Property: Krueger, Ludwig & Caroline's home
Contact: Janet
Email: stan@wiclarkcountyhistory.org

Surnames: DELL HANSEN KRUEGER O'NEILL SCHMEDEMAN SCHROEDER VATER WHITE KRUEGER CASE WAR HYSTERIA 50 YEARS AGO BROUGHT TRAGEDY TO WITHEE

----Source: Marshfield News Herald Wednesday Mar. 20, 1968

Withee--Krueger, Ludwig and Caroline's home

 Home of Ludwig & Caroline Krueger On the East side of Hwy. 73, about a mile south of Withee in Clark Co., WI In 1968, this home was owned by Vern Hansen, Clark Co., Register of Deeds WITHEE --It will be 50 years ago this coming Sept. 14 since a draft evasion incident in this Northern Clark County community erupted into a violent gunfight and death. At the time of World War I, less than two months before the armistice, Mrs. Caroline Krueger, a widow, lived on a farm a short distance south of here with her sons, Frank, Leslie, Louis and Ennis. Ludwig Krueger, the husband and father, had died in 1905. The Kruegers professed to be conscientious objectors to war. Two Krueger brothers, Leslie and Louis, registered for the draft but did not report for military service. Later, when age limits were changed, Frank, the eldest, and Ennis, the youngest, were required to register but did not do so. They probably never would have been called into service.

* * * * * Federal warrants were issued for Frank and Ennis, charging them with failure to register. When two federal marshals tried to serve the warrants, the two brothers were working in a cornfield. Shots were exchanged but there is a conflict in the testimony as to who fired first. The Krueger brothers ran from the field and took cover in their barn while the marshals returned to Withee and Owen for reinforcements. The Krueger case has been researched by Vern Hansen, incumbent register of deeds for Clark County, who three years ago bought the Krueger home. Hansen says, "the Krueger family was unfairly treated. They were conscientious objectors to war, but were patriotic and flew the American Flag from the front porch of their home every day and it was still flying when a marshal's posse, complemented by home guards from Neillsville, stormed the residence the night of Sept. 14, 1918." Hansen's story continues: "Many sightseers and other interested persons gathered at what they considered safe distance from the Krueger home to watch the proceedings. All deputized men in the posse were armed with plenty of ammunition, and with 30-30 caliber rifles and U. S. Army 30-40 Krags.

* * * * * "Rifle shots were exchanged and Harry Jensen, Withee depot agent, a member of the posse, was hit by a bullet. (Later reports said he bled to death.) It seems quite logical that he died as there were many witnesses to his being shot. Bleeding profusely he was hurried to Owen. "In the meantime, Frank Krueger, standing on a stairway landing in the home, had a leg shattered by a bullet. Worried about her son's life, Mrs. Krueger tied a white wash cloth to a stick and came out of the house. She walked to the nearby Vater home and told officers that Frank was bleeding to death. "Carl Vater Sr., drove his team and buggy to the Krueger home, and brought Frank to the Vater home, where he was placed under arrest. The Vaters then took him to Owen, where he received first aid treatment. "Two other men injured in the fireing, Emil Schroeder and Frank White (who now goes by the name of Hazen Dell) were wounded and rushed to a hospital (at Chippewa Falls).

* * * * * "The guards, marshals and posse rushed to the Krueger home, hoping to locate Louis, Leslie and Ennis, but no one was in the house. The following morning it was decided the sons might be in the barn." Hazen Dell, said to be the only man living who was wounded in the battle, told Hansen the barn was intentionally set afire, and some wondered if one or two of the Krueger boys perished in the blaze. Contemporary newspaper reports said the barn blaze had been started "accidentally." The Department of Justice issued posters for Louis and Leslie as deserter and "possible murderers." Louis is reported to have fled to South Dakota prior to Sept. 14, 1918. Leslie reportedly fled from home to Minnesota the night of the siege and was arrested later in that state. There is an element of doubt as to what happened to Ennis. Several weeks after the siege at the Krueger home a boy of the general appearance of Ennis was shot to death by a marshal in a deserted barn in Roosevelt township in Taylor County. Authorities said it was Ennis. Members of the Krueger family, except Louis, whose whereabouts then were unknown, were under arrest, Paul H. Raihle, Chippewa Falls attorney who years later represented Frank and Leslie Krueger in pardon proceedings, has left a record saying that "none of the Kruegers were allowed to view the body claimed to be the remains of Ennis. The body was buried in the Krueger cemetery plot near Withee after a private funeral." "After her release from trial," Raihle says, "Mrs. Krueger promptly had the body exhumed. The body was well preserved. Mrs. Krueger stoutly maintained until her death that it was not the body of Ennis, her youngest son."

Mrs. Krueger, Frank and Leslie were charged with first degree murder for the death of Harry Jensen, the Withee depot agent. Despite a plea for a change of venue the trial was held before Judge James O'Neill in circuit court at Neillsville. Mrs. Krueger was acquitted. Frank and Leslie were found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to life imprisonment at Waupun. Thirteen years later they were pardoned by Gov. Albert Schmedeman. Checking records, Hansen says, "I have never been able to find a Harry Jensen death certificate registered in Clark County or Madison. Does it not seem strange that a court would convict two men with life sentences for a death when a death certificate was not provided "I have tried to find the place where Jensen was buried," Hansen said. "I had been told he was buried in Riverside cemetery (at Withee) but have been unable to find a grave or record of his burial there. "Some said his body was taken to his former home in southern Wisconsin, but a check of that area has turned up no record of his burial or a grave marker. I just wonder where this man was buried. It would leave some people to wonder, 50 years later, if he really died from his wounds. Mrs. Jensen left Cark County in 1919, never to return.

* * * * * Several years after the war, when hysteria had subsided, Louis returned to live with his mother and was never prosecuted. Frank and Leslie, after their pardon, also returned home. Mrs. Krueger died in 1941 Frank died in 1958 Leslie died in 1961, and Louis, last member of the family, died in 1963. All of them are buried in Riverview cemetery west of Withee. The shooting and trial aroused great interest and mixed opinions. The attempts to gain pardons for the two brothers sentenced to prison kept the issue before the public. Many thought arrests had been badly bungled and a competent officer could have served the warrants without trouble. Many felt the Kruegers had been goaded into shooting in what they believed to be self-defense. Others believed the trial had been fair and the sentence just.

 

 


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