Sibley Gazette - July 10, 1873
On Friday of last week our usually quiet town was the scene of a quarrel, and shooting affray, the circumstances of which, as near as we can learn are about as follows:
An old German living some miles west of Sibley, had come to town for lumber, and after loading, he concluded to wait till the cool of the evening before starting home; and in the meantime indulged in a "social game" with several others, among them one Stage, a homesteader living near this place. After they had separated, Stage discovered that his watch, (a valuable one) was missing, and suspected the aforesaid German of having taken it. He found the old man asleep on a pile of lumber, and firing a revolver close to his ear to wake him, ordered him to hand over the watch. The old man declared, no doubt truly, that he had not seen the watch, and knew nothing of it, whereupon Stage fired another shot but without doing any damage. He was taken in charge by Deputy Sheriff Bailey; brought before Justice Turner and fined $10 and costs, on a charge of "assault." Stage is spoken of as a peaceable, well disposed young man. Then how shall we account for his conduct in this affair? Both parties were considerably under the influence of liquor. This explains it all, as it has thousands of similar cases before. That Stage has borne a good reputation, makes the occurrence all the more to be regretted, but intoxication cannot, or should not be urged in excuse of lawful acts.
Query: How is it that so many people become intoxicated in a temperance town where no license is granted for the sale of liquor?
Sibley Gazette - December 3, 1875
Tuesday noon, Sheriff Douglass, of this place, in company with Deputy Sheriff Adams, of Fairbault County, Minn., who had just arrived, started westward in search of a horse thief by the name of Wm. Gates. They processed to Rock Rapids, thence to Canton, in the Dakota, just opposite Beloit. Here Douglass dropped Mr. Adams and took with him the Sheriff of Lincoln County, D. T. Wednesday afternoon they proceeded on their search and about a mile and a half south of that town he was found and arrested. Having placed him in irons, Douglass remained with him. Wednesday night, and yesterday brought him to this place, arriving about six o'clock in the evening. They took quarters at the Sibley Hotel, and at 1:30 this morning took the northward train and began their way to Blue Earth City, Minn. The preliminary examination of the prisoner will be held at that place.
Thus Wm. Gates is a notorious horse thief, and supposed to be the leader of a large band which operated in Northern Iowa, Southern Minnesota and Dakota. Some little time ago this Gates was arrested in Hancock County, this state, and was to have his preliminary examination at Garner, in that county. It is reported that while waiting for the Justice of the Peace to arrive, he was being guarded by four men, and just as the Justice arrived, he knocked the four men, sprawling in every direction, mounted the Justices' horse and put out for this section of the country, or rather to the place where he was arrested by Douglass. Gates is a young man, we should think not more than twenty-eight years old. He is very broad shouldered, heavy muscled, very nimble, and weighs 185 pounds. He is reported to be one of the hardest cases to handle that have ever been in this part of the country. Douglass was informed of this before he started out, and managed his case accordingly. Gates stated that he had been in irons a number of times and that Douglass is the only man that ever arrested him without assistance and put him in the shackles. This speaks well for Douglass as a Sheriff and as a man to hunt up and handle dare devils in the shape of horse thief's. By the capture of this man, the country will be rid of one of the most troublesome horse thief's.
For the arrest of this man, there is a reward of $800 offered. In addition to this, there is a reward of $200 offered by the State of Minnesota for his conviction. The offering of these rewards go to show the vicious character of the man and his arrest a good thing for the country. We will give a few more particulars of the case when Sheriff Douglass returns.
Sibley Gazette - January 4, 1900
E.B. Townsend, of the Sibley State Bank Detects Forgery
Detains Forger Till Evidence Exists
WARRANTING HIS CAPTURE
Tuesday, at 3:30 p.m. a stranger handed in at the Sibley State Bank a check, purporting to be from a A. W. Harris on the First National Bank of Sibley and signed "Fred Owens." The check was for two (spelled 'tow') hundred dollars for 1000 bushels of corn at 20 cents per bushel. Acting cashier E. B. Townsend saw at once that it was not A. W. Harris' handwriting and that the check in total appeared fraudulent, so he called Mr. Locke from his conversation with W. B. Stevens and directed his attention to the check. Mr. Locke questioned the man who said he was a renter living near Bigelow,, but could not tell the land owners name.
