Saturday, July 14, 2012

Blow the Whole Thing to Hell


I came across the Holtz family of Redford through the back channels of research concerning Bell Branch Cemetery in that same city. John Holtz's stay at Eloise was a condition of old age and dementia though the particulars of his life might suggest otherwise. Namely in the form of his offspring.

John Holtz was a prominent farmer near Redford's city center and raised a farm and family there after emigrating from Germany. Things began unraveling for the family with the death of Sophia Engel Holtz in April of 1889.

Shortly thereafter Holtz remarried, a second Sophia, and her insistence upon lesser compensation for work on the family farm as well as a conflict concerning future division of properties with his step-siblings caused a divide between the father and his son Frank.

Frank, in his early 20s at the time, ventured out on his own and had little contact with his family or father though he did sometimes communicate with his younger brother John Jr., who was said to be feeble-minded, and on rare occasions visited the Holtz farm.

Frank worked on various farms around the area and once inquired of his father about a further stipend but was denied. This rejection led the younger Holtz to openly quip that he was "going to blow the whole thing to hell." A favorite phrase of the young man which he would use frequently in regards to the family farm during his exile.

On the evening of August 6, 1896, after many years of threats, he supposedly did just that. Although nobody was killed in the several dynamite blasts his stepmother was injured and the rest of the family greatly shaken by the experience as would be expected.

The elder Holtz immediately suspected his son Frank and within a day or so he was arrested on charges of attempted murder. He was reluctant to testify against the young man but fearing further attempts on his life and the family's he desperately wanted him incarcerated.


All evidence pointed to Frank as his room at the Gordon farm where he was employed contained blasting caps and fuses among an arsenal of guns, knives and ammunition. His brother John even testified that his brother had engaged him to poison the family flour barrel with arsenic in the form of a product called Rough on Rats. In exchange for the deed he would give John a revolver and a share of the property after the family's demise.


In the end though Frank Holtz was acquitted by the jury, after only 45 minutes of deliberation, of attempted murder. The jury apparently were convinced by the defense that young Holtz merely wanted to blow up the homestead but not kill the family or he would have done just that. Somehow the strategy worked.

The verdict elicited an outburst of applause from the Redford contingent of Recorder's Court -- it was prominently noted as being populated by several women -- which was quickly brought under control by Judge Hosmer's furious gavel.

John Holtz sold off his farm and possessions and lived a dozen more years. The last several months as a residence of Eloise suffering from dementia. He was buried in Livonia Cemetery in 1908. The same year his second wife Sophia passed away.

Sophia Engel Holtz, his first wife, is buried near John C. Holtz, most likely John, Jr., in Redford Cemetery.

Frank Holtz removed himself to Farmington, then to Oxford and married Hannah Priest on April 22, 1909. He was employed as a tower man for the Michigan Central railroad. A little over a year and a half after their wedding Mrs. Holtz filed for divorce and three days later Frank committed suicide with a .32 caliber revolver. It was quite possibly the same revolver he had offered his brother John in that clandestine exchange a decade beforehand.

2 comments:

ib klemm said...

Found articles about Frank's death and problems with his will in the Redford Record 1911.

the said...

Nice. Would love to read them.