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Chapter XLIII


from Memoirs of a great detective:
incidents in the life of John Wilson Murray

compiled by Victor Speer

A SING-SONG voiced, jet-black haired, sanctimonious scalawag named J.K. Herres lived near Aylmer in the county of Waterloo. His father kept a country store, and was reputed to be fairly well off. When young Herres was not teaching a little school or singing German songs he was gallivanting about the country. He had a profuse rush of hair to the upper lip, and he developed a particular fondness for twirling the drooping ends of his mustaches. He seemed so insipid that one never would have imagined him to be the child of destiny in a stirring event where a whole town turned out to rescue him, while his captor, with drawn guns, backed against a wall with Herres at his feet, and prepared to sell his life as dearly as possible.

   "Herres frequently went to Galt in his Lochinvarring tours," says Murray. "In the summer of 1887 he walked into the office of John Cavers, manager of the branch of the Imperial Bank at Galt, and presented two notes to be discounted. One was signed by Peter Leweller, a neighbour of the Herres family, and the other by Herres's father. They totalled $900, and Mr. Cavers discounted them. Herres vanished with the money. Old man Herres and Peter Leweller pronounced their signatures forgeries. The case came to me, and on September 22nd I went to Galt, saw Manager Cavers, and thence went to Berlin, the county seat of Waterloo. There I prepared extradition papers, and obtained from Chief Constable John Klippert, of Waterloo, a description of Herres. Klippert was one of the best constables in Canada, a shrewd old German.

   "'Shon,' he said to me, 'you vill know him two ways, one by his shet-black hair and one by his ding-dong mustachees. He has some of the lofliest mustachees you efer see. They flow down like Niagara Falls, only they, too, are shet-black.'

   "'But suppose he has shaved them off?' I said.

   "'You vill know t'em by the place where they once used to be,' said Klippert. 'And remember — shet-black!'

   "I telegraphed all over the country for a trace of Herres, and found none. I learned that he had a cousin who was a lawyer at White Cloud, in Minnesota, and Shet-Black Herres, as I called him ever after hearing Klippert's description, had been in correspondence with this cousin, whose address was found in an old coat belonging to Herres. I decided to visit White Cloud. On September 28th I started for St. Paul. On arrival there I called at Police Headquarters and on United States Commissioner Spencer, and prepared the necessary warrant for Herres, if I should find him. I also called on my friend United States Marshal Campbell, who gave me a letter to Congressman C.F. McDonald, of White Cloud, a prominent man in that part of the country. I went to White Cloud and looked up the cousin of Herres. I learned from neighbours that the cousin had a visitor sometime before, a dapper fellow with a remarkably fine mustache. He had tarried only a few days, and then had driven away. He had not shaved it off was my glad thought. I called on Congressman McDonald, and he gave me letters to prominent people within a radius of a couple of hundred miles. Part of the country round about was thinly settled at that time. I set out to find the man with the fine mustache.

   "It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I travelled all around the country. I saw more smooth-shaven men and more men with beards than I imagined were in that part of the country, but not one man with 'ding-dong mustachees' did I see. I returned to White Cloud without clue or trace of my man. I learned then of a settlement of Germans at Little Falls, and I remembered what I had heard of Herres's fondness for German songs; and one man in White Cloud thought Herres's cousin had a relative in this settlement. Little Falls was several hundred miles from St. Paul, and I arrived there on October 4th. It was a little place of about one thousand people, and I think I saw everybody in the town. I found no trace of Herres and was about to give up the chase there, when the school-teaching side of Herres came again to my mind. The idea struck me to try the schools. I did so — no Herres. But there were country schools. I called on a storekeeper who was one of the school trustees. Yes, some teachers had been employed for country schools. The clerk of the school board lived near by, he said, and I should see him. To the clerk I went. He immediately wanted to know the names of the teachers I sought. I said I did not recall the names. He said two teachers had been appointed to little rural schools about forty miles out in the country. Both teachers were strangers to him. He gave me their names. Neither was named Herres.

