Goetz Murders

Articles submitted by Vernon Ritter.  

Waterloo Advocate

Waterloo, Monroe County, Ill, Thursday November 15, 1877

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Goetz Murders

Waterloo Advocate

Waterloo, Monroe County, Ill, Thursday November 15, 1877

Volume 19, No. 17


   Coroner Hilton held an inquest on the body of Mrs. Anna Goetz, wife of Henry Goetz, living about four miles southwest of Columbia, on Wednesday afternoon, November 7, 1877.  Mrs. Goetz was about 23 years old; her body was found in what is termed a cellar in some parts of the country; that is to say a hole is dug in the ground from two to four feet deep and logs placed around on top so as to get light sufficient and the whole covered with dirt to keep out the frost; by some boys named Mosbacher who had rented the place to put in a crop for next year.

   Henry Goetz had not been seen for about a week, and on Monday morning, 5th first, a stranger was seen with Goetz's team on the road between Carondelet and St. Louis, in the vicinity of the work house.  There was a trunk and a rifle in the wagon.

   Mrs. Goetz's scull was broken, apparently by a blow with an Axe as an axe was lying on a block near the door with blood and hair on it. The murder was believed to have been committed on Sunday evening as Mrs. Goetz was going to bed, or on Monday morning before she was dressed, as she had no dress on when found.

   The evidence elicited did not fix such suspicion on any known person as to authorize a warrant or their apprehension.

   Some of the neighbors are of opinion that Henry Goetz has been killed too, but no traces of his body have been found.

   It is the opinion of the Coroner that there was at least two persons engaged in the murder, from the position of the body and apparel of Mrs. Goetz when found.

Strahl's Confession

The murder was committed by me on Sunday, November 4, while out hunting with him.  Goetz asked me to go to Philip Stumpf to account for money that I had stolen from him.  I ran off with Goetz rifle through the woods.  He followed me to the creek with his shot gun, when I told him if he did not stand back I would shoot him.  He turned around and I shot him in the head.  After shooting him I pulled him into the woods and tried to conceal the body.  I then went back to my shanty, but did not go in.  I then went back to Goetz's house and told Mrs. Goetz that I had shot her husband.  She ordered me out of the house.  I then took the axe from the wood pile and struck her on the head.  She was standing in the door at the time.  I struck her the second time with the axe on account of her cries.  I then took her by the arm and foot and threw her into the cellar.  She groaned after I struck her the last time.  I killed her because I feared she would tell on me.  I then took Goetz' trunk, rifle, wagon, mules and one heifer.  I then went to Carondelet with the team and sold the heifer to a butcher named Klock for $12.  After that I went to St. Louis and tried to sell the team.  I sold the team and was arrested, but was released on the payment of $2 commission to the sale stable. I then sold the team to Isaac Meier for $50.  I got $25 in money down.  I left that money with a man by the name of Pather. I kept five dollars back out of the twenty-five.  I am 24 years old, and come from Gurian, Canton Argau, Switzerland.  I have been two years in this country.  Mr. Goetz never game me cause to hurt him, and I would not have injured him had he not wanted me to go to Phil. Stumpf.  I killed him at 5 o'clock p.m. on Sunday, and his wife between 6 and 7 o'clock the same evening.

   This was signed in a clear, bold hand, which showed that Strahl was accustomed to use the pen.  In fact, he gave many evidences of a good education.

   Mr. Hilton went on to say that he turned around to get a paper, on which to make out a verdict, when he heard a noise among the crowd at his left, and some said:  "G___d d__n you, don't run over me! Don't push me down!"  Then another voice said, "Well, some one shoved me, and I can't help it."  At this juncture Hilton turned around an saw a noose    DROP OVER STRAHL'S HEAD

   He called out, "Hold on, that won't do, " and tried to catch Strahl, but he was dragged off into the bushes at a very rapid rate.  Hilton drew his revolver, and ran after the crowd, warning them that they would be sorry for that job, but they kept on, and an old man with a club stopped and covered their retreat, saying:  "This is none of your affair; you've held your inquest, now don't try to interfere with us, or you'll get hurt."  This was the last Mr. Hilton saw of Strahl.

   From Dr. Hugh P. Rodenm who assisted the Coroner in taking the testimony, the reporter received a very graphic account of the terrible performance which ended in the hanging.  Dr. Roden had gone out in the morning with the company who took the prisoner to search for the body.  Strahl seemed to fully comprehend that his life was to be taken, but he maintained the STOLIDITY OF A BEAST.

