In the uppermost northwest corner of Iowa sits a little town called Doon. I have had the pleasure of speaking to a few of
the Doon residents and the Rock Rapids librarian while searching for the story behind the murder of my great great uncle
They were very charming and very helpful people.
I felt like I fell back in time a little bit.
A time when people are not suspicious of a stranger but welcome them with a friendly voice and a story.
On a recent
visit to my veterinarian I asked him just where in Iowa was he from? Well Doon of course. What are the odds of that? Just
goes to show me again how very small this world really is.
From the information I gathered, I will try to piece together
the story of the only murder in Doon Iowa.
August Schroeder, born 1858 to John and Catherine Schroeder.
Sometime about 1870 he came to the United States we assume
with his brothers and his mother. Just when he married his wife Dora we are not sure (yet), but she was, according to the
1900 census records, born in Iowa. At the time of his death he had a daughter Libie age 9 and a son Walter age 5.
obit listed three children. the 3rd child's name is unknown unless as I suspect it was August Jr.
It was first believed that August Schroeder, who was concidered a well-to-do German farmer, living three miles east of Doon
had on the night of June 31, 1900 committed suicide. Little did that community know that in a few years one of the longest
running murder case in northwest Iowa and the first Murder in thier county would come to light.
Charles Rocker was
the hired hand on the Schroeder farm. He is listed in the 1900 census records as residing on the Schroeder farm and as born
As the story was told to me by residents of Doon Iowa, August Schroeder and his hired hand Charley Rocker went to Doon to
buy some machinery parts and do a little drinking while they were there. Appearantly there was some sort of picnic going on
in the town of Doon that day.
It seems that Charley tried to buy some drugged whiskey at the saloon but could not get
any so he at sometime that night stopped at the pharmacy and bought cloriform instead.
The pair did not get home untill
around 2am that night. August and his wife had words about the hr of his return and after she gave him a lecture, drank
some coffee with him and they went to bed.
August, only got partly undressed because he said he had some pain and would
probably be getting up again soon.
Dora fell asleep and when she woke again between 3 and 4am, finding him gone searched
the house and then went to the barn to look for him. It was there she found him hanging by the neck. She ran into the house
and got a knife and cut him down, Though the body was still warm and supple it was altogether too late to save him. The drop
from which he fell was not far enough to break his neck and death would have resulted in slow strangulation.
According to family stories, The brothers eventually demanded and inquest be held
because they had seen things that did not add up.One story that Linda and I heard from and old cousin was that he was found
hanging with his socks clean and how could he have gotton from the house to the barn without dirtying his socks.
there was the fact that he was not a wealthy man but certainly well to do. He was a member in good standing of the ODD Fellows
association and well respected by his friends and neighbors.His health was good. He had no reason
to take his own life.
He was living a dream life to be in a country that was free of oppression and he could raise a family and make his fortune
without living in fear.
One can only assume the story that goes from August's death to three years later. The Schroeder brothers had charges brought
against Charles Rocker and those charges were dissmissed because of a lack of evidence. Some time after that Mr. Rocker sued
the brothers for bringing charges against him. And, some time after that he married the widow Dora Schroeder and they moved
to Elkton South Dakota.
In 1903, Charles rocker was arrested for the murder of August Schroeder.It seems he
started talking in his sleep one night and recounted the entire set of events surrounding the murder of August and how he
had hung him in his own log barn. Dora got scared and went to the Rock Rapids county attorney and told him what Charley had
said in his sleep. Simon Fisher the county attorney issued an arrest warrant and had him brought back to Rock Rapids to wait
for a trail on the murder charge.
In February 1904, after a bitter trial, he was found guilty and ordered to hang.
was the first case in the fourth judicial district where the defentand was sentenced to death. He was sentenced to die on
June 9,1905. A punishment he would never see.
An appeal was filed for anew trial that was eventually held at Sibley. The
second trial did not produce anything new so Mr. Rcoker was sent to Anamosa. Appeals and further court action kept him alive
past his execution date.
In 1906, Charles Rocker was sent back to Lyon county for a retrial of the case. The supreme court
reviewed the case and sent it back for retrial because it seems that the prosecutor at his first trial, Simon Fisher, had
represented Mr. Rocker when he sued the Schroeder brothers for bringing charges against him in 1900.
In 1907 , his attorney
E.C.Roach filed an apeal in the supreme court asking to have the verdict thrown out because the charge was murder by hanging
and evidence showed Schroeder had died of chloroform.
In 1908 Mr Rockers trial fiasco came to an end when the supreme
court affirmed the decision reached in the third trial and ordered Rocker to serve a life sentence at Anamosa.
Rocker had been found guilty three times for the murder of August Schroeder.
Around the year 1919 February 6th, Mr Rocker
escaped from the penitentiary at Fort Madison. He was a trustee on a construction gang working near Cherokee and was never
The popular opinion of some of the people I talked to from Doon was that Dora had no idea at all that he done such
a thing to her husband and she was as much a victim as he was.
Charles Rocker would have been 50 years of age when he
escaped from prison.
Pictures from the Schroeder Murder Page
Lyon County Iowa Message Boards