While cashier Locke was interviewing the man, E. B. Townsend was talking over the telephone to Mr. Harris. He soon found that Mr. Harris had given no such check. Then E. B. Townsend interviewed the man while Mr. Locke used the phone in getting service ready for the fellow's capture. Meanwhile the forger began to get nervous and wanted his check back as he was in a hurry. But E. B. Townsend kept urging him to wait till he thought would be a good time for him to try to escape thus making his conviction more certain. When the forger started out of the bank he went west to Sanders where he crossed the street and passed up the alley next to Parker's drug store. E. B. Townsend followed but went up past Littlechild's livery barn and crossed the street west and passed through Bruce Lumber office. The forger went up the alley and by the J. T. Barclay barn and E. B. Townsend changed his course going by Chidister's and asked him to telephone to Mr. Locke and have the sheriff come.
Sheriff Desmond came and the two found tracks from the Barclay alley leading to the Omaha railroad, though E. B. Townsend had grave suspicion that the forger was about the barns some place and sent word to have the barns watched. The marshal went up to watch there while E. B. Townsend and the sheriff went up the tracks, locating the man they were tracking and finding him not to be the forger. The forger started out of his hiding place and directed his steps north.
Ex-Sheriff Stamm was coming along and as the description and news of the fellow was pretty well public in that vicinity of the city, he suspected the man and called to him to stop that he might speak to him. But the fellow hastened and Mr. Stamm repeated his request that he might speak to the traveler, but the more he requested, the more the traveler hastened till he was on a pretty good run. There were several boys playing about the streets near Mr. Cleggs residence. Mr. Stamm told the boys that the man running was wanted, and they took up the excitement and went after him. Doubtless, the forger thought the city was now after him, and as doubtless images of lynching and all such horrors came before his excited mind. At any rate he ran into Mr. Cleggs house, into the kitchen. Mr. Stamm came into the kitchen and ordered him to throw up his hands, which he did so quickly as to almost startle Mr. Stamm. He at once gave up and is in the county jail.
He has since claimed that he cashed the check for another man. The real facts in the case are that the whole part of the transactions are lame as a criminal, though the intentions were valid enough.
He has done some corn husking up about Bigelow, and he and another man were trying on clothing at Desky's preparatory to purchasing. This man said he must go and get a check cashed before the bank closed and the other replied it is about four and you had better go soon then. So he took off the coat he was trying on and went out with results as we have reported.
This is the third attempt forgers have made at the Sibley State Bank and the third time they have been foiled.
H. F. Price, Who Committed Frauds in Iowa Towns, Under Arrest at Columbus, Nebraska
HAD FEMALE ACCOMPLICE
Girl is Miss Baker, of Des Moines, Iowa -- Officer Had a Long and Exciting Chase After the Pair
Sibley Gazette - December 31, 1901
The Iowa Authorities will make a strong effort to secure possession of H. F. Price, the young man with the many aliases and an aptness for passing forged checks, now is under arrest at Columbus, Nebraska. Sheriff Frank Desmond of Sibley, Iowa went to Columbus and will try to induce the authorities there to let him have Price, as the young man is badly wanted in Iowa. It is supposed here that as Price was arrested within a short time after passing the forged check for $50 in Columbus. Most of the money was recovered and that the authorities there may be willing to let Sheriff Desmond have him.
Sheriff Desmond reached Council Bluff's hoping to find the young man under arrest in this city. He says that Price's right name is C. Davis and that he belongs to an Omaha family. The young woman with Price, Sheriff Desmond says, is named Baker, and her home is in Des Moines. These names are on mileage books they have in their possession.
At Sibley, Iowa, Price, who went there under the name of Harris, apparently his most frequent alias, not only succeeded in cashing a worthless check for $20, but ran up a hotel bill besides of $32.12, which he avoided paying by slipping out of the hotel at night through the window in his room.
Everywhere Price represented himself as in the employ of the Elliott & Hatch Book Typewriter company and in Sibley had the nerve to go before the board of county supervisors with a proposition to sell a machine for use in the office of the clerk of the courts. The supervisors of Osceola County, in which Sibley is offered a reward of $25 for the arrest of Price.
Sheriff Desmond has been on the trail of young Price and his female companion for several weeks, but failed to connect with them. Price and his companion used their interchangeable mileage books, which gave the sheriff a clue, but they had a habit of getting tickets to a certain point and then leaving the train two or three stations before their supposed destination was reached.