  He led them to the thick wood, clambered over the creek on a narrow log, and walking a few yards pointed coolly to a heap of leaves.  They scraped the leaves away, and there lay Goetz on his face, just as he had been dragged.

  The crowd was perfectly orderly, but savage determination was written on every face.  It soon numbered fully one hundred, some of them armed with shot-guns, and some with revolvers.  Some of them were from Columbia, but most of them from the country.

   The coroner arrived, and Dr. Roden wrote the testimony.  Strahl, in a voice which was perfectly firm, answered every question in pure, clear German.  He looked about him at the silent crowd, and could not but know that they thirsted for his blood, yet he betrayed no fear or emotion of any kind.  He told the story in detail without interruption by any sound.  As he completed it the crowd grew thicker just back of where the coroner and the prisoner stood, and the end of a rope was visible from under a coat for a moment.  The pen was handed to Strahl and without tremor, he signed his name to the sworn confession.  This was all that his executioners had waited for.  He had placed the question of his guilt beyond doubt, the law provided, that such guilt was punishable by death, and they saw no necessity for more formalities.  As  Strahl rose from signing the paper, a noose was deftly thrown over his head by a man behind him, and the knot was drawn close up against his throat.  He threw up his hands in an impatient but not frightened manner, and tried to loosen the noose, but vainly.  At the same instant Constable Wolff grabbed at the noose, crying, "Hold on, boys; none of that!"  But Constable Wolff was tripped up all in a heap in a jiffy, and the doctor himself was fairly run over by the multitude that rushed in to the little area with a yell.  It then became evident that the plan had been nicely laid.  The rope was a long one, and extended along the ground through the grass to a dense CLUMP OF BUSHES, where its end was held by several invisible persons.  The instant the noose closed on the neck these parties behind the bushes started off at a run, dragging Strahl with them.  He clutched the rope in front of his neck with both hands to relieve the strain on his neck, and leaned far back, bracing himself against those who were pulling him into doom.  He might as well have tried to st__ the Mississippi.  Two men caught him behind and pushed, and the crowd in front pulled, and with a yell the sickening procession went crushing through the undergrowth at a tremendous rate of speed.  Some men's courage failed the, and they grew pale and sick, and held back from witnessing the completion of that ghastly work.  The majority, however, were too firm of purpose for this, and they followed through.  Once Strahl tripped and fell in the bushes.  He was dragged along a few feet in that direction by his neck, and it was then his face got cut on the brambles.  Then they got him on his feet again and the rush continued.  He was almost strangled, and evidently very sick, but there was no mercy for him. He knew it, and during that ordeal that would have driven some men crazy never uttered a word or made an appealing gesture.  He showed the same characteristic as the famous Thomasson, the dynamite fiend a power of endurance and stubbornness that rivaled that of the MOST STOLID BEAST.

   Arrived in the little clearing the leaders threw the end of the rope over a limb, caught it on the other side and ran on.  The doomed man ran along till almost under the limb when the noose tightened around his neck, his neck stretched, he lifted on his tiptoes and then left the ground, never more to touch it alive.  He made some desperate struggles to clasp the rope and tree, but his hands were pushed away, and after a few convulsions of the arms and legs, all was over.

   The execution seemed to meet with general commedation in the city and country, and had it not occurred at non, it would have occurred at night.  For the people were determined that since he was guilty of such a terrible crime, it would be shameful to waste money on the form of a trial.


The Goetz Murders

On the 4th of Nov., inst., Karl Strahl shot Henry Goetz in the back of the head and buried him in the woods by throwing a lot of leaves and rubbish over the body.  He then went to the residence of Henry Goetz and told Mrs. Goetz that he had killed her husband, when she ordered him off the premises.  He then went into the yard and picked up an axe and hit Mrs. Goetz on the head breaking her scull, after which he slit her head open and dragged her body to an out cellar and threw it in, throwing a lot of rubbish over it he the hitched up a span of mules on the place belonging to a brother of Henry Goetz, threw what valuables were in the house into the wagon, tied a heifer to the back end of the wagon and started for St. Louis to dispose of the property.  He was found drunk in St. Louis by Peter Reis, who had gone in search of the property, and it was proved that he had sold the heifer and team.  Mr. Reis told the police of St. Louis that Strahl was wanted to answer to a charge of murder in Monroe county, whereupon Strahl was informed that he would not have to go without a requisition from the governor of Illinois, but he waived his rights and accompanied Reis across the river where he was met by constables Conrad Wolff and Peter Krumm who took him to Columbia on Friday night, November 9.

