chapter transcription completed 1/13/2023

Table of Contents

History of Clayton County, Iowa

Chapter XVI

(pages 558-569)

Holtzbecker Murder * Hagerty Murder * Killing of Lewis Hartge * Murder of Patrick Riley * Gould Murder * Murder of J.G. Walton * Drowning a Man * Murder of Alonzo Sherman * Killing of Conrad Schulte * Killing of John Winett * Murder of Brad Prichett * Murder in Mallory twp. * Killing of Neeman Ingalls * Killing of Michael Kinney * Murder in Cox Creek * A Fatal Collision * Killing of Barnard Bangard * Poor House Murder * Rechfus Murder Case

-Chapter XVI was transcribed by Sharyl Ferrall for Clayton Co. IAGenWeb
-source: History of Clayton County, Iowa, 1882, Chicago: Inter-State Publishing Co., 1882.

Since the days of Cain crime has existed in the world. The records of its dark deeds is appalling, and well may the philanthropists and moralists ponder over the facts that stare them in the face. While it may be his preference to picture only the bright sides of life, it is the duty of the historian to record the dark deeds of a community as well, that from that record lessons of duty shall be taught to future generations. Clayton County is as free from vice and that crime of destruction of human life as any county in the State with its population and surroundings. In this chapter is a record of such deeds in Clayton County.

pg 558

The Holtzbecker Murder

One of the first cases in which the life of a fellow-being was taken by another, within the present limits of Clayton County, was in the village of Prairie La Porte, now Guttenberg. James A. McClellan and Henry Holtzbecker, then Sheriff of the county, got into a personal difficulty, when Holtzbecker made some threats against the life of McClellan, and went to his own house to secure a pistol for the purpose of taking the life of McClellan, as he publicly atated. McClellan being advised of his purpose placed by his side a loaded rifle and awaited his coming. Holtzbecker appearing with drawn pistol, McClellan fired and Holtzbecker dropped dead. McClellan was arrested, a preliminary examination held, and he as acquitted on the ground of self-defense.

pg 558-560

The Hagerty Murder Case

The so-called Hagerty murder was probably the most shocking one in the chapter of Clayton County's dark deeds. It took place in December, 1868, and involved the deliberate murder of Mrs. John Hagerty, of Giard, her daughter and her two sons.

John Hagerty enlisted in the war, and his beautiful young wife, Mary, kept a little restaurant in the village of Giard, which was liberally patronized by the farmers from the West who passed through Giard on their way to McGregor, the mart of Northwestern Iowa. Among these patrons of Mrs. Hagerty's restaurant was Andrew Thompson, a farmer of Monona Township, who always made a long stay at her house on his way to and from McGregor. These visits were kept up long after the season closed in which it was usual to haul produce to McGregor, and the people began to open their eyes to the fact that there was an improper intimacy between the two.

Made defiant by the remarks of the townspeople, Mrs. Hagerty sold her little place and went to Mr. Thompson's home, where she remained seven years, in a separate cabin which Mr. Thompson built for her. All this time, although he himself had a faithful and amiable wife, the two lived in the most open and disgracefull intimacy.

Once during this period John Hagerty returned home on furlough, but seening how matters stood, he bade his family a hasty farewell, and sorrowfully departed, never to return. He was seen and recognized once only, in later years, by a friend. He was then a tramp, a physical and mental wreck.

In time Mr. Thompson's regard for the woman he had ruined diminished, and his manner became rough toward her. In the fall of 1868 he removed her to Portville, and after two months to Prairie du Chien. From this place she wrote him appealing letters, to which he replied by a personal call. He want back home again, and in the early part of December she crossed over to McGregor, taking rooms with Mr. Budde. After remaining here a few days, she suddenly and mysteriously disappeared with her three children.

March 29, 1869, an item appeared in the Grant County papers to the effect that the body of a woman had been found among the drift wood in Grant River, and buried by the finders. Soon after the body of a girl was found about three miles below Cassville, and a week later that of a small boy was found still farther down the Mississippi. No investigation was made, however, and the matter was fast being forgotten, when some fisherman found in the river two miles above Prairie du Chien, a heavy trunk, containing a number of articles of woman's apparel, and in addition a photograph, which was recognized to be that of Mathew Thompson, father of Andrew.