   "'One was smooth-shaven, one I did not see,' he said.

   "I decided to look at the two teachers. There was a big fellow named Richardson in the town, a sort of marshal or town policeman or constable. He said he knew the country all around there, as he had been born there. I hired a splendid team from a liveryman, a pair of as good horses as a man could wish to drive, with a light cracky waggon. The liveryman lent me his gun and shooting jacket, cartridge belt and two valuable dogs. I told Richardson we were going shooting. Prairie chickens were thicker than flies. We started on Wednesday, October 5th. We drove about twenty miles to the cross-roads of nowhere. It was dark when we trotted out of Little Falls, and we breakfasted at a crossroads store on the way. I told Richardson, after we were well on the road, the real purpose of my trip. It seemed to make him as solemn as an owl. He was a jolly hunter, but a solemn policeman. Many men are that way. Their business is something awesome or deadly serious, but apart from it they are good fellows.

   "At length we came to the first school. The teacher was a little fellow, a Frenchman, and he could not speak German. He was not Herres, and we drove on to the next district school. The little Frenchman told me of the teacher.

   "'He has ze long moostache,' he said. 'Very fine, oh very fine. Ze long moostache, and I haf ze no moostache at all,' and he clasped his hands and sighed.

   "I was sure the other teacher was Herres. When we came in sight of the school I unhitched the horses and tied them, and cut across toward the school-house.

   "'If this is the fellow, I will nod to you and you arrest him,' I said to Richardson.

   "'I have no authority,' he said, 'and I will not arrest a man without authority,' and I saw he meant it.

   "'Richardson,' I said solemnly, 'I am a United States Marshal. I hereby declare you my deputy. You must obey the law and serve.'

   "'But I must be sworn in,' said Richardson.

   "I pulled out a bundle of papers, ran over them, selected one and told him to kneel down. He knelt amid the briers. I mumbled the form of an oath.

   "'I do,' he answered solemnly, to my question of, 'Do you so swear?'

   "Then we went on to the school-house and walked in. There stood the teacher, dapper and with a 'ding-dong mustachees,' but instead of being 'shet-black' his hair and mustache were brown. He was a bleached Herres. 'It looks like him,' said I to myself, 'and yet, is it he?' Just then he twirled his mustache. That settled it. There were about thirty children, mostly girls, in the room. They eyed us curiously.

   "'Teacher, how long have you been here?' said I.

   "'For some time — since school opened,' said he, and his voice had a little sing-song.

   "'What is your name?'

   "'John Walker,' he replied.

   "'When did you leave Canada?' I asked.

   "'I have never been in Canada in my life,' he said.

   "I looked at his school-books. All were marked John Walker.

   "'Are you German?' I asked.

   "'Yes,' said he.

   "'John Walker is not a German name,' I said.

   "He smiled.

   "'You are from Canada!' I said abruptly.

   "'I am not!' he exclaimed, and turning to the astonished children, he told them to go out and get their fathers. 'Bring them quickly,' he said, speaking rapidly in German to the children. 'Tell them to bring their guns. There are robbers here.'

   "I understood him clearly, and I told Richardson to keep the children in. Deputy Marshal Richardson obeyed by standing against the door. The children began to cry, then to scream.

   "'That's right!' said the teacher to the children. 'Shout for help! Shout as loud as you can!'

   "The whole school began to yell. They ran round the room shrieking and screaming.

   "'Keep your seats and scream,' said the teacher.

   "They promptly sat down and howled at the top of their voices for help.

   "'Come with me,' said I to the teacher.

   "'I will not,' said he, and he whipped off his coat.

   "I leaped for him, and down we went, upsetting the table and rolling over the floor. He was an active fellow, and I had to drag him out of the school-house.