  On Saturday morning Coroner Hilton, accompanied by the prisoner and a crowd of people went to the place the murder was perpetrated, under the guidance of Strahl.  The following is the St. Louis Republican a statement of the LYNCHING.

  Arriving at a point about four and one-half miles from Columbia the reporter saw large number of saddled horses and horses with wagons tied to a fence in a field by the roadside, very suggestive of a country fair, dance and or barnraising.  Three men leaned against the rail fence, whittling and talking quietly.  To the question, "Where is it?" they replied by pointing down west along the fence where a field road ran and telling the inquirer to keep right down that road about a quarter of a mile and in thick brush and timber there, he'd find what he was looking for.  The little claybank felt the whip and mud flow in showers.  The road led right into the wood mentioned, and a crowd of men and half a dozen more wagons suddenly appeared to view.  The reporter jumped to the ground and dashed directly through the high thick woods and headed toward the ground.  He suddenly found, however, that there was a little creek to cross, and a poor way of crossing it.  Several of the men on the other sided indulged in a quiet laugh at his manifestation of haste, and called out, "You're about two minutes too late, young fellow.  He's JUST DONE KICKING."

Making a dash to the other side, regardless of mud, the reporter approached a large man who was arranging some documents in a book on a log.  It proved to be Coroner S. S. Hilton of Monroe County.  In response to an inquiry as to where the prisoner was, Mr. Hilton said that the last he saw of him was as he was being pulled through the brushes yonder, with a rope around his neck.  If the reporter wanted to see the corpse that had been inquested he said, it was right yonder; and he pointed to a ghastly-looking object that could be seen through the brushes a few yards off.  The prisoner however, was the first subject of interest, and the reporter ran in the direction in which Mr. Hilton had pointed, following as well as possible a trail where something seemed to have been recently dragged, thro' the heavy small growth, which prevented one from seeing anything twenty feet away.  About fifty yards further on, he came into a small clearing where were gathered about seventy men, who were looking at, and discussing an object that was suspended from a small, low limb of a hickory tree.  It was ___, then, that it was just A LITTLE TOO LATE.

  Carl Strahl, a man of short, light figure, with a face that was very bad in___ with the light of his crimes upon it, but that would not have been chosen from a multitude as that of a fiend incarnate, was hanging by a half-inch rope, from a limb about two feet above his head, with his feet about a foot from the ground.  A physician had just felt his pulse, and pronounced him dead. His limbs were in repose.  His head was turned over toward the left shoulder, by reason of the rope passing up just back of his right ear.  From a deep scratch near his left temple the blood had flowed quite freely, and the rich red made a strong contrast with the death pallor of the countenance, which increased even while the reporter looked.  The features were not distorted, but the stubby growth of beard and half closed eyes of which the whites were mainly visible, added to the ugly expression which the blood gave it.  The body was still very warm, but there was no heartbeat, and one of the vertebrae just above where the rope cut deeply into the flesh protruded as though dislocated.  The body was, of course, motionless, and its queer position and muddy seedy clothing gave it rather a picturesque appearance.

  It was just noon and the bright sun made its way into the clearing through myriad openings in the trees, lighting up the faces of the executioners, playing in patches on the pendant corpse, and even reaching into the hole which two men were ___ DIGGING a few feet away.  There were no masks there. Every man looked his neighbor in the eye, and discussed the deed just done, as though a human life had not gone out within the hour.  Some of them were fierce and full of grim humor.  "How did he die?" asked the reporter of one of these, "Oh, the D_m fool gave in his testimony over yonder, and then he got an idea that if he was taken to Waterloo them fellows down there would kill him.  So he just got disgusted, walked over yonder and hung himself.  We tried to persuade him not to, but he insisted on doing it.  D_m shabby trick he played on us, wasn't it?"

   This was the generally adopted form of statement, all hands insisting in a half serious manner that Strahl killed himself.

   There seemed no disposition to mutilate or heap indignition upon the corpse, and, excepting the statement above given, the speech and conduct of the executioners lent a sort of dignity to the scene, nobody seeming to consider it an occasion for either rejoicing or regret.

