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Murder in Wisconsin:online stories short story

Updated on February 4, 2015
Log cabin ready for winter
Log cabin ready for winter | Source

I hadn’t seen Dave Duncan for several weeks and I went out to see him because I had a work project that I wanted to discuss with him and his partner Bill Walters. I could use the help of their ox teams. Although I edit the local paper I also have some land I’m trying to clear for farming. Walters was there and told me Duncan was away on personal business and then told me Duncan said I wasn’t honest and didn’t want to deal with me.

Being a bit suspicious of Walters I went into town and talked to the folks in town. I had known Duncan from the time he came to LaCrosse in 1841.He’d come from Galena, Illinois and built a log cabin in an area known as Mormon Coulee and began farming with a yoke of oxen. Bill Walters who he had known from somewhere came and stayed with him. This was somewhat contradicted by the sheriff’s testimony in court. According to the sheriff they had come here together. I checked back issues of the paper but we had not written anything about them at that time.

. I didn’t know much about him but he didn’t seem trustworthy. Watts never struck me as a reliable type and it didn’t seem like Duncan would have wanted him as a partner. It seemed more like an old acquaintance who was imposing on a friendship. Probably wouldn’t make much difference in the final judgment. Anyhow..

There was always an impressive view of the river from the bluff above their cabin. Qne I often go up there to get a fresh perspective on things. A couple of days later I was out riding in the area above the cabin   with my dog trotting along beside my horse. The dog got agitated and ran into the woods leading me to where a body was partially covered by dead branches and leaves. Duncan’s head had been crushed and his throat slit as well. Most of his clothes were gone. I found later another difference in evidence as the sheriffs testimony did not mention the knife wound.

I went to the sheriff’s office when I got to town and found Walters was already under suspicion

 The town was in an uproar and demanding action. Walters had come into town and headed for the saloon. He drank all afternoon. He was loud and beligerant bragging about how he had killed his partner in a fight. According to him Duncan had struck him first and he hit him with an axe handle in self-defense.

   According to the information the sheriff got from Walters both he and Duncan owned the cabin and they had built it together. They had gotten into an argument over money. Walters asked Duncan for some money. Duncan said he already owed him eighty dollars. They had a fight and Duncan laid the first blow. Then Walters picked up an axe handle and hit Duncan over the head killing him instantly. He then took his clothes and money and what other belonging there were and he then dragged the body up the bluff near a stone quarry and covered it with brush.

River bluff
River bluff | Source


Well, he was arrested.  The sheriff had Walters view the body and stand next to the casket at the funeral. He showed no emotion or regret. I noted that some men had ropes hidden on their persons and I heard rumors of a lynching.. Fortunately one of the local ministers heard of the plans and convinced them to let the law take care of the situation. Mob violence would be a disgrace to the town.

I put the ministers plea in e paper along with an editorial of my own. I said that the rule of law in important in this country and that if we resort to vigilante justice we are not better than the criminal they want to hang. Somehow the situation blew over.

Incarceration was a problem. We were a fairly new community with a population of about 750 people. We had no jail. They put him in chains and locked him in the basement of a building on Pearle Street. The ceiling above was filled with a layer of broken rocks, so trying to go through the ceiling would result in have stones falling on you.

Somehow Walters dug through the foundation walls and escaped., A couple of days later some boys found him hiding behind a store. He was captured again, chained, locked up and escaped again.

A few days later a stagecoach driver spotted him working as a hostler at a stage stop. He was taken into custody and sent to Bad Ax County where he was tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the deliberate murder of Duncan.

Justice never was served in this murder though. When the Civil War started Walters was given the chance for a pardon if he joined the Union Army..He did enlist as a private in December 1861. Then he deserted and was never found.


This story is a fictionalized version of a murder that occurred in LaCrosse, Wisconsin in 1852.

lacrosse, wi:
LaCrosse, WA 99143, USA

get directions

© 2011 Don A. Hoglund


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    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      LadyFiddler! I ran across this incident while researching something else. At that time the mid-west was still the frontier, I think. Thandks for commenting.