As a consequence Sheriff Desmond usually arrived in the city where they had been operating a day after they had left. Price is said to be wanted in Worthington and Luverne, Minnesota. He is also wanted in Creston and Atlantic, Iowa as well as Sibley.
Sheriff Desmond is of the opinion that Price has an accomplice as in one of the Iowa towns he adopted a somewhat different but equally effective method of securing money. He asked at the hotel where he was stopping for an advance of money, stating his firm, the Elliott & Hatch Co. of Chicago, had omitted to send him his regular check. The clerk declined to accommodate and then Price said he would telegraph to the company's branch house in Blair, Nebraska. This he did and an answer was received authorizing the clerk to advance Price, who was then using the name of Harris, $50 for the incidental expenses, but not to exceed that sum. As soon as he got the money, Price decamped and later the hotel people discovered that they had been neatly bounced.
Two Men Killed in Sunday's Smash-up, Several Injured - Maimed Will Recover
Sibley Gazette - June 26, 1902
The Kansas City, St. Paul flyer on the Chicago, St. Paul, Minnesota & Omaha Railroad, was wrecked at Ashton last Sunday morning resulting in the death of the fireman and a mail clerk, the injury of several other persons and almost complete destruction of the head end of the train. The dead are Clinton W. Bassett, fireman, a resident of Sioux City, and Cal J. Robinson, mail clerk, of Council Bluffs. Bassett was scalded by boiling water escaping from the boiler. He lived four hours. Robinson was crushed almost beyond recognition, death probably resulting instantly. The injured are Engineer Alvin Canfield of Sioux City, whose arm is broken, head and left leg injured; Mail Clerk James A. Erakine of St. Pail, badly bruised; Mail Clerk F. E. Weston of St. Paul, bruised and scalded; Mail Clerk U. S. Thompson of St. Paul, bruised; Charles A. Hall of St. Paul, bruised; and A. Z. Poole of Minneapolis, bruised. None of the injured will die from their wounds.
Passenger number 2, going north, does not stop at Ashton but is due to pass through thereat about 1:10 a. m. On Sunday morning the train was late in getting out of Sioux City and was making up time so that it was only 20 minutes late into Ashton, going at a speed of 56 miles per hour. There is a long switch leaving the main line as Ashton several rods from the deport and it was here that the crash came. The engine and the front trucks of the mail car passed safely over the switch but the rear trucks of the mail car went out onto the side track swinging it directly across the path of the moving train and causing a general smash up. The engine was overturned and badly broken up, the tender being turned end for end and lying alongside the boiler. Nearly every wheel was torn off, as were also the dome, cab, and nearly every other kind of projection. The mail car, in a badly demolished condition, settled crosswise over the engine, while the baggage car ran out onto the side track and land led in the ditch.
The new plan of making up the train saved the passenger coaches in the rear from injury. For many years, number 2 has been run with mail and baggage coaches ahead, the passenger coaches next and the heavy Pullman cars in the rear. Recently a new makeup has been used all over the country. Many serious accidents have proved that the heavy Pullmans in the rear will crush through the lighter day cars ahead in case of a wreck, and about a month ago a plan was adopted to place the lighter day coaches behind. It was this arrangement that doubtless saved the lives of many passengers. The heavy buffet cars are made strong and heavy with steel frame work so that they resisted the pressure from behind without perceptibly breaking up, except that the trucks were torn off. The engine and tender being separated, the air tubes were broken and the breaks set stopping the coaches in the rear with an awful jerk, a very fortunate circumstance considering that there were over 200 passengers on board.
The real cause of the wreck will never be known except that it is quite well settled that "something broke" the chances being that a switch point broke allowing part of the train to go out on the sidetrack.
The scene which transpired immediately after the crash must have been terrible. The lights in the coaches were extinguished in the twinkling of an eye and as the noise of the clashing wood and steel died away, the moans and shouts of the wounded and frightened passengers could be heard. The engineer was thrown violently to the right of his engine and was pinned to the ground by the end of a car falling on his arm. He dug away the loose sand and freed himself. The fireman was caught between the tender and boiler head so that the escaping steam literally cooked him. He crawled out of the debris and walked to the depot never thinking of himself but calling loudly for "Dad," the engineer. In a short time he died having suffered terrible agony. Stories differ as to the death of Robinson. Some claim he was asleep in his bunk and was killed there.
