The Shooting of George Sommerville
George W. Somerville was born June 3, 1855, in Ripley County, Indiana. His parents were William and Rachel (Cunningham) Somerville. George graduated from Rochester High School in 1876, graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1879, then came directly to Sleepy Eye on June 25th, 1879. In 1882 he became the Brown County Attorney and continued in that office for six years. During that time he acquired two farms.
In November 1881 George married Mary Fuller of Rochester. They had two sons and two daughters. Theirs sons were named Wayne and Saxe. Saxe, was married to Pearl Mo. Daughter Carol was married to a C. S. Smith but lived at some distance. George's daughter Madge was married to Al Ruenitz and lived in Springfield (later she became the second Mrs. E.L Nippolt).
George Somerville had built a home on a terrace on the northwest corner of Summit Street and now Second Avenue West. The Sommerville home was a lovely home of elaborate woodwork and parquet floors. It later was the home of The Ed Berkner home family, then a maternity hospital, then the Schwartz funeral home, followed by the Clow funeral home, then becoming apartment housing. There are 18 rooms and 6 baths in this home.
Ingervald M. Olson was a law partner of George Somerville but left to become a district judge and later then a Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Albert Hauser was also George Somerville's partner for a short time as well. However, George had then left for a western state.
His leave may have been because a man had tried to kill George for a suspected swindle. Or perhaps it may have been for the allegation that George brought in a number of jurors in a locally famous murder trial.
In the September 3rd, 1909 edition of the Herald-Dispatch there is an account of events for September 1st; when John F. Hayner went to Somerville’s office and shot George Somerville twice, at about 10 a.m. At around 2 p.m. the man had hung himself in the jail. Weapon in the shooting was an Iver Johnson Bulldog 38.
The first bullet entered Somerville’s left arm near the wrist, then entered the chest near his shoulder, injuring the lung. The other bullet apparently entered Somerville’s back, passed through the body just missing the lower part of the heart. It was not agreed whether the second bullet entered the back first.
Florence Dovre, secretary, and Atty. Albert Hauser were in the office. Hayner told the editor he had been beaten out of every cent he had, said he had received 170 acres of worthless land in Missouri for brick building here. Hauser gave the alarm and John B. Hickle, Frank Palmer, and Rob Hansen were the first to show up, with a good-sized guns. Others showed up with weapons also.
Chief August Matter and Judge Peter Geschwind decided to send Hayner to New Ulm in Joe Fialka’s auto, with Fialka driving, trip being made in less than an hour. Hayner told Matter he had nothing to live for.
Hayner had come to Sleepy Eye about two and a half years earlier, bought the Backer? building, traded it to Somerville for the 170 acres in Missouri and some telephone stock. Hayner then left Sleepy Eye, worked in Milford and Twin Cities. Parents lived at Waverly. Hayner was about 35, of good reputation. County Attorney August Erickson of Springfield arrived in Sleepy Eye three hours after the shooting.
Somerville was out of danger some ten days after the shooting. George Somerville died on January 12th, 1890. Not related to this crime. He rests in the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Iberia.