Misc Monday: Gunned Down Grocer

Written by on March 21, 2016 in Misc Mondays - 1 Comment
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As a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, during the “golden age of fraternalism” (circa 1860-1920), for one “brother” to shoot another sounds unlikely. All the more when the organization was founded to promote philanthropy, charity and with the ethic of reciprocity (a.k.a. “The Golden Rule.”)

Unfortunately for Indianapolis grocer, Frederick Simon, who lived and operated his small business in what is now Lockerbie Square, beginning in the 1860’s, the implausible became the actual. Just like society in general, every social group is made up of a variety of personalities and propensities. In Mr. Simon’s case, participating in the wrong committee for a club to which he belonged would mean he would interface with someone who held quite a different ethos than his own. After more than 30 years of membership in the Germania Lodge, Number 129, Simon lost his life at the hands of a fellow lodge member.

The full truth of Fred Kettlehake’s motives cannot be known, but at the time of the crime, theories were floated. Some insisted he was insane. Reports circulated, certain that the murder of Frederick Simon, as well as the attempted murder of others was due to charges filed against Kettlehake in the “secret society” of  the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.). 330 N. CollegeOn April 4, 1900 at 11:40 A.M., Fred Kettlehake, a well-known bartender who had once served up drinks at the Grand Hotel, pulled up in a rented horse and buggy to the front of his current place of employment–across from the Pembroke Arcade, where he had also peddled cigars for a brief time. On the lookout for his former brother-in-law, George Hermann, Kettlehake spotted his target approaching the Kneipe saloon at 33 Virginia Avenue alongside another gentleman, Louis Krauss.

Without warning, Kettlehake aimed a Winchester rifle at the two men and fired a load of buckshot. Missing the intended target, Krauss–heretofore unknown to the assailant–was struck in the head.  Collapsing to the ground, blood gushed from Krauss’ head, while the bars windows suddenly looked like swiss cheese, and patrons within narrowly escaped being stray ammunition.

33 Virginia Avenue was in the same block as Indiana National Bank, between Pennsylvania and Delaware Streets

33 Virginia Avenue was in the same block as Indiana National Bank, between Pennsylvania and Delaware Streets (Sanborn map image courtesy IUPUI Digital Archives)

Ten minutes later, Kettlehake pulled the buggy up in front of Frederick Simon’s grocery, where the proprietor was walking towards the back entry of his building. Though having heard what all assumed were Kettlehake’s idle threats to “get even,” with the men who served on the I. O. O. F. committee that considered charges against him, and having been one of those committee members, Mr. Simon did not respond to the sight of the threatener with fear.

Indiana Landmarks collection, 1979

330 N. College Avenue, the scene of Simon’s shooting, 79 years later (Indiana Landmarks Collection)

“Come here Simon, I want to speak to you,” a passerby heard Kettlehake call. When a few steps from the buggy, Kettlehake pulled the Winchester from under his seat, firing and hitting the 65-year old grocer in the abdomen, then fled immediately.

Indiana Landmarks Collection, 1979

330 N. College Avenue, The long-faded ghost markings from the building’s first use were still discernible in this 1979 photo- “Groceries and Provisions” Indiana Landmarks Collection, 1979

Kettlehake’s personal life was a disaster long before he went on an intended killing spree. His wife had divorced the alcoholic six months before–rumor was that he had abused her. Turns out drinking-and-riding were as bad for people’s well-being then as drinking-and-driving are now. After over-imbibing one night, he fell off his horse, fracturing both legs, and rendering himself crippled to some degree for the rest of his life.

How sad it is that some take out the frustrations of their lives on others, rather than assume responsibility. Victim Krauss recovered from his injuries, but neighborhood grocer, Simon was not so fortunate. Though many had been optimistic for his recovery, including the patient himself, it was not to be. True to his I. O. O. F. oath, Simon declined to answer police questions about the Odd Fellows incident believed to have sparked the rampage. He died at Deaconess Hospital at 5:30 A. M. on April 9, 1900 and was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery.

Kettlehake was still in an Indiana State Prison in 1930.

For a recent traffic death, passersby often see a cluster of flowers, balloons or stuffed animals. But as you head north on College Avenue, you’d never know that in front of this lovely little Italianate, a local grocer who had once helped feed the poor was brutally murdered in 1900.

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About the Author

Tiffany Benedict Browne is the founder and driving force behind HistoricIndianapolis.com. She loves learning, sharing and inspiring Indy's stories.

One Comment on "Misc Monday: Gunned Down Grocer"

  1. Robby Slaughter March 23, 2016 at 12:40 pm · Reply

    What a remarkable story! Murder and intrigue, right in a part of town I’ve driven by a zillion times.

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