1911 Murder of Matilda Hermsmeier
Posted By: JCGS Volunteer
Date: 8/28/2020 at 11:07:00
Strange Death of Woman Near Baxter
The mysterious circumstances attending the death of Miss Matilda Hermsmeier, aged about forty-five, who lives alone on her farm of 120 acres one half mile north of Baxter, are causing excitement and much speculation in that community.
Herman Klaumberg and his sister, who live near Laurel, went to visit his aunt, Miss Hermsmeier. When they arrived at her home about 9:30 this morning they found the door to her home wide open and the aunt lying on the floor, of the kitchen, dead. She was fully dressed and there was blood on the floor near her. There did not appear to be any evidence of a struggle and things about the house looked as usual.
Klaumberg called come of the neighbors in and telling them to see that nothing was touched or moved went to Baxter and told Mr. Chas. Burdick, of the State Savings Bank, and in telling of the death he said he thought his aunt must have been dead at least two days.
Sheriff Gove was notified and he sent Deputy Harry Gove with Coroner Dr.
(text missing by typesetter)
The coroner’s jury found that Miss Matilda Hermsmeier was shot through the right temple – that the ball was a 32 or 38 caliber – that a check for $165
J. C. Hill over to Baxter to investigate the matter.
The fact that the outside door was open and blood on the floor might indicate foul play but on the other hand Miss Hermsmeier might have been out doors and stepped inside for something when she fell over dead striking her head as she fell.
The coroner’s statement will tell the facts.
Miss Hermsmeier had lived alone since the death of her mother some years ago. She was a sister of Mrs. Henry Brandt, of Baxter, and Mrs. Klaumberg, of Laurel. Her farm is rented but she kept a cow, chickens and a garden.
Dr. Hill thought after seeing her that she had been dead several days. He found froth in her mouth and a place on her head which looked as tho she had been struck. The milk paid with milk in it was near her. The lock on the door was broken.
Last Wednesday two men soliciting funds for the German church called to see Miss Hermsmeier, saw the door open, called to her but receiving no response went away.
(text missing by typesetter) and several certificates of deposit were gone.
The last she was seen alive was Monday night, Feb. 17.
Source: The Newton (IA) Journal; Wednesday, March 1, 1911
Eight Murders in a Year
The Baxter New Era of March 2nd states regarding the murder of Matilda Hermsmeier: This latest crime is but one of many that has stirred Baxter. No less than eight murders have been committed in this vicinity during the last 12 months.
Source: The Newton (IA) Journal; Wednesday, March 8, 1911
More Mystery in the Korsmeier (sic) Case
The household effects belonging to the late Matilda Korsmeier, who met an untimely death near Baxter recently, were sold at public auction Friday, Mar. 10th. Before the sale a careful search was made throughout the house and between $22.00 and $23.00 in money were found hidden.
An old cupboard in which the deceased kept papers etc. was examined by Deputy Sheriff Harry Gove who spent about three hours looking over the papers in it. It was emptied and sold to W. A. Hotchkin who left it standing in the yard until Saturday when he went after it and took it home.
Arriving at his home between here and Baxter he slipped it out of his wagon and the children in the family opened the doors and found a couple of envelopes in it containing valuable papers and a note for $200.00 signed by Henry Sinkler.
Mr. Sinkler had stated that he owed $200.00 and paid it Friday. Mr. Hotchkin turned the note and papers over to the Sheriff late Saturday night.
Source: The Newton (IA) Journal; Wednesday, March 15, 1911
Krampe Turns State’s Evidence
Leo Krampe has proven to be of very valuable assistance to the officers probing the Hermsmeier case.
Krampe was brought to the city as a witness, so he was told, and in his talk with the officers he gave out one piece of information after another until the story was all told. He admitted seeing Miss Hermsmeier after she was dead but before the public knew it. Admitted stealing the cattle and told who did the shooting.
The supposition is that the man who did the shooting was going through the house when Miss Hermsmeier came in with the milk and caught him in the act and he killed her to avoid apprehension.
Krampe has made three confessions and the following is one of them and the most important:
Baxter, Ia., April 13, 1911
I, Leo Krampe, make the following statement to and in the presence of Harry E. Gove and Eli Hardin to-wit:
Sometime in January there was a Dog and Moving Picture show in Baxter, and on that night I was in Baxter and met a man named Al Guest who lives on Henry Miller’s farm about two and one half miles northeast of Baxter; had a conversation with him in which I told I was in desperate straits for money, and he suggested that I go and try to borrow some from Miss Matilda Hermsmeier.
I went to Miss Hermsmeier’s on Tuesday, February 7th, failed to get money, saw Al Guest the Friday night following at which time I told him I had failed to borrow the money from Miss Hermsmeier. He at that time suggested he would get rid of Miss Hermsmeier and I was to drive the cattle off and we were to divide the money secured from the sale of the cattle. I went over to the Hermsmeier home on Saturday night, February 11th just a little after dark to see if Guest had got rid of Miss hermsmeier.
I looked into the southeast corner room, looking through the window, and saw her laying dead on the floor, a lamp was burning, the lamp was sitting on a table at the east side of the room. I did not return to the Hermsmeier home until Wednesday morning about six o’clock, just before daylight at which time I again saw her. She was still lying in the same position as when I first saw her.
I then went to Baxter shortly after daylight, went to the home of J. F. Klise (my father-in-law), remained there a few moments and then went up town, eating a lunch at William’s Restaurant about nine o’clock, then went to the livery barn, hung about town until shortly after one o’clock, p.m., when Ray Trussle and I took two horses belonging to the livery barn and drove nine head of stock consisting of three cows, one bull, four summer calves and one two-weeks-old calf to my home, sold the cattle the following day for $215.00 and on Saturday night, February 18th, 1911, I met Al guest up by the mill in Baxter where I paid him $100.00 as his share in the sale of the cattle.
This he accepted as payment in full for all the things he had done in the transaction. There was no conversation. I knew Miss Hermsmeier was dead and believing he had killed her I asked him no questions.
I make this statement of my own free will and accord without hope of reward or fear of punishment.
No promises of leniency or threats of violence has been made to me by the parties to whom I make this statement. This statement consists of two pages of legal cap both of which I have signed. (Siged) Leo Krampe.
The officers went to Baxter this morning and brought Al Guest back with them. People in Baxter ssay he has not been seen in town this winter. Guest says he wants to remain here until there is a full investigation for he is innocent. The opinion is that Guest is innocent.
Source: The Newton (IA) Journal; Wednesday, April 19, 1911
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