Continued from Part One.
Amazingly—almost miraculously—on 8 August, just four days after the shooting, George Waters Bittle was able to give testimony to Justice of the Peace Christian H. Eckstein whilst propped up in a chair in the bedroom of his Main Street home. Also present during the testimony was State’s Attorney for Frederick County Arthur D. Willard (1872-1959), the counsels for the defense, the accused, Captain Jacob Koogle, Dr. Ralph Browning, Rev. Otto E. Bregenzer (abt. 1877-1920) of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, and Mrs. Bittle, the former Mary Elizabeth Routzahn (1865-1936.)
Bittle told Willard and Eckstein that on the night of the attempted burglary, “He had seen the burglar around his place early in the evening [and] though he recognized his walk,” the Frederick News noted. “The party wore a dark slouch hat, dark coat, and trousers. He did not see the face of the man at the door sufficiently well to say it was George Koogle, but he could say from what he had seen of Koogle earlier in the evening and what he could say of the man at the door he thought it was George Koogle, although he was sorry to say so.” The dolorous look Bittle may have given Captain Koogle as he spoke can well be imagined.
Bittle, like his fellow citizens, probably saw Koogle as somewhat of a superhero. For example, the merchant would surely have heard this wartime anecdote from Myersville veteran Daniel Mowen, Koogle’s brother-in-law, who included it in a series of articles he wrote for the newspaper, The Globe: “At the assault of Petersburg, on the 17th of June, 1864, and while the Seventh [Maryland Regiment] was in line, Jacob Koogle, first sergeant of company, saw a shell bounding toward them. He called to the men to ‘look out!’ Watching its course, he attempted to step out of its way when it lodged against his breast. Its force being about spent, he threw it off with his arm without injury to himself and, as it didn’t explode, it injured no one else.” This was before the affair of stealing of the Confederate colors and returning with the secessionist banner and a uniform full of bullet holes. Those twin events could make anyone wonder whether Koogle was divinely blessed.
After the wounded storekeeper testified, he was put back to bed and the proceedings were adjourned to the hall at the Flook, Gaver, et al., building at the other end of Main Street. The room was packed with the curious fanning themselves in the August heat. New evidence had accrued. The News reported, “A telephone message from Myersville this morning stated that since the newspapers have published accounts of the robberies, two persons have brought jewelry to the store of Mr. Bittle and said they had purchased it from Koogle at very low figures.” During Bittle’s testimony that morning, he said he’d been shown some of these items, including watch chains, a watch charm, and rings. Because of the maker’s marks, Bittle said he was sure these had come from his store’s previously stolen stock. His clerk John Horine examined the goods and testified to the same.
(Fortunately, when this telephone call from Myersville was placed, the phone lines were intact. On 28 August, 1901, the News reported that the telephone lines between Wolfsville and Myersville had been cut several times, also “last week, a piece was cut out of one of them. If the guilty parties are caught they will be prosecuted and learn that wire cutting is rather expensive fun.”)
Mary Bittle testified that she’d seen George Koogle walk past their residence at around midnight—again identifying him by his peculiar gait. Fifteen minutes later, she said, she heard her husband shout something from in front of the store and then a shot.
Charles C. Moser, who ran Myersville’s confectionary, tobacco store, and barbershop, and whose own store had been burglarized in May, said that he had seen Koogle in his store that night, and when he left, he met up with Joseph Wolfe and they walked away together. This was supported by Wolfe, who testified that he walked up Main Street with Koogle and when they reached Bittle’s store, they separated “and after that did not see or hear him anymore.” Koogle wore a black coat and trousers that night, Wolfe recalled.
Next, the men who claimed to have bought stolen goods from Koogle made their statements. According to Oscar W. Green (1882-1964), “He bought some jewelry from George Koogle in the latter part of June [after Bittle’s store had been robbed of jewelry earlier that month]. He paid 50 cents for a ring and 25 cents for a watch chain.” The News also reported that Oliver McCluster Smith (1881-1945) said, “He traded Koogle a revolver and an autoharp for a watch chain charm and watch.” Roy Moser said he had purchased a watch and chain from Koogle for $1.50. Henry E. Wachter stated a month before, he’d bought a ring from Koogle for 25 cents and a watch for $1.25 worth of postal stamps.
Peter R. Langdon, the son-in-law of elderly merchant Joseph Brown, then testified that on 8 December, 1903, “his store was broken into and an album was stolen. An album almost exactly like the one stolen was found at the home of Fannie Sheffer, at Boonsboro. The album was given to her by George Koogle for a Christmas present,” noted the News.
When it was Koogle’s chance to defend himself, he told the judge and state’s attorney that he had not committed the shooting nor any of the burglaries, insisting he had been trading and selling jewelry for five years and that the stock came from a number of sources, including stores in Hagerstown and Frederick, as well as the Sears & Roebuck catalog. The album was not from Langdon’s store at all, he maintained but gotten from a man called S. A. E. Johnson in Frederick, from whom he had a receipt.
This was Koogle’s statement on his whereabouts on the night of the shooting: “Witness stayed at Bittle’s until about 9 o’clock, afterward he went back to Langdon’s store and then he went to Moser’s, stayed a little while, then went up the street with Mr. Wolfe and after leaving him he went directly home…. Witness stated that as he went home, he met a man he did not know who had on dark clothes and wore a hat pulled down over his eyes.”
Clearly skeptical, State’s Attorney Williard cross-examined Koogle. The News reported that he “had a very short memory as to when and how he got the jewelry he sold recently. He was closely examined about the album receipt given him by a man in Frederick…. The receipt was written with green ink upon a half sheet of common notepaper which was much blotted. The handwriting was very crude and crabbed.”
After this, Clara Koogle made her testimony, Captain Koogle “testified for the defense, but his testimony was not important,” and the case was submitted to the court for trial.
No matter the outcome of the trial, and whether his son was genuinely guilty or entirely innocent, Jacob Knoogle must have known that a significant portion of Myersville’s population would hold a grudge against the family, and as mentioned earlier, retaliative mayhem was something the townsfolk did very well.
By April 1905, Koogle appears to have chosen to make a graceful exit from Myersville. On 26 April, the News ran an item under the title “To Move to Hagerstown,” which noted that Koogle had purchased a vacant lot along the Williamsburg Pike for $470. “Mr. Koogle is at present engaged at farming near Myersville. He will sell his farm and build a handsome residence on his new purchase, after which he will live retired.”
The new Hagerstown house was complete and the family living in it by 5 December 1907, when it was the scene of the wedding reception of Clara Koogle and Oscar G. Warrenfeltz, who had been that day “quietly married” in the city at St. Mark’s Lutheran parsonage. The celebration included a lavish dinner and, afterward, “the bride received many valuable presents.” The only familiar face from Myersville was fellow Civil War veteran Daniel H. Mowen, but even he was family, married to Koogle’s sister Susan (1839-1918). The Mowens had relocated to Hagerstown, too.
Clara’s wedding day was also the birthday of her father. “In honor of the event, a large cake with the figures “66” [Jacob Koogle’s age] was placed on the table. The bride wore a gown of white silk, with hand embroidery, which was changed for a traveling suit black silk,” reported the 7 December Baltimore Sun. The mourning color presaged the sorrow to come. Ω
To be continued in Part Three.
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