An independent medical report leads to a clue in the death of J. C. Muehleisen
By J. L. Starkey
Times have changed, and times are strange.
Here I come, but I ain’t the same.– Lemmy Kilmister & Zakk Wylde
My third-great-grandfather J. C. Muehleisen was not well when he boarded the stagecoach bound for Hot Springs, Arkansas, in February 1885. His disease was progressing, and a Deadwood reporter wrote:
“That he was a sick man, in body and mind, was apparent to all who knew him, but that disease had taken such deep root…was suspected by no one. At times he had been flighty, forgetful, [and] despondent. With his friends he conversed about his condition…admitting that reason was somewhat impaired.”– The Black Hills Daily Times, 7 February 1885
During the journey, J. C. had hallucinations of birds, icebergs, and corpses. According to news reports, he then:
“…attempted to kill the driver, and cut at him through the front part of the stage and through [the driver’s] overcoat.”– The Black Hills Daily Times, 14 February 1885
J. C. died of exposure after he wandered away from that stagecoach on a bitterly cold February night. His tragic death would shock the Deadwood community and devastate his young wife .
I’ve often wondered if J. C. experienced lucid moments during his final hours. Did he make a conscious choice to leave the stagecoach, knowing that he faced certain death if he did so? Did he hope to spare his family from further suffering as his illness worsened? Was he afraid of becoming another Bob Bauman?
An independent medical report provided clues – and potential answers – to those questions.
The Barbershop Partnership
Andrew Robert “Bob” Bauman was on track to become a Deadwood success story. Born in Germany around 1841, he arrived in the United States prior to 1860 and first settled in Indianapolis .
In 1876, Bob moved his family to Deadwood, where he opened a barbershop on Main Street . He established a partnership with J.C., and the men soon became prominent business leaders in the community .
In 1881, Bob retired at the young age of 40. He sold his shop to fellow barber John Glickauf, while J. C. opened a new shop on Lee Street .
According to news reports, Bob retired due to “sickness in his family,” but his actual situation was much more tragic.
“Andrew Bauman, A Lunatic”
“Bob Bauman…a steady, quiet man, has been peculiarly afflicted for a year or two. He seemed at times strange, and his wife could not account for his actions. His physician saw symptoms of softening of the brain…”– The Black Hills Daily Times, 8 July 1882
The 1882 news articles were eerily similar to those that would be written about J. C. a few years later. Bob Bauman was ill, and his condition was worsening.
In March of 1882, Bob’s wife Matilda took him to Indianapolis for treatment . By June, his condition had improved enough that Matilda felt comfortable returning to Deadwood with the children . But her hope for a future with her husband was short lived.
On 27 June 1882, a shocking article ran in a Deadwood newspaper. Contrary to what Matilda had told her friends, Bob had actually been “deranged for several months.” Though accounts varied, he apparently told family and friends that Matilda was the one who was sick, and that he wanted to return to Deadwood to care for her. A relative (possibly Bob’s father) arranged for Bob’s release from an Indianapolis asylum and provided the funds Bob needed to travel to Deadwood .
On 1 July 1882, “escaped” mental patient Bob Bauman returned to Deadwood. His arrival was reported in the newspaper as if everything was normal, but his return would change the lives of the Bauman family forever .
Newspapers reported that there was “nothing to indicate [Bob’s] lunacy” until the early morning hours of 7 July 1882, when he, “…became suddenly very violent and attempted to kill his wife and children with an ax.”
Matilda escaped with the children, and she then took legal action to have her husband declared insane. On 15 July – just two weeks after his return to Deadwood – Bob was committed to the Dakota Hospital for the Insane in Yankton . He would remain there for the rest of his life.
On 24 January 1886, Bob died at age 44 . His death occurred less than one year after his former business partner’s tragic passing, but for Bob, there would be no outpouring of community support. He would receive no heartfelt obituaries and no official declarations of mourning. Bob Bauman, the onetime community leader, would die a deranged and broken man.
Two Barbers, One Tragic Connection
A physician’s report in Bob’s probate file gives amazing insight into his case, and it provides clues for J. C.’s case as well. According to Dr. M. Rogers, Bob’s symptoms began around 1880 with “pain in the head with loss of memory at times.” The disease was unpredictable as it worsened, and although Bob had lucid moments, he also suffered from delusions. As an example, the doctor wrote that Bob, “…thinks his wife is trying to take his property from him and everyone is trying to swindle him.”
