Louis ‘Yankee’ Robinson – An Early Trapper’s Exploits – Part 2

(Editor’s Note: Part 1 was published in the June 18-19 Weekend Edition of The Minot Daily News.)

In 1898, the Williams County auditor in Williston issued 892 wolf-bounty certificates, of which Louis “Yankee” Robinson received 284 that year. The largest grey wolf ever seen was killed by Robinson near the Ole Bryn place, 12 miles down the river from Williston.

Robinson returned to see his daughters, often bringing Emma from Minot to visit her sister, Ida. Their last visit was on June 30, 1899, when Robinson and Emma attended the funeral of J.M. Pendroy.

Ida was now a teenager and ready to go out on her own. She left with her father and sister after the funeral. Ida married John W. Jones at Williston on Nov. 1, 1899. Her father approved and signed the marriage certificate because Ida was underage. He was 35 years old.

In December of 1900 Robinson had his right hand and wrist shortened by the accidental discharge of his shotgun. He was hunting and had been standing on a log with the gun resting on it and his hand draped over the muzzle. It went off carrying a heavy load of buckshot through his hand and wrist. He was not sure how the gun discharged.

After the accident he walked four miles to the nearest house which was the home of Mrs. D. Gamache and they managed to stop the bleeding. After traveling 25 miles to Williston, he was so weak from the loss of blood that it took several hours before Dr. Belyea could amputate his right hand just above the wrist. It was said that Robinson displayed a rare amount of nerve and courage throughout the ordeal. He recovered at the home of Mrs. Maderson. As his wound healed up, he was anxious to go out again.

On March 6, 1902, Louis Robinson sold his land near Verendrye to Edwin T. Josephson of Pippin Co., Wisconsin, for $1,000.

Robinson was seen by L.B. Pendroy during the year-long 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Williston Graphic newspaper stated: “At the exposition he had a huge stuffed bear mounted on a log raft in the river and thrilled the crowd with the story of how he killed the bear with his bare hands out in the wilderness, losing his hand in the process.”

Another version of this side show comes from the book, “Falsen Township-Verendrye, My Home” by David Blackstead, son of H.H. and Dorothy Blackstead, longtime residents and businessman.

“Soon after his domestic difficulties, Yankee left this area. The next, and last, thing heard of him was at the St. Louis Exposition in 1903. L.B. Pendroy happened to run across Yankee, who said he had lost one arm in an encounter with a cougar. He had finally killed the beast, and had it stuffed and mounted. Robinson owned a small boat, and was running a show on the Mississippi River, showing excursionists the stuffed animal and telling the story of the fight.”

Down the Missouri in a

Flat Boat

Robinson tells of his Trip to the Fair

The Minot Daily Optic, October 12, 1904

From Williston to St. Louis on a crude flat boat, Robinson has great success as a trader and a showman.

Yankee Robinson was in town (Williston, N.D.) but some old-timers not acquainted with the history of northwest North Dakota might conclude that the old boy of circus ring fame* had blown in from this simple announcement.

But it isn’t so. It’s our own original “Yankee” Robinson who was quoted saying: “With a few good strong boards, which I picked up around Williston, I constructed a raft large enough to take my menagerie on, sleeping, and cooking apartments for myself and a few companions, but not too heavy to float the shallows.

“Well, the craft was rigged up in a few weeks and two friends, myself, the menagerie and other traps put off from Williston down the Missouri River on the 10th of last June. It was a great trip. Life on the briny deep was a little too much for my friends and they abandoned me at Yankton (SD). I picked up a couple of other congenial spirits and we continued the trip down the Mississippi River, reaching St. Louis on July 27, without an alarming incident.

“Luck was mine the day I struck St. Louis. It got nosed around that burg that I had struck the wharf with a tiny unique craft. The newspaper boys got onto it and before I could get the animals off the barge I sold the boat to a relic hunter for $500 in cash. I had no trouble in securing space for my show at the fair. The thing was a coin catcher from the start.

“The luck stuck and in a few days a fellow happened along and offered me money for the mountain lion. In the face of my prosperity and the rumors of frosts up home, his crisp $500 looked good to me.

“I have taken in the world’s fair; had the trip of my life; started out with nothing but what I can replace in a single day’s hunt lead me here. I am with a rather comforting mess of the long green that will keep me on the sunny side of easy row for a period of time that offers no discomfiture in its brevity. “

There is not a documented place for Robinson’s burial and who knows where he was put to rest.

*The other Lewis “Yankee” Robinson owned a well-known circus and traveled from Missouri to Montana with his shows.


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