could be Buffalo's crossing the platte

 Research Papers

Today is:

                                                                Another Murder

Set the scene

A murder in 1907 brought to our attention by Corene Phillips, who does a lot of research into Buffalo County history and knows I like to hear about murder in early Buffalo County history.

Gus – a bachelor farmer north of Buda
        Immigrated from Europe
        Expert civil engineer who had worked in many different countries & spoke 6 languages
        A veteran of British, French, German, Spanish & Italian campaigns before coming to US.
        Also a Civil War vet
        Came to Buffalo County about 1870 and filed on a homestead in 1872.
        Had sold the farm two years ago and was now renting the buildings and orchard.
        Now about 76 years old

Herman – married with family, lived on farm next to Gus.
        Also immigrated from Europe.
        Filed his homestead in 1877.
        Had a grocery business in Kearney for a while but returned to the farm about 7 years ago (1900).
        Had a violent and brutal temper, feared by his neighbors

The Murder August 4, 1907

Gus was murdered by a hammer blow to the back of the head

        Herman had came over midmorning agitated, hammer in hand
        He asked John, another neighbor present, what he had heard Gus say about him
        John said “nothing” so Herman calmed down
        Gus invited Herman into the house.
        They were drinking together when John left about 11:00
        6:00 p.m. John heard a shot from direction of Gus’ place
        Knowing Herman’s violent temper, John went over there.
        Found Gus face down in the yard with Herman’s hammer and hat nearby
        (Shot later found to have been another neighbor killing a dog.)
        John phoned the sheriff who came out with his deputy
        They examined the scene, then went to Herman’s home and asked him what was going on
            (but didn’t tell him Gus was dead)

        Herman appeared dazed but sober and said that was what he was trying to figure out
        Sheriff told him to get his hat, which he could not find and did not know what had happened to it,
            so he got a new one

        They took Herman to the scene of the crime where he seemed unconcerned;
            could not say anything coherent about what had happened

        Officers brought Herman to Kearney and placed him in jail

The trial was set for December 10, 1907

The Prosecution (Witnesses included…)

Doctor from Albion – assisted in the autopsy, gave cause of death as blow to head inflicted by a blunt instrument.

Frank, a neighbor – had borrowed a hay rack from Herman and returned it on the day of Gus’ death, then went to John to borrow another. Herman and Gus came over. Conversation was all right as far as he could tell

John – (we have already met him) Testified pretty much what he had related to the reporter at the time of the murder. He did say he went to another neighbor’s house to telephone the sheriff.

Neighbor with telephone – verified John’s story. He took some photographs of Gus’ place after the event which were entered into evidence.

Father of previous witness – told of the arrival of the sheriff and that he and John had brought the body into Kearney to Bowers Undertaking rooms.
        Said he had first met Gus at the bombardment of Ft. Sumpter in 1863.

Sheriff Sammons – told of being called, arriving at 10 p.m.
        Upon learning that Gus and Herman had been together,
                went to Herman’s home and found him very confused as though recovering from a heavy drunk.

        He could not find his hat, did not know where it was, had to get another.
        They went to Gus’ place where Herman said he did not kill Gus.

The Defense (Five witnesses including…)

Kearney doctor – gave professional opinion that death could have come from either natural causes or the head wounds.

Defendant, Herman – (but his testimony not reported)

The Verdict

Judge gave instructions including (at request of defense lawyer) pointing out that all the evidence was circumstantial requiring that it must be strong enough to eliminate all other reasonable hypothesis. They could convict for manslaughter or murder or acquit if the evidence is not conclusive.

At 5:30 the jury began deliberations; at 8:30 they returned a verdict of “Not guilty”

The Rest of the Story Two years later

June 28, 1909 – Herman arrested in Lincoln for selling liquor without a license

City detective saw 3 customers each pay 25¢ and leave Herman’s grocery store with bottle of beer in paper sack so he went in & ordered the same

When Herman figured out this was a police detective he gave the excuse the bottles had been left earlier to be put on ice. He also said he did not intend to sell the beer but the man had come into the store and forced him to part with the bottle and then handed him the money

Detective did not buy the excuse and took him to the station

Search of cellar turned up a barrel of beer, many whiskey bottles and several jugs of whiskey and wine.

A daughter-in-law told police Herman made his own wine to sell from grapes he obtained from a grape arbor he owned at Kearney but the Hub added he was not known to own a large grape arbor here.

There was also a complaint that Herman had struck one of his lady clerks in the face when he became angry with her. When asked why she had not informed police of the liquor sales the clerk said she did not want to be arrested for selling whiskey

Shortly after Herman was arrested a father showed up at the station and accused Herman of a statutory offense against his 16 year old daughter

        1) City charged him with selling intoxicating liquors and keeping liquors for sale,
        2) The store clerk charged him with assault and battery
        3) The father charged him with a statutory offense against his 16 year old daughter

July 1909 – Herman was assessed a fine of $100 for selling liquor without a license for every count which added up to “tidy sum.”
        Nothing said about the other two counts.

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Revised: 02/04/2018