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The Annis tragedy

May 25, 2014
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

In 1870, Jasper County mortality records reflect the deaths by accidental gunshot wounds of Frank and Elmer Annis. The story was told in 1930 by Bertha Fehleisen, who recalled the event:

"Out in our Silent City, not far from the front fence and at the top of the hill there stands a small marble shaft bearing the name "Annis". The inscriptions are:

"Francis Annis, died May 30, 1864

Frank Annis, born 1854, died December 20, 1869

Elmer Annis, born 1862, died December 20, 1869"

This is a real "after the war tragedy," occurring on December 20, 1869.

The Annis home was in Jasper County, but Francis Annis enlisted in the Civil War on August 11, 1862 in Boone County. He served in Company D, and died of dysentery on his way to a hospital. He is actually buried in the national cemetery at Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Later, Mrs. Annis was keeping boarders in order to support her large family. One of these boarders was a man named Case. He was from New York, had been in the war, and had wandered west in search of a job after the war. He found one teaching at a country school in Jasper County, and began boarding at the Annis house, where a great friendship sprang up between the Annis boys, aged 6, 11, and 15 years.

On the evening of December 20, 1869, Case noticed a gun, and picked it up to examine it. The boys gathered around him, begging him to show them how they did it in the war. He stepped to the dining room door and asked Mrs. Annis if it was loaded. She replied she thought not. He then pointed the gun at the pictures on the wall, and the clock and repeated each time the commands "Halt! Take Aim! Fire!" About to put the gun away, little Elmer, seven years old said "Now shoot me". Then playfully pointing the gun right at his forehead, pulled the trigger, and lo, it went off. A bullet that had misfired before, now was fired. It tore right through Elmer's head and Frank, aged 15, was standing behind him with his thumbs in the trousers band, and received the bullet through his hand, from which it went through his bowels. Case, as soon as he saw little Elmer drop instantly, was so astonished that he became like a crazy man, tore out of the house, running until exhausted. He came back to the house to find that Frank too had been shot, he had not stopped long enough to know that.

At once he started out to find a doctor, who reported there was no hope for Frank, and before morning he too was dead.



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