Public curiosity was now aroused, and many stories were started concerning the mysterious trunk. Many circumstances point toward the fact that there had been a murder, and that Andrew Thompson was the murderer. John Hagerty, Mrs. Hagerty's father-in-law, at once retained Judge Samuel Murdock, now of Elkader, to investigate the case, and see that justice be done. Hon. John T. Stoneman was also employed by the county, and the two bent their whole energies to ferreting out all the circumstances connected with the case.

Then followed a thorough investigation of the murder in which Judge Murdock displayed considerable skill as a detective, and the result was that Thompson was held for trial at the next term of the District Court. At this trial Judge Murdock and Mr. Stoneman appeared for the presentation and Messrs. Noble, Hatch and Odell, for the defense.

His trial began June 28, 1870, in Fayette County, Thompson having taken a change of venue. The details of this murder and trial would fill a chapter with most interesting matter, but space forbids. Thompson was found guilty of murder in the first degree, and sentenced to be hung.

He appealed to the Supreme Court, which decided that he could not be hung, on account of a technical flaw in the indictment, andhe was offered the choice between a new trial and imprisonment for life. He promptly chose the latter, and is now serving his sentence in Fort Madison.

Judge Samuel Murdock received the reward of $500 offered by Gov. Merrill for the finding of the murderer.

(There is related data on the Document board - each link opens in new browser: Document 1 * Document 2 * Document 3)

pg 560

The Killing of Lewis Hartge

Early in the spring of 1846, a squad of Indians came to the vicinity of Elkport, and there camped. Among the number was George Humphrey and Konago, the latter an untutored son of the forest, the former being possessed of a good education received in a college at Alton, Ill., from which institution he had graduated.

The wild and free life of the Indian had too many charms for Humphrey, and as soon as he graduated from college he returned to his tribe and the life of his youth. Like all other Indians, this squad of Winnebagoes were fond of "fire-water," and on camping they immediately went in search of the same. George Humphrey and Konago called at the house of Lewis Harge, and made a demand for liquor, which was refused. A quarrel then ensued, and in the rucus Konago was shoved out the door, when he immediately raised his rifle, and although Humphrey attempted to stop him, he shot Lewis Hartge and instantly killed him.

Humphrey and Konago were instantly arrested, an indictment found against them at the May, 1846, term of court. The case was called and a change of venue was asked and granted to the Dubuque Court. The trial subsequently took place at Dubuque, the Indians being prosecuted by Stephen Hemstead and Reuben Noble, and defended by Samuel Murdock and Platt Smith. George Humphrey was acquitted, and Konago convicted. An appeal was taken to the Supreme Court, and pending the appeal Konago broke jail and escaped. He was never afterward heard from.

pg 561

Murder of Patrick Riley

About three miles west of the present village of Monona, in 1847, a liquor store was kept by Graham Thorn and Taffy Jones. On account of the wickedness said to exist there the place was given the name of Sodom.

Sometime in 1847 a body of Indians collected in the neighborhood for spree, and one evening one of the number, an old man, was found dead. Soon after he was found, his son took a gun, loading it, started for the saloon, supposing his father had there been killed. Crawling up to the window he fired in with the intention of killing Thorn or Jones, but killing instead Patrick Riley. He was arrested, tried, found guilty of manslaughter, fined $500, and sentenced to ten days in penitentiary. He was defended by Samuel Murdock.

(see related info. on the document board - opens in new browser)

pg 561-562

The Gould Murder

In 1850 a murder was committed in Boardman Township, near Wagner, by Asaph Gifford, the victim being John Gould. Gifford had a claim on a small corner of land adjoining his farm, and had planted it to wheat. After the crop was sown the piece in question was entered by Gould, he obtaining a patent from the Government.

