Archive for July 12th, 2010

Divine Command Leads to Death Before Vengeance

July 12, 2010

Lutheran Church (Image from


Minnesota Farmer Says He Received a Divine Command.

FERGUS FALLS, Minn., Feb. 4. — William Ruckheim, a farmer, aged thirty-five years, murdered his wife and four children and shot himself last night at Parkers prairie. He was found dying when his son went to the farm today. Ruckheim is believed to have been temporarily insane.

Saying that he had received a divine command to proceed to a certain graveyard, where he and his family were to exhume several bodies, using only their bare hands, partly explains the tragedy. Unless this command were carried out before Easter, Ruckheim said, he and his family would be dragged to death.

After examining the graveyard and finding that it would be impossible to perform the task on account of frozen ground Ruckheim said he killed his family to escape divine vengeance.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Feb 5, 1910

1905 Effington, Otter Tail Co., MN - State Census

William Ruckheim, who was from Germany, wife Bertha, daughters Martha and Elza, and son, Albert. All are listed in the Minnesota death records index as dying on Feb. 4, 1910.

Mrs. Holton Meets an Awful Fate

July 12, 2010

Main St. and Courthouse - Springview, Keyapaha Co., Nebraska

Image from Bad Men and Bad Towns – By Wayne C. Lee


Mrs. Holton Meets an Awful Fate In Keya Paha County.


Her Body Discovered in Her Cabin With a Rope Tied About the Neck — Evidences of a Terrible Struggle — She Was Suspected of Giving Up Secrets of Thieves to the Authorities.

BUTTE, Neb., March 19. — Mrs. W.E. Holton of Keya Paha county was found dead in her home last night by neighbors. She had been lynched. Her body was lying on the floor with a piece of rope, about 10 feet long, and a hatchet and a hammer beside her. The coroner was summoned and an autopsy showed that she had died of strangulation, and had also been assaulted. The woman was living alone, as her husband had been sent to an insane asylum. It is supposed the motive of the lynching was to prevent the woman from giving testimony against the rustlers, as she had been summoned as a witness against a gang of thieves in the county. She had borne a good reputation. It was evident that she had fought a hard fight for her life and her honor, as the bedding and clothing were torn and scattered around the room.

No warrants have yet been made, but a meeting of the best citizens of the neighborhood was held yesterday, and it was decided prompt measures should be taken, and it is expected that another and possibly several hangings will take place before long.

Several Under Suspicion.

Several persons are under suspicion, and these parties will be taken and compelled to confess.

The body of Mrs. Holton was interred at Oakdale cemetery at Doty, this county, yesterday.

The latest report comes that a man named Hunt is implicated in some way with the lynchers, and it is thought he can be forced to a confession. A number of the alleged rustlers were recently arrested and taken to Springview, where they broke jail and escaped to the reservation, where they were afterward recaptured and convicted.

The country where the lynching occurred is in the heart of the cattle rustling district.

Money Found on the Body.

The coroner’s jury after viewing the body delivered a verdict in accordance with the circumstances, that the deceased came to her death by hanging, and that the deed was committed by a person or persons unknown to the jury. A large sum of money was found on the body which had escaped the observation of the lynching party. The house was thoroughly ransacked and several articles of value, including a new Colt’s revolver, were missing.

The Evening News (Lincoln, Nebraska) Mar 19, 1895


Wreaked Upon a Woman Who Knew Too Much


Taken from Her Bed, Cruelly Outraged and Lynched by Cattle Thieves who Feared Her Testimony Before the Vigilants.

BUTTE, Neb., March 19 — News of a terrible tragedy has just reached this place. It occurred last Thursday in Keya Paha county, near Rocksburg. Mrs. W.H. Holton, who was living alone on her farm, was taken from her bed, cruelly outraged and then lynched. A neighbor discovered the deed the next morning when he passed by the home. The woman was found lying on the floor of her dwelling, surrounded by her scattered and torn clothing and the clothing of her bed. Tracks of many men’s feet were found in the yard and in the house.

No warrants have yet been issued, but a meeting of the citizens of the neighborhood was held Sunday, and it was decided that prompt measures should be taken.

The body of Mrs. Holton was interred at Oakdale cemetery at Doty Sunday.

Keya Paha county is noted for its lynchings by vigilants. There is no doubt but that the crime was committed by rustlers, who have been running off horses and cattle from the neighborhood, and who have reason to fear the vigilant committee.

The latest report says that a man named Hunt is implicated in some way with the lynchers, and it is thought he can be forced to confess.

A number of alleged rustlers were recently arrested and taken to Springview, where they broke jail and escaped to the reservation, where they were afterward recaptured and convicted. The proximity of the Indian reservation to the scene of the depredation makes it possible that United States deputy marshals may have to make arrests if warrants are sworn out.

Mrs. Holton is said to have assisted in securing the conviction of the cattle thieves, and this is their revenge.

Daily Republican (Decatur, Illinois) Mar 19, 1895


Possible Clue Being Followed by the Sheriff.

BUTTE, Neb., March 19. — The authorities think they have struck a clue that may lead to the apprehension of the lynchers of Mrs. Holton. Mrs. Holton was a German woman about 50 years old and fairly well to do. Her husband, Theodore Holton, was sent to the hospital for the insane at Norfolk about eighteen months ago. Since that time the wife had lived alone on the ranch, the couple having no children. She looked after the bunch of cattle they owned and managed to prosper much as when her husband lived with her. They had been in this section of the country a number of years and well-known to the cattle men of all descriptions. It is just this acquaintance that undoubtedly brought about the crime. She was the principal witness against a young fellow named Davis, charged with stealing horses. It is believed that he knows of the crime. His whereabouts are now unknown. This led the sheriff in following and he expects results in the near future.

The county in which this crime was committed is far removed from the railroad and telegraph, and there are no towns near from which information could be readily secured. It is thinly settled and of such a character that it is not improbable that this will be only one more added to the list of violent deaths that have occurred in that portion of the state which will never be explained or brought home to any one, though the authorities believe they can locate the criminals.

The Fort Wayne Gazette (Fort Wayne, Indiana) Mar 20, 1895