Dark Byway: Murder of Marshal Joseph Kashmetter (Kaeshmetter, Kashmitter) 1911

Murder Victim

Joseph “Joe” Kashmetter (Kaeshmetter, Kashmitter)
53-year-old Town Marshal, City of Alton
Father of 10
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Motive: Avoiding Arrest

Murder Scene and Date

Shot 2:00 a.m. March 25, 1911
Behind the Hoxmeier Store
End of Watch 4:00 a.m. March 27, 1911
Kashmetter Home
Alton, Iowa
Sioux County


By Nancy Bowers
Written March 2014

location of Alton, Iowa

location of Alton, Iowa

In the early morning hours of Saturday, March 25, 1911, Alton, Iowa, Town Marshal Joseph “Joe” Kashmetter (Kaeshmetter, Kashmitter), 53, made his regular rounds through the business district of the small Sioux County town where he lived.

The ever-vigilant law officer was looking for anything out of place or suspicious: a light left on, a door ajar, a person prowling around the stores and shops.

Kashmetter was near the railroad station on his route when he turned down the alley behind the Hoxmeier Store.

Contemporary view of the Hoxmeirer Store (courtesy of TOM)

Contemporary view of the Hoxmeier Building (courtesy of TOM)

Just then, two men he could barely make out walked forward out of the darkness and yelled at him to put up his hands. Kasmetter did as he was told but warned the men:

“I am the Town Marshal!”

At that moment, both men opened fire on him. A .38 caliber bullet struck Kashmetter in the lung and passed through; the other bullet, also a .38, lodged in his stomach. The men then fled into the blackness.

Marshal Kashmetter staggered into the main street, gravely wounded. He drew his own revolver and began firing shots to wake up slumbering residents and alert them to his plight and to the fleeing men.

Residents who heard Kashmetter’s shots ran into the street and found him lying helpless. Several men helped carry him to his home.

Dr. Frederick Warren Cram, a distinguished and accomplished doctor from Sheldon, who was said to have owned the first automobile in northwestern Iowa, was called to the scene to examine and attend the wounded Kashmetter; but Cram could not find and remove the remaining bullet through probing.

North Side of Alton Business District with the Hoxmeier Building at far right

North Side of Alton Business District
with the Hoxmeier Building at far right

Peter Romeijn Schaap, the 55-year-old Sheriff of Sioux County, came to Kashmetter’s bedside and heard the facts of the shooting directly from the injured man. The Marshal could give few details about the men who shot him but was convinced he could identify them should they be apprehended.

Doctor Cram and the family were hopeful for Kashmetter’s recovery because he was strong and healthy and one bullet had passed through his chest and completely out of the body.

But, Kashmetter grew weaker and weaker on Sunday night and then passed away at 4:00 a.m. on Monday, March 27.

☛ Investigators Scour the Region ☚

from the Hawarden Independent

from the Hawarden Independent

From the moment of the tragedy, Sheriff Schapp and his deputies sprang into action. They searched the streets of Alton, went door-to-door, observed those boarding trains, and sent word to neighboring depots to be on the lookout.

Schaap’s men also spread out along the rail route known as “the Omaha Road” — the line between Sioux City and St. Paul. They even detained suspects, some as far away as Worthington and Heron Lake, Minnesota, but lacked evidence to hold them.

The Rock Valley Bee reported that Kashmetter was shot in the back — the only news source to carry that information — leading its editors to conclude that three assailants attacked Marshal Kashmetter, even through the Marshal himself saw only two.

Although the Sheriff and his deputies pursued every lead possible, their challenge was great and the Hawarden Independent warned residents — whose anger was running high enough for a lynching if the suspects had been caught:

“They are working practically in the dark and the chances of capturing the murderers is very slight.”

This prediction proved true and no one was ever charged or convicted in the shooting death of Marshal Kashmetter.

☛ Life of Joseph Kashmetter ☚

Joseph Kashmetter was born on March 19, 1858 in Germany and came to America in 1872 when he was 14-years-old. On November 16, 1880 in Lawrence, Tennessee, he married Anna Fritz, a native of Germany who arrived in the United States at the age of 15 in 1875.

The Kashmetter’s first two children, Louisa A. and John A., were born in Tennessee in 1881 and 1882. By the time their third child Caroline arrived five years later, the family was residing in Iowa; son Otto J. was born in 1889, followed by Mary C. in 1897. Clothilda Marie Kashmetter was born in Alton, Iowa, in 1895, followed by Henry G. in 1897, Gertrude V. in 1900, Richard in 1903, and Bernard in 1907.

In the 1890s, Joe Kashmetter worked for the railroad in Rock Valley and was widely well-liked and respected in that town and community, as well as in Alton where he lived afterwards.

Alton Catholic Church (courtesy of TOM)

Alton Catholic Church (courtesy of TOM)

On Wednesday, March 31, a large funeral was held for Marshal Kashmetter in the Alton Catholic Church (now St. Mary’s Catholic Church). Mourning his loss were his wife and 10 children, the youngest of which was four.

The Hawarden Independent wrote:

“The people are stirred with feelings of sorrow for the stricken family, and stand united to avenge the outrage with the strong arm of the law.”

And the Rock Valley Bee reported:

“Never before in the history of Alton have the people been so wrought up over any event as the unwarranted murder of their town marshal. There was absolutely no cause for the foul crime. Mr. Kashmetter was a man highly respected and was very popular in Alton both as an official and a citizen.”

In 1918 — seven years after her husband’s murder — Joseph Kashmetter’s widow Anna married William Schreier. She passed away in Minnesota in 1934.

In the Line of Duty

The Officer’s Down Memorial Page, which honors peace officers killed in the line of duty in the United States, has compiled a sobering list of 191 Iowa public servants who lost their lives while protecting the safety and security of others. This number reflects such deaths as of early 2015 and, sadly, it is likely to increase as the years pass.

Although officers die on duty from many and diverse causes — everything from natural disasters to car and train accidents to heart attacks — as of this writing, 105 Iowa peace officers have died, like Marshal Kashmetter, from gunfire while defending the public.

Click here to view the Officer Down Memorial Page dedicated to the memory of Alton Marshal Joseph Kashmetter.

Please note: Use of information in this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.



  • ☛ “Alton Marshal Shot Dies From Wounds,” Rock Valley Bee March 31, 1911.
  • ☛ “Marshal Is Killed,” Hawarden Independent, March 30, 1911.
  • ☛ “Marshal Is Shot,” Le Mars Semi-Weekly Sentinel, March 31, 1911.
  • ☛ “Marshal Is Shot,” Nashua Reporter April 6, 1911.
  • ☛ Officer Down Memorial Page.
  • ☛ U.S. Census.

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