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Back to the North Wood: Farm family faces loss of three children

10:26 AM, Mar. 29, 2013  |  Comments
Rhonda Whetstone
Rhonda Whetstone
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Back at the turn of the last century, brothers Charles and August Lutz had adjoining farms just northeast of the city of Marshfield.

Charles Lutz was born November 1848 in Germany and came to the states with his parents in 1855 when he was 7. Eventually making his way to a farm adjoining that of his brother, just northeast of Marshfield, Charles and his wife, Fredricka, had 11 children over a span of 18 years: George, Freida, Edwin, Amelia, Lotta, William, Leopold, Herbert, Dora, August Roy and Erwin.

Fredericka, better known as Rika, married Charles, 15 years her senior, when she was just 17.

Although loving his farm, Charles seemed to have an issue with the Welter sawmill, which was uphill some distance from his farm. He began to notice sawdust and refuse accumulating on his property.

Sometime after this started, two of the Lutz children died of undetermined causes, and Charles became convinced it was due to contamination from the sawmill.

Hiring C. Bird and C. Edwards as attorneys, in 1906, Lutz sued mill owners Linster and Welter for the death of his children. A jury was chosen and the trial began, but even taking the jurors out to the farm to view the refuse did no good. Lutz lost his case.

Although it was hard to lose two children to unexplained illness, a further tragedy haunted the family. In August 1911, it was thought that 10-year-old Willie Lutz shot his younger brother, August Roy, 5.

Immediately after the incident, Willie ran into the woods and could not be found. Driven by the terror of his brother's death, he spent most of the night in the woods with a storm raging and no shelter to be found.

The following day, Willie finally was located at a neighboring farm where he eventually had taken refuge.

Although everyone assumed that Willie had shot his brother through the chest while playing with the shotgun he had found, Willie now told a different story. Willie said he was in the orchard when he heard the report of the gun and ran to the granary to see what had happened. He said he found his younger brother lying dead, having shot himself. The Marshfield Times stated that this so frightened the older boy that he ran off to the woods. There had been no witnesses.

The funeral service for August Roy was held at the Range Line Church on Aug. 9 and was widely attended.

While most marriages face some bad times as well as good, for Fredericka, the heartaches were many, and life evidently was unduly hard with the loss of three children.

Everyone seemed to understand when in April 1913, Fredericka filed for divorce, citing "cruel and inhuman treatment" as her grounds for the action against Charles, then 64. The divorce was granted, and Rika was free, so she took her younger children and moved on.

Charles remained on the farm, and in May 1918, he was found dead at his home. There was no mention of the cause of death. Perhaps life just wore him down.

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