When harvest time came, Gifford, with a force of about a dozen men, went to the field to harvest the grain, but were met by Gould, who claimed the ground and all it contained, and forbade Gifford and his men to trespass thereon. The latter, when he saw Gould staking off the line, separating the piece from the main farm, went to the house for his gun, and when he again appeared on the scene a hot quarrel ensued, which resulted in Gould receiving the contents of the gun in his heart.

Mr. S. Olson, now living in Wagner Township, and others witnessed the affair, but did not think the quarrel would amount to much and so suddenly was the shooting done that they could not raise a hand to prevent it. Gifford gave himself up, and was relased on bail of $2,000. Before court convened he left the country. His sureties compromised with the Government and were fully repaid by Mr. Gifford.

He has been in the township twice since then, unmolested. Public sentiment was always in his favor, for claim jumping was severely condemned by the settlers, although the law permitted it. It is said that if Gifford had been allowed to remove the standing crop, he would have given up the land but Gould would not permit even this.

(see related info. on the document board - opens in new browser)

pg 562

Murder of J.G. Walton

One day in the spring of 1854, Johnson G. Walton received a ten dollar bill and dropped it loosely in his overcoat pocket. John White was standing near at the time and probably witnessed the operation. A few minutes afterward Walton placed his hand in his pocket for his bill and found it missing. He at once accused White of taking it and demanded its return, at the same time taking him by the collar and threatening to thrash him if he did not give it up. At the time Walton took hold of White the latter had a small penknife in his hand, with which he was whittling, and with which he at once struck Walton in the throat killing him instantly. White was arrested, an indictment found and case called at a term of the District Court held in July. A continuance was granted and the case tried in May, 1855. He was found guilty and sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary. Before the expiration of his term he escaped and was never recaptured.

(see related info. on the document board - opens in new browser)

pg 562

Drowning a Man

At the July term, 1854, an indictment was found against George Harold for murder in having pushed a man off the steamer Minnesota Belle into the Mississippi River, May 22, 1854, the man drowning. He was tried at the May term, 1855, and sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary.

pg 562-563

Murder of Alonzo Sherman

Minard and Ingalls Wemple were brothers and were relatives of one of the oldest citizens of McGregor, where they had been spending some time in the year 1863. On the 4th day of July, 1863, Alonzo Sherman, of Monona Township, took a load of wheat to McGregor, which he sold, and for which he received the money. He started home late in the afternoon, and when near the White Springs, about three miles from McGregor, on the road to Monona, he overtook the brothers mentioned, who solicited a ride. Mr. Sherman stopped his team and the two got in his wagon, one of them taking his seat with Mr. Sherman, the other standing up behind them.

Both of the young men had heavy hickory clubs in their hands, which they took with them in the wagon. When about three-fourths of a mile from the springs, in a lonely part of the road, the one behind the seat raised his club and struck Sherman a heavy blow upon the head, fracturing the skull and knocking him senseless. The two then robbed him of his money and fled.

The horses kept on their way toward home, and when they arrived at the "Four-mile House" they were stopped and Mr. Sherman taken into the house. A doctor was instantly called, but his skill was without avail, Mr. Sherman dying the same evening.

Subsequently suspicion was raised against the Wemples, who had disappeared; they were tracked to some point in Illinois, arrested and returned to this county. On the 21st of September, 1863, an indictment was found against them for murder in the second degree, on which they plead guilty. Minard was sentenced to the penitentiary for life, and Ingalls for ten years.

(see related info. on the document board - opens in new browser)

pg 563

Killing of Conrad Schulte

At the September term of the District Court, in 1863, an indictment was found against Catherine Heller, John Heller and Adam Heller for the murder of Conrad Schulte, by beating him over the head with a stick, July 4, 1863.

Sometime previously Schulte became the husband of Mrs. Heller, and on his introduction in the family became somewhat tyrannical, his step-sons, John and Adam Heller, coming in for a pretty good share of abuse.

On the 4th day of July, 1863, while at work in the field on their farm near Garnavillo, a quarrel ensued between the young men and their step-father, resulting in a fight and the death of the latter.

