Casefile Clues

01 August 2013

Dead In A Shed- A Backyard Death in Rock Island

Life was not always easy for some immigrants to the United States. Some were not as fortunate as others and did not find success and prosperity in the new world.

Such was the case of Alphons Poper.

The article on Poper was of interest because it contained references to to the actual subject, August Mortier. Little is known about Mortier's life in Rock Island and it was hoped that a search of digital newspapers would provide some clues on his life. The Belgian immigrant arrived with his young family in 1880 and immediately settled in the Quad City area where, like many he left a small scattering of records documenting his existence, his wife and children, and where he lived--but not much more.

Apparently in 1895, he was running a boarding house at his home on 5 and a Half Avenue. The residence was already known, but I was unaware he ran a boarding house at that time. Poper had fallen down on his luck and Mortier had apparently taken some pity on him in early July of 1895, feeding him and giving him something to drink later in the day.

Not wanting the disheveled man  to sleep in the barn on his property, Mortier went to arouse him that evening and found him dead in the barn.
Rock Island Argus, 8 July 1895, p. 5; digital image, Library of Congress


One never knows what one will find when searching in the newspaper. There were not a lot of clues about August here, but I did learn that he did take some pity on a fellow Belgian who was down on his luck. Sometimes those are things we don't discover in court and other records--and this family is not one that left diaries, letters, and other materials.