Published April 17, 2023

End of the Rope 

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan
End of the Rope props outside Minot's Oak Park Theater. (Photo: Kim Fundingsland/The Dakotan)
End of the Rope props outside Minot's Oak Park Theater. (Photo: Kim Fundingsland/The Dakotan)

A North Dakota Lynching

MINOT – It was one of the most gruesome and heinous crimes ever committed in North Dakota. It led to an enraged mob breaking into a jail, snatching a prisoner from his cell, and hanging him off a nearby bridge. 

The movie “End of a Rope”, based on the story of Charles Bannon and the last lynching in this state’s history, had two premier showings at Oak Park Theater this past Saturday. The theater was filled for both screenings.  

Charles Bannon, 22, was the man lynched by a mob that descended on the tiny Schafer Jail in the dark of night in the early morning of January 29, 1931. Bannon, who had been working as a hired hand at the Albert E. Haven farmstead, confessed to the killing of the entire Haven family – Albert and his wife Lulia, and children Daniel, 18, Leland, 14, Charles, 2, and two-month-old Mary. 

The movie details the actions of the primary characters involved in the investigation, along with portraying the anger directed at Bannon by the citizens of Shafer, then the McKenzie County seat. 

The Schafer Jail as it stands today in its original location at the old Schafer townsite located just east of Watford City. (Photo: Kim Fundingsland/The Dakotan)

The movie audience was considerably older than what usually comprises movie audiences today. One of the reasons, said Daniel Bielinski, was that many in attendance likely had interest in an event that occurred in their parents' lifetime, or had some historical link or interest in the events. Bielinski, founder of Canticle Productions that produced the movie, answered questions from theater goers following the screening. 

Although an effort was made, no member of the lynch mob, estimated to be at least 70 in number, was ever arrested for the murder of Bannon. Bannon’s father, James, was sentenced to prison as an accomplice for his role in covering up the murders. On September 12, 1950, at age 76, James Bannon was released by the Parole Board. 

(Photo: Kim Fundingsland/The Dakotan)

End of the Rope has been shown on several screens in the state. Upcoming “premier” showings include April 21-22 at the Grand Theater in Bismarck, and April 28 at the Belfield Theater. Several additional theaters in the state will also be showing the North Dakota-based movie. A listing of those theaters can be found at wwwendoftheropefilm.com. 

On the Canticle Productions website it states they are, “Creating powerful film and theater that honor the land, history, and people of North Dakota.” Other North Dakota movies scheduled for production include “Hazel”, the story of Hazel Miner of Center who died in a blizzard while protecting younger family members; and “Medora”, the story of Marquis de Mores when he was in the cattle business in Medora. 

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