The Clue In The Dress Pattern: Murder of Fred Quade 1897

Murder Victim

Friedrich Wilhelm “Fred” Quade
47-year-old Farmer
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Motive: Family Quarrel

Murder Scene and Date

Quade Farm
Greenfield Township
Near Knierim and Manson, Iowa
Calhoun County
September 29, 1897


By Nancy Bowers
Written October 2013

location of Manson, Iowa

location of Manson, Iowa

On the night of Thursday, September 29, 1897, Calhoun County farmer Fred Quade was worried, his mind weighted down with concern.

The 47-year-old father of nine had recently learned his oldest daughter Mary, 21, was in “a delicate condition” and he was racked with anger at the “author of her destruction.”

So — like many do who have heavy hearts and minds — the man one newspaper called “a quiet German farmer” sat up late fretting, trying to figure out what to do and how to make Mary’s seducer accountable.

from the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette

from the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette

After the rest of the Quade family retired upstairs for the night, Fred continued sitting at the dining room table, where he had eaten supper about 8:00 p.m.

His physical fatigue from pressing grapes for wine all afternoon was compounded by his worry about Mary.

Quade wearily folded his arms across his legs and allowed his head to rest on them in welcome sleep, his right side turned towards a dining room window.

Then about 11:00 p.m., a blast tore through the still night, startling the family awake. The Quades ran downstairs to find their patriarch barely alive, his right side ripped open by a shotgun blast.

The wounded man lived for 15 minutes after the shot was fired, but could not communicate beyond desperate gurgles as he drowned in his own blood.

☛ Investigation Yields Undeniable Clues ☚

Responding authorities quickly pieced together that the killer walked onto the porch of the Quade home, removed a screen and its ill-fitting frame, and then carefully and deliberately fired at the sleeping man.

They found Quade’s own double-barreled shotgun on the property, with one barrel recently fired. The pellets in the body were No. 6 shot, the kind the victim kept in an ammunition box for his own use. On the porch lay wadding from the shotgun.

from the Humeston New Era

from the Humeston New Era

Investigators spread out across the farm seeking clues. While searching an unoccupied old house on the property, they located a trunk. Among the trunk’s contents was a large piece of brown wrapping paper from Clark’s Store located in the town of Manson seven miles northwest of the Quade farm.

On that paper was printed a dress pattern.

Authorities lined up marks on the paper used for wadding in the shotgun to the dress pattern on the wrapping paper and found a perfect match.

The murder looked like an inside job by someone in the family or close to the family: the victim was killed with his own shotgun and probably his own ammunition, using wadding torn from a piece of paper that only family members would know about or have access to.

☛ Arrests Are Made, Evidence Is Heard ☚

On October 8, 1897, using a murder warrant sworn out by Constable H.J. Richmond of Manson, Calhoun County Sheriff R.A. White arrested Fred Quade’s daughter Mary. The sheriff also took into custody Quade’s 47-year-old wife Ellas and his oldest son Anton, 18, as accessories to the murder.

The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette wrote:

“The large number of suspicious circumstances that have come to light warrants the action taken.”

John Lavender defended Mary Quade (from iowa

Attorney John Lavender defended Mary Quade (from

The three family members employed prominent attorney James F. Lavender to represent them and waived examination during a preliminary hearing held before Justice C.R. Nicholson, the former mayor of Manson.

On Saturday, October 9, Nicholson released Ellas and Anton Quade from custody but bound Mary over to the grand jury in Rockwell City.

However, on October 27, Mary Quade was set free after the grand jury found insufficient evidence to charge her with the murder itself or with being an accomplice.

Her attorney James F. Lavender had successfully raised doubt by presenting alternative motives and suspects in the crime.

☛ Why was Fred Quade Killed? ☚

The Iowa State Bystander reported “considerable rumors” about the motive for the shooting death and wrote:

“Mr. Quade was in Manson [on the morning of September 29] and one of his sons was in the city also. They have had considerable domestic troubles, one of his daughters being in a delicate condition, and it is surmised he may have been threatening someone [there]. . . .”

During the night of that same day, Quade was murdered.

Had the tangled family matter deteriorated into a “kill or be killed” situation from the perspective of the killer?

The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette reported:

“The majority of the neighbors and friends of the Quade family think that whoever is responsible for the ruin of Mary, the oldest daughter, is the person who committed the murder of Fred Quade for the purpose of shielding himself from a similar fate, which would have overtaken him had Mr. Quade lived to learn the truth concerning his daughter.”

Area residents also strongly believed that whoever shot and killed Fred Quade was  given assistance and support by a family member.

A week after the murder, the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette carried an article with an arresting five-tiered headline suggesting that Fred Quade’s assailant was a mentally-unbalanced neighbor and unwelcome suitor for his daughter:

from the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette

from the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette

The article beneath does not elaborate on or even mention the dramatic details of the headlines such as who the neighbor was or why the family was believed to be involved in their father’s murder. Certainly, the accusation of a “disturbed neighbor” changes the dynamics of the possible motives. Was he the father of Mary’s child? Was he mentally ill and unaccountable for his actions?

☛ An Alternate Theory? ☚

During the legal proceedings, evidence was brought forward by Mary’s defense attorney that offered motives for the murder pointing to other possible suspects. The history volume Past and Present of Calhoun County (1915) records these details:

“Fred Quade was somewhat given to drink and when in his cups was inclined to be rough with the members of his family [and] he had some trouble with his brother Henry over some money belonging to their mother-in-law, who lived with Henry.”

