In the early 1970s, Duluth native Michael Fedo planned to write a post-World War I novel set in northern Minnesota. One of the scenes would be an incident his mother once mentioned to him: the story of a local lynching.
His main character, Fedo decided, would be a witness to the murders by mob.
But when the novelist tried to find the reference book that surely, years ago, must have been written about it, he found it didn’t exist.
“Not only did I learn there was no book, but the librarians that I talked to — there must have been four of five of them in the Duluth area and in the Twin Cities — these librarians had never heard of the incident,” Fedo said.
So he wrote that book instead.
Nearly 40 years after Fedo’s story of Duluth’s dark history was first published, it’s gone through three publishing houses, multiple title changes, a shift in some readers’ mentality and has included new information — including the late addition of the names of some of the principal players.
One thing remains unchanged: “The Lynchings in Duluth,” as it’s now named, is credited with being the first all-encompassing resource about the June 15, 1920, murders of circus workers Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie.