Scott County, Iowa has a rich and venerable history. It is where the Blackhawk Treaty was signed. It’s where the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River was built. But Scott County has a dark and history as well.
Travel down Utica Ridge Road, where young Grace Reed paid the ultimate price for spurning the affections of a local farmer. Enter the bedroom of Margaretha Nehlsen, who poisoned her children with chocolate candies. Hear the tale of Harry Hamilton, a former policeman turned career criminal who played a key part in the most notorious bank robbery in Scott County history . . .
Learn about these stories and more as Murder & Mayhem in Scott County, Iowa explores the darker side of this midwestern County and its shocking, unlawful history.
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A MATCH MADE IN HELL
It was spring in Pleasant Valley, Iowa. Spring is always a special time of year. Asleep after a long winter slumber, the various flora and fauna were starting to turn green again with new life. Flowers began to bloom again in a vivid array of colors, splashing blues, whites, purples, oranges and reds across a rich backdrop of greens and browns. Farmers were busy in their fields, plowing through the rich black soil in order to make way for the annual planting.
The township of Pleasant Valley had been following this same pattern since the first settlers had come there in 1833. Drawn by the natural beauty of the area, these early pioneers had not only begun to transform the grassy fields there into successful farms but also began to build some of the rudimentary hallmarks of industry. A sawmill was constructed in order to process some of the abundant timber into useable lumber for building. Valley City was founded, and with its birth, some more of the basic benefits of civilization, such as mail service, came into being for the rural residents of the township.
It was into this rural farming community that a man named Reinhart Hose settled.
Born in 1839 in Hessen, Germany, Reinhart immigrated to the United States in the late 1860s, eventually coming to Iowa. He bought a farm, married and settled into the life of a farmer. Eventually, Reinhart and his wife, Elise, had a daughter, whom they named Mary.
Mary was raised in the farming community of Pleasant Valley Township, where she was relatively well known and, more importantly, very well liked. Reinhart could not have been prouder of her. As his only child, he and Elise lavished all of their love and affection on her.
In about 1889, Reinhart took a trip to Washington, D.C., to visit a friend named Schultz. Schultz was working as a clerk in the Treasury Department there. The two men had attended school together in Germany before immigrating to the United States. They were anxious to see each other again and catch up on the events that had transpired in their lives since they had last seen each other.
Schultz and his wife were gracious hosts and treated Reinhart extremely well. During the many conversations that they had during his visit, many subjects were probably discussed. They probably talked about where they had settled and built their lives and about their families. Reinhart talked about Mary, his pride and joy, and got to meet Schultz's own family.
Schultz had a son named Henry, with whom Reinhart became very friendly. Reinhart really liked the young man, who worked as a plumber in the area. He told Henry about Mary and talked about how much she would have liked to come with him. Mary was in her late teens around this time, and like many parents meeting others whom they consider to be solid dating material for their children, Reinhart began to pave the way for young Henry to begin writing to Mary.
Reinhart returned home a short while later, telling Elise and Mary all about his old friend in Washington, D.C., and his family. And, of course, he made sure to tell Mary about that wonderful Schultz boy. Soon, Henry and Mary began sending letters back and forth.
But while Reinhart was probably hoping for love to bloom between the two young people, Mary had other plans. She had just finished school and was hoping to further her studies at college. She had found a suitable women's school in Chicago and wanted to attend. Mary told her parents about the idea, and they agreed to pay for her continuing education. While it more than likely made them sad to see her go, she was their beloved only daughter, and they would do anything for her.
Mary was accepted to the school, and Reinhart and Elise saw her off. For the next few years, Mary dedicated herself to her studies. Through that time, she and Henry Schultz maintained a friendly correspondence.
Eventually, Mary graduated and returned home to Pleasant Valley, Iowa. She had always been considered attractive and popular, and the locals there whom she had grown up around were excited to see her. They welcomed her home with open arms, and Mary happily greeted them in return. One of those who was present to welcome her back from Chicago was none other than Henry Schultz.
He had come from Washington, D.C., to finally meet her face to face. One thing led to another, and Henry proposed marriage to Mary. She accepted, much to the excitement of her parents. But no matter how much she may have tried, Mary always came off as being no more than lukewarm to the thought of marrying Henry. Perhaps she saw how happy the idea made her father, or maybe she had decided that it was time for her to get married and have children, and Henry just seemed like a viable choice.
Henry did have his good qualities. He had a solid, professional job as a plumber. He was a dedicated churchgoer, and he did not drink alcohol. Mary may not have ever seen him face to face before that time, but they had been talking through mail correspondence for a few years now. Besides that, her father and his father were good friends, and her dad was very impressed with the young plumber. So why not marry him?