The case was called Sept. 6, 1863, the three were separated, and John Heller placed upon trial. After a trial lasting three days, the jury disagreed and the case was continued at the January term, 1864, at which time a noble prosequi was entered as to the whole three and they were discharged.

[transcription note: from Wikipedia - Nolle prosequi is a Latin phrase meaning “will no longer prosecute”, ie: a dismissal of charges by the prosecution]

pg 563

Killing of John Winett

On the 3d day of May, 1865, a true bill of indictment was found against James Liggins for the killing of John Winett, Dec. 16, 1864. Liggins pleaded guilty of manslaughter and was sentenced to eight years in the penitentiary.

(see related info. on the document board - opens in new browser)

pg 564

Murder of Brad Prichett

Brad. Prichett was a trapper temporarily stopping in McGregor. He was known to have some money, and on the evening of April 28, 1866, he exhibited a considerable amount in a saloon in the presence of Franklin Linhart. Shortly after exhibiting his money, Prichett passed out of the saloon followed by Linhart, and both were seen to pass up and down Main street several times during the night, and passing in and out of several saloons. About 12 o'clock at night they were seen and recognized by Mrs. Gaffeny, who lived about one mile below McGregor on the river bank. In the course of an hour Linhart returned alone and was again seen by Mrs. Gaffney.

The dead body of Prichett was found the next morning clinging to a log, one end of which was upon the shore and the other in the river, his body being In the water. Upon examination his skull was found to be fractured. He had evidently revived after being thrown into the water and had caught hold of and held on to the log. Pools of blood were found on the ground near and signs of a terrible struggle. From that place for about forty feet to the river bank the ground showed that a body had been dragged over it. Human tracks were found which upon measurement were found to correspond with the size of Linhart's boots.

Linhart was at once arrested and on his boots was found human blood, together with spots of blood upon his clothes. An indictment was found against him for murder. He plead not guilty, Nov. 5, 1866. His trial was then had, lasting three days. The jury disagreed and was discharged. A new trial was held in May of the following year, when he was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for life. An appeal was taken to the Supreme Court, pending which he was admitted to bail under bonds of $15,000. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Lower Court and he was incarcerated in the penitentiary, but has since been reprived.

(see related info. on the document board - opens in new browser)

pg 565

Murder in Mallory township

Some time in the winter of 1869-'70, a man named Hughes and a few companions visited a saloon in Mallory Township with the avowed purpose, it is said, of cleaning it out. While standing at the bar he was attacked by Anthony Curler, who struck him in the abdomen with a knife, giving him a death blow. Hughes ran out, followed by Curler, who again stabbed him, and even inflicted one or more blows when he fell.

Hughes was arrested, an indictment found against him, together with George Curler and James Runner as accesories. George Curler was tried and found not guilty. The case against Runner was dismissed for want of evidence, and was continued until the May term, when he [Anthony Curler] was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to imprisonment in the penitentiary for one year and the payment of a fine of $100.

An appeal was taken, and pending which he was admitted to bail under bond of $2000. Before the case was called he suffered death from a piece of meat lodging in his throat, while eating a meal.

(see related info. on the document board - includes a 1940 photo of the saloon (opens in new browser)

pg 565

Killing of Neeman Ingalls

On Saturday, March 22, 1873, Neeman Ingalls, E. Collins and a man named Sawtelle, all of whom were under the influence of liquor, visited the saloon of William Blagdeen, at Monona, and were refused admittance, when they attempted to force an entrance, first at the regular door of the saloon, and then at a side entrance. Blagdeen told them not to persist in the attempt, but they paid no heed to what he said, when he fired over the top of the door, almost instantly killing Ingalls. He was arrested, brought to Elkader and lodged in jail. At the May term of the District court following, the grand jury found an indictment against him for murder in the first degree. The case was called May 21, and on motion continued until the September term, when he was duly tried, and made his defense on the ground it was an assault on his dwelling by the men mentioned, and therefore he was justified in the act. The jury brought in a verdict of "not guilty." Reuben Noble appeared for the defense and O.J. Clark for the prosecution.

