TOLLESTON GUN CLUB SHOOTING
Source: "The First Hundred Years of Lake County, As Lived and Acted by Bartlett Woods and Family and by Sam B. Woods and Family", 1938,
by Sam B. Woods.
Submitted by K. Torp
The 19th day of January, 1897, was a day long to be remembered in the Calumet region. It was not news of the steel mills erecting another unit costing millions of dollars, or that another harbor was to be built-but the Tolleston Gun Club and the farmers and natives of the region had had a battle on the marshes of the Calumet, where they shot at each other at close range and reported several dead and others severely wounded.
The Tolleston Gun Club was made up of about 250 Chicago sporting men who built a club house southeast of Tolleston, on the banks of the Calumet marsh, and bought up a lot of the swamp land, which was a great home for ducks and muskrat, and they would come out there and have a great time shooting ducks and other game. But, according to all reports, that was not all they did out there. They owned great tracts of the swamp, but they claimed a whole lot of land, that they did not own; and if any of the natives went hunting anywhere in the vicinity of their possessions, the hired gun club watchman (calling themselves game wardens) would order them off, and, if they offered any resistance, they would be very roughly handled.
This went on until the natives grew desperate, and on this 19th day of January, 1897, a good bunch of them got together on a muskrat expedition and sallied forth on the raging Calumet. They were Wm. Lohman, Henry Nimetz, Lawrence Kondyker, Alvin Bothwell, Rand Bothwell, Wm. Johnson, John Johnson; Frank Costic, Charles Prott, Theodore Prott, Floyd Bothwell and John Bothwell (father of Harry, Floyd and Clifford Bothwell), Herman Grientzel and Alfred Nicholson.
Bill Lohman claims they were not on the club grounds but were on land he had rented from John H. Clough, and had per-mission to hunt thereon. Soon after the boys arrived on the marsh the watchmen spied them and came down and ordered them off. Both sides claim the other shot first and the natives claim they were shot when they were leaving the grounds-which must be a fact, for all of them were shot in the back.
Frank Costic was shot by a bullet entering his back and coming out at his breast. Theodore Prott was thoroughly riddled with shot. Alvin Bothwell carried home some shot. Some others were peppered but not seriously.
The Chicago papers had big writeups and pictures of this shooting one another at close range, the Club house and a broad expanse of the wild marsh.
The Chicago Chronicle of January 21, 1897 heads an article: "Calls It A Murder. Farmers tell the story of the Tolleston Shooting Affray. Frank Costic, one of the victims, will die from his wounds. Guard Whitlock a fugitive.
"Others desert the Preserve Club. Title to land is disputed and legal proceedings will follow.''
The Chicago Herald: "Like Barons of Old. Reign of the Tolleston Gun Club. A Chicago Corporation that habitually defies the laws of Indiana, where it owns a shooting preserve. Indefensive Citizens Beaten and Maimed."
The Chicago Dispatch: "Bad as the Feudal Days. Shooting of the Farmers of Tolleston marsh told by the victims of this latest Outrage. Pleasantly driven from their own lands by Bullies hired to protect the Preserve of the Rich."
Chicago Daily Interocean: "Five men wounded. Deadly Conflict in Tolleston. Club's Duck Swamp. Two may not live. Club Guards and Farmer Boys use their guns." Etc., etc.
But the good part of it is there were no deaths. Bill Lohman tells a good story of the late Dr. H. L. Iddings. It seems that the Dr. had cared for a woman at Bill's house who had taken paris green, and they supposed it would kill her, but she got well. The Dr. was called when the boys were shot. Frank Costic was shot completely through and Bill was fearful he would die and wanted the Dr.'s opinion. He said ordinarily he would think death was sure, but the Polock woman was too much for the paris green and Frank, being a Polock, might pull through; and he did.
Another good story is told of Mr. West, the keeper of the Club House when it was in its glory. As the story goes, one of the other things they did at the club house, besides duck shooting was poker playing for big stakes. When Mr. West found a rich looking bunch playing, he would set up the cigars, or wine, or some other good drink. "Why Mr. West, what is this for, my birthday?" "Oh well then you shall have the next pot," which would be no small amount; and he would have a birthday every time a new bunch would come out-several times a year-making his birthdays very profitable.
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