The murder of Lars Gullaksen Aarhus in Highland Township
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 5:10 AM
This is the story of a bachelor farmer living between Highlandville (Iowa) and Quandahl (Iowa) back in 1898.
He was born June 20, 1845, on the farm Aarhus in Evanger, Voss, Hordaland, Norway, the son of Gullak Gullaksen Aarhus (1787-1856) and Ingeborg Larsdatter (1807-1859).
Lars Aarhus emigrated on April 20, 1867, accompanied by his sister Anna, (b. Oct. 17, 1843). We don't know what became of Anna, but by 1885, Lars was living in Highland Township, Winneshiek County, Iowa, as Lars Gilbertson.
Lars was a farmer and a neighbor to John Kjerland. On the evening of Dec. 15, 1898, John came to the home of his neighbor, Lars, and shot him dead just as he was about to milk one of his cows.
The story that leads up to the tragedy is one full of sorrow for the poor woman who almost became one of the murderer's victims.
Possessed of an insanely jealous disposition, Kjerland imagined his wife was untrue to him and accused her of being intimate with Aarhus.
According to the testimony at the coroner's inquest, Kjerland had gone to the home of a neighbor around noon, and after dinner, he went to Quandahl, returning about 6 p.m.
While the neighbors were doing the chores, Kjerland took down a Marlin rifle, saying he would take it out and clean it. He disappeared and did not return until the next day.
It is supposed that he went to the home of Aarhus and lying in wait, shot him in the barn.
Nothing was known of the tragedy until Friday morning, when parties who went to the Aarhus house found it open with no fire in the stove.
The parties made an examination of the premises and found Aarhus lying dead behind his cows, his faithful dog keeping watch over him.
They hurried to Highlandville and telephoned for Sheriff Christen and Coroner Gibson.
After the body had been removed to the house, those in attendance went to Kjerland's home, where Mrs. Kjerland testified that her husband came home about 9:30 p.m. Thursday evening.
She had been upstairs filling some broken window panes with cloth to keep out the cold, when he came up, took her by the throat and choked her, putting his hand in her mouth when she screamed.
She got away and crawled under the bed, but he pulled her out and pounded her on the head, finally dragging her to the head of the stairs, where he stepped on her head.
He then left her, and she crawled to the bed where several of the children were sleeping. He was gone for some time, and when he returned, she was sitting on the edge of the bed holding her baby.
Taking his pocketknife, he struck her twice over the heart, twice in the back, once on the stomach and 17 times on the arms, shoulders and neck.
After he stabbed her, she turned over on the bed and lay there all night with the children.
Kjerland had then gone to a neighbor's home and asked him to get a physician for his wife, saying she was in a bad way, and Kjerland was told he could go upstairs and sleep.
The sheriff finally located him there about 8:30 Saturday morning. The woman of the house went up and told him that someone wanted to see him.
He asked her to call her husband, who was down at the stable, but before she had gone half dozen steps from the house a shot was heard.
Her husband entered and called upstairs to Kjerland, but getting no response, he went upstairs and found Kjerland lying on the bed, dead and his brains spattered against the wall, a bullet hole in his forehead showing how he had taken his own life.
Editor's note: A tragic story comes to an end. You didn't know history could be so intriguing did you?
We have several books at our library at Giants of the Earth, which gives a tremendous amount of history about early settlers of this area.
Also check our website at www.sgheritage.org for information. Contact us at the Heritage Center (507) 498-5070 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additions and corrections to these columns are welcome.