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HARCOURT, Stephen 1 2 3
- Born: Abt 1867, Ontario, Canada
- Died: 28 Jun 1891, Seney, Schoolcraft County, Michigan about age 24
- Buried: Jun 1891, Seney, Schoolcraft County, Michigan
Cause of his death was Murdered.
Steve was killed in a shoot-out with Daniel Dunn, the culmination of a long feud between Dunn and the Harcourt brothers.
1881 Canadian Census (Arthur, Wellington North County, Ontario, Canada). Repository: Latter Day Saints Family Search. Surety: 3. Lists James Harcourt (age 55, b. Ireland), widower, and children William (age 15, b. Ontario), Stephen (age 13, b. Ontario), Richard Herbert (age 11, b. Ontario) and Margaret (age 9, b. Ontario), living in Arthur, Wellington North, Ontario, Canada. Also in the household are James' son-in-law Francis Steddick (age 20, b. Ontario, German), wife Catherine [Harcourt, James' daughter] Steddick (age 21, b. Ontario, Irish) and Humpry Desmond (age 63, b. Ireland), whose relationship [if any] is unclear. James, Francis and Humpry are all listed as "shoemakers."
Barfknecht, Gary W., Murder in Michigan: 70 Fascinating and dramatic murders that have violently shaped the dark side of Michigan history (1983, 225 pages). Surety: 4. FATAL FEUD: Seney, June 25, 1891
In 1881, as thousands of brawling lumberjacks, railroad workers, gamblers and prostitutes flocked across the Mackinac Straits in a final assault in Michigan's war on virgin timber, the town of Seney was established at the end of an Upper Penninsula logging road. Seney rapidly grew, "like an ugly poisonous toadstool," until, by 1890, the town's wild lawless streets were lined with twenty-one saloons and two monstrous, competing whorehouses, one owned by Dan Dunn and the other by the six Harcourt brothers, Tom, Luke, Jim, Dick, Bill, and Steve.
Dunn and the Harcourts had fought from the time they opened rival saloons in Roscommon and had carried their feud to Seney. Dan Dunn and Tom Harcourt also battled for political control of Seney, and each routinely kept a variety of authorities and officials on their payroll. The feud finally boiled, and Dunn threatened to shoot any Harcourt on site.
Dunn usually carried out his threats as evidenced by two earlier "problems" he had disposed of. When an old drunk lumberjack whom Dunn had paid to burn his Roscommon saloon for the insurance money showed up in Seney and tried to blackmail him, Dunn took him to an island in the great swamp surrounding Seney and shot the old man in the back. A short time later, a Roscommon druggist demanded repayment of a loan he had made Dunn and ended up in a grave on the same island.
But twenty-year-old Steve Harcourt didn't fear Dan Dunn or his threat and, on June 25, 1891, sauntered casually into Dunn's bar and loudly ordered drinks for all the customers standing at the forty-foot-long polished bar. Dunn glared for a few seconds then coldly said he wouldn't serve "a goddamned Harcourt" a drink in his saloon. Young Harcourt laughed derisively, turned toward the men at the bar, and said, "I'm gonna tell you a few things about this no good bastard." As Harcourt began matter-of-factly listing all of Dunn's past crimes and misdemeanors, Dunn smashed a whiskey bottled over his head.
Steve staggered a few steps, and, as he fumbled for a gun which was wrapped in a red handkerchief in his pocket, Dunn reached under the bar, grabbed his own gun, and shot Harcourt in the mouth. As customers dived for cover, Steve pulled his gun and shot Dunn in the hand, and another shot ricocheted off the top of the bar past Dunn into a picture of John L. Sullivan that hung over an enormous beveled mirror. Gagging on his own blood, Harcourt then backed toward the door, and Dunn shot him again, this time in the stomach. Harcourt, with help, made it to his mother's home where he died three days later.
Dunn was arrested for manslaughter but the charges were dismissed a few days later at a preliminary hearing because, according to Harcourt sympathizers, Dunn had paid off the right county officials and witnesses.
THE LAST STRAW: Trout Lake, July 26, 1891
After Dan Dunn was set free, the five remaining Harcourts drew straws to see which brother would execute Steve Harcourt's killer. Jim Harcourt drew the short straw. Upon learning of the Harcourt's desire for revenge, Dunn convinced, or paid, a judge to swear out a peace warrant against the brothers. Dunn then fled to St. Ignace, and the Schoolcraft County Sheriff went to Seney to serve the warrant on the Harcourts.
Surprisingly, the Harcourts offered no resistance and three of the brothers accompanied the arresting officer to a hearing at Manistique. On Sunday, July 26, 1891, at Trout Lake, the sheriff and Harcourts headed for a saloon to spend a 45-minute wait while changing trains.
In an ironic twist of fate, Dan Dunn, also waiting to change trains while on his way from St. Ignace to Manistique as a witness against the Harcourts, stood at the end of the bar. Dunn glanced into the mirror, saw the brothers coming through the door, and spun toward them as he reached in his pocket for a gun. But Jim Harcourt saw the move, whipped out his .32 revolver, shot Dunn through the heart, and fired two more shots into Dunn's body before it hit the saloon's wooden floor. Harcourt then calmly straddled Dunn's body, fired two more shots at, but missed, Dunn's head, and handed his gun to the sheriff.
Jim Harcourt was tried, found guilty of manslaughter, and sentenced to seven and a half years at Marquette Prison. After serving three years of the sentence, he was pardoned and went on to become a township supervisor, deputy sheriff, a conservation officer, and well-respected citizen of Schoolcraft County.
In 1894, lumbering operations moved north to Grand Marais and Seney was all but abandoned.
Michigan Death Index: Death Index for Schoolcraft County (Schoolcraft County, Michigan). Surety: 4. Stephen Harcourt, died Schoolcraft County, Michigan in 1891.