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Kjerland, John – Died 1898


Posted By: Joy Moore (email)
Date: 11/20/2017 at 12:06:35

Iowa Plain Dealer December 23, 1898, FP, C6

Murder and Suicide.
Winneshiek county was the scene of a murder and suicide Dec. 15. A man named John Kjerland living about eighteen miles northeast from Decorah, was at a neighbors and borrowed a rifle, and on his way home stopped at the residence of Lewis Gilbertson who was in his barn milking, whom he stealthily approached and shot, the ball entering about the center of the back of his head death resulting instantly. Gilbertson was a bachelor about 60 years of age. From there he went home and assaulted his wife, after having informed her that he had killed Gilbertson, inflicting twenty three cuts upon her person with a large pocket knife, beside beating and choking her. He informed a neighbor that his wife was very sick and they had better send for a doctor, one being sent for and coming found the woman alive and learned the foregoing facts. Sheriff Christen was summoned and came with a posse of men and sought for Hjerland, the murderer, who was finally located at the house of one Brandvick, the Sheriff demanding his surrender the culprit declaring that he would not surrender alive, and would shoot anyone who attempted his capture. The Sheriff ordered Brandvicks family to leave the house making preparations to storm the house. Mrs. Brandviok left the house with her child and when but a short distance away the report of a gun was heard inside. Hjerland having placed the muzzle of the gun in his mouth, and discharging it and when the officers found him he was dead. At this writing Mrs. Kjerland is alive and it is thought she will recover. The Kjerlands were the parents of 6 children the oldest being but 12 years of age.

Transcriber’s Note: Name of shooter is spelled two different ways – Kjerland and Hjerland; however there is a gravestone showing the spelling was Kjerland. The date of death on the gravestone shows December 16.

