Saxtown Murders


Information compiled by Robert Buecher

[revised May 27, 2010]


The murder of the five family members occurred in their log home on the Saxtown Road, three miles south of Millstadt during the night of March 19th, 1874.  The murdered family were found in the afternoon of March 20, 1874 by Ben Schneider.  Ben was a neighbor and had come to the farm to pick up seed potatoes that he had purchased previously.  The five family members were: Friedrich Stelzenriede, about 36 years old; his wife, Anna, nee Tatje [1], about 28 years old;  a son Karl, nearly 3 years old [2]; a daughter Anna, 8 months old [3]; and the grandfather, Carl Stelzenriede, about 65 years old who lived with them. [4] 


All five had been clubbed to death, with the three adults also having their throats cut with a corn knife.  From the evidence, the murderer appeared to be left handed.  The  father, mother and the two children were found in the front room.  The elder Carl was probably the last killed and died in the door way of his adjoining room.


The reason for the murders appeared to be robbery.  The house had been thoroughly ransacked.  It was known in the area that the elder Stelzenriede had sums of cash which he loaned out at interest.  Another story indicates that Fred Stelzenriede had attended a neighborhood farm auction two days before the murders. He was carrying a covered willow basket which he held onto tightly.  A latecomer to the auction said that Stelzenriede had recently received a notice that he had inherited some money from Germany.  The money had arrived in Millstadt and the morning of the sale Stelzenriede had walked into town to claim it.  The sale was attended both by area residents as well as by strangers.  It seems that many people new about his recent inheritance and might have committed the robbery and murders.


Various persons were under suspicion for the crimes but there were never any convictions despite a reward of $3,000.    Among the suspects were: Fred Baltz, George Killian, Ben Schneider, George Schneider, George Fritzinger and two of the Stelzenriede nephews from Washington County, IL.


The family were members of Zion Evangelical Church at Millstadt and the funeral was conducted by their pastor, Jacob Knauss.  Nearly a thousand people attending the funeral of the murdered family.  All five members of the murdered family were buried in Freivogel Cemetery located south of Millstadt near the intersection of Saxtown Road and Mueller Road. The cemetery has always been owned by Zion Evangelical Church in Millstadt.  Sometime after the burials, family members in Washington County, IL erected a nine foot obelisk in Walnut Hill Cemetery in Belleville.  The stone has the names of all five  victims and also the German inscription “Zum Andenken an Die Ermordete Familie, den 19 Maerz, 1874” [In memory of the Murdered Family on March 19, 1874] The family’s intent was to rebury the 5 members in this plot in Walnut Hill.  The story is that the church elders along with Saxtown citizens would not allow the bodies to be moved.  Thus the victims lie in graves in Freivogel Cemetery, while their tombstone is seven miles distant in Walnut Hill Cemetery.


The house was later owned by Peter Muskopf, Charles Muskopf and then by Leslie Jines who in August 1954 tore down the original house and built a new residence [5].


Additional information about the murders can be found in these sources:




[1]   Fred Stelzenriede and Anna Tatje were married in St. Clair County on 13 March 1868.  Marriage license # 2924.


[2]   According to the baptism records of Zion Evangelical Church, Millstadt, Karl Heinrich Stelzenriede was born on 21 March 1871 and was baptized on 14 May 1871.


[3]   The baptism records of Zion Evangelical Church, Millstadt state that Anna was born 25 July 1873 and was baptized on 3 November 1873.


[4]   Carl’s wife was  Maria Christina Stelzenriede, nee Horstmann, who was born August 15, 1803 in Sued-Hemmern, Kreis Minden, Prussia;  she married Carl Heinr. Stelzenriede in 1833 and the family emigrated to America in 1844;  she died June 10, 1866 and was buried in Freivogel Cemetery, south of Millstadt.  [This information was found in the death records of Zion Evangelical Church, Millstadt, IL, 1866 # 21]


[5]   Millstadt Enterprise, Millstadt, Illinois; issue dated Thursday, August 19, 1954, page 1 with a photo of the old residence.