Niagara, North Dakota: Former Home of a Serial Killer

Niagara, North Dakota: Former Home of a Serial Killer

Niagara, North Dakota is just off US Highway 2, not quite forty miles west of Grand Forks. It was founded in 1882 by settlers from Niagara County, New York. According to the 2010 Census, Niagara has 53 residents.

Niagara, North Dakota

Niagara, North Dakota is the former home of a serial killer, a man named Eugene Butler, a recluse who lived on the edge of town. Butler was committed to the State Asylum in Jamestown in 1904, and he died there in 1911. Four years after he died, an excavation at Butler’s home uncovered a hidden trap door leading to a crawlspace. Inside, authorities found the remains of six people. All had been bludgeoned to death with blows to the back of the head.

Niagara, North Dakota

Since Butler was already dead, he never saw the inside of a prison for his crimes. There weren’t any local people reported missing, so there are many theories about who the victims were–transient farmhands for instance. Their identities remain a mystery today.

An update on the mystery came from WDAY-TV in Fargo in February, 2016. Case files have been lost over the years, and an effort to perform DNA testing on the victims’ remains depends on the authorities ability to acquire bones stolen by looters in the aftermath of the discovery.

Niagara, North Dakota

The Butler murders are a chapter of Niagara’s history that many have forgotten. Today, Niagara has a nice historical complex in their town square but there is understandably no mention of Eugene Butler’s crimes.  Butler’s home was demolished and a workshop (not shown) stands on the site today.

Niagara, North Dakota

Niagara, North Dakota

Niagara, North Dakota

Just as we pulled into town, the wind started to really blow and a light drizzle began… so we didn’t spend quite as much time photographing Niagara as we would have liked. We’ll definitely go back sometime when the weather is better.

Niagara, North Dakota

Niagara, North Dakota

Niagara, North Dakota

There was once an impressive building on the corner of the intersection shown above.  It would have stood where the nose of the pickup is sticking out from behind the fire garage.

Niagara, North Dakota

Niagara, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.

9 thoughts on “Niagara, North Dakota: Former Home of a Serial Killer

  1. This is my hometown. My parents still attend the church in town. My Dad was part of the group of people that replaced the bottom logs in the log cabin and repaired the doors and windows last summer. There are plans in the works to do some repair work on the school next. The city hall was burned down a few years ago just west of the historical village and across the street.

    1. My name is Lonnie Berndt even though I moved away in 1969 I will always call Niagara home. My dad bought the bar in 1953,and went to school there until 1961 the last year of the school. I graduated from Unity High School in Petersburg 1963. My brother Gary and his six class mates graduated the last year of school in 1960. Niagara was a great place to grow up,we had a nice place to swim at Niagara Dam,also Bachelors Grove for roller skating on Sunday nites,we even had a carnival on the 4th of July and baseball games. A lot of great memories.

  2. My great grandparents went west in the 1880’s by covered wagon with others from Niagara County NY from which Town was named. Farming was hard, Great Grandpa Jake lost crops to locust, weather etc. He took a job on the Great Northern Railroad as a Blacksmith then worked at Elk Valley Ranch when the railroad hit the Rockies. WE heard stories of visiting with the Indians and Great Grandma Emma binding hay and my grandfather Frank with the horses at the age of 5. Would love to come and reminisce and see where their sod house was .

    1. Hi Sherry, I would like to contact you or others from early Niagara years. My great grandmother, Anna McLean, kept a diary of Niagara from 1909 to 1935. She was a midwife for many years so I have lots of information, births, deaths, letters, daily life. Your parents are probably mentioned in her diaries. What was their name? Find me on Face Book, c.ferguson@sasktel.net or Carol Ferguson; 1604-220 High St. E. Moose Jaw, Sk, Canada.

        1. I can’t find anything with names of people in Niagara, I do know my great grandparents had a house in town for the winter and the farm during the summer. They lived in a sod house but no pictures. Uncle Dan also owned a farm which he rented out then sold to Russians. As far as names, no one person is even named in any of the letters I have here. Sorry.

  3. North of the grain elevators along the tracks was a row of trees that the rail riders hung out. It was called Bum Jungle.

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