NEAR-TRAGEDY IN VICINITY OF IRMA
In pursuing the events of pioneer days in Bremer county, I am not attempting to fix them in chronological order, but give them as they come to me. Nor have I attempted to moralize or philosophize upon any of the many things that happened. All new countries have their strange characters, their ludicrous sides, and sometimes their tragedies. I have mentioned several unique characters and there are many others that I think of, which would hardly interest the people of today.
The country was nearly free from desparate or dangerous characters, for not many adventurers came as pioneers, but all were seeking to make homes upon the rich soil of the county and they expected and intended to do so by honest toil and faithful labor. To get something for nothing was no part of their purposes. They brought their families with them, and their ambition was to lay the foundation for homes, and about them to build up good society, conquer the obstructions, build school houses and churches, and provide means for the comforts of declining years when they had passed the meridian of life, so they could leave a legacy to help their posterity to greater comforts than they had enjoyed, if not to affluence. How well they succeeded is told in the splendid farms and elegant equipment left as monuments to their industry and faithful toil, that today are the boast and pride of the county.
A near-tragedy occurred on a Sunday in the summer of 1859 on the farm long owned and occupied by Walter Blasier, near where Irma station now stands. Northeast of where his home was located, in the edge of the timber, was held a grove meeting on a Sunday in July, at which Rev. James Skillen and Rev. Jas. N. Baker were officiating. It was an ideal day and all the country, nearly, were in attendance. Among those present was a young fellow by the name of Brown, who was a sort of transient character. He had been in the community for some time, working for various farmers, and at this particular time was in the employ of John Wile, who lived about a half mile from the grove. Brown had been in the neighborhood for five or six months and, because of his queer actions, he was called "Fool" Brown, not because he was simple or a fool, but, as I believed then, he was insane or a monomaniac. He fell violently in love with Rebecca Kreiger, whose father lived near the Grove. She was a beautiful girl, of more than the average charms. She was very greatly annoyed by Brown's attentions, which he forced upon her at every opportunity. She carefully dodged him when she could and declined to be in his presence when she could avoid it. She had expressed fear of him to her father and her brother, Samuel C. Kreiger, many times. While they did not share her fears of him as a dangerous man, they disliked his manner toward her, and Samuel, her brother, had warned Brown to cease his attentions to her.
In the afternoon service, while Rev. Skillen was preaching, an unearthly scream and the report of a pistol were heard in the ,outer circle of the audience, who were seated and listening to the sermon. Instantly the large audience was in excitement; many men rushed to the frightened girl, whom Brown had intercepted as she approached the seats, and had demanded that she should leave the grounds with him. On her refusal, he fired a shot at her, which fortunately went wild, and before he could do more, Sam 'Kreiger had him by the throat, and others disarmed him. It is needless to say the services were broken up and great excitement prevailed. Some of the younger men threatened to lynch him then and there, but cooler judgment prevailed, and he was saved from violence. He was taciturn and did not seem to think he had committed a serious crime. A counsel of the older men decided he should leave the country at once. Mr. Wile paid him a balance due him, and Sam Kreiger, Jim Case and my brother, John, escorted him to Waverly and saw him strike the road for Janesville, which was the last ever heard of "Fool" Brown in Bremer county. Who he was, where he came from or whither he went nobody ever knew, as far as I can recollect. Miss Kreiger was hysterical for a time, but otherwise was uninjured. Nowadays a man who made such an assault would be sent to the penitentiary, and there Brown should have gone.
Last updated 4/9/16
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