FARRELL, Michael
(Abt 1826-1892)
FARRELL, Ellen Maria


Family Links

GARDINER, Nellia "Ellen"

HARCOURT, James 1 2 3 4 5 6

  • Born: Nov 1862, Ontario, Canada
  • Marriage: GARDINER, Nellia "Ellen" on 8 Jul 1890 in Roscommon, Roscommon County, Michigan
  • Died: 1944, Houghton Lake, Roscommon County, Michigan at age 82

bullet  General Notes:

James and Nellie's place of death is based upon the testimony of a Gardiner descendant, who knew the family. This descendant indicates that James ran a gravel business in Houghton Lake.


James married Nellia "Ellen" GARDINER, daughter of Julius GARDINER and Julia ROACH, on 8 Jul 1890 in Roscommon, Roscommon County, Michigan. (Nellia "Ellen" GARDINER was born in Nov 1872 in Michigan and died in 1968 in Houghton Lake, Roscommon County, Michigan.)



1 1910 US Census (District 243, Seney, Schoolcraft County, Michigan). Surety: 3. Lists James Harcourt (age 48, b. Canada), wife Ellen (age 39, b. MI) and children Ellen K. (age 19, b. MI), James H. (age 14, b. MI), Vernon J. (age 9, b. MI), Bernice M. (age 9, b. MI) and Cyril E. (age 8, b. MI), living in Seney, Michigan. James is listed as a "laborer," and indicates that he came to the U.S. in 1880. The couple indicate that they have been married for 19 years, and have had 6 children, 5 of whom are still living. James indicates that his father was born in Ireland and his mother in Canada (English). Ellen indicates that her father was born in New York and her mother in Canada (English). Living nearby is James' sister, Ellen Ryan, and her family.

2 1900 US Census (District 167, Seney, Schoolcraft County, Michigan). Repository: Ancestry. Surety: 4. Lists James Harcourt (age 37, b. Nov 1862, Canada), wife Nellia (age 27, b. Nov 1872, MI) and children Nellia (age 9, b. Apr 1891, MI), Hurst (age 4, b. Apr 1896, MI), Vernon (age 1 mos, b. May 1900, MI) and Bernice (age 1 mos, b. May 1900, MI), living in Seney, Michigan. Also in the household is James' sister, Magia [Margaret] Harcourt (age 27, b. May 1873), and "niece" Ester Harcourt (age 14, b. Apr 1886, MI) [may be Margaret's child, or child of another sibling]. James is listed as a "day laborer," and indicates that he came to the U.S. in 1883 and was naturalized. Living next door is James' brother, Richard Harcourt, and his family.

3 1930 US Census, District 205, Detroit (Districts 1-250), Wayne County, Michigan. Surety: 4. Lists James Harcourt (age 68, b. Canada), wife Ellen (age 57, b. MI) and children Hurst (age 34, b. MI), Vernon (age 30, b. MI), Cyril (age 28, b. MI) and Margaret (age 18, b. MI), living in Detroit, Michigan. James is listed as a "real estate salesman," and indicates that his father was born in the "Irish free state" and his mother in Canada [English]. Hurst, Vernon and Cyril are all listed as "machinist in auto factory." Margaret is listed as a "bookkeeper for a vacuum cleaner co." James indicates that he married at the age of 29 and Ellen at the age of 18. Ellen indicates that both her parents were born in Canada [English].

4 1920 US Census (District 253, Detroit Ward-8, Wayne County, Michigan). Surety: 4. Lists James Harcourt (age 58, b. Canada), wife Ellen (age 47, b. MI) and children James (age 23, b. MI), Vernon (age 19, b. MI), Bernice (age 19, b. MI), Cyril (age 18, b. MI) and Margaret (age 8, b. MI), living in Detroit, Michigan. James is listed as working in a "blast furnace" for "Ford's," and indicates that his father was born in Ireland and his mother in Canada [English]. Ellen indicates that her father was born in New York and her mother in Canada [English]. James is listed as a "machinist" for "Liberty Starter Co." Vernon is listed as an "assembler" for "Liberty Starter Co." Bernice is listed as a "cashier" for a "novelty co." Cyril is listed as a "sauder" for "Liberty Starter Co."

5 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.

6 Marriage License (Roscommon, Roscommon County, Michigan). Surety: 4. Marriage may be solemnized between James Harcourt and Nellie Gardiner, affidavit having been filed in this office, as provided by Act 128, Laws of 1887, by which it appears that said James Harcourt is 28 years of age, color is white, residence is Seney, and birthplace was Canada, occupation is saloon keeper, father's name James Harcourt, and mother's maiden name was Ellen Farrell, has been previously married no times; and that said Nellie Gardiner is 18 years of age, color is white, residence is Houghton Lake and birthplace was Rocommon, occupation is housekeeper, father's name Julius Gardiner, and mother's maiden name was Julia Roach and who has been previously married no times, and whose maiden name was --.

Certificate of Marriage: Between Mr. James Harcourt and Miss Nellie Gardiner. I hereby certify that, in accordance with the above license, the persons herein mentioned were joined in marriage by me at Roscommon, County of Roscommon, Michigan, on the 8th day of July A.D. 1890, in the presence of Mr. Richard Harcourt of Seney and Miss Carrie Nolan of West Bay City.

A. Webeler
Catholic Priest

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