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On Saturday, March 25, 1911, Town Marshal Joseph Kaschmitter (last name sometimes spelled Kashmetter or Kashmitter) was shot at approximately 1 a.m. as he walked near the Alton, Iowa depot.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Kaschmitter encountered two men who covered him with their revolvers and ordered him to throw up his hands.
Kaschmitter obeyed and at the same time said, “I am the town marshal.” Both men then opened fire, the bullets entering Kaschmitter’s chest and stomach.
As the suspects fled, Kaschmitter drew his revolver and fired several times.
Citizens attracted to the scene carried Marshal Kaschmitter to the home of a local doctor, where Kaschmitter died two days later.
A posse failed to locate the suspects.
On April 1, 1911, the Alton Democrat published the following article about Kaschmitter’s death.
ALTON MARSHAL BRUTALLY MURDERED
The Alton Democrat, April 1, 1911
Alton citizens were severely shocked on Saturday morning when word was passed around that Joe Kaschmitter, the town marshal, had been brutally shot down by hoboes in the early morning hours and was in a precarious condition. The dastardly crime was committed at about one o’clock in the morning. Joe was coming from the depot immediately after the first night train from the south had pulled out. When he reached the alley between Theodore Hoxmeier’s store and home, two men ordered him to throw up his hands and before he could comply with their demands, the brutes shot him down as though he were a dog. He was shot twice–once from his side and once from the rear. The first shot struck him under his right arm, pierced the lower portion of the lung and left the body just to the right of the breast bone. The second bullet entered his right buttock, passed through the lower end of the rectum and tore through the left uretor, destroying that connection between kidney and bladder.
It seemed that the assailants hid themselves behind the telephone post at the rear of the Hoxmeier store. They saw Kaschmitter in the distance and decided to hold him up. They waited until he was alongside, had almost passed them and ordered him to hold up his hands. According to Mr. Kaschmitter they shot immediately after making their demand. It is our opinion that the dastards discovered that they had held up an officer and knowing that he was armed, expected him to shoot and they shot first. The first shot brought him to his knees, evidently with his face to the ground as the course of the second bullet would indicate. The fiends shot him the second time, this time from the rear, after he was down and almost out. We may be able to find a reason for the firing of the first shot but the dastards had no reason for shooting the second time.
Mr. Kaschmitter, while down, emptied his revolver but evidently without effect. He walked to Main street and tried to get into the St. Louis restaurant as he wanted to inform the mayor of what had happened. He failed to gain admittance and went down the street and tried at Schroeders, then at the Weis restaurant and from there went across the street to Cook’s restaurant and again cried for help. Some of the people on Main street were up and heard his cries but as he staggered around with a gun in his hand and was not recognized by anyone, they feared to venture out as they did not know what to make of what they saw and heard. By this time John Weis was up and ventured out and assisted Mr. Kaschmitter into the restaurant. Joe told Mr. Weis what had happened and where and asked that Mr. Weis notify the Kaschmitter home, call Dr. Gleysteen and Father Brune and also notify P. Schaap–the sheriff.
In a few minutes two doctors and a nurse were in attendance and the poor man was given the best of care. He was carried to his home and in the early morning hours an operation was performed by Dr. Gleysteen assisted by Dr. Meengs of Alton and Dr. Cram of Sheldon. Miss Van Houte of Boyden, a registered nurse, who was a guest in the city, assisted in the operation and attended Mr. Kaschmitter until the nurse arrived from Sioux City. The operation disclosed that the bullets had passed through his body with the results mentioned before. One of the bullets, a thirtyeight caliber, was caught in his clothing after passing through his body. The doctors gave little hope for Mr. Kaschmitter’s recovery and he passed away on Monday morning at about three-forty. His end was peaceful and without much pain. His family was at his bedside and as he slowly passed away he visited with them–told the little ones to be obedient children and admonished the older boys and girls to walk in the paths of righteousness and after forgiving his assailants he breathed his last.
Mr. Kaschmitter had been in the employ of the city for several years. He was ever faithful and was stricken down in the performance of his duties. It was his custom to go to the depot when the night trains came in and watch for suspicious looking characters. He was on his way back from the depot when he met his fate. Two men were in hiding determined to rob the man they saw coming in the distance. When they halted him they discovered they had held up an officer and opened fire at once. Sheriff Schaap and County Attorney Hospers were on the scene at once and immediately spread a net but so far without results. Without doubt the men made their getaway in the passenger north that pulled in shortly after the shooting.