(see related info. on the document board - opens in new browser - note that the name Luman Ingalls is used in the newspaper accounting of the murder)

pg 565

Killing of Michael Kinney

William Henry and Michael Kinney had been in McGregor July 8, 1876. Upon returning home Henry went to put up the horses, while Kinney passed into the house. Hearing a noise in the barn Kinney went to see what was the matter, and saw Henry beating one of the horses. He reprimanded him for it, when Henry approached him and he retreated, Henry after him. Seizing a wrench that held the whiffletree, Henry struck Kinney a fearful blow on the head, breaking the skull and killing him instantly.

Not content, he struck the body several times, breaking a leg and an arm. Henry then laid the wrench across the victim and left the place. Going to Monona he told what he had done. He remained here for a day or two before he was arrested.

He was indicted at the September term and the case was called Sept. 22, 1876, and continued. He was tried Jan. 17 and 18, 1877, and acquitted on the ground of insanity. He was defended by Murdock & Larkin.

(see a more detailed account of the murder on the obituary board - opens in new browser window)

pg 566

Murder in Cox Creek

Patrick Whittle and Patrick McNamara were brothers-in-law, the former making his home at the house of the latter. He was often under the influence of liquor, and in that state was inclined to be a little quarrelsome. May 27, 1876, McNamara was away from home, and on returning was reprimanded by Whittle, when a fight ensued, in which McNamara received injuries from which he died June 6 following. Whittle was arrested, tried and convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary. Murdock & Larking were for the defendant.

(see related info. on the document board - opens in new browser)

pg 566

A Fatal Collision

On the 12th day of February, 1878, as Samuel Little was passing along the highway in a buggy, in Giard Township, he was run against by Col. Jones, who was driving a team hitched to a two horse wagon. Little received injuries from the collision which resulted in his death March 25, 1878.

An indictment was found against Jones by the grand jury, the case was called Sept. 6, continued to the January term of the District Court, and again continued to the September, 1879 term, when he was tried and acquitted. L.O. Hatch, of McGregor, was employed to defend.

pg 566

The Killing of Barnard Bangard

Barnard Bangard was a poor and probabl demented creature who had worked for Christian Sacks, but who had been discharged and ordered to keep away from the house. Returning to the house on the evening of Feb. 6, 1879, he demanded admittance which being refuser he went to the window, whether for the purpose of forcing his way in or demanding his clothes, will never be known, when he was shot and killed by Mr. Sacks.

The latter was arrested, indicted and tried at the January, 1880 term of the District Court and acquitted. Mr. Sacks was defended by Murdock & Larkin.

pg 567-569

The Poor-House Murder

One of the most shocking and brutal murders ever perpetrated in Clayton County took place at the county poor farm, July 4, 1879, in which John Simons, a pauper, deliberately shot and killed Charles Schultz, another inmate of the poor-house. The history of the case is as follows:

In former times John Simons, the murderer, was a roustabout on a Mississippi steamboat. He is said to have been a rough, surly, ill-natured man, but nothing remarkable was ever noticed in the man outside of his peculiar disposition. On one of his trips up and down the river, while working at the capstan, something about the machinery gave way, and a piece of wood struck him on the head, seriously injuring him. He was put off at McGregor to die, but in time recovered, and having no friends or money he was sent to the poor-house, where he remained until the murder.

The steward, Mr. Hall, never regarded him as dangerous, consequently Simons was allowed to have the use of an old shot-gun, of which he was for many years the owner. He had become quite an expert hunter, frequently shooting considerable small game, such as squirrels, rabbits, pigeons, etc., in the woods adjoining the poor-farm. He seemed to take great pleasure in hunting, and the steward was disposed to humor him in this way.

Simons was also quite industrious in the garden, if allowed to have his own way; as Mr. Hall said, "He would chase a weed all over a two-acre lot."

