August 25, 1920: County Attorney orders trials for alleged lynch mob members

On this day in Duluth in 1920, St. Louis County Attorney William E. Greene ordered the trials of twenty men who had been arrested on charges including rioting, inciting to riot, and first degree murder for the June 15 lynching of three falsely accused black circus workers in Duluth. The trials would take place simultaneously in the courtrooms of Judges W. A. Cant, Bert Fesler, and H. A. Dacer; Greene and his assistants Mason M. Forbes and E. L. Boyle would handle the prosecution. Those charged included Leonard Hedman, Arthur Mattson, Elmer Johnson, Carl Hammerberg, William Hughes, George Morgan, Lawrence Brotherton, Henry Stevenson, Louis Dondino, William Miller, Arthur Felcher, Lester Smith, William Roson, Byer Olson, John Burr, C. J. Johnson, Frank McElligot, and Nate Natelson. Stephenson and Dondino each received five years for inciting a riot; Hammerberg was found guilty of rioting. All of the others were acquitted. Stephenson and Dondino were sent to Stillwater State Prison; Hammerberg, who was 19, was sent to the state reformatory in St. Cloud. No one ever served time for slaying the three innocent men. Max Mason, a black circus worker arrested for the alleged rape of Irene Tusken, whose story sparked the rioting and lynching, was found guilty. He was also sentenced to time at Stillwater. You can read more about the 1920 Duluth lynchings here and here.

Postcard made from a photo of the lynch mob storming Duluth Police Headquarters and Jail on June 15, 1920. We have intentionally blurred images showing the lynching victims. (Image: Zenith City Press)

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