The Missing-Jacob Dyrhaug, 1904

By Cecelia McKeig


In October 1904, the postmaster from Shotley, near Red Lake, was reported missing when he failed to return to his homestead after playing a dance on Saturday night. Jacob Sivertsen Dyrhaug left home by boat on a relatively balmy Saturday for the dance in Shotley where he remained until the next day. Temperatures were a little better than normal and there was no snow yet. On Sunday, October 23, he left Shotley to return home by the same route. It was his son Sivert’s birthday.


On Monday, when he hadn’t returned, his family became alarmed, and a search party set out from the homestead.


Mr. Dyrhaug was well-liked. He was born in Norway in was married in 1895 at Crookston where he had operated a dray line. Jacob and his wife Hilda filed on a homestead containing 140 acres not far from Shotley Brook on the shores of Upper Red Lake. They had four sons, Melvin Henry, age 8, Sivert, age 7, Halsten Jacob, age 5, and Martin Harold, age 3.


The Dyrhaug homestead, which also hosted the post office, was about a mile from village of Shotley. Mr. Dyrhaug was a fiddler of some renown in Shotley Brook and was accustomed to playing for dances. On a previous occasion, after playing nearly all night, he fell asleep in his boat and was found on the shore the next morning. This time, the search party soon discovered his boat, the oars and his cap on the shore but without a body.


Mrs. Dyrhaug at the Homestead in Shotley

Speculation focused on whether he might have fallen asleep on this occasion, and in some way fallen from the boat and drowned. Days passed without any sign of a body. On the previous occasion, he had gone to sleep and did not wake up until the waves washed his craft against the shore.


After several weeks, his body was found on the lakeshore. At first, it was rumored that he might have committed suicide, but his business was doing well, and he had recently added to the stock of merchandise at the store. Suicide was ruled out, but the possibility of murder persisted within his family circle.


A. M. Sivertsen, a brother of the lost man, and John Thompson, both of Crookston, arrived about a week later and went out to Shotley to investigate the situation. The Sentinel newspaper wrote an article on November 17, 1904, entitled, “Was Dyrhaug murdered?”

“Was Dyrhaug murdered?”

Gust Carlson, a brother-in-law to Jacob, had also gone to Shotley to investigate the loss of his relative, and he noted that a letter which was carried by the deceased, was mailed to Shotley post office six days after his death. A stranger arrived in the Shotley country just a few days prior to the disappearance of Mr. Dyrhaug and his actions before and after the event caused considerable gossip among the people of the neighborhood. The stranger talked a great deal about the Dahl murder which had occurred earlier in 1904, and asked questions about the circumstances around Mr. Dyrhaug’s disappearance. Even before the empty boat and hat were found on the shores of Red Lake, there was concern about the stranger who had appeared in their neighborhood.


Dr. Markham, the deputy coroner for Beltrami County, accepted the theory that Mr. Dyrhaug had fallen asleep and drowned. Money and checks that had accompanied him were found in his pockets, which prompted the coroner’s ruling. Mrs. Dyrhaug, however, disagreed with this accidental death theory and according to the Sentinel newspaper of Dec 1. 1904, stated that “she believed he was killed by someone and that his body had been thrown into the lake.”


Jacob Dyrhaug was only 32 when he died. Despite the fact that he had played a dance the night before, he had spent the night in Shotley and did not leave until later on Sunday. Mrs. Dyrhaug stayed on the homestead and completed the requirements for a patent. She received the patent in 1906. In October 1908 she married Julius Nyren and had two more children. They spent 55 years on the farm at Shotley. She was active in the community, served on township and church offices.

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