129. Murder, She Wrote

As far as I know, there’s only been one murder in our family. So far, anyway. Today is its anniversary.

This is a photo of the victim – my Great Grandfather-in-Law, William John Kozlovsky.  He was usually called “John”.  Today is the anniversary of his death. He was the grandfather of my mother-in-law, Mabel Ford, but she wasn’t born till about 8 months after the crime.

John was born in Zahoran, Bohemia on February 1, 1840.  His parents, Joseph and Anna Kozlovsky, brought him to America in 1846 when he was six years old. They did farming in Wisconsin.

When John was 17 years old, he and Mary Cenefels (who also immigrated from Bohemia) were married in Manitowoc, Wisconsin on July 18, 1857. They eventually had six children: Anna, Joseph, Mary, Katherine, and Rose and one daughter who died in infancy.

Their children pictured as adults are shown below.   Rose – Mabel Ford’s mother – is standing on the right.

When he was 23 years old, John moved the family to Marion, Iowa and he worked in the butcher and meat business for 5 or 6 years. Then, in 1869, they moved to Cedar Rapids where he established what became known as the Cedar Rapids House on Third Street and A  Avenue. As proprietor, he operated the hotel for 25 years until his death in 1894. A saloon in the hotel was actually the scene of the crime.

(This is what the saloon looked like 15 years later in 1911 after Frank O’Hanlon had taken over its ownership from the Kozlovskys.  Frank was married to John’s daughter Rose Kozlovsky (Mabel Ford’s mother).

Here’s what happened according to the news stories.  Journalists in the old days used to wring as much color and drama as possible in their reports and they definitely applied their acting skills in order to be judge and jury. I’ll let them do the telling of the story.

Note that when the news reporters refer to the “old gentlemen”, or “old citizen”, or “aged proprietor”, they are referring to John Kozlovsky.  He was 54 years old at the time – an old guy.  In 1894, the usual life expectancy for men was about 47 years old.

This is one of the typical articles about the case from the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, Wednesday, January 10, 1894

The headlines were:

William Kline of Anamosa Comes Close to the Old Gentleman’s Jugular.
The Assailant Threatens to Cut the Heart Out of a Crowd Surrounding Him

Last night, about 10:30, William Kline, a man about 40 years of age, who says he resides in Anamosa, was asleep in a chair at the Second Street saloon of William J. Kozlovsky, father of Alderman Kozlovsky.

Mr. Kozlovsky awakened the sleeper and told him to get out as he wanted to close up the place.  Kline jumped up and wanted to fight but the old man did not want to have trouble, and backed off.  The loafer followed him and pulled a big pocket knife and opening the large blade struck a vicious blow at the old gentleman’s face. The knife entered the left cheek and as his face and neck are quite fleshy, the wound was a deep one and ugly looking.

Mr. Kozlowski fell to the floor bleeding profusely and his assailant ran out the corner entrance, turned south on Second Street. and darted east up the alley. The alarm was given and officers began to search. In a few minutes they found him in the Chicago house standing against the wall with his knife in his hand and threatening to cut the heart out of first one of the men in the crowd which surrounded him that attempted to touch him.

Sargeant Long asked Kline what he was trying to do and received a string of oaths in reply. While Kline was talking, the sergeant made a grab and got the cutthroat where he could not move. His knife was taken away from him and Officer Bliss of the Merchants Police assisted in taking him to the station. Upon arriving at the jail, Klein was taken into the marshall’s private office.

The fellow at this time did not seem to be drunk and in answer to a question, said that “he did most anything”  for a living. He is a tough looking character and the police believe they know him.

Dr. Ristine was called to attend to the wounded man. He said that the stab was quite serious. If it had been an inch lower down, there would have been an excellent chance of severing the jugular. At the last report last night he was sleeping under the influence of ether.

Note: the next day’s newspaper added still more gore to the crime: it read:

. . . When awakened, Kline asked, “Who told you to wake me up?” He was answered, “The old man did”. Kline then started after Mr. Kozlovsky, was ejected but returned.  . . . Kline then opened the door and John Kozlovsky went to him and told him to stay out but Kline thrust his way in and with an open pocket knife with three inch blade slashed Mr. Kozlovsky’s face, the cut running from the lip up to the ear on left side of face and singularly enough, the blade did not cut through the mouth, but sliced the flesh back so
that two fingers could be laid in the open gash. After the cutting Kline ran. . . .


Headlines for a later story read:

John Kozlovsky Fails to rally From the Shock of the Cutting on Tuesday
Diabetes – an Old Trouble – Prevents a Necessary Operation – The Old Man Weaken

When William Kline cut John Koslovsky in the face Tuesday night, it was thought that a simple flesh wound, such as was made would rapidly be healed. Somehow Dr. Ristine found the shock and loss of blood made a much greater impression than normal conditions would account for. On full examination, it was found that diabetes had been for the past three years depleting Mr. Kozlovsky’s health.

Now the best authorities claim that it is unwise to perform operations on the persons of those suffering from diabetes. Dr. Ristine yesterday informed the Kozlowski family that his prognosis of the case was extremely unfavorable, and that all concerned should be satisfied, he suggested a consultation with Doctors Rumi and Crawford.

The three physicians, after consultation, concurred in the opinion that while under ordinary circumstances, the cutting and consequent loss of half gallon or so of blood might have been been met by surgical care and brought to complete recovery, the diabetes has made such inroads upon the patient’s strength, that the wound and consequent shock and loss of blood forced from them the reluctant opinion that they could do nothing but make his departure from life easy. The family does not expect his recovery and claimed that the only medicine now given him is morphine to ease the pain . . .


John Kozlovsky died shortly after that article was written.  A later piece included this description of him:


The deceased was a man of kindly impulses and generous disposition.  An old resident of the city who had known Mr. Kozlovsky for twenty-five years and over, said yesterday:

“I cannot think of any man whom I would rather have had for my friend than big-hearted John Kozlovsky. He always stood up for those whom he liked and was an intense hater of hypocrisy. His deeds of kindness were an everyday occurrence”.

Mr. Kozlovsky was industrious and thrifty and leaves his children a comfortable fortune of twenty-five to thirty thousand dollars.

So lived and died William John Kozlovsky.  But the story isn’t over.

What happened to the perpetrator William Kline and what was his fate?  Stay tuned for the end of the story tomorrow.

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4 Responses to 129. Murder, She Wrote

  1. Linda Lewis says:

    “I cannot think of any man whom I would rather have had for my friend than big-hearted John K ozlovsky. He always stood up for those whom he liked and was an intense hater of hypocrisy. His deeds of kindness were an everyday occurrence”.

    The legacy of good will and kindness thrives!

    Pat – What rich detail you have of your ancestors. My Dad has boxes of photos and a few precious items carefully saved, but no notes or memory to understand who or what they mean. What a gift you are giving to your family with such color, insight and with your delightful humor. Priceless! ….and I look forward to “the rest of the story”!

  2. Gretchen Covey says:

    I can’t wait for the rest of the story…….

  3. susy says:

    Unbelievable! Where did you get these awesome photos and newspaper clippings? The writing in the newspaper article was so dramatic. Kinda written like a television soap opera. But what a ghastly way to die!

  4. Erika says:

    I think we’re relatives.
    I don’t have my family tree with me but I remember reading these names on it.

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