HENRY SCHWERS SPITS OUT BULLET

[from “The Towpath” – April 2003]

(New Bremen Sun  – 3/16+23/1917)

“Some 30 years ago (in the early-mid 1880s?), when Henry Schwers conducted a saloon down on North Main Street in an old building on the site of the ‘present club room between August Aue’s shop and Herman Tangeman’s residence’, a fellow came in one day and got into an altercation with Schwers, finally pulled a gun and shot at the saloon-keeper, the bullet entering his mouth below the jaw, where it was intercepted by the teeth and promptly spit upon the floor by Mr. Schwers. 

The 3/13/1917 issue of the Piqua Leader-Dispatch contained the following interesting item:

‘The arrival of the body of Dr. Aaron R. Greer at Versailles where it was interred Sunday recalled to the older citizens of this vicinity a murder which was committed in the vicinity of Osgood in August 1885.  The victim was Fannie Graham, colored, who lived with her husband and family.  Having an aversion to the residing there of colored people, a number of citizens took it upon themselves to harass the Graham family until it would leave the community.

One of the parties engaged in this effort was Dr. Greer.  In the hope that the Graham family might be frightened away, a shot was fired into the house.  By chance the bullet struck Mrs. Graham and killed her instantly.  Greer was arrested and placed in jail awaiting trial.  Within a few days, Greer’s wife came to see him and the sheriff gave the couple the liberty of a room in the ‘residence’.  Greer escaped and his wife kept up a loud conversation to deceive the sheriff.  Greer went south and changed his name and was never again heard from until he died a few days ago at the age of 70 years.’

While this news item was being discussed, several men whose memory ‘seems to be true and correct’ attested that the old doctor who was buried at Versailles was the identical man who shot Henry Schwers.

There is a local end to this story.  After reading the preceding account in the 3/17/1917 issue of the Wapakoneta Daily News, Joseph Drexler, caretaker at the Court House in Wapakoneta, exhibited the bullet that figured in the shooting affair at New Bremen.  Mrs. Drexler is a daughter of Henry Schwers, and was quite young when the incident occurred, but remembers it.  Those who remember the incident state that it was Dr. Aaron R. Greer of Osgood who did the shooting.  Dr. Greer’s remains were interred at Versailles on 3/11/1917, having been brought back to Darke County from the south, where he fled after shooting a Negro woman in the vicinity of his home in 1885.

The bullet that wounded Mr. Schwers was kept by Mrs. Schwers, and later given to Mrs. Drexler.  It is of a caliber known as 22-short, and was fired from a small pistol.  Mr. Schwers’ assailant shot him after he had been refused a drink at the Schwers saloon on North Main Street in New Bremen.  He was pursued by a number of people and apprehended a short distance away from town.  He was in danger of being lynched, but cool heads prevailed upon the posse to permit the law to take its course, and the accused was placed on trial and sentenced to 3 years in the penitentiary.  The small bullet, almost perfect in form despite its contact with Mr. Schwers’ jaw and teeth, is preserved in a celluloid capsule at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Drexler.”

 

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WHERE WAS HENRY SCHWERS’ SALOON?

In 1877, Henry Schwers, along with Herman E. & Anna Meyer, purchased the west ½ of Inlot #22 (old number) on North Main Street.  In the mortgage deeds, the property was described as “known as the Brewery Property of Mc (Michael) Vossler.”

On 9/7/1882, a Quit Claim Deed for Lot #52 (new number) was filed by Herman E. & Anna Meyer, relinquishing their interest in the property for $1252.50, paid by Henry Schwers.  The next day, a Mortgage Deed was issued in the names of Henry & Sophia Schwers, who had married on 6/9/1881.  This deed was canceled on 7/10/1885. 

Henry Schwers died 3/22/1899.  His wife, Sophia Wilhelmina (Aue) Schwers died 12/2/1907.  The property was transferred to their unmarried daughter, Amelia Schwers (born 11/14/1882).  After Amelia died 9/13/1928, the property was transferred to Anna M.S. (Schwers) Drexler, wife of Joseph Drexler of Wapakoneta.

