Story behind the song- Loveswar

Ernest Loveswar was a breed. Part Native American and the rest white. Said to be very handsome and from the few pictures I’ve seen, I can see why. He and a fellow named Ostrander were both courting the same woman. Evidently Ostrander won out or Loveswar was tired of the competition, so Loveswar rode up to the homestead claim where Ostrander was working, for a man named Puck. He said he was missing a horse and wanted Ostrander to go with him to look for the horse. The story I heard was that both Puck and Ostrander were wise to what he was trying to do and the real motive was to get Ostrander off by himself so he could beat him up or in some other way take revenge or scare him from courting the young lady. So, they just laughed and told him they had too much to do. Loveswar spent quite a bit of time with them, and in typical western fashion, he was asked to stay and eat and perhaps even spend he night. That night while Puck and Ostrander were sleeping in the claim shack, Loveswar got one of their pistols and also held his own and shot them both at the same time while standing over them.

Again, the story I heard was that one was not killed so he ran outside and grabbed the axe and came in and used it to kill the one who was still alive. I always wondered why he didn’t just shoot again, but at that time, there would have been other people living within at least a quarter mile, perhaps in every direction. So, if you woke up to what you thought were gun shots and listened and didn’t hear any more, you would more than likely think you just dreamed it. And now, I wonder if he didn’t use the axe on Ostrander out of anger over the matter at hand.

Either way, Loveswar than rode to Granny Culbertson’s, who’s son Pete had always wanted to be an Indian tho’ he had no Indian blood, but who had worked for some time and portrayed an Indian, in at least one Wild West show. Pete and Granny, had befriended many of the local Lakota people and they were evidently always welcomed.

Again, according to the story I heard, when the Sheriff came looking for Loveswar, he rode to Granny’s inquiring for Loveswar, she glanced towards the door of another room and the Sheriff walked in with gun drawn and Loveswar was in bed, reaching for his pistol on a table by the bed. Loveswar was arrested and taken to Sturgis, the county seat of Meade county. He was held for trial and eventually found guilty and sentenced to hang. It was said that one of the murder weapons used was found near a Cottonwood tree, close to the buildings at Culbertson’s.

One account I read said that he eventually became friends with the Sheriff’s wife and daughter who served him his meals and confessed to the crime and felt bad about the killing of Puck, whom he bore no hatred to, but did not feel guilty about killing Ostrander.

In this account, it was said that Loveswar had presented a twenty dollar check to be cashed, made out to him from Ostranders account and the teller or some bank clerk recognized it as a forgery. Loveswar had wanted the money so he could attend the fourth of July party near Whitewood. So the Sheriff put two and two together when he found out about the killings and went after Loveswar.

They built a high fence around the courtyard where the scaffold sat next to the courthouse in Sturgis and invitations were sent to some of the people in the area, so they could attend the hanging. Legend tells that when they hung Loveswar, the rope was old and it broke. Tho’ he was killed, he had not hung for the legal time so they had to get a new rope, re-tie the hangman’s noose and re-hang the body, to make it legal. There are a series of pictures of the hanging on the wall in Wall Drug.

Loveswar had them buy him a new suit of clothes for the hanging and told them he would be “the handsomest man they had ever hung”.

At the time of the killings, Puck had wanted my grandfather to work for him and help him with his claim, but my grandfather would not as he was too busy on his own claim and with his own work. So Puck hired Ostrander. If Grampa had worked for him, Puck would not have been killed, in all likelihood.

The land that Puck was homesteading on, passed on to a relative of the same name and is now part of the quarter-section where the Red Owl Store sets. No one knows where the claim shack sat at the time of the killing.

4 thoughts on “Story behind the song- Loveswar

  1. Hi my great-grandfather was the sheriff that arrested loveswar and my grandmother spoke of this often thanks for printing this story

  2. Ostrander (George) was my Great-grandfathers brother. Thank you to Patrick Hill’s great-grandfather in seeing justice done.

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