On January 9, 1894, my great-grandfather-in-law William John Kozlovsky (called “John”) was stabbed in the face by a man named William Kline (also spelled Cline).
At first, it appeared the wound would heal, but on the second day, John began bleeding profusely as a result of diabetes and other complications, and on the fourth day, January 13, 1894, he died.
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In the flamboyant journalese of the day, shown below is an account of the perpetrator’s “confession” as confided to a reporter for the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette on January 14, 1894. I’m printing it in its entirety because I’m curious to see what you think of the situation from Kline’s point of view.
HIS VICTIM IS DEAD
WILLIAM KLINE FINDS IT OUT FOR THE FIRST TIME YESTERDAY
23 INMATES IN THE LINN COUNTY JAIL BUT NO ONE TELLS THE MAN WHO SLASHED KOZLOVSKY OF HIS VICTIM’S DECEASE – A NERVY MAN
William Kline, do you know that Mr. William J. Kozlovsky whom you are accused of cutting is dead?
No, I did not.
Do you believe you killed him?
No, before God I do not.
When the announcement of the death of his victim was made before Kline, for a moment a convulsive shudder shook his frame. In a second, he had pulled himself together for the answer. No! Sitting for the moment alone with the accused in one of the cages, the writer confesses to an expectation of something dramatic.
Here is a man of rude and simple life with no years of self-denial to teach him self control and so far, perhaps, no shrewd lawyer to coach him, yet in a scarcely imperceptible second, he braces himself into the quiet of a stoic, and expresses a willingness to tell anything he knew and the following information was elicited without any further trouble, while he finished flushed and turned a too cunning eye upon his questioner.
Here is the story of his life as he tells it.
He says he was born in Lucas County, Ohio, February 7, 1847, was moved away from there when two or three years old to near Argus, Indiana, where he remained about four years, and removed to Anamosa, where he lived until about 1874, when he went to Fort Collins, Colorado. Whilst there he worked at laboring work and for about four years he farmed, having preempted 80 acres.
“Before I went to Colorado and while I resided in the neighborhood of Anamosa, in 1861 I enlisted in the Union army at the age of 14 years and carried a musket from 21 September, 1861 for 11 months, when I was discharged with chronic diarrhea, bronchitis and pneumonia, contracted in the Army. I draw a pension now.
I came back to Jones County, Iowa, and went to work chopping wood, clearing up the land, also working in stone quarry and general laboring work. This has filled my time since. I have on several occasions gone away to different points such as Joplin, Missouri, where I have a daughter, Mrs. Jenny Lamprey, whom I have always been on good terms with.
A couple, maybe three times, I have been in Cedar Rapids. Once about a year ago last summer. I stopped at Kozlovsky’s. I then had no trouble with them. Although I was on a regular drunk, I paid my bill without a word and left.
Thursday, January 9, last I left Anamosa, perfectly sober, on the Chicago Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway train at 9:55 AM not having drank a drop. Arrived in Cedar Rapids on what is called the Farley accommodation between 11 and 12. Went to William Kozlovsky’s, hung my overcoat up and called for whiskey. I had just $30.60 when I arrived in Cedar Rapids after getting a drink. I ordered my dinner and gave Kozlovsky a dollar which paid for dinner, supper, lodging and breakfast.
After dinner I drank some more whiskey and went out to “The Fair” where I bought some shirts and underclothes and a “grip”. I drank some more and took my things back to Kozlovsky‘s intending to go to Council Bluffs to go to work, although I told them at the police station I wanted to go to Missouri thinking as they had already fined me $10 and costs in the police court for drunkenness they would let me off easy if they thought I wanted my money to go to Missouri.
I never thought that man would die or that I had done anything serious. I often go four or five months without drinking. Once I went over four years. I do not remember going to Kozlovsky’s to supper. I was pretty drunk and can’t remember.
The last place I remember being was on the corner of First Street and A Avenue sometime after dark. My memories cease there until the next thing I remember was someone hitting me with something thrown at my left side. I then started to run. I do not know what time it was. I think I fell on the street and was picked up by officers. I do not recollect seeing Kozlovsky that night nor cutting him.
I have a wife and nine children living. One boy may be dead, as I have not heard from him for a year last October. I have three boys one about 13 lives with my wife and me in Anamosa; one married and is about 28, lives near Oley; one a wanderer about 21. I have six girls running from three years to 25. The oldest one is married to a man named Lamprey and lives near Joplin, Missouri; the rest live at home.
I do not know of my ever being insane or an inmate of an insane asylum. My wife has often called me insane as if she meant it. About 20 or 25 years ago, I was in Anamosa city jail for drunkenness. That is the only time I ever was in jail. I think I must’ve been crazy or crazy drunk that night at Kozlovsky’s, as I have no recollection of doing what I am charged with. I believe before God I am innocent. I never carry anything but a pocket knife. My knife blade was about so long (about 3 1/2 inches).”
And so the man prattled on, with apparently no sense of the seriousness of his position. He is either incapable of appreciating his danger or too dull and cloddish to care.
Sometimes a cunning glance and smile will pop out, but most of the time he seems uninterested and merely answers questions from politeness. He does not impress his keepers or comrades as exactly sane. There are rumors of family quarrels and unhappiness in Kline’s family floating about, but they can be traced to no one who will verify them.
After his father’s death, his son Joseph Kozlovsky – a well-respected alderman of Cedar Rapids – demanded that Kline be charged with first degree murder, and within two weeks or so, William Kline was indeed charged with murder in the first degree. I can’t find any record that indicated he had any legal counsel.
This photo shows Joseph (standing) with his father William John Kozlovsky and mother Mary.
Soon after, members of the then powerful Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) announced their support of William Kline and let loose a scathing criticism of John Kozlovsky for his ownership of a saloon where men were served beer and – they were certain – other illegal beverages.
The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette published an editorial in support of Kozlovsky and sternly criticized the WCTU for disparaging the life of a dead person.
Meanwhile, the attending physician made his report indicating that the wound inflicted was not the primary cause of death.
In March, William Kline was sentenced to five years in Anamosa Penitentiary for manslaughter. A few months after he began serving his sentence, some of Kline’s supporters began circulating a petition to free him and they announced that the petition was approved of by Alderman Joseph Kozlovsky. Joe (pictured here) emphatically denied any support of the petition and reiterated that he firmly considered the crime he had witnessed in his father’s bar to be murder in the first degree.
William Kline served three years of his sentence. Then, on March 20, 1897, upon the recommendation of the trial judge and the county attorney, and a petition signed by a large number of prominent citizens of Anamosa and Jones county, Iowa Governor Francis Marion Drake granted William Kline a pardon. His release from prison was to remain in force as long as he should abstain from the “use of intoxicating liquors, absent himself from all places where intoxicating liquors are sold, return to his family and spend the remainder of his life in caring for their wants and necessities, and in every respect demean himself as an orderly and law-abiding citizen.”
I couldn’t find out whether William Kline – a Civil War veteran and father of nine children – was able to amend his ways, but I like to believe he did.
What do you think?