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December 11, 1896
What Cheer, Iowa


The quiet little Quaker village of Coal Creek - the scene of a horrible tragedy.

Milton Brunson Riddled with Bullets in his Mother's Dooryard Last Night

The village of Coal Creek, five miles northwest of this place, was the scene of a horrible tragedy last night. Milton Brunson on returning home between two and three o'clock a.m. was met on his mother's premises by a volley of bullets and buckshot fired by unknown parties. Brunson had for some time been the terror of the community, even his own relatives feared him. He has long borne an unenviable reputation, having served time in prison for some of his former crimes.

For the past six months he has made his home with his mother, Mrs. Margaret Brunson, an old and respected resident and postmistress of the village. Her only reason for harboring him was that she dared not attempt to drive him away. He had repeatedly made threats against her life. He is accused of making nightly trips throughout the surrounding country and stealing chickens and other things which he chanced to find. His penchant, however, was stealing chickens which he took to market and sold. He has been in town recently with loads of chickens on an old cart.

He was arrested not long since and convicted of stealing chickens, but was let go with a small fine. Yesterday he was again arrested on the charge of stealing chickens from Will Rickie and brought before Justice Vore. He took a change of venue and the case was tried in Keswick: the evidence not being clear enough to convict, he was discharged. He rode back with Constable Dansdill as far as Prairie Belle school house, and from there he walked home. On his arrival he was fired upon by what must have been a large party of men who evidently knew he was coming and prepared themselves to thus rid the community of a dangerous and troublesome character.

Arriving at home he had preceded past the house and was within a few feet of the barn when the first shots were fired, evidently from behind some chicken coops which had been arranged for a hiding place. Two shots were fired. Then about twenty shots in quick succession; then after a pause, six or more shots were fired. The shooting was heard by most of the people in the village, but all thought that Mr. Burnson had arrived home and was taking this means of letting them know that he was still at liberty.

Even the members of his own family supposed it was himself doing the shooting until morning when his mangled and lifeless body was found surrounded by pools of blood where he had fallen at first volley. His face and clothing were burned with powder showing the shots had been fired at short range.

The scene of the tragedy has been visited by crowds of people today. The coroner was summoned from Sigourney and arrived about noon. Meantime the body was allowed to lie where it was found.

We have not learned the result of the inquest at the time of going to press, but it will hardly develop anything except as here stated.

Many condemn this action as cold blooded murder, while others take a more practical view that it was merely taking time by the forelock and probably preventing the murder of several good citizens, as he has repeatedly threatened their lives, and those who knew him believed him capable of carrying out the threat. All agree however that the community is well rid of him. It is hardly probable that the parties who committed the deed will ever be apprehended.

It is reported that he has a wife living in Chicago.

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Page Last Updated: 2008-06-18 20:45:42
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