“His Axe in His Hand”

10.23.2022 [archive 11.1.2018]

Last Halloween I shared stories about deaths resulting in unusual circumstances.  I have gathered a few more for this year, including errors in judgment, acts of nature, and equipment malfunctions. The title of this week’s column comes from the story about being killed by a falling tree.

Judgment Errors

It’s Not Whiskey ~ William Walker, and Hugh McDonald were on their way up to Walker’s claim in the Bigfork Valley.  They stopped for a rest at a deserted camp.  McDonald took a walk into the woods, and upon returning Walker called out to him that he’d drunk from a bottle he’d found in the abandoned cabin, thinking it was whiskey but knew now that it could not have been.  McDonald pulled the stopper and realized at once it was carbolic acid.  Before he could even think of what to do, Walker said in a whisper, “I’m gone, I’m gone,” sank to the ground and breathed his last breath.

“The coroner was telegraphed for, and the remains taken to Grand Rapids. Deceased was a painter by trade and until a year ago has lived with his brother, Orlando Walker, on the latter’s homestead near Little Bowstring Lake and the past year he has been working here.  He was about forty years of age, a good workman, and aside from his desire for drink was a good citizen.”  [Itasca News 7-30-1904]

Jumps from Train; Stunned and Drowned ~ Itasca News 10-17-1908

“While returning on the train from North Dakota Wednesday morning, Con Kelly was going to leave the train at Ball Club thinking that was Deer River station.  He was stopped by the brakeman who told him the next stop was Deer River.  Two miles farther at the bridge of Ball Club Lake, the train slowed down for the bridge, and here Kelly managed to get the vestibule open and out before he could be caught.

It was about fifteen feet down to the water and Kelly hit his head on the side of the pier and fell onto some longs into the water.  He was picked up late in the day by undertaker Herreid under instructions from County Coroner Russell.  It is supposed the blow on Kelly’s head by falling against the pier stunned him and that when he fell onto the floating logs his head lay in the water and he then drowned.  When picked up his head lay in the water and his body on the logs.

Kelly has worked here the past three years for the Itasca Lumber Company, but the company knows nothing of his former home.  He was a fine built man and about thirty-five years old.  County Coroner Russell took the remains to Grand Rapids Thursday for burial.”

Mother Nature

Treetop ~ Paul Waleske was instantly killed by a flying treetop hitting him while cutting timber for wood last Saturday.  He was working near his home seven miles north of town, and when he did didn’t come in for dinner, his wife went to look for him.  She went to a neighbor, and he accompanied her back through the timber, where they found Paul’s body.

“It appeared from indications that the unfortunate man fell a tree into a smaller half head ash tree, which sprung back, breaking its top part off, this striking Waleske and with such force as to kill him instantly, as the snow about him showed no signs of a struggle and the tree stub lay upon his body in three places.  His axe was gripped tightly in his hand.

Paul lived her about ten years and was an esteemed citizen and kind neighbor.  He was about thirty-four years of age and was married four years ago.  Besides the young wife, he leaves a child three years old, and one of a few months.  The parents reside at Sturgeon Lake, Minn., to which place the remains were taken on Wednesday.” [Itasca News 12-13-1919]

Lightning Kills Lars Hope ~ Itasca News 8-31-1907

“People here were shocked Wednesday to learn through the newspapers of the horrible death meted Lars Hope by lightning near Crookston.  Hope, in the company of another man, was driving on the road each in separate wagons and when in the storm near Dugdale lightning struck Hope’s wagon which was ahead.  The man in the wagon behind was slightly dazed, and after recovering noticed a blaze of fire ahead of his team and going to make investigation found Hope in the wagon stark naked and fire was burning around his head.

His body was not marred, and only his hair was slightly singed.  Fragments of his clothing were found strewn hundreds of feet away; his pocketbook containing $300 was found one hundred and fifty feet from the spot, and his watch was thrown a hundred feet.  He was stone dead when his friend reached him.

Lars Hope was a single man and an old settler of Wirt, forty miles north of here.  He has a good claim at Wirt, upon which he has made final proof.  Crookston authorities have notified relatives of the man in Iowa.”    

Equipment Malfunction

Parachute did not Open ~ According to a telegram delivered last Sunday, George Vanselow, the son of Albert and Anna, was killed in an accident on June 27, 1925.  George was a stunt flyer and was performing when the accident occurred.  He leaped from a plane during a picnic in Kenyon, Minnesota and his parachute failed to open.  He died while being taken to a hospital at Faribault. Albert and Anna had moved to Deer River from Waseca after the marriage of George, and his young bride, Bessie. George is buried in Waseca.

Young Man Killed by Dynamite Blast ~ 5-8-1930 Deer River News

“Howard C. Beckel, 21-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Geo. F. Beckel who lived about 14 miles northwest of Deer River on the old Inger Road, was one of the four men instantly killed shortly after 1 p.m. yesterday, by the premature explosion of a charge of dynamite in the Holman mine near Taconite.

The explosion came without warning as men were loading a drill hole with 12 boxes of dynamite.  The blast was felt for miles.

Beckel was born in Albert Lea, Minn., in 1909.  He came here with his parents about twelve years ago.  In recent years he has been engaged as a truck driver hauling timber.  He was a young man of good habits and industry, and his host of friends are extremely shocked by his untimely death.”

1 Comment

  1. Vickie says:

    Perfect for Halloween. Lots of strange things can happen to people.


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