The passengers were thrown promiscuously about in the coaches and all were more or less bruised but none were seriously injured. They were soon picked up by a train that came down from St. James and took them to their destinations, late but lucky.
The news of the tragedy spread quickly and people flocked to the place from Sibley, Sheldon, Melvin, and other nearby towns. A wrecking crew was soon on the scene and the work was begun on the clearing away the debris. The disordered mails and baggage were picked out in the best possible manner and sent on. The management of the road is making all possible effort to straighten the tangle speedily and in a short time the wreck will be but a sad memory.
HOKUF ACCUSED OF MURDER
Brought to the County Jail
Last Thursday, Bond
Fixed at $10,000
Sibley Gazette - June 9, 1904
Fred Hokuf was arrested two miles southeast of Melvin last Thursday and brought to Sibley, where he was lodged in jail and where he still remains. He was taken before Justice Miller but waived examination and was bound over to the grand jury in the sum of $10,000. His father and numerous other relatives have visited him at the jail, but it is not known whether they will furnish bail or not.
Hokuf is suspected of the murder of his employer, Peter Johnson, who disappeared from his home near Melvin in February, 1903 and has not been seen since.
Hokuf carried on the farm work and it is said he sold off stock and produce. It was reported that Johnson, who was a bachelor, had gone to visit his parents in Sweden but he never arrived there.
The case was up before the grand jury last winter but nothing came of it. A reward of $500 by the board of supervisors for the conviction of the murderer, set O. B. Harding and Ex Chief of Police Davenport, of Sioux City, at work and with the aid of Sheriff Stevens they arrested Hokuf.
The prisoner says but little. He asserts that he is innocent and does not appear worried. The evidence against him at the September session of the grand jury will be circumstantial.
It has recently developed that Johnson had an illegitimate child in Illinois, who will come into possession of the property.
CONFESSES TO MURDER!
Sibley Gazette - June 23, 1904
Says he killed Peter Johnson on the Night of February 13,
1903, and Buried the Body in the Barn.
After an hour and a half in the sweatbox yesterday morning, Fred Hokuf confessed to O.B. Harding, in the
presence of Sheriff Stevens and Deputy Sheriff Stamm, to the murder of Peter Johnson on the night of
February 13, 1903. The confession was brought about by the finding of Johnson’s body Tuesday. When
first approached yesterday the prisoner persisted in his innocence and stuck to it for more that an hour.
Finally Mr. Harding said:
“Now look here Fred, you claim that you were in possession of Johnson’s place February 11. We know
that Johnson was buried in that stall after February 13. Don’t it look queer that a man could be buried in
that stall, where you kept the horses, without you knowing it?” Hokuf replied, “Yes.”
Mr. Harding then asked, “Fred, did you kill Johnson in the barn?” The answer was “No.”
“Did you kill him in the house?”
“Did you kill him out doors?”
The terrible secret was out and little by little the whole story was told, and a sworn statement made by
Hokuf as follows:
I, Fred F. Hokuf, being duly sworn, do dispose and say that I am 29 years of age and am a resident of Osceola County and state of Iowa. That I am desirous of making a true statement of my connection with the death of Peter Johnson, late of Melvin, Iowa and therefore make the following statement of the facts:
On the 13th day of February 1903, I met Peter Johnson at the village of Melvin, in Osceola County, Iowa. This was just after the lamps were lighted in the evening. I was around with him for about an hour. I talked with him about giving me a job of picking corn for him and he promised me a job and that I could go to work any time. Johnson left town before I did. I stayed in town about an hour after I last saw Johnson there. I then went on foot on the railroad track, out to Johnson’s farm, which is about one and three-fourth miles from Melvin in a direct line. When I arrived to a point about apposite Johnson’s house and on or near the railroad tracks, I found a piece of iron about 2½ feet long and about two inches wide in the widest part and with a hole through it at each end, or near the end, which I picked up, and carried it along with me to Johnson’s place.
