Saturday, August 1, 2015

Incredible News About Minnie Niehaus - Thankfully She Escaped!

     This is a sad story with a happy ending.  I was astounded when I stumbled across it while browsing newspapers online hoping to learn more about our family history.Niehaus, Minnie, Indianapolis News, 11 Feb 1903  I recognized the family name immediately. As I read the details I identified several pieces that made me know that this is assuredly about the little girl in our Niehaus family named Minnie.  As well, there are a few of the details in the article that highlight why we should question the accuracy as an event is recaptured in the news.
     The article (original on left) is from The Indianapolis News published Wednesday, February 11, 1903.  Following is a transcription, since the 112-year-old copy didn't survive in the clearest form:
Looked For Assailant Of Nine-Year-Old Girl 
Crowd of Angry Men Near National Starch-Works
Minnie Niehaus Assaulted
Unknown Man Caught Her Up In His Arms and Ran Away with Her  --  People Excited
    The police are looking for the unknown assailant of Minnie Niehaus, nine years old, an orphan living at 1717 South West Street.  The assault of the little girl created intense excitement in the neighborhood of the National Starch Company's works, 601 West Morris Street, shortly before dark last evening.  A mob of one hundred men and boys pursued the man but he escaped in the darkness. 
    The little girl with her brother, were walking along the tracks near the starch works.  A man, described as being five-feet six inches tall and probably twenty-eight years old, met the children.
    "I want to vaccinate you.  I am a doctor." he said to the little girl.
    Instantly he caught her up in his arms and ran down the track with her.  The boy yelled and then ran to the starch-works and called some men.  The police were summoned and bicyclemen Morgan and Simon hurried to the place.
    Before the police arrived fully one-hundred men and boys were in pursuit of the man.  Barns, cars, sheds and every possible place was eagerly searched.
The Girl Found
    While the search was on the cry was sent up that the girl had been found.  Maimed and bleeding she was discovered in a barn in the rear of 907 South West Street.
     At the sight of the abused child the men in the crowd became wild with anger and the search was renewed.  It was learned that a Vandalia switch engine and a cut of cars had passed a few minutes after the girl was carried away.  The men ran up the track and searched in the cars but the man could not be found.  Late into the night the men hunted. 
     The little girl was not seriously injured, but is suffering from fright and nervous shock.
     Bicyclemen Morgan and Simon said today that if the man had been found last night he would have been roughly handled, and the police would have been powerless.  The police believe today they have a clew to the girl's assailant. 
     The child says her cries were stifled by the man's hand.  She can not give a good description of him, but other persons who saw him in the neighborhood can.
     Let me tell you why I know that this incredible news is about my grandaunt, Wilhelmina Gertrude Niehaus.  Minnie Niehaus was born September 13, 1893, and would have been nine years old in February of 1903 when this news appeared.  She lived at 1117 South West Street in Indianapolis near the National Starch Works.  This is where I believe the accuracy of the news is slightly off; but that the information still refers to our Minnie Niehaus.  The street number given for her address above is 1717 - a typo?  The Niehaus family's address was never 1717, but that mistake can easily happen.
Also, this little girl wasn't actually an orphan. However, her mother died when she was only two years old.  Her father was still living in 1903. I believe that this piece of information was also distorted by the time it made it to the newspaper.   But, you have to admit,  the article was created with such enthusiasm and emotion that these items might be excused.  I think it's well done. 
     Just a few more comments about this segment of the Niehaus family story:
     I also believe that the brother that was walking the railroad tracks with his sister when this terrible event happened was my grandfather, John Niehaus.  He was four years older and the closest in age to Minnie.  (They are in the photo on the left in 1940.)  I'm glad that John raised enough commotion and brought adults to the scene to try to chase this evil person down.  Maybe he helped to scare the assailant into leaving Minnie in that barn.  
     Most importantly, to add to the happy ending: Minnie Niehaus grew up  to be  a beloved wife, mother, aunt, grandmother and great grandmother.  She evidently weathered this stormy day in her life in 1903 very well.  She was both a strong and happy person who taught by her example and brought joy to many. 
     Thanks for visiting Indiana Ties,
Here's a link to the Niehaus Family Newsletter with a story about Minnie.
     Copyright © 2015 Nancy Niehaus Hurley

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