Law & Order ~ Itasca County Treasurer Embezzled Funds

part 2


Recap: In October 1909, the Itasca County Treasurer, Arthur Kremer was arrested and charged with embezzling more than $60,000. County Attorney Price anticipated the trial would begin in December.

True to his word, with the adjournment of court on Saturday December 4, 1909, County Attorney Frank Price announced that the Kremer trial would commence on Tuesday December 7. The embezzlement case would be one of fifty-four cases that would be heard.  Price was an ambitious lawyer and since he began trying the criminal cases, fourteen men have gone to state prison. 

Jury Selection

Court opened at 9 o’clock Tuesday morning with Judge Stanton presiding on County Treasurer Kremer’s case.  After the indictment was read, Chauncey McCarthy, attorney for the defendant, made a motion for a continuance, which Stanton denied. 

Only two jurors were chosen from the initial pool of potential jurors provided.  Stanton ordered a special venire (pool of potential jurors) of twenty-five to be in the courtroom the following morning. Wednesday evening the last juror had been selected. “The jury in this case was picked from forty-three talisman, and it is the first time in the history of the county that a jury for so important a case was ever picked from so small a number, former juries of a like nature requiring often as many as 200 venire men.” [Duluth Evening News 12-9-1909]

The jury consisted of twelve men from the county over the age of twenty-one and property owners:

Ed Arsensult, store clerk, Nashwauk; Ben Bonneville, conductor, Deer River; J.S. Cooper, contractor, Coleraine; E.H. Dorothy, farmer, Grand Rapids; J.M. Francisco, farmer, Grand Rapids; Harry Johnson, printer, Deer River; R.E. Kimball, switchman, Deer River; Reuben Larson, cruiser, Bigfork; James McManon, farmer, Cohasset; Joseph McVeigh, woodsman, Grand Rapids; W.E. Meisner, brakeman, Deer River; and A.I. Richardson, farmer, Trout Lake.

Evidence and Witnesses

After opening arguments from the prosecution and defense early Thursday December 9, the state provided their witnesses and evidence.  County Attorney Price concluded his case Saturday afternoon. The defense immediately began their side of the case and finished on Friday December 17.

Drug Habit to Cut a Figure ~ Duluth Evening News 12-10-1909

“Grand Rapids, Minn., Dec.10. — (Special to The Herald.)—Mental incapacity, due to being addicted to the morphine habit.  In other words, loss of proper control of his mental faculties so he could not tell the difference between right and wrong, and he practiced the latter, is expected to be the defense in the case of ex-County Treasurer A.A. Kremer, who is on trial in the district court on a charge of misappropriating funds received in taxes.

This belief is prompted by the evidence brought out by the defense when Deputy Public Examiner M.S. Kain was on the stand as to the discovery of two hypodermic syringes in the vault in the treasurer’s office, and the presence here of a number of outside doctors who are expected to be called as experts on the ill effects of the use of drugs.

Among the medical men on hand are Dr. Stewart of Duluth, who is said to have been subpoenaed by the state, Dr. Jones of Minneapolis, Dr. Sweeney of St. Paul, Dr. Ground of Superior and Dr. Storch of this city.

Deputy State Examiner Kain during the course of his examination said it was Oct. 14 when he discovered an erasure in the column showing the tax receipts for the first half of 1908.  An entry in the next column showed an item amounting to $3,563.90, being taxes received from the Great Western Mining company, a part of which it is alleged that the ex-treasurer appropriated to his own use. Mr. Kain stated that he found in the vault of the ex-treasurer about $24,000 in securities in Kremer’s name and one in the name of Mrs. Kremer.

The accused told Miss Blanche Dewey, clerk in the ex-treasurer’s office at the time of the alleged crime, testified that Kremer instructed her not to bother about the corporation tax entries as he desired to personally attend to them to be sure they were correct.  She also testified that while Kremer was East last summer the check of the mining company for $1,058.40 for the Buckeye taxes was received, and on Kremer’s instructions was deposited in the First National Bank to Kremer’s personal credit.

County Auditor Staig testified as to the manner of transacting business in his office and County Treasurer Strader identified a number of exhibits, told about the cash records and stated that the erasure in connection with the tax receipts of the Great Western Mining Company was on the records when he took charge of the office and the entry of $3,463.90 on the next page of tax receipts from the company had been inserted since he took possession of the office.”

Kremer Bought Much Morphine ~ Duluth Evening News 12-14-1909

“Grand Rapids, Minn., Dec.14. — (Special to The Herald.)—The ill effects of morphine upon the human system are being freely aired in the district court at the trial of ex-treasurer A.A. Kremer in keeping with the theory of the defense that frequent use of the drug rendered the accused unconscious of wrongful acts.

When court resumed this morning Dr. Ground of Superior, who was on the stand at the time of yesterday’s adjournment, continued to tell the jury how the constant use of the drug affected the user.  He said it impairs the volition and destroyed the moral faculties, making one a liar, that he might appear to be normal, but could not be depended upon.