   "'Keep the children in,' said I to Richardson, 'until I fire a shot, then run as fast as you can to the waggon.'

   "The teacher quieted down after I got him outside, but I had to drag him across to the waggon. I tied him to a wheel, handcuffed, while I hitched up the horses. Then I lifted him into the waggon and fired the gun. The gun scared him, and he sat quiet. I could see Richardson come running, and I could see the screaming children stream out of the school-house and rush, yelling for help, in all directions. Richardson fell on the way and got tangled in some briers, and after considerable delay he reached the waggon and clambered in.

   "'Drive to the nearest railroad station," I said, and Richardson whipped up the horses and away we went on the road to Royalton, over thirty miles away.

   "We could hear the cries of the children dying away as we went.

   "'You'll suffer for this, sir,' said the school-teacher to me. 'You will pay for dragging an honest man about like this.'

   "I looked him all over, and to tell the truth I felt shaky myself. We got into Royalton late in the afternoon. It was a German settlement of perhaps fifteen hundred population. We drove to the railroad station. The telegraph operator was a German. When the school-teacher spied the telegraph operator he began to yell in German to send a message saying he was kidnapped by robbers. The operator wanted to help him. The school-teacher shouted in German.

   "'Save me! Save me! I am being kidnapped! Help! Help!' he shouted, as loud as he could yell.

   "A crowd gathered. It grew rapidly. All the while the school-teacher kept yelling with all the power of voice and lungs. The crowd began to murmur. I moved back against the side of the station, keeping the school-teacher beside me.

   "'Richardson, keep the crowd back,' I said, but Richardson decided he wanted nothing more to do with the affair.

   "'I resign as deputy marshal,' he said.

   "The crowd drew in closer. I could see men galloping into town, and I knew they were farmers who had been aroused by their children's tale of the struggle in the schoolhouse. They dismounted and told the story given by the children. The crowd surged in. I had the shot gun and a revolver, with another revolver in my pocket. I discarded the shot gun and drew a second revolver. All the while the school-teacher kept haranguing the crowd, inciting them to hang me and praying to them to rescue him. The mob actually surrounded the station.

   "'Give up that man,' demanded one of their number, a sturdy fellow not twenty feet from me.

   "'The first man of you who touches him or me dies in his tracks,' I said, while the school-teacher begged them to rescue him from my clutches.

   "'Do not let him take an innocent man to be murdered,' shrieked the school-teacher.

   "The crowd surged in. I gripped both revolvers, thinking, 'Here she comes; steady, old man, steady,' and I decided that the bleating school-teacher would be one of us on the other side when they picked up the bodies.

   "'Stand back! Stand back!' I shouted, at bay, one man standing off a whole town.

   "I flourished the guns, then levelled them, and just as I expected to have the crash come, a big fellow burst through the crowd.

   "'What's up?' he said, as his eyes took in the braying school-teacher, handcuffed at my feet, the surging crowd and myself, up against the station wall, a revolver in each hand.

   "The big fellow's hands flew to his hip pockets. Out flipped two guns as he sprang over beside me and backed up against the wall.

   "'A thousand to one,' he chuckled. 'God, but you're a game man.' He looked out of two fearless blue eyes at the crowd. 'Come on, you villains!' he shouted. 'Come on! Who'll be the first to die?'

   "It was superb. The man was a whirlwind in his way.

   "'I'm Quinn, sheriff of the next county,' he said to me rapidly. 'What's it all about?'

   "'I am an officer from St. Paul, and these people are after my prisoner,' I said.

   "'So ho!' said Quinn. 'Well, they don't get him.'

   "He eyed the crowd.

   "'Get back! Back up!' he shouted. 'Back up or I'll back you up! One — two —--' he counted.

   "The crowd began to give, and the space in front of us grew as Quinn counted one and two. He laughed and I laughed I turned to the telegraph operator and told him to take a dispatch as I dictated it and send it at once. As we stood, revolvers in hand, backed up against the station beside the telegraph office, I sent a telegram to Marshal Campbell saying we would arrive in St. Paul by the next train.

