Country-school teacher murder story captured in book
Thursday, September 26, 2013 10:30 AM
It was the year that President Warren Harding was inaugurated as the 29th president of the United States and when a joint congressional resolution declaring peace with Germany and formally ending World War I was signed. The year also brought the first radio-broadcasted baseball game on KDKA in Pittsburg and Albert Einstein's award of the Nobel Prize in physics. It was 1921. It was also the year of tragic news in southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa; the year of the murder of a country-school teacher.
Elaine (Myhre) Hegg has just completed a book about the murder of Inga Magnusson, "Death in a One-room Country School." Magnusson was the school teacher at Bergen School District #6 in rural Allamakee County just one mile from the settlement of Bee.
"I had heard stories of this tragic event from my father, Clarence "Edwin" Myhre, ever since I was a young child," remarked Hegg. "He was one of her students and remembers when it happened."
"Through all of the research and interviews that I've done, the story has remained the same, there really haven't been any conflicting things with it."
The 23-year-old schoolteacher, Inga Magnusson, was beaten to death by Earl Throst in the basement of the remote schoolhouse on Dec. 12. He claimed that they had been dating and that she broke off the relationship, but this actually never happened. What did happen to make him so angry to beat her to death? Hegg's book has many more details from extensive interviews with people that were there or had connections with those involved.
"I wanted to see this story be preserved because I think it is an important part of our local history," Hegg added. "I have learned many interesting things along the way; not only was my father a part of the story as a student at that school, but I discovered that my great-great-grandpa was the man that sold the land so the school could be built on it. I also found out that one of the flower girls at Inga's funeral was my grandma's sister. All of those girls were friends of Inga."
This project has taken Hegg 15 years to complete. She was fortunate to be able to speak to the student who was the last one to see Magnusson alive. She was 90 years old at the time that Hegg visited with her.
"I feel very lucky that I got to meet her and talk to her about what she remembered about the day of the murder."
Hegg was also privileged to see the murder weapon and court documents about the murder at the Decorah courthouse. Hegg also consulted resources from the Houston County and Allamakee County Historical Societies as well as the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center.
She has also gotten to know Magnusson's nieces and nephews throughout her time of researching this book and they are glad that their aunt's story has been kept alive. In fact, they gave Hegg the dress that Inge wore in her graduation photo; it is featured on the book's cover.
Hegg has family ties to the Spring Grove area - her father grew up in the Wilmington area and later moved to rural Decorah. She remembers spending many Sundays in Spring Grove visiting family when she was growing up. She now resides in Calmar, Iowa.
Book signing during Uff Da Fest
She will be at the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. during Uff Da Fest on Saturday, Oct. 5. Her books will hot off the press (she is picking them up from the publisher the day before!) and she is excited to have them available for purchase that day. She will also be signing books for interested parties. Some of Magnusson's nieces and nephews hope to come to Spring Grove to see the book for the first time.
Uff Da Fest has many events planned throughout the day on Saturday. Visit their website, www.uffdafest.com, to see the many festivities including food and entertainment that will be offered.
Speaking at conference
Hegg will also be presenting her book during the Iowa Country School Conference in Decorah on Friday, Oct. 11. This event is sponsored by Preservation Iowa and is open to the public. The day begins with registration at 8:30 a.m. with a variety of country-school focused speakers all day long. The event is being held at the Oaks Steakhouse on State Highway 9.
For more information, contact Elaine Myhre Hegg, PO Box 575, Calmar, IA 52132.