Book review: ‘Murder in Wisconsin’ by Larry Scheckel

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

Larry Scheckel is a former science teacher who writes a newspaper column called “Ask a Science Teacher” for the Tomah Journal and Monitor-Herald. Many of those columns have been collected in two previously published books. Scheckel is originally from Seneca, Wis., and has written about his childhood in “Seneca Seasons.” “Murder in Wisconsin” also is set in the Seneca area of Crawford County. It is a well-researched true story.

Clara Olson was 21 and in love. In 1925–26, she had been courted by a local boy, Erdman Olson (no relation). He was the son of a well-off tobacco farmer neighbor. Erdman was a college boy; he always had plenty of money, and he had a car. Clara was so much in love that she succumbed to his charms to the point of becoming in a family way, as it was often called. The usual response was to save the girl’s reputation with a hurried wedding. Erdman was too much of a man about town for that.

Knowing full well that he would soon become a father, Erdman went back to Gale College. Desperate, Clara wrote both Erdman and his parents, asking them to do the right thing. Erdman’s parents knew their son wasn’t that kind of person and felt he was being made a scapegoat for someone else, probably because he had money. Erdman said as much.

Because Clara and her family were so persistent, Erdman felt he wasn’t going to get free of the situation and changed tactics. In a letter to Clara, he gave directions for a late-night rendezvous for an elopement. Clara’s father saw her leave and didn’t interfere because he thought the boy was finally doing the right thing. Clara left a vague note hinting at marriage and said she would contact them soon with good news. When she didn’t contact them after a reasonable time, the family became concerned, especially when Erdman reappeared. When confronted, he said he had given her money and sent her to the Twin Cities. But that didn’t explain why she hadn’t contacted her family, and her father began to fear the worst.

Believing that Clara had been murdered, he began organizing search parties of the area. Erdman knew what was coming. Writing letters to both sets of parents, he admitted no guilt but did say he was leaving and they would not see him again. Eventually Clara’s body was found in a shallow grave near Erdman’s parents’ farm.

The back cover of the book indicates it reads like a novel. This is especially true prior to finding the body, as Scheckel manages to build suspense even as the reader knows Clara’s fate. The remainder of the book is morea description of the workings of the 1920s legal system in rural Wisconsin. When applied to this case, that too is interesting.

“Murder in Wisconsin: The Clara Olson Case” is available in local libraries. It also may be ordered from Amazon.

Comments are closed.

  • Jumping worms identified in Monroe County

    September 17th, 2019
    by

    An aggressive, invasive type of earthworm known as a jumping worm has been identified in Monroe County.


    Driftless Arts Festival offers entertainment, culinary experiences

    September 16th, 2019
    by

    The region will be on display in its several forms during the Driftless Area Art Festival, which is set for Sept. 21–22 in Soldiers Grove.


    One killed in Highway 33 accident

    September 16th, 2019
    by

    The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office responded to a fatal two-vehicle accident on Highway 33, near County Highway PC, west of Cashton at about 7:20 a.m. today.


    Book review: ‘Death Haunts Door County’ by Patricia Skala

    September 12th, 2019
    by

    Dave Cubiak’s life was a mess. His wife and daughter had been killed by a drunken driver, and his grief left him totally unable to function, let alone be an effective police officer.


    Horse-drawn wagon rides will be offered at Wildcat

    September 12th, 2019
    by

    The Friends of Wildcat Mountain State Park will host horse-drawn wagon rides from 5–7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at the park amphitheater area.


  • Book review: ‘The Eighty- Dollar Champion’ by Elizabeth Betts

    September 5th, 2019
    by

    “The Eighty-Dollar Champion” is nonfiction, based on actual events. Much of the story took place in the mid-1950s.


    Vernon County to offer WIC benefits in September

    September 5th, 2019
    by

    The Vernon County Health Department will issue Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program benefits in September.


    Array of activities slated for Royall homecoming

    September 5th, 2019
    by

    Whew — The year is starting at a fast pace with homecoming next week already. I hope this message gets to you so you can get involved!


    Book review: ‘The Remains of the Day’ by Kazuo Ishiguro

    August 28th, 2019
    by

    The Second World War has been over for some time; England is still adjusting, Lord Darlington has died, and Darlington Hall has been sold to an American, Mr. Faraday.


    Book review: ‘True Legacy: The History of the Tillman Produce Company’ by Philip and Cheryl Tillman

    August 22nd, 2019
    by

    The remainder of the title is “and growing up in Wilton, Wisconsin.” Philip and Cheryl Tillman have compiled a book of interest to anyone who knows the Tillman family or who had a friend or relative who worked for Tillman Produce Company.


    River towns face similar struggles: Lessons from Viola could be applied to other cities, villages

    August 22nd, 2019
    by

    Viola, like many other communities in Wisconsin, owes part of its prosperity and part of its difficulties to being located near water.


  • [Advertisement.]
  • Archives