Southern Minnesota is a great place to live. It was a great place to live in 1915 as well, but tragedy struck August 19th 1915 in Northfield. It was a tragic circus act that was brought to town that was most recently featured and re-told in the Star Tribune. The article was titled 'When the lions came to Northfield'.

A 32-year-old lion tamer, named Frank Lewis, from Nabb, Ind., had been performing his animal acts for seven years with the Kansas-based Patterson Carnival Co. The big-cat handler performed with five lions under his stage name, Major John Dumond.

The Northfield Independent reported that on the night of August 19th, that the carnival tent city brought with it "an air of oriental enchantment." Some 300 people watched as bears lumbered through their act before Major Dumond entered the performing cage with his lions. From there the accounts are still somewhat murky. Some said that a cage fell on a lion named Romeo's tail, others claimed that the cat fell.

Romeo ended up pouncing on Dumond and was joined in later by four of the five remaining other cats. Dumond suffered a torn ear and wounds to his shoulder and throat. He was declared dead at the 3:25 a.m. at the Northfield hospital.

The funeral took place the next day, and a long procession of carnival workers, in double file, snaked from the carnival grounds to the Lee furniture store and undertaking parlor.

Lewis' remains were then sent on to southern Indiana, where his family lived. A letter sent by Lewis' relatives to the Northfield News, thanked Northfield residents "for your kindness and sympathies shown in our recent trouble" and for the "beautiful floral offerings."

If it weren't for the recent piece in the Star Tribune, I would have never known about this forgotten story from our area!


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