Dead at the Gate: Murder of Jeremiah Zollinger 1895

Murder Victim

Jeremiah Rummell Zollinger
65-year-old Grocer
Former Jasper County Sheriff
Capt. 28th Iowa Infantry
Cause of Death: Bludgeoned
Motive: Grudge

Murder Scene and Date

Yard Gate, Zollinger Home
Newton, Iowa
Jasper County
February 23, 1895


By Nancy Bowers
Written June 2011

location of Newton, Iowa

location of Newton, Iowa

About 9:30 on Saturday night, February 23, 1895, 65-year-old former Jasper County Sheriff Jeremiah “Jerry” Zollinger closed his grocery store and started for home with a business ledger tucked under his arm.

The electric carbon arc light near his house was turned off, so the area was dark. When he was only four rods from the gate, someone hit Zollinger violently on the head with a club.

He touched the large gash on his head and then steadied himself against the fence, leaving bloodstains.

He managed to get inside the house and sat down in a chair, looking stunned. Seeing blood flowing down over his face, his wife Elizabeth asked what was wrong and he and uttered his last words:

“I got struck in the yard.”

Although a doctor was summoned to help him, little could be done; Zollinger quickly lost consciousness and died about 12:20 a.m. on Sunday morning, February 24.

There was early speculation that Zollinger had a stroke and fell, hitting his head against an electric wire pole. However, authorities concluded Zollinger was attacked because his wound was too high on the head to have been from a fall and his clothes were unsoiled, indicating he was never on the ground.

from the Rolfe Reveille

Two club-like sticks found in the yard were similar to those in a nearby wood pile, but none could not be linked to the attack.

“Jerry” Zollinger was universally admired and liked in Newton, so why anyone would want to hurt him was puzzling.

Newspapers said he was murdered by “footpads,” a 19th century term used for robbers on foot who sneaked up on unsuspecting victims. Yet, robbery was ruled out by investigators because there was $26 in his pockets.

The only possible motive was that someone bore Zollinger a grudge from the time he served as Deputy and then Sheriff of Jasper County. He was known to be a staunch upholder of the law.

☛ Jeremiah Zollinger’s Life ☚

from the Anita Republican

from the Anita Republican

Jeremiah Rummell Zollinger was born December 7, 1829 in Hagerstown, Maryland, to Pennsylvania natives Elizabeth Rummell and Andrew Zollinger.

He had five brothers — Josiah, John, Jacob, Samuel, and Andrew Zollinger — and three sisters, Margaret Zollinger Hanstine, Barbara Zollinger Middlekauf, and Bessie Zollinger.

On May 10, 1853 in Lockhaven, Pennsylvania, he married Elizabeth Marion Randall. Their first child, John Rummel Zollinger, died as an infant.

With his parents and other siblings, Zollinger moved west to Ogle County, Illinois, where most of the family lived out their lives.

Photo by Richard Weston

However, Jerry and Elizabeth moved even farther west and by 1859 were living in Newton, Iowa. They had two other children: Edward Wayne Zollinger and Gulielma Zollinger. Zollinger’s daughter Gulielma became a well-known author of books for young people, including The Widow O’Callaghan’s Boys, A Boy’s Ride, The Rout of the Foreigner, and Maggie Mclanehan.

Zollinger knew long and challenging service during the Civil War. He was commissioned on April 14, 1863 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 28th Iowa Infantry of the Union Army. He served under General Phillip Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign and was made a Captain.

After the war, he worked as a carpenter and then became a Deputy Sheriff. He was twice elected Sheriff of Jasper County.

In the years before his death, Zollinger operated a Newton grocery store.

Zollinger’s funeral — conducted by the Newton Masonic Lodge and G.A.R — was held at 2:30 on Monday, March 4. Newspapers reported that 3,000 citizens came to pay their respects. He was buried in the Newton Union Cemetery with military honors.

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



  • Biographical Annals of Franklin County, Pennsylvania, Vol. 1.
  • ☛ “Iowa News Notes,” Burlington Hawk-Eye, February 28, 1895.
  • ☛ “Murder at Newton,” Humeston New Era, March 6, 1895.
  • ☛ “A Mysterious Murder,” Waterloo Daily Courier, February 28, 1895.
  • ☛ “Newton Merchant Killed,” Cedar Falls Semi Weekly Cedar Falls Gazette, March 5, 1895.
  • ☛ “Newton Merchant Killed,” Rolfe Reveille, March 7, 1895.
  • ☛ Pocahantus County Sun, February 29, 1895.
  • Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Iowa: January 1, 1863 to January 11, 1864.
  • ☛ “Waylaid and Killed” (originally published March 1, 1895),

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