Source: Decorah Republican Dec. 22, 1898 P 1 C 5, 6

The Product of Ill-temper, Jealousy and Intemperance.
The Peacefulness of Highland Township invaded by Brutality and Crime.
An ungovernable temper and jealous disposition, inflamed by liquor, are responsible for another stain upon the fair name of Winnesheik.
Last Thursday night after indulging in a drunken spree, John Kjerland, living on Bear Creek in Highland township, went to the home of his neighbor, Lars Gullickson Aarhus, (sometimes known as Lewis Gullickson,) and shot him dead just as he was about to milk one of his cows. He then went to his home, choked and beat his wife, stepped on her bead and later stabbed her with a pocket knife twenty-two times. In the morning he realized what he had done and seemed to feel sorry for it, but still defiant to such an extent that he threatened to kill anyone who attempted to apprehend him. Going to a neighbor's he stayed all day and night and in the morning killed himself.
The story that leads up to the tragedy is one full of sorrow for the poor woman who almost became ono of the murderer's victims. Possessed of an insanely jealous disposition Kjerland imagined his wife untrue to him and accused her of being intimate with Aarhus. The latter was a bachelor and Kjerland had threatened to kill him. Neighbors and others who knew Mrs. Kjerland unite in saying she was a woman of good reputation and there was no excuse for accusing her of a wrongful act with anyone.
On Thursday Kjerland went to the home of Martin Brandvig, about noon, and after dinner he, Brandvig and Mons Tvedt went to Quandahl. According to the testimony introduced at the coroner’s inquest held over Kjerland, they returned about six o'clock p. m., and while Brandvig and Tvedt were doing the chores Kjerland took down a Marlin rifle, saying he would take it out and clean it. He disappeared and did not return until the next day. It is supposed that he went to the home of Aarhus, and, lying in wait for him, shot him as he was about to begin milking.
Nothing was known of the tragedy until Friday morning, when parties who went to Aarhus' house found it open and no fire in the stove. His ab.sence was first reported by a boy who went to deliver a sack of flour Iver M. Wevley and Sever Skjervheim made an examination of the premises and found Aarhus lying on his left side back of his cows, His faithful dog keeping watch over him. They hurried to Highlandville, and telephoned for Sheriff Christen and Coroner Gibson. These officers drove to the scene of the murder as quickly as possible, and by the time they reached it, it had become known that Kjerland was the man who killed Aarhus. Dr. A. P. Barfoot accompanied the officers upon request of the coroner to give medical testimony, and C. N. Houck acted as clerk for the coroner.
A jury was empanelled, composed of H. O. Schjeldahl, Iver M. Wevley and Sever Skjervheim. After the body had been viewed, removed to the house and cleaned up, those in attendance went to Kjerland's home, where the testimony of Mrs. Kjerland was taken. In substance it was to the effect that her husband came home about 9:30 o'clock Thursday evening. At the time she was upstairs lining some broken window panes with cloth to keep out the cold, and he came up, took her by the throat and choked her; when she screamed he put his hand in her mouth. She got away and crawled under the bed, but he pulled her out and pounded her on the head, finally dragging her to the head of the stairs where he stepped on her head. He then left her and she crawled to the bed where several of the children were sleeping. He was gone some time and when he returned she was sitting on the edge of the bed, holding her baby. Taking his pocket knife he struck her twice over the heart, twice in the back, once on the stomach and seventeen times on the arms, shoulders and neck. His clothing was wet, as though he had fallen in the creek. After he stabbed her she turned over on the bed and laid there all night with the children. Kjerland threw himself down on another bed on the opposite side of the room, telling her “he had shot Aarhus dead as a herring.” He slept a few hours, got up and put on dry clothing and laid down again. In the morning, crying as he did so, he bid his family good-bye and said he would kill the first man he met who should try to apprehend him.
He showed his wife the borrowed gun and told her it was with that he killed Aarhus. Mrs. Kjerland closed her testimony by saying her husband had accused her of intimacy with Aarhus before.
Dr. Barfoot testified that the gunshot wound had caused Aarhus’ death, the bullet entering the center of the back of the head and coming out about two inches above the center of the left eye.
Sever Skjervheim testified to the finding of the body by himself and Mr. Wevley.
The verdict of the jury accorded with the testimony as above related—that Aarhus came to his death from a gunshot wound inflicted by Kjerland with murderous intent.
During the time the coroner was about Aarhus' place he says it was pitiful to see the actions of the dead man’s dog. The animal was glad to see those who came and would run from them to the dead master and back again. He was close beside when they moved the body into the house, and all the time they were cleaning the body he could not be kept away. After the man was laid out the dog worked his head up under his master’s arm and looked up into his face, evidently trying to gain some sign of recognition.
While the coroner was performing his duties the sheriff was searching for Kjerland, but was unable to locate him until late at night. The murderer, after leaving his home, had gone to a neighbor’s and asked him to get a physician for his wife, because she was in a bad way. He then rambled through the woods until about ten o’clock, when he went back to Brandvig’s. In testifying at the inquest over Kjerland Mrs. Brandvig said he told her he slept in the barn all night; said she “was an awful good woman, and his woman was a good woman that morning.” He bade them good-bye and went to the stable where he stayed a long time, first saying he was going to kill himself and would kill anyone who undertook to take him. After a half hour he returned to the house, saying he was tired, but when Mrs. Brandvig suggested that he lie down he said he was afraid someone would want to see him that morning, but if she would promise not to tell where he was he would lie down: and he did, going upstairs to do so. All this time he kept the rifle by him. He remained upstairs in the house until 6:30 o'clock Saturday morning, his dinner and supper being sent up to him. In the morning he said if the sheriff came for him he would go against him. He said he had misused his wife but didn't tell about Aarhus.
While the above was going on the sheriff had been hunting for Kjerland, his posse of men having been augmented by additions from the immediate neighborhood and Decorah. When the man was finally located, about 8:30 Saturday morning. Mrs. Brandvig went up and told him someone wanted to see him. He requested her to call her husband, who was down at the stable, but before she had gone a half dozen steps from the house a shot was heard. The sheriff and his posse were near the house at the time. Brandvig went in and called to Kjerland, but getting no response he went upstairs and found Kjerland lying on the bed, dead, and his brains spattered against the wall, a bullet hole in his forehead showing how he had taken his own life.
Martin Brandvig testified also, telling of where he went with Kjerland on Thursday, and that Friday Kjerland threatened to kill him if he attempted to take the gun away from him.
K. O. Schjeldahl, Sever Skjervheim and Christ. Handley were selected us members of the coroner’s jury over Kjerland’s body, and their verdict stated that the deceased came to his death by his own hand.
Kjerland has been the bully and terror of the neighborhood where he lived for years, frequently picking quarrels without any excuse. So afraid were the people of him that no one could be persuaded to stay at Aarhus’ house, fearing Kjerland might return and kill them.
Mrs. Kjerland's sister went to and stayed with her as soon as she learned of her injuries. Latest advices say Mrs. K. will recover
Aarhus’ funeral was held Sunday and was largely attended. He was a hard working man and highly respected by his neighbors. Kjerland was buried on Monday and was attended by only enough to bury him.

Big Canoe Lutheran Cemetery

Winneshiek Obituaries maintained by Bruce Kuennen.
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