As a young child, my grandmother would tell stories of a younger brother who died in the service of his country, cut down by a gunman on a train near the U.S. - Canadian border while he on duty with what is now known as U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

I always relished the times my father's mother spoke of her younger days growing up on the Fillmore County farm established by her grandfather after his service in the Civil War, but it was the story of Laurence Doten that really grabbed my attention. That story is now memorialized in a new plaque that was officially dedicated during a ceremony last Friday at the Customs and Border Protection facility in Warroad, Minnesota.

Laurence Doten, wife Clara and son Ted
Laurence Doten, wife Clara and son Ted (Facebook)

Laurence Doten was born in southern Minnesota in 1896 and, according to the Stewartville Star, was shot in the shoulder while serving in the U.S. Army in France during World War I. After his return to Minnesota and recovery from his wounds, Doten became an inspector along Minnesota's border with Canada for what was then known as U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

His duties included riding on trains that crossed the border with Ontario and on August 24, 1930, while aboard a Canadian National Railway train he was shot to death by a gunman who had confronted a conductor at gunpoint and demanded that he be taken to Winnipeg. Another inspector on the train, Lawrence Jones of Warroad, was also shot to death by the gunman, who then robbed the crew after the train was stopped.

Laurence Doten World War I (1)
Laurence Doten World War I

The news reports about the murders indicate the gunman fled on foot and was eventually cornered in a barn, which was set on fire when he refused to surrender. That led to a gun battle, which left the robber fatally wounded.

The U.S. Army previously honored my great uncle in 2013 by presenting his daughter with the Purple Heart and World War I Victory Medals for his service in the Great War.


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