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Back to the North Wood: Lumber camp teasing goes too far

10:29 AM, May 6, 2013  |  Comments
Rhonda Whetstone
Rhonda Whetstone
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In March 1896, a very bizarre story took place at a lumber camp in Arpin, as reported by the Centralia Enterprise.

Albert Felch was a cook at the landing camp of the John Arpin Lumber Co. Felch was a small man of irritable disposition, from all accounts. It seems to be those two factors that caused the "camp boys" to pick on him.

James Craney, described as a big, overgrown, good-natured fellow, lived with his parents near Barnum. Craney, a teamster, was one of those who constantly gave Felch a hard time.

Felch had been cooking nights and sleeping days for several days before the incident took place.

And teamster Craney likewise had been hauling logs on ice roads from midnight until noon.

Felch had just retired to his bunk to sleep when the camp boys came in for their second meal of the day. Felch's bunk was just off the dining room.

Craney and a few others, in their teasing and provoking way, began to throw things against Felch's door.

Finally, in retaliation, Felch got up and threw his shoe at Craney, barely missing his head.

After the men left, Felch was unable to sleep, having been angered by their actions, so he figured he would just get up and work. Before he did, though, he went to the planing mill and borrowed a .32-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver.

Just a few hours later, Craney was back at the camp, and quarreling was renewed. What happened next shocked everyone. The two men were scuffling with one another, and Felch pulled the gun and shot Craney squarely in the chin.

Curiously, the bullet struck the point of the man's chin and was flattened like a copper penny, and passed down the neck to a point near the Adam's apple.

Dr. Ridgman was summoned and extracted the bullet from Craney. Felch was arrested and taken to Grand Rapids (now Wisconsin Rapids), by Marshal Carey and arraigned before Justice Cooper.

Attorney D. Conway, of the law firm of Williams and Conway, defended Felch who was charged with assault with intent to kill. Upon review of the case, Cooper decided justice would not be served by sending the prisoner to trial, because Felch had been bullied by Craney more than once and that when Craney grabbed the defendant, Felch was acting in self defense.

It was difficult to understand why the shooting did not do more harm to the victim, but luckily it did not.

Was justice served? Should more have been done? The editor of the Enterprise said that if he were the dispenser of justice, he would get hold of one of George Peck's spanking machines and both men would get what was coming to them. Perhaps that would have been a good solution.

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