Simons' victim, Charles Schultz, was a German, thirty-one years of age. Two years ago he was sent to the poor-house on account of inability to care for himself by reason of heart disease. Simons and Schultz were quartered together, but owing to the incompatibility of their dispositions they did not get along well together. It seeems that Simons was an inveterate lover of the weed, and despite the remonstrances of Schultz, would persist in smoking, to the intense disgust and annoyance of that person. The latter made complaint, but it was useless. Finally, when he though he had been persecuted enough, he took a basswood stick used as a support to the window, and struck Simons several times over the head.

This was the subject of a trial before Justice Ryan, but the matter was adjusted by the steward and the justice. Simons, however, did not feel content to settle his grievance in that way. He wanted blood, and nothing short of the death of his opponent would appease him. After that time he made frequent threats to take Schultz's life, but little attention was paid to him, as no one knew the terrible and fiendish motives which actuated him.

On the morning of the Fourth of July, this fend culminated. Mr. Hall, the steward, had been attending to duties around the place early in the morning before breakfast, and was returning from the barn, when Mrs. Hall said, "Do you know that John has shot Charlie?" It seems that Simons had been firing his gun several times during the morning. Mr. Hall heard the report of the gun but thought that Simons was patriotic and was merely celebrating. When the terrible reality was disclosed he was shocked beyond measure, but took in the situation at once.

Being a clear-headed, brave man, his first move was to secure the murderer. Going up to Simons, who still held the gun, which meantime he had reloaded, he said, "John, do you know you have killed Charley?" Simons said, "Oh yes! I kill him dead, sure." Mr. Hall said, "John, you must give me that gun," at the same time advancing and taking hold of the weapon; but John was not disposed to give it up, and said, "I guess I keep the gun." He wrenched it away from Mr. Hall and started off through the woods, and there being no available assistance he escaped for the time.

It seems that Simons took his victim completely by surprise, not giving him a moment's warning. Watching his opportunity he located himself on the porch commanding a view of the place where the paupers came to wash. As soon as Schultz made his appearance he fired at him from a distance of only about six feet, with the fatal result described. Schultz expired instantly.

Simons was a German, claiming to be fifty-six years old, of medium size, and with nothing remarkable in his appearance.

Immediately after Simons left the premises, Mr. Hall dispatched messengers to some of his neighbors for assistance, also to Sheriff Benton and to P.C. Young, Esq., Justice of the Peace. Sheriff Benton immediately summoned assistance and started in pursuit of Simons, following the suggestion of Mr. Hall, who thought Simons would be found at or near Peter Miller's, on the Wagner road. This idea proved to be correct. Simons had ... [several words cut off of the copy] ... assuming from his appearance that all was not right, had induced him to leave his gun. Simons then left Miller's, and was found on the road leading to Elkader. He permitted himself to be taken without resistance, and at 8:30 A.M., two hours and a half after the murder, he was lodged in jail.

Simons was brought for trial Sept. 16, 1879, and plead guilty to the charge of murder in the second degree. He was sentenced for twenty years to the Anamosa Penitentiary. He is now serving this sentence.

(additional information can be found in Charles Schultz's obituary and on the Document Board - both links open new pages)

pg 569

The Rechfus Murder Case

Giard Towwnship was the scene of a cold-blooded murder on the evening of March 31, 1881. Gustav Rechfus, a wealthy German bachelor, made his home with his brother Henry in Giard Township. On the day in question he had been to Monona, returning in the evening. After eating his supper he took up a newspaper, and turning his back to the table began reading. His brother Henry and wife were also sitting by the same table. While thus seated, as narrated by Henry and his wife, a shot was fired through a window, and Gustav Rechfus fell backward on the table, pierced with a number of buckshot and other small shot. The candle was extinguished by the shot. When lighted it was found that the victim was dead. A reward of $1,500 was offered by the brother of the deceased for the arest and conviction of the murderer. John B. Sutter, Jr., was arrested on suspicion, an examination held and he was at once discharged. George Ellinger was subsequently arrested, indicted by the grand jury, and is now in jail awaiting trial.

(see related info. on the document board - opens in new browser)

Thus closes the record of Dark Deeds in Clayton County.


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