And so it came to be that during the fine spring season, as flowers bloomed and long grass waved lazily in broad green fields, twenty-year-old Mary Hose waited to marry Henry Schultz. Perhaps, as she walked down the aisle toward her awaiting groom, those lukewarm feelings that she had about the marriage began to ease somewhat. In the excitement of the day, maybe her anxieties simply melted away and she was able to imagine a new life with Henry. She should have trusted her instincts.
After they were married, Mary had hoped to settle back into life in Pleasant Valley. After so many wonderful childhood memories there, it must have seemed natural to Mary to want to go home again. But her new husband had other ideas. He wanted to return to Washington, D.C., and his plumbing business there. Mary relented, and the two made plans to settle in the nation's capital.
Before they left, Reinhart gave his daughter $500, telling her that it was a wedding present. Kissing his beloved daughter goodbye, he shook his new son-in-law's hand, wished him luck and sent the brand-new couple on their way back east.
Soon after their arrival in Washington, the first cracks began to form in the marriage. During his visit to Iowa, Henry must have been on his absolute best behavior and had tried to make a wonderful impression on Mary and her family. During conversations with them, Henry told them that he was a regular churchgoer. He understood the standard German drinking customs, but he stated that he did not drink. Mary quickly discovered that he had lied. Henry drank heavily, anything from beer to hard liquor. The $500 wedding present quickly dwindled away.
Mary, as she had done since attending college in Chicago, wrote frequently to her parents in Iowa. Her growing dissatisfaction became more and more apparent in her letters. Reinhart and Elise started to worry and soon wanted to have their daughter back home with them, where they could keep a close eye on her. Discussing it between themselves and then making their own plans, they wrote to Mary and Henry, proposing a new idea.
Reinhart and Elise told them that they should come back to Iowa and take an interest in the Hose farm in Pleasant Valley. Mary and Henry could live with them while the younger couple took over the daily operation of the farm. By paying a very generous low rent and running what was already a successful farm operation, Henry could set himself and his new wife on a very lucrative path. It did not take long for them to move back from Washington to Pleasant Valley.
Henry and Mary moved onto the farm and immediately set to work. Almost as immediately, Reinhart and Elise realized, just as their daughter had, that Henry had lied to them. Henry showed a genuine taste for whiskey, and he drank all the time. The abuse was almost constant. Henry would frequently berate his wife, swearing at her and calling her names.
In spite of all this, Mary bore her husband a son the year after they were married. For some men, this may have softened their disposition and caused them to rethink their lives. Men like that might even make a change for the better. Henry was not one of those men.
Only two days after the child was born, Henry professed his desire to choke the infant to death with his bare hands. Later that same day, Mary asked Henry to close a window in their bedroom, where she was lying sick in bed. The wind coming from outside was making her cold. Henry, being the attentive husband that he was, stalwartly refused and left Mary to her own devices. Another time, Henry found that his infant son had moved off the blanket he was lying on. He lambasted Mary for it, and she told her husband that the baby was always moving off the blanket. Henry picked up his son and began to tell him how his mother did not love him and would be just as happy if he were dead.
Eventually, a second son was born, with Henry showing the same fatherly affection toward him as he did his firstborn. When the boys would irritate him, Henry was known to drag them to the barn, where he would take them to a cow stall, tie them up and leave them. Suffice it to say, the boys were terrified of their father.
In spite of his seeming disdain for his own children, Henry was not above using the boys as a way to further insult and terrify his wife. One morning, before they had even gotten out of bed, Henry began to berate Mary, cursing at her and calling her every insulting name that he could probably think of. As if this was not bad enough, Henry told her that he was going to teach their oldest son to kill his grandparents if they ever dared to raise a hand or use a word to correct him.
Henry's abuse was not limited to Mary and the children. One morning, Henry and Mary were preparing to go to nearby LeClaire, Iowa. While Mary was speaking to Elise, Henry approached and asked Mary if he had any underwear. Mary was not sure and had to take a few seconds to think about her answer. Before she could speak, Henry called her an idiot. Elise tried to intervene, gently telling Henry that he should be more patient and give Mary a little time to think about her answer. Henry, in reply, began cursing at Elise.
More than once, while fighting with Mary over one thing or another, Henry would exclaim to the household that he was just going to go kill himself. Taking a pistol that he owned, he would stride purposefully out into the farmyard and fire a shot into the air. As soon as he did, he would fall onto the ground and lay still, pretending that he had actually shot himself.
Henry ran the farm for six years. During that entire time, he continually abused his wife, children and in-laws. Neither they nor their neighbors were absolutely sure what he did with the money he made on the farm, but there is room for speculation. Henry frequently drank, buying the best booze he could find. He explained to one neighbor that he had not moved all the way to Pleasant Valley from Washington, D.C., to settle for second best.
In spite of the fact that Henry ran the farm for Reinhart and Elise, Reinhart made sure that he held the title to the property. Several times over the years that they lived together, Henry tried to get Reinhart to sign the farm deed over to him. But the old German farmer stalwartly refused and stubbornly held onto the title with the tenacity of a starving dog defending a scrap of meat.
