“Ground Into a Hundred Pieces”: Murder of Elmer Anderson 1897

Murder Victim

Elmer Anderson
26-year-old Coal Miner
Cause of Death: Faked Railroad Accident
Motive: Argument

Murder Scene and Date

Milwaukee Road tracks
Mystic, Iowa
Appanoose County
March 29, 1897


By Nancy Bowers
April 2012

location of Mystic, Iowa

location of Mystic, Iowa

From the 1850s through the first four decades of the 20th Century, Appanoose County was one of Iowa’s principal coal mining areas.

Mines in Clarksdale, Diamond, Mystic, Rathbun, Jerome, and Darbyville dotted Walnut Creek as it flowed through Walnut Township.

The coal removed in these mines was shipped out on the Milwaukee Road, officially known as the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad.

Mining was a tough job performed by tough men. And sometimes — as on any job — arguments broke out, offenses were given and taken, and personalities clashed.

Through some means, Mystic coal miner Elmer Anderson, a 26-year-old Swedish immigrant who lived in Darbyville, developed foes.

On Monday morning, March 29, 1897, Anderson’s mangled body — “ground into a hundred pieces,” according to newspapers — was found on the Milwaukee railroad tracks near Mystic.

Elmer Anderson worked in a Mystic Coal Mine like this one.

Despite the condition of the body, Anderson could be identified.

Authorities told the public that Elmer Anderson was killed “by enemies in Mystic” and then placed on the railroad tracks to be run over.

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



  • ☛ appanoosecounty.net.
  • ☛ “Condensed Iowa,” Daily Iowa Capital, March 31, 1897.
  • ☛ “Mangled Body Found,” Iowa State Bystander, April 2, 1897.
  • ☛ miningartifacts.homestead.com, 2008.

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