THIS is truly amazing: I went to bed the other night mostly convinced that John Heach was a figment of someone's imagination at the Pierz Journal...but Larry decided to check further. He thought about reasons a man would just show up in a small town and stay (hide ?) there for the rest of his life. He had no relatives, he said, and his friends seemed to be a select few people in Pierz. He became a "character" in town, an eccentric old guy who did odd jobs for a bit of cash. We think he probably hung out at the Journal office, so the editor realized that John was smart and educated. Evidently, John didn't talk much about his life before Pierz, so when he was convinced to write his autobiography for the paper he disclosed all he wanted people to know.
(BTW, Larry had already found census records of John Heach in 1900 and 1910 in Pierz. He was born January 30, 1828 and died in Pierz October 29th, 1915).
Larry thought John might have had something to hide--and look what he found--I've transcribed the newspaper column because it's hard to read, but it relates an incident in Chicago, in February 1876. Yes, this man might not be Pierz' John Heach, but the timeline works, including time for him to have traveled the world, as he claimed, and a reason to 'lay low' for the rest of his life:
A BULLET IN THE HEART.
A Divorced Husband Undertakes a Scheme of Revenge upon his Successor--He Attacks Him in the Dark, and is Shot Dead.
From the Chicago Tribune, Feb 7.
At 12:15 this morning a desperate and fatal affray occurred at No. 182 Wesson St, in which a man named Ed Campbell was shot dead by John Heach. As usual a woman was the cause of the tragedy yet she avers that it was done in self defense. Some two years ago the domestic _____ which had prevailed between Campbell and his wife were made the subject of an appeal to the courts, and a decree of separation was, after due process of law, rendered. Soon after, Mrs Campbell was united in marriage with Heach, and today mourns the fate to which she has been committed. Since the marriage with Heach, Mrs H has been made the object of annoyance by Campbell, who availed himself of every opportunity that presented itself to treat her in a manner that was calculated to provoke her dislike and arouse the ire of her husband. The scene of the tragedy is a low, unpretentious two-story house, the first story of which is occupied by Heach and his family, the upper story being allotted to a family names O'Day, John Moore, the landlord, entering in the rear. Last evening at 7 o'clock Campbell visited the premises and interrogated Moore as to the whereabouts of Mrs. Heach. The object of his inquiry happened to be absent visiting a relative, and remarking that he would call again, departed. He fulfilled his promise and about three hours later propounded the same question to Moore. Heach, who keeps a saloon on Ralstead street had not yet returned home, and Campbell took up his quarters in an outhouse on the premises to await his coming. Soon after Mrs Heach heard three shots fired, and going to the door to ascertain the cause was met by her husband who, unknown to anyone, had arrived.
He told her what he had done, exhibited his hand gashed with a knife, from which the blood gushed in streams, and asked her to asist him in dressing his wound. This she did, and indicated that he should either remain or proceed to the station and surrender himself. He declined to accede to her request, and stating that he would go to a surgeon, left the house. Others who were in an adjoining yard related that their attention was attracted by an altercation in an enclosure attached to No 183 and heard someone call out from the outhouse, "I'll fix you now, you ___", after which the firing took place. Officer Lowardson, who was traveling that beat, heard the reports of four shots, he says, and hastened with all possible speed to the locality from whence they proceeded. On entering the yard, he inhaled the smell of powder, and after a search found Campbell lying under a stairway leading from the second story to the yard gasping for breath and evidently in the throes of death. He procured a light which was easily obtained, as the neighbors had heard the shots and were on the alert as to the cause, and found the deceased doubled up, the blood oozing from a wound in the left breast above the heart and breathing at intervals. Dr Haas was summoned immediately but before he was able to respond death ensued. The officers then turned their attention to secate the murderer but he had fled the scene, and at 3 o'clock this morning had not been arrested. Mrs Heach was taken to the Chicago avenue station, where she related the foregoing account to the Tribune reporter. She is a comely appearing woman of pleasing address, about thirty years of age, and told her story of the trials, abuse and insults she had been obliged to endure in a manner that carried conviction to those who heard her. Campbell is said to have been a drunken, shiftless brute, the enemy of all who differed from him, and particularly of the woman who was his former wife. His body was taken to the morgue, where an inquest will be held today.
Fulton NY Register, February 7, 1876A month later:
Incredibly, different professions around the country kept records of their trade in printed volumes that are still around--this time it's the Locomotive Engineers Journal, honest. The man expelled from the brotherhood in the listing below might not be our man in Pierz, but he was certainly the same dude from the above article. Now we know he was trained to run a locomotive....
The plot thickens:
Look at this list of granted divorces Larry found..."Matilda Heach from John H Heach, for desertion" --Chicago Tribune, November 3, 1889. Does it fit John's bio? The shooting was in Chicago in 1876, and if he left town, he couldn't have become a train engineer later unless he owned another saloon, still later...AND married a woman named Matilda. (The woman in Chicago was "Carrie", I believe, and she testified that they were never married).
If he was in Little Falls and Pierz by 1885, then Matilda had every right to claim desertion.