Murder and Mayhem tour lights up Minneapolis history

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On a warm October Saturday afternoon, local historian Susan Hunter-Weir gave her second annual Murder and Mayhem Tour of the Pioneers & Soldiers Cemetery, located on the north side of Lake Street from Cedar Ave. to 21st Ave. Of the 21,000 people buried there, most over 100 years ago, many were the victims of disease, drowning, shooting, suicide, and other unfortunate life-shortening causes. Hunter-Weir gave her tour group a sampling of this darker side to Minneapolis history.

One of her first stops was the grave of Charles Collins. He was an African-American man who was shot and killed in 1902 by jealous husband Herbert Gallehugh, who was paranoid that his wife was having an affair with Collins. When Gallehugh went on trial, the lengthy jury selection process resulted in a jury of 12 white men. African-Americans were rarely seated on juries of trials like these because of their opposition to the death penalty, because death by hanging reminded them all too vividly of lynchings against black people. Minneapolis’s African-American community was concerned enough about the outcome of this case that they raised the money to hire an attorney to assist the prosecution. Thankfully, the jury rejected Gallehugh’s plea of self-defense and found him guilty, sentencing him to life in prison.

Hunter-Weir later told the sad story of Anna Clark. Anna was a woman who struggled with depression and slipped into despair when her husband Frederick died in the early 1890’s. Her husband was buried in the cemetery, and a few years later Anna used a gun to kill herself in the cemetery while visiting her husband’s grave. The newspaper, which also ran Anna’s suicide note, reported that she used her last nickel to take a trolley car to the grave where she took her own life. Over a century later, Anna’s descendants paid for and helped to install grave markers that now show where Frederick and Anna are buried, side by side.

And no murder and mayhem tour of Pioneers & Soldiers would be complete without a visit to the grave of the most famous celebrity murderer in Minneapolis history, that of Harry Hayward. In 1894, Hayward convinced a local woman to sign over two life insurance policies to him, then hired a man to kill her so he could collect the money. Hayward was famous in Minneapolis for being a gambler and a womanizer, and the ensuing trial drew a huge amount of press. After a lengthy trial that brought in over 100 witnesses to testify, a jury found Hayward guilty, and he was hanged in 1895.

Many of Susan Hunter-Weir’s stories about the history of the cemetery are available on its website, www.friendsofthecemetery.org. She also publishes a new story each month in The Alley newspaper and was instrumental in the creation of the Pioneers & Soldiers Cemetery section of the Right on Lake Street exhibit, which runs until March of 2008 at the Minnesota History Center.