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ARTICLES: 1906 Murder/Suicide of Mathias STYER, and Ruth and Pearl WHEATON of Caledonia

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ARTICLES: 1906 Murder/Suicide of Mathias STYER, and Ruth and Pearl WHEATON of Caledonia

Posted: 1358989252000
Classification: Obituary
Edited: 1358990993000
Articles transcribed by Errin Wilker.

(NOTE: The first article incorrectly identified Matt Styer as Ned Styer. I changed all occurrences of “Ned” to “Matt” as I transcribed the article.)

Rejected Lover Shoots Mother and Sister After Breaking Into Home
Murderer Found Apparently Dead with Head on Breast of Dead Girl—Parents of Girl Objected to Reputation
Because her parents objected to his suit for their daughter’s hand, Matt Styer, aged 23, last evening went to the home of F.N. Wheaton, two miles from Caledonia, Minn., shot his sweetheart, Pearl Wheaton, aged 22, through the heart, shot and fatally wounded Rose Wheaton, aged 25, sister of Pearl, shot and seriously wounded Mrs. Ann Wheaton, her mother, and turning the weapon upon himself sent a bullet crashing past his heart. Styer may recover.

Taking advantage of the absence of the men from the Wheaton home, Styer went to the farm house and applied for admission, which was refused. He had previously been forbidden to enter the place by the girl’s father.

Enraged, Styer smashed a window and gained entrance into the house.

Ruth Wheaton, aged 25 years, sister of his sweetheart appeared and remonstrated with Styer. Drawing a revolver he fired twice at the girl. One bullet penetrated her breast and the second struck at a point over the liver, the liver being penetrated. She cannot recover.

At this juncture the frightened mother of the girls, Mrs. Anna Wheaton appeared. Turning the weapon upon her Styer fired twice. One bullet lodged in her throat and the second bored through her arm. Both women fell helpless to the floor.

Rushing upstairs Styer found Pearl, his sweetheart, hiding in a closet. Dragging her forth he sent a bullet through her heart, killing her instantly.

Then turning the smoking weapon upon his own breast he fired, the bullet just missing his heart.

When neighbors, excited by the shots, appeared, Styer was laying with his head on the breast of the dead girl. He was also apparently dead.

The news of the terrible tragedy spread like wildfire and in an hour the country was in a furor of excitement. Physicians were hurriedly summoned and are making every effort to save the lives of Mrs. Wheaton and Miss Ruth Wheaton. They say the latter is fatally wounded, but that the former may recover.

Styer was almost dead, but was placed in custody at the Wheaton home and given prompt medical attention and it is thought may recover. This afternoon he was barely regaining consciousness. The physicians in charge say his chance for recovering to stand trial is good.

Had not Styer been in a frenzy of excitement, and his aim, consequently poor no doubt all four would have been killed instantly.

While feeling is running high at Caledonia there has been no hint at violence to the wounded murderer.

Loved the Girl Madly.
Matt Styer was 23 years old and was a student at the school of dentistry at the University of Minnesota. He was to have graduated in June and had expected to leave to resume his studies after the holidays today. He is the son of Peter Styer a wealthy retired and influential resident of Caledonia. His family is highly thought of in that place. Styer is described as a brilliant young fellow, capable in his work and energetic, but of rather wild disposition. He had worked in dental offices about the village and is said to have been thoroughly competent.

It is said the objection of Miss Wheaton’s parents to Styer as a son-in-law was owing to the fact that he had upon several occasions been proven dishonest and had been dismissed from positions for appropriating money not his own. The firl, while evidently in love with Styer, had agreed with her parents to give him up and it is this that evidently drove Styer to his awful crime. All of the members of the Styer family are prominent and talented. One brother of the murderer was until a year ago register of deeds at Caledonia and prominent in politics.

Miss Pearl Wheaton, his dead sweetheart was 22 years old, and is said to have been one of the most beautiful girls in Houston county. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. F.N. Wheaton, wealthy and highly respected people. Her father operated a berry farm, which adjoined the celebrated “Wheaton farm.” She had two brothers, but both were away from home when the tragedy occurred.

Her father, F.N. Wheaton, was drawn upon the grand jury and was in Duluth at the time the crime was committed, the women being at the house alone.

The murdered girl is a cousin of H.E. Wheaton publisher of the La Crosse Magazine and job printer of this city.

When seen today Mr. Wheaton said he was thoroughly acquainted with the circumstances which must have lead up to the murder. He said that while young Styer was brilliant, well appearing and acceptable in many ways his record was not clear and that he had been caught stealing upon several occasions. Her parents refused to permit the match upon those grounds.

The wounded murderer, mother and sister and the dead girl are all at the Wheaton home where the tragedy occurred.

