Saturday, May 13, 2017

On This Date in Minnesota History: May 13

May 13, 1909 – Louis Arbogast, a wealthy butcher who operated a large and successful meat market at Seven Corners in St. Paul, Minn., was murdered this morning while sleeping in his bed at his home on West 7th Street.

Arbogast Home1

His head was crushed, and the police reported that his bed was saturated with gasoline and set on fire. Following blood drops on the floor, authorities discovered an axe covered with blood and wrapped in some old clothing in the cellar.

This photo of the interior of the room at the Arbogast home indicates the terrible fury and desperation of purpose of the person or persons who killed Arbogast by cutting his head open with repeated blows of a heavy ax. Arbogast was lying on the left side of the bed, Mrs. Arbogast on the right side. It will be noticed that both pillows are covered with blood and that the keen ax blade had so cut into the pillows and customary German feather bed covering as to allow most of the feathers to billow out of the mattress and the pillow on which Arbogast slept. Blood is spattered on the walls, both at the head and the side of the bed. The police maintain that the fact that blood is on Mrs. Arbogast’s pillow, as well as on her husband’s, indicates that she was not in the bed when Arbogast was killed.2

Stories told by the widow, Minna Arbogast and her daughters Ida and Louise did not agree, and seemed to change with each telling. In one story, Ida told police that she smelled smoke, went to her parents’ bedroom, and found their bed burning with her parents in it.

“I dragged my mother out,” she said. “Neighbors put out the fire. My father, partly burned, was unconscious, and died on the way to the hospital.”

Minna told police that she was in the bathroom when she heard her daughter scream. Upon running into the bedroom, she saw her husband in the blazing bed. In one story, she fainted and fell against the bed, whereby she received some burns. In another version, she received her burns from trying to pull her husband out of the bed.

All of the windows and door locks in the house were found intact, and police began to believe the murder was committed by someone in the household.

Window of bedroom where Arbogast was killed1

At first, police believed Minna committed the murder in a state of rage after rumors claimed she had discovered that Louise and her husband not only worked together at the meat market, but were also comrades “in the most intimate sense.”

Then, authorities began to look at the oldest daughter, Louise, who, it was said, had not been mentally right for several years. When quite young, she began to visit fortune tellers and kept it up until it amounted to a passion with her. As a result of what the fortune tellers told her, Louise had developed a firm hallucination that she and her sister were being pursued by a mysterious man. Her condition became such that last winter she was sent to St. Luke’s Hospital, but her father had pressed for early release, despite warnings from the doctors that she may become violent. She had only recently returned home, apparently cured of her hallucinations, but at intervals her mind returned to fortune telling and such arts, until again she became thoroughly obsessed.

A few days after his death, Louise was arrested for the murder of her father. On June 7, Minna and Louise were indicted by a grand jury. Both women plead not guilty to the murder. Because of Louise’s past problems, she underwent a sanity hearing and was found to be sane. She was released on bail on July 14. Minna’s trial began in Oct., and she was acquitted and released on Nov. 4, 1909. The indictment against Louise was quashed on Dec. 3, 1909. No new evidence was found against Louise and it appeared the chances of her conviction, based on Minna’s acquittal, were very unlikely.

The murder was never solved.

Mr. and Mrs. Arbogast3  

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune
; “Murder of Butcher Solved by Police? St. Paul Officers Said to Know Who Killed Arbogast. Victim Found on Flaming Bed With His Head Crushed.”; May 14, 1909; p. 8.

Duluth Evening Herald; “Mystery; No Confession. All the Evidence at Hand Is only Circumstantial. Mrs. Arbogast, the Widow, Remains in the Hospital. Brewer Schwan of Eau Claire Takes Charge of Family.”; May 15, 1909; pp. 1 & 6.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “ Louise Arbogast Brained Father, Mother Asserts. Mrs. Arbogast Breaks Down and Charges Daughter With Murder. Struck Her Mother With a Hammer Night Before the Tragedy.”; May 18, 1909; p. 6.

1St. Paul Dispatch; May 13, 1909; p. 13.

2St. Paul Dispatch; May 15, 1909; p. 3.

3Duluth Evening Herald, May 15, 1909; p. 1.


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