Amazing Journey

This summer has led me on an amazing journey into the story of the Andreessen family of Stout, IA. To begin, I met another interested person, who incidentally lives in the very house where the story began, and I’m happy to now call her my friend. Additionally, I met members of her family who were absolutely wonderful and who welcomed me into their home where we shared thoughts and insights into the story as well. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever have the chance to meet people also associated with the story and in such a unique way.

One of the things I’ve learned from this journey so far is that I am not alone. There are others who share the same interests as I do. More importantly, I was reminded about how wonderful people in Iowa are. Not only do we want to connect with each other, but we also support each other, we welcome them into our homes, and we encourage each other in our pursuits.

When I started this blog, I thought I would be the only one reading it — with the exception of an interested family member or two. I thought it would become my way of recording my stories and something for me to turn back to over the years to see what I did and what I learned. Now I see it in a very different way. I see it as a way to make connections, to expand my way of understanding these stories and the people they involve. With each new connection, I learn more and can share more.

The most important part of all of this is to honor those whose stories we tell.  We all lead imperfect lives, but we can still celebrate life and remember all that made people good, that made them our families and our friends, that made them Iowans.

Killings Occur as Breakfast Lies on Table (The Andreessen story continues…)

“Note on garage door in Stout gives first intimation of tragedy–Officers believe farmer
shot women and children and was killed later by fatally wounded wife — Motive unknown
The once wealthy farmer was in financial straits–killings occur as breakfast lies on table.”

Waterloo Daily Courier,  Wednesday February 17, 1932

In my research into the Andreessen’s story, I have become mesmerized at the detail with which newspaper reporters wrote nearly 80 years ago. The articles I’ve read, those I received from my grandmother’s collection and those I’ve uncovered on my own, are much more descriptive than any modern articles written for modern papers. These writers were indeed storytellers, crafting a tale so vivid that the readers could not help but become a part of the story themselves.

“His wife, still living, fired at her husband with a .12 gauge shotgun when he returned,
killing him instantly, the officers believed. The top of Andreesen’s head was shot off.”

—–

“Four empty shells were picked up in the room by Sheriff Mamminga.
The bodies of the children lay in the east corner of the room, faces upturned.
The bodies of their mother and aunt lay nearby on their backs.”

Waterloo Daily Courier,  Wednesday February 17, 1932

Gruesome as the details are, they provide an impeccable representation of the scene of the terrible event. Who needs crime scene photos when such detail is laid out before us? Writers of articles like these not only recounted specific details but even ventured as far as to give a retelling of the day’s events, pure speculation though it may have been.

“She apparently had bathed her face as a pan of water and blood
was at the edge of the table nearest her. A bloody cloth was in the pan.”

Waterloo Daily Courier,  Wednesday February 17, 1932

As readers, we become the characters in these stories, yet we needn’t have been there to be involved. I feel as though I , too, have become a resident of Stout, experiencing the shock and horror with the others, waiting, hoping the next article will rationalize the horrendous deed that took place during that cold February day in 1932.

Head Injury: A Reason to Kill? (The Andreessen story continues)

In my research into the Andreessen murders, I have found very little mention of the event aside from newspaper reports. However, a few months ago, I did stumble upon one book that mentioned the event in two brief paragraphs:

“Another farmer, Nanno Andressen, had fallen from a windmill ten years before 1932, leaving him unconscious for several days. That incident led to some sort of mysterious trauma, or perhaps the cause became ever-mounting financial difficulties, remaining the only reasons his brother could possibly offer to explain why Andressen killed his family and himself one winter day in 1932 . Andressen stormed into the kitchen that icy cold morning and shot his wife, her sister, and his two children as they ate breakfast before chores, and then he proceeded to drive to nearby Stout, leaving a message at a local garage: “Call at Nanno Andressen’s place and you will find five dead bodys [ sic ]. Everyone is dead.” 42

Ossian, Lisa L.. Depression Dilemmas of Rural Iowa, 1929-1933. Columbia, MO, USA: University of Missouri, 2012. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 23 February 2015. Copyright © 2012. University of Missouri. All rights reserved.

What’s interesting about that passage is that it alludes to a head injury the elder Andreessen sustained. Upon my review of local newspapers at the time (which, incidentally, go into amazingly specific detail of the lives of the local residents), I found only a brief mention of Andreesen’s fall and the resulting injury. However, I did not see any reference to this injury as a suggested reason for Andreessen’s violent behavior that day during my review of Iowa newspapers. Ossian’s note is the first mention of this as far as I can find. The footnote reveals the source for that information as the Des Moines Register, November 11, 1929, 1 which I will need to look into. My interview with my grandmother did not produce any mention of his head injury, but this is not surprising given that she was so young at the time of the event.

What Ossian’s second paragraph produces is more in line with part of the mystery I uncovered:

“When garage employee Harvey Dilger found the murderous note at 7 a.m., he immediately drove with Clarence Wilson, station agent, and Albert Neiman, mail carrier, out to the Andressen farm where they did in fact find five bodies. Two versions still remain to explain the last death. Nanno had either subsequently returned to the farm and killed himself with a shotgun as planned or his wife, barely alive when he returned, struggled with him and ultimately shot her murdering husband dead. Four murders and one suicide or five farmstead murders? Only the corpses carry the truth.” 43

Ossian, Lisa L.. Depression Dilemmas of Rural Iowa, 1929-1933. Columbia, MO, USA: University of Missouri, 2012. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 23 February 2015. Copyright © 2012. University of Missouri. All rights reserved.

Here is where many sources converge: What caused Nanno’s death? Was it suicide or murder? Certainly, he was prepared to die that day, whether that involved him taking his own life (given the cryptic message: “you will find five dead bodys”) or whether he died at the hands of another. Sources indicate his wife may have still been alive when he returned, yet that does not clear up the mystery of the hidden gun which was not found by others until days later…more on that to come.