Dakota Geological Survey Core Laboratory records. University
of North Dakota, Grand Forks. provided July 1999.
19. Gray, John. Booze, The Effect of Whiskey on the Prairie.
MacMilliam of Canada. 1972. p. 143.
21. Zimmer, L. interviewed by Gary Severson 4/00
22. Daily, M. interviewed by Gary Severson 4/00
23. Omdahl, Lloyd. Insurgents. Lakland Color Press.1961. pp.
24. Martin, Ralph. Henry and Clare. G.P. Putnam and Sons. 1991.
25. Wainright, Loudon. The Great American Magazine. Alfred
A. Knopf, Inc. 1986. Chapter 9.
26. Scott, Peter Dale. Deep Politics and the Death of JFK. University
of California Press. 1993. pp. 55,113.
27. Ibid. p.55.