Upon arriving at Johnson’s farm, or place, I found Johnson at the well, which is between the house and barn, pumping water. After Johnson had finished pumping, I went around with him helping him get the horses into the barn, and then we fed the cattle some corn. Then we went out on the east side of the barn. I asked him what he would give me to help him pick corn. He said 50 cents a day. I told him he
was a cheap guy. He said that was all a man could earn in short days. I then told him if I could not earn a dollar per day I would not work at all. He said he would not give it. I said I never saw a Swede yet but what was cheap. He then started for the granary and I followed him, and he said he did not believe I wanted to work anyway and that I had come there to quarrel with him, and told me to get off the place. I told him I did not come to quarrel-would go when I got ready. I had been drinking some that day and was slightly intoxicated. He then said “I will show you,” and he started for the granary; and there was a fork standing on the north side of the granary, for which he was making; and I then struck him with the iron which I had picked up on the railroad track, on the head, which knocked him down. He did not speak after I struck him. I tried to pick him up but could not do it. I then went into the house and stayed therein from one-fourth to one half hour; then I went out and tried to pick him up again and he was dead. I then carried him into the barn, and I turned the horses out, dug a hole in the north stall and buried him therein. The iron with which I struck him was thrown by me on the top of a snow bank, where it remained while I helped him put the horses in the barn.
I further say that this statement is voluntary on my part and that there has not been any promise or inducement of any kind made or held out to me in order to obtain it, and that it is made with a full understanding on my part of its legal effect as evidence against me.
Fred F. Hokuf
Sworn to before me and subscribed in my presence this 22nd day of June, 1904, by said Fred F. Hokuf
Tuesday noon the decomposed body of Peter Johnson was found buried in his own horse barn, where it had
remained for more that sixteen months.
On Tuesday morning, O. B. Harding, of Sioux City, and Sheriff Frank Stevens went to the Johnson farm, nearly
two miles southeast of Melvin, and began a systematic search. Acting upon the belief that Johnson was murdered
in February, when the ground was frozen, they searched in old wells, under buildings, straw stacks, ect. A force of
ten men was put to work with post augers and the premises were being honeycombed. No clues was found until
they began work in the horse barn. This building contains four double stalls and no floor. There was evidence of
gravel and cinders having been used for filling in recently. A post auger was run down in the back stall and a piece
of blue denim was brought up.
Having found this clue, the work of excavation was done with the greatest of care and about noon the body of a
man was uncovered and carefully guarded until the coroner should arrive from Sibley. The corpse was face down,
lying crosswise in the double stall, in a place, which would be exactly under the hind feet of the horses when they
were tied to the manger. The feet were not more than twelve or fourteen inches under ground, but the head and
shoulders were down to a depth of more than three feet.
The men who searched for the body were C. E. Legg, Joe Hoffman, J. Nickler, Will Imhoff, A. Wachtel, H. Hopfe,
George Kissler, Otto Boettger, W. Schervauy and J. E. Freeman.
Coroner Palmer, County Attorney C. M. Brooks, Attorney O. J. Clark (who will defend Fred Hokuf, who is held under suspicion of murder) and Dr. Frank S. Hough arrived at the Johnson farm about 3:30, Coroner Palmer immediately ordered the body removed to a place in the open air where an autopsy was held by himself and Doctors Hough and Steelsmith. H. S. Abbott, W. P. Webster and H. E. Scott were appointed to act as a coroner’s jury.
Measurements showed that the body was that of a man 5 feet and 5 inches tall, who has worn about a 7 1/8 hat and a number 6 or 7 shoe. It was dressed in winter clothing-felt boots, leather mittens, heavy underwear, two suits of denim, heavy sweater and duck coat. The clothes were readily identified by neighbors as being those worn by Johnson when he was last seen. The flesh, acted upon by urine from the horses, had been reduced to a soapy condition (known to medical science as adipocerous), a very unusual form of degeneration of fat and muscular tissue. The hair of the head and the mustache left no question as to the identity of the body.
Then the heart was removed and small hole was found in the right ventricle, but there was no hole in the clothing to correspond, and it is improbable that this was the result of a wound. Then the head was examined it was found that the skull had been crushed above the right ear, unquestionably the place where the foul deathblow was struck. The remains were brought to Sibley and the autopsy was continued yesterday afternoon.
Following is the verdict brought in by the coroner’s jury:
STATE OF IOWA,
OSCEOLA COUNTY } SS
At an inquisition held in Sibley, County of Osceola, on the 22nd day of June, 1904, before G. B. Palmer, coroner of said county, upon the body of Peter Johnson there lying dead, by the jurors whose names are hereto subscribed.