In case Styer recovers it would seem nothing could save him from the gallows.

The condition of the wounded was the same this afternoon at 1:30. Styer had regained consciousness and talked of other things but said very little and did not mention his crime at all. It is said he was not a drinking man, and had not been drinking. He had said nothing of his intentions to anyone, so far as can be learned.

The shooting occurred about fifteen minutes after midnight.

Source: La Crosse Tribune, La Crosse, WI, 02 Jan. 1906

Matt Styer of Caledonia Shoots Mrs. S.N. Wheaton and Two Daughters and Then Turns the Revolver Upon Himself
Terrible Deed Committed Late Monday Night Near Caledonia.
Murderer Dies Tuesday Night.
An awful tragedy, one of the most terrible affairs ever occurring in Houston county, was committed on the S.N. Wheaton farm about two miles southwest of Caledonia late Monday night. Matt Styer, a well known young man of Caledonia, left the village about 11 o’clock that evening, driving with horse and cutter to the Wheaton place. Mr. Wheaton was away, being in North Dakota, and his son was in Caledonia. Styer demanded admittance to see Miss Pearl Wheaton. Upon being refused he broke in a window and entered the house, also breaking through several doors. Mrs. Wheaton was the first one encountered and Styer shot her in the left arm and throat. Mrs. Wheaton ran from the house in her night clothes, going to a neighbor’s. Styer next met the daughter Ruth and shot her in the breast and chest. Rushing upstairs he locked himself in a room with Pearl Wheaton. He shot her twice in the left breast, and then turned the weapon upon himself putting two bullets in his breast. When found Pearl was dead, and Styer was lying across her body terribly wounded. Neighbors had soon congregated at the scene, and physicians were called to attend to the wounded. The terrible news of the affair was not generally known in Caledonia until the next morning, and then the excitement ran high.

Styer, the murderer and suicide, died Thursday night. Mrs. Wheaton, it is thought, has a good chance for recovery. The recovery of Ruth is doubtful.

The S.N. Wheaton family are among the best known in Houston county, and terrible affair naturally cast a gloom everywhere as the news became known. Pearl Wheaton was about 22 years of age and Ruth 25. There are reports that Ruth attempted a defense with a revolver but the weapon failed to work. However, there are none who can relate the exact particulars of the tragedy.

Styer is about 23 years of age, has taught school in the county, and has been attending the State University. He is a brother of the former register of deeds, and a young man whom no one could have suspected of doing such a terrible deed. It seems Styer had kept company with Pearl Wheaton in the past, but had lost ground and his attentions were no longer favorably received, causing him to become insanely jealous.

CALEDONIA, Jan. 3, 1:30 p.m.—Ruth Wheaton is about in the same condition, with very little hopes of recovery. Mrs. Wheaton will recover.

Source: Houston County Chief, Hokah, MN, 04 Jan. 1906

They Had Been Engaged Three Years—Trouble During Last July
Sensational Feature of Styer-Wheaton Tragedy Revealed by the Other Side—Wheatons Opposed in Spite of Girl’s Love
“Dear Mother: I find that this trouble is wearing very hard on me. I’m going out tonight to try to take her away from her home. Her folks are trying to force us to separate. I shall do my duty by her. If I do not return you will know I died fighting for my rights.

“Mother, do not worry, for I know you would be ashamed of me if I [illegible] at this stage of the game. I am going to have my rights or die in the attempt. Her letters in my suit case will prove that her folks have been forcing her and it is my duty to step in.

“If I don’t see you again, dear, we will meet in heaven, for God knows all, and knows I am not to blame.

“Your son,

Mathias Styer left the above letter addressed to his mother, in his room before departing on New Year’s night for the Wheaton farm. The desperate frame of mind is shown in the epistle.

That Pearl Wheaton and Styer had planned an elopement for the night on which the murder and suicide was commenced and that opposition on the part of his sweetheart’s relatives who attempted to bar his entrance into the Wheaton home made a raving maniac of him and prompted the terrible tragedy. An investigation conducted by Styer’s brother, Z.E. Styer, shows to the facts.

Some thirty letters now in the possession of the Styers, left in the dead boy’s suit case, shows the love that the young people bore each other and other circumstances show that an elopement had been planned for the night of the quadruple tragedy.

According to the story told the Tribune by Z.E. Styer this afternoon his brother and Pearl Wheaton had been engaged for three years. No opposition was manifested by the Wheatons to the alliance until an unfortunate affair last summer. Matt Styer had always been of good reputation in the village and surrounding country at the Minnesota university was known as a student of great ability. But after the occurrence of last summer he was [illegible] under the ban of the Wheaton family and great opposition to his [illegible] developed.