Once, during those six long years, Mary left Henry. After they were first married, Henry, in one of his angry ravings, told Mary that he was going to kill her beloved father, Reinhart. She could not bear him anymore and fled to the home of John Dodds, a trusted neighbor who lived just down the road from the Hose farm. She had just entered their front door when Henry burst in almost right behind her. He pleaded with her to return, explaining to Mary and the Doddses that he was only joking and that there was no truth to his words. Mary chose to believe him and returned to the farm with him.
Over the years, Reinhart and Elise had also moved off the farm, hoping that Henry and Mary would be able to work things out if they were no longer living there. For his own reasons, Henry always lured them back.
In the spring of 1897, Mary left Henry for a second time, staying with neighbors for several days until Henry finally succeeded in gaining enough of her trust to bring her back home. But, just as it had happened before, the abuse started again.
Henry was a tyrant, ruling the farm with an iron hand. His anger and hatred spewed forth from him in an unending tide, drowning his wife, his children and his in-laws in its vile black flood. For six long years, Mary endured. But six years is a long time for anyone in that kind of situation, and in 1898, things finally came to a head.
One night, Henry returned to the farm after everyone had fallen asleep. Drunk, he walked through the door, a jug of whiskey in his hand. On the kitchen table he found some butter rolls that Mary had baked that were to be taken to LeClaire the following day. Staring at them in his drunken haze, Henry decided that something about them was not right. Hot-tempered man that he was, Henry immediately lost what little self-control he possessed.
He stomped up the stairs and into their bedroom, where Mary lay sound asleep. He roughly awakened her. Her mind had just climbed into the first vestiges of consciousness when Mary found herself pulled out of bed and herded down the stairs. Henry took her to the kitchen, where he demanded that she remake the rolls until they suited his tempestuous fancy.
The next day, Henry hitched the horse to his buggy, loaded the rolls and his oldest son into it and started for LeClaire. Once some time had passed and Mary was sure that he was gone, she hastily packed some belongings, took her youngest son and went directly to the house of Guy LaGrange.
LaGrange was a schoolteacher in nearby Valley City, but he was also the sonin-law of John Dodds. Dodds and his wife had recently moved to Davenport, in the neighborhood of Brady Street and Kirkwood Boulevard. Mary pleaded with LaGrange to take her and her son to the home of his father-in-law. Well aware of Mary's domestic situation, LaGrange readily agreed and took her to Davenport.
Once there, Mary once again asked her old friends to shelter her from Henry. She explained that she had left Henry and taken their youngest son with her. Mary was determined that this time it would be permanent. Like LaGrange and many of their other Pleasant Valley neighbors, the Doddses knew what Henry had been doing and were more than happy to help.
During the next few days, Mary visited the law firm of Heinz and Fisher to file a petition for divorce. She sat down with the lawyer and related the entire tale of her unhappy marriage, including the years of abuse she had suffered at the hands of her drunken husband. The petition was written and filed. As before, Henry discovered where she was staying and came to Davenport in an attempt to bring her back to Pleasant Valley. But this time she would not come home to him, no matter how much he pleaded or how charming he tried to be.
Realizing that she was serious this time, Henry quickly retained his own lawyer at a different firm, Lischer and Bawden. Henry told Lischer that he did not want a divorce but, rather, just wanted his wife to come home. The second time he met with the lawyer, Henry stated that he had been to see Mary a few times on his own. He asked if he should keep trying to visit her. Lischer responded with a resounding no. He explained to Henry that it was entirely possible that things might be reconciled between them while waiting for their court date. Henry promised his lawyer that he would not try to see Mary again and left the office. Unbeknownst to anyone else, Henry had already begun to form plans of his own.
Entering a local gun store owned and operated by a man named Berg, Henry traded a shotgun that he owned for a new .38 Smith and Wesson revolver. While talking with Berg, Henry decided to tell him that the pistol was for killing livestock. Henry claimed that his neighbors in Pleasant Valley would often ask him to shoot their cattle for them and that he had developed a particular methodology in the performance of the task
Henry said that he would have a cob of corn in one hand, and in the other he would secret his pistol. He would be friendly to the animal, luring it in with the food. The condemned animal would eventually come over and begin to eat. Henry would bide his time, waiting for his victim to fully relax. Once he felt the animal had reached that point, he would put his gun within close range and pull the trigger, fulfilling his task. To further illustrate his point for all those present in the gun store, Henry pantomimed his killing methodology as he described the various steps involved.
But Henry's plans for his new revolver did not involve livestock.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Murder & Mayhem in Scott County, Iowa"
Copyright © 2018 John Brassard Jr..
Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. A Match Made in Hell,
3. Madness, Suicide and Chocolate,
4. The Postmistress, the Mailman and His Wife,
5. Blood Debt,
6. The Long Grove Bank Robbery of 1921,
About the Author,