We, the said jury, upon our oaths say that said Peter Johnson came to his death on or about the 13th day of February 1903 by and from a blow or blows from a deadly weapon held in the hands of one Fred F. Hokuf.
W. P. Webster
Harold E. Scott
H. S. Abbott
FRED HOKUF COMMITS SUICIDE
Sibley Gazette - July 28, 1904
Shortly after noon last Friday, Fred Hokuf shot himself in the abdomen with a 32 caliber revolver
and Sunday morning about seven o'clock he died from the wound. The self confessed murderer of
Peter Johnson chose this method of ending his mental anguish and the only murder that ever
stained the fair records of Osceola County will not come to trial in court.
Sheriff Stevens took Hokuf's dinner to him as usual Friday noon and left the door open between
the Sheriff's residence and the jail corridor. Hokuf ate his meal and pushed the dishes out between
the bars of his cage onto a box in the corridor just as he has done during all the weeks of his imprisonment. Shortly after one o'clock the sound of a single shot came from his cage and Sheriff Stevens rushed in just as Hokuf threw a smoking revolver into the corridor and sank moaning to the floor.
"I've shot myself, Frank, to end my misery," groaned the dying man looking with terror stricken eyes at his keeper. Just then Otto Frey, deputy county treasurer, scrambled up to the east jail window to see what the excitement was and Hokuf, recognizing him, said "Goodbye Ot', I won't see you again, I've shot myself. O, my God, my God forgive me," and thus he went on with his piteous wailings.
Physicians were summoned and the wounded man was removed from the cage to the corridor where he quickly yielded to the effects of ether and an operation was performed. Dr. Neill had charge of the case and Doctor Hough performed the operation, assisted by Doctors Hill and Palmer. The ball entered the body to the left of the navel, just below the twelfth rib, passed through the upper curvature of the stomach and lodged in the muscles of the back an inch and a half to the left of the spinal column.
The gun had been held so close to the body that the flesh was badly powder burnt. The wound was very much like that which Killed President McKinley, excepting that in Hokuf's case the splenic arteries were cut, causing a great loss of blood. The physicians at once pronounced the wound fatal on account of the great loss of blood but used the best of their skill to prolong his life. The wounds in the stomach were successfully closed and the hemorrhage was stopped by packing it. The post mortem showed that there was no loss of blood after the operation and death resulted from hemorrhage before the operation. Life was prolonged by the injection of salt water to take the place of blood and keep up the circulation. Nourishment was injected and the patient rallied.
He expressed a desire to see his wife and baby and they came, as did also his father, mother and numerous other relatives.
His mind was entirely clear and he wanted to talk. He maintained that he had no accomplices in the killing of Johnson and that the deed was done in drunken passion. To his wife he confided that he would not have shot himself has she not forsaken him. To a group of boys who came to look at him through curiosity he said, "Boys, it was liquor brought me here."
When questioned about the gun he said he brought it into the jail with him when arrested earlier in June, claiming that he concealed it in his underclothing just above the shoe top, after being searched. His story about the gun is not believed, and it is thought he had it only a few days. The screen on the west side of the jail bear evidence of having been tampered with. The side of one screen had a fresh split several inches long. One screen was shoved up slightly and from an abrasion of the wood it is evident that the screen had been pried up two or three inches. It would be possible for an accomplice to pass the revolver on a stick from the window to the cell.
Hokuf may have intended to use the revolver on the sheriff and escape. Twice he complained of the drain from the urinal in the closet being stopped up and wanted the sheriff to come in and fix it, but the sheriff gave him a wire and told him to fix it.
The door was never opened unless the sheriff had someone with him, and escape was impossible.
Sheriff Stevens is certain from recent developments that Hokuf got information through the window on more than one occasion, and once in the night he heard a noise which caused him to make an investigation.
Recently the prisoner has been affected with melancholia. He wrote crude poetry about his wife and baby and studied the bible diligently. It also appears that his sickness of a few weeks ago was caused by eating match heads and cigar ashes in an
attempt to poison himself. If he had the gun at that time, it seems very likely he would have used it.
Mrs. Hokuf was asked if the gun Fred used to kill himself with was the one he had at home before he was arrested. She was unable to identify it as such although there was similarity.