Styer refused to [illegible] the girl under any circumstances and they secretly corresponded until the day of the murder and suicide. A young man residing near the Wheaton farm who was a friend of both, acted as secret messenger in carrying their letters back and forth. The dead boy’s brother now has 30 of those letters, all showing the great love the young people bore each other and indicating that while Miss Pearl was being urged to give up her suit she clung to her lover and was willing to take any steps looking to their marriage and happiness.

Mr. Styer claims that his brother came home for the Christmas holidays in a desperate frame of mind and vowed he would make Pearl his wife come what may. Repeated efforts were made to see her, but he was forbidden the house and then strategic moves were decided upon and the elopement planned as a last resort.

The girl, it is claimed, when the night upon which they had planned to elope arrived, refused to go to bed, claiming she could not sleep and walked back and forth in the kitchen in a nervous manner. She was constantly watched, however, and there was no opportunity for her to get out of the house.

Matt was expecting her to meet him on a certain road and was seen watching for her to come for a long time, but when she failed to put in an appearance he planned to take her by force.

The tragedy followed substantially as printed in the Tribune last night. The girl’s sister Ruth, backed up by her mother, met him at the door and by force of arms attempted to keep him from the house. Engaged by the opposition he became a raving maniac and the terrible crime followed.

This, in brief, is the story told by the dead man’s brother and the facts are substantiated by letters and other evidence which he has collected since Monday night.

The funeral of Matt Styer will be held tomorrow and interment will be made in the village cemetery at Caledonia.

Ruth Wheaton is reported today to have developed pneumonia and her condition from this disease is more serious than the wounds.

Mrs. Wheaton is on the road to recovery and will soon be able to be about.

Source: La Crosse Tribune, La Crosse WI, 04 Jan. 1906

Third Victim of Insane Lover Succumbs to Wounds and Pneumonia
Styer Was With His Sweetheart Some time After Shooting Mother and Sister Before Killing Her
Ruth Wheaton is dead. The girl who in an endeavor to save her sister Pearl from seeing Matt Styer was shot down while threatening the latters’ life with a revolver, died at 4 o’clock this morning after three days’ suffering with two bullet wounds and a serious attack on pneumonia which developed as a result of the exposure she sustained while lying in the snow outside her home after the shooting.

Pearl, the murdered sweetheart, and Ruth will be buried together tomorrow afternoon at 1 o’clock in the village cemetery at Caledonia. Their mother is still confined to her bed with her wounds and will be unable to be present at the final services over the remains of her two daughters.

Further confirmation of the story printed in last evening’s Tribune to the effect that the young people had planned to elope on the night of the murder and suicide was received today, when a telephone message to the Tribune conveyed the information that a letter addressed to Styer had been found among his effects, in which Pearl made arrangement to meet Styer near the home between midnight and 1 o’clock Monday, the hour at which the tragedy occurred.

Furhter information was received to the effect that Styer did not kill his sweetheart immediately after reaching her room, and that it was several minutes after he went upstairs before the shots were heard which ended her life and eventually his own. What transpired during that interval no one will ever know.

Whether Styer [illegible] interval after his insane [illegible] downstairs and told the girl of [illegible] he bore her before ending both their lie, or whether he spent the time in endeavoring to locate her hiding place, is purely a matter of conjecture. The theory is advanced that Styer may have told her what he had done and that she may have consented to die with him rather than live without him under the conditions that confronted her.

The Styer family resided in La Crosse a number of years ago. Peter Styer, the father of the dead boy, was a market gardener here and married a Plembling girl, a sister of Mrs. M. Simon of this city.

The funeral of Matt Styer was held this afternoon from the home in Caledonia, and interment was made in the village cemetery, the same graveyard where the two murdered sisters will be laid away tomorrow afternoon.

Source: La Crosse Tribune, La Crosse, WI, 05 Jan. 1906

Ruth Wheaton Died Friday—The Funerals—Mrs. Wheaton is Recovering.
All sorts of sensational stories in relation to the terrible tragedy occurring at Caledonia on the night of Jan. 1st have been given circulation the past week. But much of the stuff printed and published in the daily newspapers has no foundation of fact. And it is evident that there are particulars and circumstances connected with the awful affair that will always remain unknown. At least it is surely better for all concerned to let the affair rest. It is done, and nothing that may be said or done hereafter can better matters or blot out a particle of the sorrow and suffering which the terrible affair has caused both families connected with it.

Ruth Wheaton, the first girl shot by Styer, died early Friday morning. And the funeral services for both Pearl and Ruth Wheaton were held Saturday afternoon from the Methodist church in Caledonia, the attendance being very large.

The funeral of Matt Styer was held Friday afternoon from the home of his parents, and was private.

Mrs. Wheaton is reported as recovering from the wounds which she received.

Source: Houston County Chief, Hokah, MN, 11 Jan. 1906

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