It Started with a Burglary

At least the October 6, 1892 Rock Valley Register article started there. The event actually started with a man working in a local hardware store, about three years before the newspaper article and the story told therein. The man was named Peter Klein and he was previously employed in the store when it was under different management. At the time of the event the store was called Smith, Rees & Stengle.

On the morning of September 30, 1892 the store was burglarized. Knives, scissors, and spoons valued at $200 were taken. On the evening  of this same day my great-grandparents, John and Ella Dussel, reported the suspicious behavior of Peter Klein to the store owners. Mr. Klein was staying with his brother, Jonas Klein, on a neighboring farm. The store owners came to the Dussel place and set up surveillance. The following morning, while Jonas and his wife were at church, Peter Klein was observed to be burning something in a sack. My great-grandmother and visitor engaged the man in a dialog and “secured the sack.” She took it to her house and discovered that it contained the packaging in which the stolen articles had been stored.

This news was conveyed to town. Two constables followed by “a large crowd” arrived to find Peter Klein attempting to escape at their approach. He was ordered to stop. He did comply and was fired upon “several times,” ineffectually. He fled into a corn field. Fortunately the crowd was large enough to encircle the obscured thief. He was soon captured and questioned.

He led the constables to a hidden box he recently manufactured. The article described the container as “ingeniously contrived containing a false bottom.” During the preliminary examination the box was opened and the stolen goods found therein. The man the paper described as “always [having] been wayward,” was jailed.

On Monday afternoon he escaped. He was discovered hiding in a different corn field, re-captured, and transferred to the county jail. At the time of the article his guilt had not been officially established. In the article’s final sentence, the paper excoriated the man and stated its belief that he was guilty and in a display of concern for his family that is uncharacteristic of our time, took great pains to exonerate Peter Klein’s brother:

“His relations here repeatedly implored him however to lead a steady and upright life, especially his brother here, who has done a great deal for him, but without avail, and it is due alone to young Klein’s perversity that he has reached this end.”

I was delighted to discover this article within the holdings of Prior to this, I had no information about these great-grandparents. Now I know them to have been bold, civic-minded, and determined. I feel more complete now that I can imagine Ella Dussel and her friend confronting the man, winning possession of the sack, and reporting the tale to the authorities. Unfortunately, the digging that yielded this treasure unearthed another mystery.

One night in August of 1894, not even two years later, an unidentified person attacked John Dussel’s visiting brother, Henry, outside John’s house. The attacker was fired upon by Henry. Neither Henry nor the culprit were harmed. I do not yet know whether the events are connected. I also do not know if the Dussel family’s departure for South Dakota in 1895 was a result. The answers may be in newspapers yet to be scanned and put on the Internet.

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