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Saturday, December 10th, 2016
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Unfortunate Circumstances

Sun, Sep 24th, 2000
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Early settlers faced danger in daily lifeBy Al Mathison"A whole family in the course of a half day is wiped entirely from the face of the earth," the Lanesboro Journal reported in a news story from 1892.

As the writer recounted the horrific events of the tragedy, he reminds us of "the enormous chances that stand between life and death in our everyday living."

Over the past few years in the course of researching local historical stories Ive spent countless hours at the Fillmore County Historical Center reading through the archives of 19th century newspapers. Ive found myself becoming intrigued, not only with the details of our ancestors lives, but also of the macabre, extraordinary and sensational accounts of how many of them died. Life for the people of that by-gone era was rarely easy and death was sometimes thought a welcome respite from their daily hardships.

What follows, then, is a journey through the past of southeast Minnesota, covering the years 1865-1892; a nostalgic journey mixed with horror and tragedy. As these unfortunate circumstances unfold in the flowery and poetic language of the day, it is the resounding drama of the human experience that has the power to haunt us to this day.

An insane woman, wife of John Long, living two miles west of Preston, struck her granddaughter, a girl of 13 years, a blow on the side of the head with a club. The child was not considered at first as being dangerously hurt, but on the day following, while attending her usual duties, suddenly fell down in a spasm and died within an hour. History of Fillmore County (HFC) , 1865

For a rural village, far re-moved from the pestiferous atmosphere of great cities, ours is fast becoming notorious in the way of blackguardness. On Monday last as early as noon drunken men were reeling through our streets. . At night lower down Main Street there was a crowd of drunken men who made night hideous with their profane and vulgar language. Chatfield Democrat, 1866

About the middle of June, a party of Scandinavians were crossing the Root River at Newmans ford, on their way to a wedding, when the horses became frightened and unman-ageable and ran, violently throwing the occupants of the wagon out in deep water, drowning one of the women and her little babe, thus sadly turning a festive occasion into one of mourning. HFC, 1874

At Amherst, on the 6th of April, an insane woman, wife of Enger Erickson, murdered her husband by chopping him about the head with an axe as he lay in bed. She was sent to the insane asylum. HFC, 1876

In Lanesboro, on the 7th of November, Ole Knudson, who had been at work in Harmony, was found dead on the banks of the river. He had learned of the death of a brother in Wisconsin, and came to take the train, which he missed, and so he took in a saloon, and was then taken in by the MAN with an hourglass and scythe. HFC, 1876

Why dont the city council employ the city attorney to draft an ordinance prohibiting the sale of opium? Its use is said to be even more degrading than alcohol. Rushford Star, 1876

At the flouring mill in Chatfield, Miss Eva Warriner, while in company with two other young ladies and Mr. Fred Wilson, was caught by the hair of her head, by a revolving vertical shaft, her scalp completely torn off, and her clothing stripped from her body while she was rapidly whirled around and round, her feet striking two posts at every revolution, until young Wilson could run down into the basement and have the mill stopped. On his return she was sitting on the floor in a sensible condition, and no bones were broken. She received every attention that kindness and medical skill could suggest, but finally the angel of death mercifully came to her relief. HFC, 1877

Mrs. Niles Carpenter, of Rushford was given a teaspoonful of strong solution of strychnine instead of a harmless solution, by a substitution of the wrong bottle, and she expired almost instantly. HFC, 1878

Suspicious looking individuals have been seen lurking around in thickets in this vicinity within the past week. Last Saturday, a man employed by the Laird Bros, near this village, ran across a stranger in a thicket and asked him what he was doing there. The stranger replied that it was none of his d-----d business. Chatfield Democrat, 1878

Little Willie Benson, who was injured a few weeks since by the falling on him of a heavy machine box, is dead. Spring Valley Vidette, 1878

The drunken tramp who flourished a knife on Main Street was collared and placed in the lock up on short notice. Such actions wont do in this place. These roughs must be-have themselves or suffer the consequences, and we think that all such offenders should not only be incarcerated but fined. True, many of them have no money to pay fines but they can work on the roads and pound stone just the same. Chatfield Democrat, 1878

The little son of John Johnson of Fountain was scalded so that he died in great agony in six hours. While the father and mother were at church the servant girl set a large vessel of boiling water on the floor, and while she was in another part of the house the little fellow fell backwards into the boiling water. He lived about six hours. His flesh was scalded to a slush. La Crosse Chronicle, 1878

Miss Anna Martin was re-turning to Rushford with her two sisters when a boy rushed out of the brush near them and fired his gun; the shot severed the femoral artery, and she fell between her sisters, but was helped up and asked if she was killed. She replied, not yet, and instantly sunk down and expired. The miserable lad was sent to the reform school. HFC, 1881

Last Monday morning John Weir had his right hand shockingly mangled in the gearing of a harvester. It is not thought amputation will be necessary. Greater care against accidents in the harvest fields is needed. (Preston)National Republican, 1882

A sad accident occurred in Bristol Township last Sunday afternoon. Mr. Workman and Miss Vail were out riding in a buggy drawn by two spirited horses. When near the farm residence of Mr. Burnham a dog ran out frightened the team and caused them to run away. When turning a corner the young gentleman and lady were thrown out, Miss Vail striking on her head and shoulder with such violence as to render her insensible, in which condition she remained until the evening of the next day, but slight hopes of her living being entertained. Mr. Workman was also badly injured. National Republican, 1882

On Friday of last week a portly, thick necked, heavily bearded audacious old scoundrel, supposed to be a stockholder in the Preston mining company, entered the house of Rev. Morris, in Bristol Township and, finding no one at home but the servant girl, adopted the character of a tramp. He pretended to be hungry, asked for something to eat as the introduction to conversation, and probably to elude suspicion as to who he was and his real purpose. The girl resented his approaches, and refused to feed him, but his vile nature would not be rebuffed. He seized her by the throat, choked her down, chlo-roformed her and violated her person in the most shameful manner. The fact that he went there with a supply of chloro-form is evidence that he is not an ordinary tramp. Smiths mining corporation is composed of a set of villains who would be likely to commit such a crime. They have no respect for virtue. They are human vultures who have long practiced their audacious arts and cunning against chastity, meanwhile some of them hav-ing secured high public posi-tions which have been a cloak for much of their debauchery. If some one of this class did not commit the outrage upon the servant girl, their example must have led one of Smiths less dignified high-toned

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