Before he died, Hokuf became very penitent and expressed a hope that his awful crime might be forgiven and that salvation might still be open to him. His remains were given Christian burial Monday afternoon. Quite a long
procession, mostly relatives of himself and wife, followed to the Sibley cemetery, where the burial occurred. The service at the grave was conducted by Rev. W. C. Wasser, of the Methodist church.
The story of Hokuf's crime is familiar to most people in the county. Peter Johnson, who lived alone on his quarter section of land, two miles southeast of Melvin, disappeared February 13, 1903, and nothing was seen of him again until his dead body was dug up from a stall in his horse barn, Tuesday, June 21, 1904. Hokuf had possession of the Johnson farm after the owner's disappearance and sold off several hundred dollars worth of chattels. He paid the taxes, worked the farm, got married and made that his home. He was arrested under suspicion June 9, 1904 and confessed to the murder June 22, the day after the finding of the body. In his confession Hokuf stated that he killed Johnson with an iron brake rod which he picked up on the railroad track and so far as possible tried to make it appear that the deed was not premeditated and that he did it while intoxicated. The cold blooded way in which Hokuf buried his victim and confiscated the property wrought up a strong public sentiment against him, and he was the object of many threats of violence.
There have been many suspicions that Hokuf was not alone in the crime, but if he had help, his death forever shields the accomplices.
Melvin Bank Building Badly Damaged
Sibley Gazette - January 7, 1909
Burglars gained an entrance into the First National Bank of Melvin last Thursday morning. Melvin
people were aroused at half past two by three distinct explosions. Marshal A. L. Blackmore and
Henry Bangert were the first men to get down town. From the front of his cream station,
Mr. Blackmore noticed a man in front of the bank building. He shot at him three times and the fellow
finally crawled on his hands and knees into the bank. The burglars made their exit through a rear
door and ran north through Keller's pasture. A hand car which they evidently made use of was
found at Hartley.
Another charge of nitro glycerin had been placed on the inside safe. The outside door of the vault
or safe had been blown off and interior of bank badly damaged. The entire glass front of the building
was badly wrecked by the terrific explosions. The damage to the building and interior will amount to
about $1,000, fully covered by insurance.
Before any explosions were heard, Harm Jobes passed a fellow in front of the bank. Thinking he
was drunk, leaning against the bank he paid no attention to him. He entered his store two doors
east and while there heard the three explosions. There were at least four men in the gang.
Banker Romey had great difficulty in getting some one at Hartley by telephone. The burglars had
gone but a few minutes when he telephoned all the surrounding towns. The Hartley operator claimed
he could not get any of the bankers or police force. It was fully an hour before the authorities knew
anything about it in Hartley.
A number of Melvin people believe the guilty parties do not live more than a thousand miles from
Hartley. It was the work of amateurs and coarse work at that. Several ounces of nitro glycerin
were found back of the bank building; enough to blow up every bank in northwest Iowa. In Allendorf,
it was rumored the robbers were the ones that cut the rope to the fire bell before they commenced
operation on the bank.
George Groen, Prosperous Farmer Near Ashton Dies Saturday From Shotgun Wounds
Sibley Gazette - January 7, 1909
George Groen, a well to do farmer west of Ashton, was shot by his son Ernest, Wednesday evening. Mr. Groen returned from Ashton about 4 o'clock Wednesday afternoon. His sons John and Ernest were testing each other's strength by pulling each other with a stick. Their father suggested he could pull both of them and wagered a dollar to that effect. He lost, and when the boys asked for the dollar he became enraged and suggested they might trust him until tomorrow. He then suggested he could pull Ernest with one hand, and failed. He again wagered he could pull Ernest, and won. He demanded his money and the boys said they were even now. He became very angry, took Ernest and sat him on the stove and a general melee ensued in which the elder Groen was struck over the head with a chair as he left the house. He returned with an iron bar and swore vengeance on Ernest who had fled up stairs. He was told Ernest had gone to the neighbors, but up the stairs he went, where he saw Ernest
with a shot gun. He was warned to keep back or he would be shot. On he came and Ernest blazed away the entire charge of the gun entering his left side in the region of the lung. Just after he had been shot, he asked for a revolver saying he wished to shoot Ernest.
Drs. Langenhorst and Buckmaster of Ashton, and Cram of Sheldon, were called. Nearly 200 shot had entered the unfortunate man's body and the wound proved fatal. Groen died Saturday morning, the funeral being held on Tuesday.
