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Historic Perham murders to be topic of discussion at history museum

There’s a dark tale of murder and mystery hidden in the early history of the Perham area.

In June of 1882, the bodies of two surveyors were found in the unorganized territory northeast of Perham.  The 15-year-old boy accused of the crime left town and was chased by the sheriff, who finally took him prisoner in North Dakota. The boy was brought back to Perham to await trial but instead was taken from the jail and lynched during the night. Early morning travelers reported seeing him swinging from a telegraph pole as the train moved through town.

Author Shirlee Taylor was intrigued by this story and compiled a great deal of research about it. Why would a 15-year-old, simple-minded boy be accused of such a heinous crime? Who were the townsfolk that took it upon themselves to be judge and jury? Was the accused ‘killer’ just another victim? Why did his family never return to claim his body?

In the end, she wrote a book about the murders and lynching, called “Dear John… Minnesota’s True Murder Mystery.”

Taylor will be leading a discussion about the murders and signing copies of her book at The History Museum of East Otter Tail County on Friday, Sept. 6 from 5-7 p.m.  

Books and an audio version, read by the late Steve Powell, will be available for purchase. All proceeds will go toward a cemetery marker for the three men who died 131 years ago in a tragedy that raised questions still unanswered to this day.  

The event is free and open to the public; free will donations will be taken. The museum is located at 230 First Avenue North in Perham. 

For more information, call 346-7676.