Tuesday, August 9, 2016

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 9

August 9, 1913 – Once again John Jeremy of Stillwater, known throughout the Northwest as “Fisherman John,” was called on to try to locate the body of a man believed to have been drowned. Today, “Fisherman John” and his son dragged a portion of Lake Calhoun where it is believed that John Almgren had lost his life last Wednesday. The two did not give up the search until far into the night, when it was too dark to make further search.

Park police have vainly been dragging the lake daily since Almgren’s overturned rowboat and his hat were found.

“Fisherman John” recovered the body the following day almost in the middle of the lake, opposite the Thirty-fourth Street dock. It was about 253 feet from where the overturned boat and a hat with the initials “J. A.” were found.

“Fisherman John” had gained a reputation because of his unusual ability to recover bodies of drowned persons. He began his career recovering the corpses of lumbermen from the St. Croix River and area lakes.*

His success rate was phenomenal, according to Washington County Historical Society Executive Director Brent Peterson, noting the reported 104 bodies Jeremy recovered.*

Fisherman John1 

Jeremy was very secretive about how he did his work, which was usually done at night so no one could see him in action; however, theories abound. “Some suggested that Jeremy had trained muskrats. Others said he used black magic. Yet another theory supposed that he used a ‘body compass,’” Peterson said, which was a loaf of bread injected with mercury.

“’Peterson surmised that Jeremy was simply a ‘river rat’ with a keen sense of water movement and underground springs. The fisherman may have used grappling hooks to recover the bodies, Peterson said.*

The Minneapolis Sunday Tribune; “’Fisherman John’ Employed. Stillwater Man Dragging Lake for Body of John Almgren.”; Aug. 10, 1913; p. 2.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “’Fisherman John’ Succeeds. Stillwater Man Finds Almgren’s Body in Lake Calhoun After Others Fail.”; Aug. 11, 1913; p. 1.


1The St. Charles Herald.; Hahnville, La.; Nov. 16, 1918; p. 6.

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