A jury of six men of the community was appointed by the county coroner on the eighth day of December,1887, after Dietz’ death. They heard testimony of six witnesses to the shooting and concluded that “William H. Dietz of Girard came to his death by a pistol shot in the hands of David Wineland.”
Each witness reported they had heard a heated public argument between the two men and saw the night security officer trying to quiet Dietz and restrain him from pursuing Wineland. Witness S.S. Garst reported Dietz was “using some very rough language” to the security officer R. Collins. Dietz then turned his vile language on Wineland, who was backing away from his attacker and responding “Don’t let him come here... Don’t crowd me!”
Dietz broke free from Collins’ grasp and pursued Wineland saying “You son of a bitch. You are [a] coward; you are afraid to shoot.” Wineland drew his revolver and shot Dietz. The local doctor, R.C. Cowen, immediately took over the care of the wounded man as Officer Collins took “the revolver from Wineland” who was arrested without incident. No weapon was found on Dietz.
Available court records do not include the sentence handed down to Wineland. A local newspaper article reporting on the event, however, says, “Wineland is now under a heavy bond to the circuit court and at home.”
What was the cause of this violent argument, you may ask? Family gossip has always said that it was over the price of a hog that one man had sold to the other!
Wineland led a troubled and tragic life, but why? He was born in 1840 and raised in Montgomery County, Ohio, the son of parents who were faithful and active members of the German Baptist Brethren faith community. This group was often called “Dunkers” because of their method of baptism. They were a pious, quiet, law-abiding people for whom the church was the center of their lives. Most were farmers and they kept their distance from the wider society. Their plain clothes identified them as distinctive when business made it necessary for them to mingle with “the world.”
David Wineland, however, seems to have been shaped by a different mold. He would maintain his Dunker loyalty all his life, but other influences must have impacted him greatly. His arrest in Girard, Illinois was not his first encounter with public conflict.
During the years of the Civil War, 1863 to 1865, there were in the Northern states some who supported the cause of the Confederacy and opposed the war. Their official name was “The Peace Democrats” but their opponents called them “copperheads” after the venomous snake of coppery-pink color. Ohio, especially Montgomery County, was a hotbed of Copperhead sentiment.
David Wineland, in his early twenties, came under their influence and apparently was not reluctant to share his unpopular anti-war views in public. Family gossip includes a tale of Wineland having to leave Dayton, Ohio quickly, before the tar and feathers arrived!
After the War between the States was over, David seems to have spent much time in the home of Jacob Ulrich and Hannah Studebaker Stutsman of Elkhart County, Indiana. They, too, were part of the Dunker community in northern Indiana and may have been acquaintances of his parents.
On February 4 of 1896, Wineland married their daughter Susanna. Not long after their marriage, they and her parents moved west to Macoupin County, Illinois for unknown reasons. They settled near the town of Girard in the southern part of the state where there was a thriving Dunker community who welcomed them. The church house of the Pleasant Hill Dunker congregation was located outside of town and included a large, open area of land which became the official cemetery for its members. It is well maintained to this day.
Getting settled in this new location, Wineland’s life was immediately caught up in a tug-of-war between birth and death, gains and losses. He and Susanna welcomed their first child, a son, in November of 1896. One year later, Jacob Stutsman, died leaving son-in-law David Wineland as the only bread winner for their household of four. Another year brought another mouth to feed when a newborn daughter joined their family.
A second son arrived in 1876 and daughter number two was added in 1878. Wineland was now somehow supporting a family of seven. As was the custom of the day, they no doubt had a garden and raised much of their own food. The 1880 census, however, gives us a clue when it describes “David Wineland” as a “mill owner.” Two more children joined the family: a son in 1880 and a daughter, Rhoda, in 1882. That youngest child was my mother’s mother.
However, life’s tug-of-war was pulling David Wineland down again. In December of 1884, his wife Susanna died at 36 years of age. Suddenly he was the single parent of six children between the ages of fifteen and two and a half years. Only his aged mother-in-law was available to help him keep the home secure and the family together. Susanna was buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery near her father.
The local newspaper, reporting on Wineland’s shooting of Dietz in October of 1887, identified him as “a carpenter,” not as the owner of a business. It also included the observation that Wineland was “under the influence of liquor” at the time of that event. Had he discovered that alcohol deadened his grief more effectively than his faith?
One more tragedy awaited him. Local newspaper reports describe it best.
THE INDEPENDENT of Hawarden, Sioux County, Iowa
“RevengeGirard, Ill, March 29  – ....This afternoon as Wineland was walking along the street with his little girl [Rhoda] James Dietz, ten years old, the adopted son of W.H. Dietz, slipped up behind him and shot him in the back, using a 32-caliber bulldog....The wound is pronounced very serious if not fatal. The boy was immediately arrested. He says that no one put him up to the act; that Wineland had killed his father, and it made him mad to see him walking around, so he thought he would shoot him. The boy was taken to Carlinville to be confined in the county jail to await his examination.”
THE EVENING BULLETIN of Maysville, Ky, Monday, April 2, 1888
He Fulfilled His PromiseCarlinville, Ill., April 2 – David Wineland, who was shot at Girard,Thursday afternoon by ... Dietz the 12-year old boy, has died from his wounds. The boy was brought here and placed in jail. He is perfectly cool and self-possessed, and acknowledged that he did the shooting. When told of the result of his act he seemed satisfied, and remarked that he had only fulfilled a promise he had made to his dying father.”
David Wineland died March 28,1888 in Girard, Illinois. He, too, is buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery near, but not in the same row, as his other family members. Someone remembers him, however, and has honored him with a new headstone.
But our question remains unanswered: Was David Wineland really a black sheep in his sedate, law-abiding family? Did he intentionally make bad decisions that harmed himself and others? Or was he just the victim of tragic circumstances beyond his control?
19 Jan 2019 - mshr