   "'It gets in at one o'clock in the morning,' said Quinn, and I put the hour in the dispatch.

   "Richardson came up then, and I gave him the shot gun and money to pay the liveryman, and he drove away; and later I wrote to the liveryman, who replied that all was satisfactory. Quinn stood by until the train arrived, and he boarded it with me and rode to the third station beyond, where he left me, with a hearty handshake and a laugh when I thanked him. The school-teacher had subsided, except to remind me occasionally that I would suffer for treating an innocent man in this way. He may have realised how close to death he was on that station platform. Marshal Campbell met us at the train at one o'clock in the morning in St. Paul.

   "'This is Herres,' I said to Campbell.

   "Up spoke the school-teacher, as if he were about to shout again for a crowd of rescuers.

   "'My name is not Herres; my name is John Walker,' he said. 'Some one will pay for this.'

   "It shook Campbell. We stepped aside.

   "'Are you certain he is Herres?' asked Campbell.

   "'I am not certain, but I'm fairly sure,' said I. 'His hair is lighter. But I'll be responsible.'

   "Campbell locked up the school-teacher. John Walker immediately sent for Colonel Kerr of St. Paul, to defend him. He also engaged a fighting lawyer named Ryan. They wanted to get a change of venue. I had United States District-Attorney George N. Baxter as my counsel. In making the affidavit on the application for a change of venue they swore the school-teacher to it. He signed it. Campbell and I eagerly looked at it. The signature was J.K. Herres! The marshal and I silently shook hands and went out and had a drink. It took a great load off me. The Court denied the change of venue sought on the unjust allegation that Commissioner Spencer was a friend of Canada officers. Then began the battle for extradition.

   "It was fought to a finish. Herres's cousin in White Cloud joined Colonel Kerr and Mr. Ryan. Herres was committed for extradition. His counsel applied for a writ of habeas corpus before Judge Nelson. It seemed that when Judge Nelson's father was Judge of the Supreme Court a man named Kane had killed some one in Ireland and escaped to Minnesota. The British Government sought to extradite him, and the case was carried to the Supreme Court, which held that it was necessary to have the President issue an executive mandate to give the Commissioner power to try the case. The counsel for Herres claimed the proceeding in the Herres case was irregular, and Judge Nelson discharged Herres. We appealed from the decision of Judge Nelson and carried it to the Circuit Court before Judge Brewer, now Justice Brewer of the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Brewer wrote a long opinion reversing Judge Nelson's judgment and ordering the prisoner back into my custody. This case is an authority in extradition cases, and is reported in Federal Reports of the United States, No. 33, page 265. We fought the matter in the courts through November and December 1887, and finally the warrant of surrender arrived; and on January 17th, 1888, I left St. Paul with Shet-black Herres, and handed him over in Berlin on Thursday, January 19th. He pleaded not guilty to forgery at the Spring Assizes, but was convicted and sentenced on March 20th to seven years in Kingston, where his 'ding-dong mustachee' vanished before the razor of the prison barber.

   "He had dyed his 'shet-black' hair with butternut dye. It made his hair a nasty yellow and seemed to me to symbolise the make-up of Herres. The two meanest prisoners I ever had were this Shet-black Herres and a fellow named Drinkwater. Herres was a mean cuss. He was not a finish fighter like some desperate, courageous men, out in the open. He was a skulker, and a mean one. While in gaol at St. Paul he acted so badly with the officials that some fellow, a little insane, was put in the cell with Shet-black Herres and committed all kinds of nuisances over him. Shet-black began an action against the sheriff in St. Paul, but it failed. Shet-black was serving seven years in Kingston instead of suing the good sheriff of St. Paul. But greatest of all his griefs was the loss of his 'ding-dong mustachee!'"

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