   The two men with the spades, in the course of ten minutes, had bellowed out an irregular, shallow grave.  Half a dozen strong hands seized the corpse, the "long end" of the rope was unwrapped from the tree trunk, and the burden was dropped into the hole, with the rope still tight on the throat.  The hole was a trifle too short, but the head was doubled up on the chest, and the job was declared good enough.  The spades were swiftly plied, and in another moment a little mound had grown where the hollow had been.  Then one man got two straight pieces of dry wood one long and one short/  The long one he stuck upright into the soft earth at the head of the grave, and then taking an old, tattered red silk handkerchief from his pocket, he tied the short one crosswise of the upright, near the top, making a rude, PICTURESQUE CROSS.

  Most of those present were Catholics, and the act was declared good.  Then an intelligent looking man who had plied the spade, leaned on that implement, and delivered a very earnest address in German, in a loud, full voice, and the crowd listened and commended his remarks.  The purport of them was, that the event which had brought them together pointed a moral.  If farmers instead of hiring loafers and tramps to do their work, simply because a few dollars could be saved thereby, would hire a fair salary only honest men of the neighborhood who had proved their merit by their manner of life such men as were not gathered around him there would be no occasion for the performance of such unpleasant duties as that just completed.  A little, white headed old man, whos indignation had all along been very loud, interrupted this speech at intervals with some violent remarks, which were evidently abusive of the dead.  He was promptly checked by a "hah-h-h," on all sides, but at the conclusion of the speech he broke out once more in his declarations, and furiously prodded the new grave with his cane.  Then there were three sousing cheers, several shoot-guns were fired off, and the crowd moved slowly away leaving the strange grave, so strangely made, to suffer the ravages of the swine, or perhaps at some distant time, when the rude cross shall have fallen to pieces and rotted away, and when the rains of years shall have beaten the soft swampy earth back to its level, to horrify some cultivator of the land as he plows up the bones and fragments of rope.

   The reporter went with the crowd and found Coroner Hilton still busy where he had left him among the bush as near the creek.


Our county has again been the scene of brutal mob lawlessness.  Last Saturday morning a number of citizens of Columbia, town and prcinct, went to the scene of the murder of Anna and Henry Goetz, and, after Karl Strahl had signed a confession of having killed the two Goetzs they threw a rope over his head and dragged him some distance to a tree and hanged him. 

   There is no doubt that Strahl deserved hanging, and that he would have been legally hanged in the course of time; but that was no excuse for the mob.  Every man in that mob is guilty of murder, as mercenaries, before after the fact, unless he used all his powers to prevent the murder being consummated, which, we are glad to know Coroner Hilton did do.  As to whether any of the others did so we have no account except as to Constable Wolf he tried to stop the murder but was silenced.

   The only excuse the mob have for their conduct is the past immunity of murderers from punishment as in the Merryman case, the McAskin case.  A few years in the penitentiary is no just punishment for the crime of murder no bar to others contemplating murder.  When a man is found guilty of murder, by confession or otherwise, he should either be hanged or imprisoned for life, with the pardoning power suspended.

  It is possible that the fate of Strahl may be a warning to others and human life be more safe in the future, but even that is no excuse for the mob law.


   Last Saturday morning Coroner Hilton held an inquest on the body of Henry Goetz which resulted in finding that he was shot by Karl Strahl on the night of November 4, 1877.

   No inquest has been held on the body of Karl Strahl who was hung by a mob last Saturday in the American Bottom, because no official information of his death has reached the Coroner.


NOTE: The following info was sent by Robert Buecher:
I found the following information about the two victims in the burial records of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Columbia.  The couple also lost a child in May 1877.  Thought you might be able to use the information somehow.
year 1877 # 20
Anna Goetz, nee Schaffer, age 21 years, wife of Henrici [Henry] Goetz, buried 8 Nov. 1877 by Jul. Maurer, priest.
year 1877 # 23
Henricus [Henry] Goetz, born 19 March 1847,  buried 11 Nov. 1877 by Jul. Maurer, priest.
year 1877 # 14
On 22 May 1877, I buried Joannes Josephus [John Joseph], son of Henrici [Henry] Goetz & his wife, Annae, nee Schaffer, born 11 January 1877, died 21 May 1877.  signed by Jul. Maurer, priest.