Was the murder committed, then, not by Mary Quade because of a quarrel with her father over her pregnancy or by the man who impregnated her and feared for his life but instead by another family member — or even a neighbor — in retribution for Quade’s drunken bullying?

Or was he killed by his own brother with whom he argued about money?

☛ What of Mary’s Baby? ☚

Postcard view of the Calhoun County Courthouse, where the grand jury dismissed charges against Mary Quade.

Postcard view of the Calhoun
County Courthouse, where
the grand jury freed Mary Quade.

During the grand jury proceedings, Mary feared harm or legal accusation might come to her lover and kept silent about who he was. At the height of the frenzy around the case, the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette wrote:

“Mary still refuses to divulge the name of the author of her ruin.”

However, after the charges against her were dismissed, newspapers immediately reported that Mary Quade — perhaps on the very day she was cleared — married a man named “Charles Omen.”

Two Omann families lived in the township, one only two farms away from the Quade property, which would have made interaction between the two families likely.

However, U.S. Census records until 1930 designate Mary Quade as a single woman who never left the family farm. Had the newspapers erred in reporting a wedding? Had the Quade family deliberately spread false information?

At the time of the 1900 U.S. Census, an unmarried Mary Quade lived in the home where her father was murdered along with her widowed mother and six of her younger brothers; also listed in the family was a one-year-old boy named Lewis Quade, designated a “grandson” to Mary’s mother. Was Lewis the illegitimate child believed to be at the center of the feud that ended in murder?

A 1911 plat map shows that Mary and her brother William co-owned the 240-acre Quade farm which lay in both Sections 2 and 11 of Greenfield Township.

In 1910 and 1920, Mary Quade was a still a single woman living on the family farm and was designated by the census taker as the head of the household, which consisted of several of her younger brothers. These records list her probable son Lewis as her brother.

By 1930, Mary was married to Arthur L. Broadstone and the couple resided on the Quade farm with her brother William as the head of the household.

Mary Quade Broadstone passed away in 1934 at the age of 58.

☛ Fred Quade’s Life ☚

Fred Quade's tombstone(photo by Kimberly Albrecht [Nims])

Fred Quade’s tombstone
(photo by Kimberly Albrecht [Nims])

Fredrich Wilhelm “Fred” Quade was born on September 25, 1847 in Frotheim, Minden-Lubbecke, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany — then Westphalia, Prussia — to Marie Luise Sandkröger and Anton Friedrich Quade. He had at least one sibling, Heinrich Wilhelm “Henry” Quade.

About 1875, he married a woman named Ellas and the couple had six children in Germany — daughters Mary L. Quade Broadstone and Sophie A. Quade Knierim, as well as sons Anton F. Quade, Henry F. Quade, Carl Quade, and Fred William Quade.

In 1884, the Quades departed from the port of Bremen, Germany; arrived in the United States in Baltimore, Maryland; and traveled west to Knierim, Iowa, a heavily German area where they quickly put down roots and flourished as farmers. Sons William F. Quade, Charles Henry Quade, and August Quade were born after the family’s move to Iowa.

Fred Quade is buried in the family plot in Calhoun County’s Trinity Cemetery. His wife Ellas died in 1901.

☛ Forever Silent ☚

Fred Quade’s family and the father of Mary’s child maintained a conspiracy of silence over the years, taking all secrets they might have had about the murder to the grave.

A sentiment expressed at the time of the homicide by the Daily Iowa Capital remains relevant today:

“The mystery of his death is as dark as ever, though many efforts have been made to find some clew that would lead to the conviction of the murderer.”


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



  • A Biographical Record of Calhoun County, Iowa. Higginson Book Company, 1902.
  • ☛ “Brutal Iowa Murder,” Iowa State Bystander, October 1, 1897.
  • ☛ “Condensed Iowa,” Daily Iowa Capital, October 1, 1897.
  • ☛ “Condensed Iowa,” Daily Iowa Capital, October 28, 1897.
  • ☛ “For Murder,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, October 8, 1897.
  • ☛ “In Abbreviated Form,” Pomeroy Herald, October 14, 1897.
  • ☛ “Mary Quade Acquitted,” Humeston New Era, November 3, 1897.
  • ☛ “Mary Quade Acquitted,” Iowa State Bystander, October 29, 1897.
  • ☛ “Murder At Mason,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette September 30, 1897.
  • ☛ “Murdered While He Slept,” Cedar Falls Semi-Weekly Gazette, October 15, 1897.
  • ☛ “Murderer Is Not Caught,” Daily Iowa Capital, October 7, 1897.
  • ☛ “A Mysterious Murder,” Past and Present of Calhoun County, Iowa: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress, and Achievement, Volume 1, by Beaumont E. Stonebraker. Pioneer Publishing Company, January 1, 1915.
  • ☛ “News Epitome,” Rolfe Reveille, September 30, 1897.
  • ☛ “The News In Iowa,” Pella Advertiser, October 9, 1897.
  • ☛ “The News In Iowa,” Pella Advertiser, October 16, 1897.
  • ☛ “The News in Iowa,” Pocahontas County Sun, October 14, 1897.
  • ☛ “Quade’s Family Arrested,” Humeston New Era, October 13, 1897.
  • ☛ “Quade’s Family Is Arrested,” Waterloo Courier, October 13, 1897.
  • ☛ “State Brevities,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, October 13, 1897.
  • ☛ “Suspicions Are Numerous,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, October 9, 1897.
  • ☛ “Suspicions are Numerous,” Dubuque Daily Herald, October 12, 1897.
  • ☛ U.S. Census.
  • ☛ “The Whole World,” Cedar Rapids Weekly Gazette, October 13, 1897.

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