Many heard the shots but paid no attention to them. Immediately after the shooting Milo Gibbs Jr. and Scott Reiniger drove through Main street and also the Maplewood hotel street but did not see anyone. John Zimmer–night clerk at the Maplewood–saw the fire from the guns but did not think anything was wrong and did not investigate it. Pete Koch, the night operator at the telephone office, heard the shooting and later the moaning of the wounded man but did not dare to investigate and forgot to make use of the telephone. The Hoxmeier family heard the shooting but as everything was quiet immediately afterwards they went back to sleep, and it was only Joe’s persistent efforts and continued cries for help on Main street that brought relief.
Suspects were held at Heron Lake but investigation showed that the men passed through Alton on the second night train north and therefore could not have been in town when the crime was committed. Later the sheriff and Mr. Parks made a trip to Sioux City to look up the man that Parks shot some months ago and who at one time threatened “to get Parks.” Investigation proved that he could not have been in Alton at the time. Later a telegram was received by our mayor from Omaha which promised a possible clue and same is being investigated.
Joseph Kaschmitter was born March eighteenth 1858 in Geoys Austria-Hungary so he was fifty-three years and nine days old when he died. When twelve years of age he came to the United States with his parents who settled in Tennessee with several other families who came from Austria-Hungary about the same time. On November sixteenth 1880 he was united in marriage to Miss Anna Filz at Loretto, Tennessee. This union was blessed with ten children of whom nine are living. In 1886 Mr. Kaschmitter took his family to Minnesota, where they lived for one year. In 1887 they came to Rock Valley where Mr. Kaschmitter was employed as section foreman. Three years later, 1890, they came to Alton where they have since lived. He was employed by the Omaha railroad as their section foreman until April fourth 1904 when he was appointed marshal of the town of Alton by Peter Goebel, who was mayor at that time. He served in this capacity until June 1906 when he resigned. He was employed by Father Brune until May 1907 when the town council offered Mr. Kaschmitter the job as marshal at an increased salary which he accepted. He served the town faithfully until he was brutally shot down in the performance of his duties.
Mr. Kaschmitter was a devout Catholic, a kind husband and a loving father. He was an upright citizen and a respected man in the community. He was a member of St. Mary’s choir and a member of the St. Joseph’s society. Out of respect for the deceased officer a special meeting of the Town Council was called on Monday evening at which resolutions of sympathy and condolence were adopted and presented to the widow. The town council and town officials also had a beautiful floral piece delivered at the Kaschmitter home on Tuesday.
The funeral services were held on Thursday forenoon. They were conducted by Very Rev. F. J. Brune, who delivered a touching sermon in English. Father Brune remarked that in the twentyseven years of his ministry he had appeared before audiences more than 4000 times but never on such a sad occasion. It had never been his sad duty to deliver a funeral sermon over a man that had been murdered in cold blood. He further remarked that a crime had been committed not only against the man, but also the family, the town, the county and the grand state of Iowa and that the machinery of the state should be set in motion to capture the criminals in order that justice may be meted out. Father Brune remarked that such crimes as the one in question are the results of irreligious training–a growing up without religion or God. He had found that in nine cases out of ten a tramp or hobo came from a home where education and religion had been neglected and admonished the parents not to neglect their children in these respects.
The town officials attended in a body. Friends from all over the county were present to pay their respects to the departed and St. Mary’s church was nearly filled with a sympathetic, grief stricken throng–more than 800 attending the services. All the business houses were closed during the services. The remains were laid to rest in St. Mary’s cemetery.
Deceased is survived by the widow, nine children–Mrs. Frank Sprute of Cottonwood Idaho, John, Caroline, Otto, Mary, Clothilda, Henry, Gertrude and Richard–of Alton, and one brother, Anthony, of Cottonwood, Idaho. Mrs. Frank Sprute, a daughter residing at Cottonwood Idaho, arrived too late to attend the funeral, on account of a wash-out which delayed trains. She and her husband arrived Thursday afternoon and were given a chance to view the remains at the cemetery.
Source: Alton Democrat, April 1, 1911.
On Friday, May 9, 2014, the State of Iowa and Governor Terry E. Branstad honored Kaschmitter and three other officers — Police Officer Jamie D. Buenting, Rockwell City, City Marshal Robert C. Coulter, Farmington, and City Marshal Reuben Fenstenmaker, Farmington — killed in the line of duty.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety issued the following press release May 6, 2014:
Anyone with information regarding Marshal Joseph Kaschmitter’s unsolved murder is asked to contact the Alton Police Department at (712) 737-4251.