Ernest Groen went to Sibley Saturday and voluntarily gave himself into the custody of the sheriff, to await the action of the grand jury. He is a young innocent looking boy of 17 years of age. It seems him and his father have disagreed for years, but his father refused to consent to his leaving home. The father has been addicted to drink and of late has been often been under the influence of liquor.
For over a year a divorce case has been pending, in which his wife has been the plaintiff. The deceased owned a fine quarter section of land aside from other property.
Dr. Hough and County Attorney Garberson went to Ashton, Saturday, where a coroner's inquest was held, C. Aykens, J. W. Clark and Has Seivert were empanelled as jury. They returned the following verdict: We the jury find the deceased, Geo. Groen came to his death by reason of a gun shot wound inflicted at the hands of his son Ernest Groen.
The deceased was born in Germany 45 years ago. For the last fifteen years he has resided in Osceola County on his farm two miles west of Ashton. Aside from the widow he leaves seven children, John, Ernest, George, Hattie, Maggie, Dena, and Ollie; and three brothers and a sister, John, Dick, Sidney, and Maggie Groen, all of Kossuth County, Iowa. His father John Groen also resides in Kossuth County.
Jury Finds Young Man Not Guilty of Murder
Sibley Gazette - March 25, 1909
Ernest Groen is a free man again. At 5 o'clock Thursday evening, the jury of twelve men returned a verdict of not guilty. Ernest Groen, who is but seventeen years of age, shot his father last December. On the stand Wednesday afternoon the young man, in a dramatic manner, described the homicide. He said he fired the gun which caused the death of his father. He claimed he did it in self defense and had not intended inflicting a mortal wound. He also admitted having struck his father with a chair previous to the shooting affray.
Mrs. Groen, mother of the unfortunate boy, John Groen, his brother, Drs. Langenhorst and Buckmaster were the
material witnesses for the state. The mother and her son told of the events leading up to the shooting. How the deceased had quarreled with the boys and had been drinking heavily. How the father struck Ernest and that Ernest had struck his father with a chair. The enraged father went outdoors, secured an iron handle to a riding plow, came into the house looking for Ernest, who had gone upstairs. The father started up the stairs when Ernest fired the shot from the top of the stairway. The physicians told of the nature of the wound and the condition in which the deceased was found.
The evidence was concluded Wednesday evening. Thursday morning Attorney Garberson made the opening and closing arguments for the state while Attorney Hunter made the argument for the defendant. The arguments were eloquent throughout and held the closest of attention. The judge gave his instructions to the jury who retired about 11 o'clock. They returned a verdict about
5 o'clock. According to the instructions of Judge Gaynor, the jury were instructed to return a verdict for the state, should the evidence show even an assault. They could find defendant guilty of any lesser crime then the one charged, should the evidence so determine.
Train No. 17 Left the Tracks
On September 14, 1914, train No. 17, an Omaha freight that came into Ashton everyday around noon experienced quite a smash-up. While traveling at a high rate of speed, about a dozen cars in the middle of the train left the track and piled up. Three of the four cars were loaded with pig lead leaving the track and road bed tore up. One of the cars was thrown in the air and caught the telegraph wires, breaking them. The cars left the track near the north switch. One car was entirely demolished and several others will not be of much use.
Ashton Post Office Robbed
Sibley Gazette - November 19, 1914
Burglars Secure Several Hundred Dollars Worth of Jewelry
MAKE GETAWAY IN FORD CAR
Night Marshall and Robbers Exchange Shots.
Safe Loaded With Nitroglycerine.
Burglars robbed the Ashton post office Monday night about midnight. The robbers were apprehended by the night watch before they blew up the safe. They secured several hundred dollars worth of jewelry, which Ed Gaster, the postmaster, had a stock of jewelry in the lobby of the post office. A large quantity of this was secured by the burglars.
The safe had been loaded with nitroglycerine and connected with a fuse, ready to explode. Before the explosion, however, the night watch was on the job.
A Ford car without lights, carried the burglars out of town. The night watch fired no less than nine shots at the bunch, who returned the fire. The robbers got into the building through the rear door.
Mexican Of Tampico, Mexico, Killed With Butcher Knife Near Omaha Railway.
Martinez Charged With Crime
Sequel of Mexican Feud. Accused Former Soldier in Villa's Army.
Both Mexicans Worked on Railways.
Sibley Gazette - November 18, 1915