C.H. Dickinson, local druggist, produced records of his sales of morphine in court and the following sales were read: June ’08 50 one-quarter grain tablets of sulphate of morphine; July, ‘08 25 tablets; September, ’08, 50 tablets; October 13 ’09 75 tablets; Oct 21, 50; November 9, 100; November 19, 100, November 22, 100; December 4, 20 one grain tablets; December 7, 100 one-quarter grain tablets.  Mr. Dickinson stated, on redirect examination, that he thought Kremer to be a morphine user.

Mrs. J.W. Moore, of La Prairie, formerly servant at Kremer’s, testified as to Kremer’s having bad headaches and fainting spells.  Reverend E.S. Murphy of the Episcopal Church of this city, neighbor, and close friend of Kremer’s testified almost the same as Mrs. Moore.  Also did Mrs. H.D. Powers.

H.D. Powers, T.R. Pravitz, and M.L. Toole all prominent citizens who know Kremer well, testified as to his good reputation up until the present trouble.

R.R. Bell., another druggist of Grand Rapids, was the next witness.  He produced a record of poisons sold in his drug store and it showed sales amounting to 2100 one-quarter grain tablets of sulphate of morphine to A.A. Kremer within the past two years.

George F. Meyers testified that he had known Kremer for 16 years and did not hear anything but good of his reputation as an honest man until October last.  He said he took a trip west with Kremer last spring and that they were thinking of investing in land in the west, but that they did not to his knowledge.  When asked if, while on this western trip, Kremer showed any signs of insanity, Mr. Meyers said he did not.

Dr. C.M. Storch, of Grand Rapids, testified that he was called by Mrs. Kremer to the Kremer home the morning of the treasurer’s arrest, she stated that her husband was not right.  She also said that she did not know that her husband used drugs.  At noon she called the doctor again and informed him that her husband had told her he used morphine.  The witness testified that he examined Kremer’s limbs and found numerous marks indicating the use of a hypodermic syringe.  The doctor testified that Kremer confessed that he had used six to eight grains of morphine daily for three or four years.  On cross-examination the witness said that the use of that much morphine would not affect his character.

Mrs. Kremer was called by the state and testified that her husband had been addicted to headaches and fainting spells almost since their marriage and the first time he used morphine was 10 years ago under a doctor’s prescription.  She said she had taken it for asthma and once asked Kremer to call a physician, but he refused to do so, saying that he would treat her and produced a hypodermic syringe and wanted to give her a dose of morphine, which she refused to take.  The witness said that she did not believe her husband to be insane, but sometimes he was not right in his mind.

W.B. Nesbitt, Charles Kearney, M. O’Brien, and Frank McCormick testified as to Kremer’s honesty up to October.

George F. Kremer and E.A. Kremer, brothers of the defendant, gave testimony regarding his past life and J.T. Gardner, a Cass Lake druggist. said that he sold Kremer some hypodermic syringes two years ago.”

Deliberation and Verdict

The attorneys gave their closing arguments late in the date on Friday December 17.  Judge Stanton provided them with their instructions Saturday morning. Sunday afternoon the jury had reached a decision.

Verdict of Guilty Finally Returned in Case Against Kremer ~ Duluth Evening News 12-20-1909

“Grand Rapids, Minn., Dec.20. — (Special to The Herald.)—After deliberating from about 10 o’clock Saturday morning until 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, the jury that had been considering the case of ex-County Treasurer Arthur A. Kremer returned a verdict of guilty of grand larceny in the first degree and the former official faces a punishment of from one to ten years in the state prison.

The long deliberation of the jury raised hopes of the defense, as it was confidentially expected the jury, in view of the conflicting evidence given by the experts as to whether the accused was insane or sane from the use of morphine, would disagree.

The specific charge was that August 29, 1909, the defendant consummated a shortage in his accounts, as treasurer, of $3500.  Rumors of the shortage first became prevalent October 9, and a few days later Kremer’s arrest followed. At this time the treasurer told his brother, E.A. Kremer, that there was no shortage and that money he had loaned was from a Duluth party.

Failing to secure a new trial, it is expected Kremer will appeal to the [Minnesota] Supreme Court.”

On Monday, December 20, 1909, Judge Stanton sentenced Arthur A. Kremer to five years hard labor in the state penitentiary for grand larceny in the first degree.  This was a compromise between the minimum and maximum penalty, which is one to ten years. That same afternoon Kremer was transported via the train and Sheriff Riley to the Stillwater Prison.


The 1910 United States Census shows Arthur Kremer as an inmate at the prison in Stillwater.  His wife, Elizabeth, and children Russell, Ethel and Dorothy are renting a house in Grand Rapids.

I do not know when Kremer was released, but the 1920 census documents him and his family living in Goodland.  He is employed as a bookkeeper for a logging company.  In 1930, Kremer is a widower, living with his daughter’s family in Hibbing and is the village watchman there.  Arthur A. Kremer died December 12, 1956 and is buried at the Itasca Calvary Cemetery in Grand Rapids.

1 Comment

  1. Brian-Paul K. Crowder says:

    Such a interesting article. A dark part of Minnesota history. Was all the money truly account for? Did he launder the money using his brothers?


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