On 9/9/1937, the south ½ of the Schwers property (212 North Main Street) was transferred to Milton J. Gieseke, who had a grocery store there.  On 9/9/1942, it was transferred to Virgil & Fern Hirschfeld, who also ran a grocery store called “The Little Store.”  On 9/30/1954, this property was transferred to Myron Eversman and on 9/23/1957, it was transferred to Richard & Annabelle Tontrup.  From the description given at the beginning of this article, it would seem that this is where Henry Schwers had his saloon.  The building was demolished in 1982 and a garage was added to the south side of the brick house on the north.

On 9/9/1937, the north ½ of the Schwers property was transferred to John A. Brown, who was a barber (this was the father of our own Jerry Brown – see story in the October 2000 issue of “The Towpath”).  On 4/7/1955, it was transferred to Richard & Annabelle Tontrup and on 5/30/1973, the house at 214 North Main Street was transferred to Thomas & Ruth Keller, who live there at the present time.

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AND NOW… The Rest of the Story

In April 2002, I received a call from a Ted Schweitzer of Phillipsburg, Ohio.  He had come to New Bremen and stopped at the Village Office to ask for help in finding information about his great-grandfather, HENRY SCHWERS.  Tom Braun and I met with him and his wife at our public library and he showed us the bullet, still being kept in the celluloid capsule.  I was allowed to remove it from the capsule and actually held it in my hand!

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In 2005, I received the following letter:

“I read with great interest the article about Henry Schwers that appeared in the April 2003 issue of The Towpath.  The reason for my interest was due to the fact that Dr. Aaron Greer of Osgood, Ohio was who the story said had shot Mr. Schwers in the mouth for not serving him a drink in his saloon.

For some time, I have been researching the August 1885 murder of Fannie Graham at Osgood and Dr. Aaron Greer was one of the four accused.  Just recently I had the privilege of researching original copies of the Versailles Policy newspaper that my cousin acquired at auction.  The two volumes were from the years of 1883-1886.  During my search I came across this small article that caught my eye:

‘Daniel Hendershot of Patterson Township shot a saloon keeper by the name of Henry Schwers Wednesday night of last week (June 1886) at New Bremen.  The ball entered below the chin, passing through the mouth.  The wounded man will probably recover.  Hendershot was arrested and is now in the Wapakoneta jail.  Lynching was strongly talked of. The two men quarreled because the saloon keeper refused to sell Hendershot and his friends anything to drink, they all being drunk.’     

 [“Versailles Policy” – 6/10/1886]

So, according to the above piece, Dr. Greer was not the guilty party that shot Henry Schwers.  I believe Dr. Greer was not in Ohio at the time of this shooting since in the fall of 1885, he escaped from jail in Greenville and headed south.  His obituary in the Policy dated 3/17/1917 states that he lived in Walstonburg (near Greenville), North Carolina so I highly doubt that he was part of Mr. Hendershot’s friends that day.

I hope this information is helpful and sets the record straight on what actually did happen that day in New Bremen.   Sincerely,  Dale Poeppelman – Maria Stein, Ohio

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EDITOR’S RESPONSE:

I was delighted to get the above letter from Mr. Poeppelman.  At the time the Henry Schwers story was published, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it because it seemed to be relying on ‘several men whose memory SEEMS to be true and correct’.  The articles also said that Mr. Greer ‘went south, changed his name, and was NEVER AGAIN APPREHENDED’.

Since at that time, I had no definite date as to when the Henry Schwers incident had occurred (‘some thirty years ago’), I couldn’t prove that it was unlikely that the culprit was Dr. Aaron Greer, however I did later find this small article in the 6/1/1888 issue of The New Bremen Sun of OHIO PENITENTIARY NOTES from August Boesel, who was then working at the penitentiary as a guard.

“Hindershot, the would-be assassin of Henry Schwers of New Bremen, is polishing garden hoes and forks.  He stands his work well and seems to be always happy, carrying a smiling countenance.”

 [N.B.Sun–6/1/1888]

This small item always made me wonder what the true story was of the Henry Schwers shooting.  The point of my story at the time it was first published was that I had actually been able to hold in my own hands the bullet that Henry Schwers “had spit out”.     [Lucille Francis, Editor]

 

 

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