    • LadyFiddler profile image

      Joanna Chandler 

      3 years ago from On Planet Earth

      WAW very interesting reminds me of a western movie. Good Job Mr. Hoglund :)

      I hope you're having a wonderful day by God's help

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I am glad you enjoyed my story.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids, I appreciate the comment.The incident causght my attention when I was researching the area.

    • profile image 

      6 years ago

      They should have hung him and recalled the sheriff - good adaptation of the story


    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for commenting. I rather enjoy finding little odd things in the past and figuring out what to do with them.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      I thoroughly enjoyed this one and have to award that up up and away.

      here's to so many more to share on here.

      Take care and enjoy your day.


    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      It is pretty much factual. The fiction is more on the point-of-view aas there seems to be some disagreement in the accunt about some of the facts.Thanks for the compliment and the comment.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Interesting story based somewhat on fact from what I am reading here. You do this well. Voted up!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Maybe it was the chaos of the frontier and war. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Not many criminals get that many breaks and still get away. I guess that old boy was just bad to the core. Thanks for sharing an interesting story. WB

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      A lot of odd things happen in wars. Glad you liked it.Thanks for the comment.

    • attemptedhumour profile image


      7 years ago from Australia

      Are you sure he wasn't a cat with all those lives. Maybe justice caught up with him during the war. It was an interesting, well written tale, of the wild west. That forgotten genre.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thank you for the comment.I'm glad you liked it.

    • Dusty Snoke profile image

      Dusty Snoke 

      8 years ago from Chattanooga, TN

      great story as always. I am a true fan of the westerns true or not.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids


      Yes, he did. Thanks for reading it and commenting.


      Thanks for the information on "creative non-fiction" I have always, since college had some interest in the idea of using fiction techniques for non-fiction and using non-fiction techniques in fiction. However, I have lost track of the literary opinions on it.

      I hope to tell a good story and glad you enjoyed it.

    • randslam profile image

      Rand Zacharias 

      8 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia

      This genre is called "Creative Non-Fiction," however, there are different realms in the genre.

      A true story written creatively, or a true story told with completely fictionalized dialogue, description, etc., or as our writer mentions, "based on a true story."

      It is a genre which is seeing growth as often "truth is stranger than fiction."

      At any rate, what a great tale to tell, dahoglund. Enjoyed the story of frontier justice. Of course, in our day and age many murderers get away with their crimes--lots of crime--with little justice.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 

      8 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you dahoglund, a very interesting story, I think he lucked out. Thank you for sharing. Godspeed. creativeone59

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids


      Thanks for reading and commenting. I have a couple of other stories that could be further developed. However, I already have some unfinished books so I don't know if I want to do one.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Koffeklatch Gals

      It is one of the ironies of the amnesty programs. This is the third story I wrote on the basis of Confederates being granted pardons. The first about Galvanized Yankees the had to serve on the frontier. They had some desertions but others served with honor.The second was about confederates being granted parole just to get them out of the fighting and they discovered gold in Montana.In this one no good seems to come of it.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      8 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Beginnings of a book?

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      dahoglund, he did seem to get away with murder. It makes me wonder if he got paid back in the end in the war. You know that old saying, "What goes around comes around."

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I guess every writer makes judgment calls as to how to treat a subject.I ran across this incident when I was researching a hub about the LaCrosse area.I could have included it in that hub but felt the hub would get too long. However, it is common to fictionalize true stories, "based on a true story" is a pretty common phrase for movies.Truman Capote was hailed as having invented a new art form when he fictionalized a murder in his book "In Cold Blood" although I don't think the idea was that new.

      My previous hub about the Northfield bank robbery was also based on a true incident.

      It comes down to the fact that a writer gets a story idea and by whatever process decides what would be the best way to develop it. Sometimes it works out, sometimes not.

    • profile image

      Sophia Angelique 

      8 years ago

      @daho. I'm curious about something. Why have you fictionalized a true story. I think true stories are so much more interesting if they're about this sort of thing.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for being the first to comment. I'm glad you enjoyed it. They sure couldn't hold him.

    • Robwrite profile image


      8 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Now that is one lucky murderer. I enjoyed the story.



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