Bob had no family history of mental illness, and there was no indication of infection, injury, or substance abuse to explain his symptoms .
Was he alone in his battle against this mysterious disease? It may have appeared that way to doctors and family members. But a comparison of Bob and J. C.’s symptoms leads to a startling conclusion: The two men’s cases were almost identical.
The similarities are shocking in hindsight. Bob and J. C. were working in the same job (and in the same location) when their symptoms began at around the same time. Both men improved slightly when they sought treatment outside of Deadwood, but their symptoms worsened rapidly when they returned to the area.
As their diseases progressed, both men experienced delusions, personality changes, and violent outbursts. While the men had lucid moments, they were probably aware that they could not stop the progression of their terrifying illnesses.
Were these similarities purely coincidental? Probably not. Still, the question remains: what was the diagnosis?
A modern symptom checker did not provide much help in solving the mystery. Possible diagnoses ranged from bipolar disorder to mononucleosis, with just about everything between those two extremes listed as “potential” causes of the symptoms.
However, Bob’s barbershop may contain a clue to the cause of the mystery illness. A detailed map shows that the business was situated near a paint shop.
Could neurotoxin exposure have caused the symptoms? If so, other residents in the area were probably affected. But who were these unknown patients?
According to news reports and probate records, John Glickauf took over the Main Street barbershop after Bob retired. He remained there for several years and built upon the success of the business that Bob started in the 1870’s.
But how did John really fare in that location? Was everything as perfect as it seemed?
Stay tuned…this story is far from over.
- “Sad Ending,” Black Hills Times, Deadwood, South Dakota, 7 Feb 1885, p. 3, col. 3. Retrieved from Newspapers.com.
- “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M4FY-BNK: 13 December 2017), Andrew Bowman in entry for Andrew Bowman, 1860.
- “Arrivals at the Grand Central,” The Black Hills Weekly Pioneer, Deadwood, South Dakota, 16 December 1876, p. 4, col. 1. Retrieved from newspapers.com. (See also: Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Deadwood, Lawrence County, South Dakota. Sanborn Map Company, Oct, 1885. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/sanborn08223_001/>. )
- The Black Hills Daily Times, 8 September 1881, p. 4, col. 4. Retrieved from Newspapers.com. (See also: “Sad Ending,” Black Hills Times, 7 Feb 1885, p. 3, col. 3. Retrieved from Newspapers.com.)
- The Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times, Deadwood, South Dakota, 4 March 1882, p. 2, col. 4. Retrieved from newspapers.com.
- “Unfortunate,” The Black Hills Daily Times, 8 July 1882, p. 3, col. 3. Retrieved from newspapers.com. (See also: “Personalities,” The Black Hills Daily Times, 6 March 1882, p. 4, col. 5.; and “Minor Matters,” The Black Hills Daily Times, 23 May 1882, p. 3, col. 2-3. Retrieved from newspapers.com.)
- “Personal Paragraphs,” The Black Hills Daily Times, 17 June 1882, p. 3, col. 4. Retrieved from newspapers.com.
- “Minor Matters,” The Black Hills Daily Times, 27 June 1882, p. 3, col. 3. Retrieved from newspapers.com. (See also: “Broke Loose,” The Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times, Deadwood, South Dakota, 8 July 1882, p. 4, col. 5. Retrieved from newspapers.com.)
- “Minor Matters,” The Black Hills Daily Times, 2 Jul 1882, p. 3, col. 2. Retrieved from newspapers.com.
- Bauman, Andrew, Lawrence County, South Dakota, probate case records box 5120, Box 8, File 112, images 4 through 176, 1886-1887, image 90 of 176, North Dakota and South Dakota County, District, and Probate Courts. Retrieved from ancestry.com, North Dakota and South Dakota, Wills and Probate Records, 1878-1928 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com operations, Inc., 2015.
- Bauman, Andrew, Lawrence County, South Dakota, probate case records box 5120, Box 8, File 112, images 4 through 176, 1886-1887, image 114 of 176, North Dakota and South Dakota County, District, and Probate Courts. Retrieved from ancestry.com, North Dakota and South Dakota, Wills and Probate Records, 1878-1928 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com operations, Inc., 2015.
- Bauman, Andrew, Lawrence County, South Dakota, probate case records box 5120, Box 8, File 112, images 4 through 176, 1886-1887, image 94 of 176, North Dakota and South Dakota County, District, and Probate Courts. Retrieved from ancestry.com, North Dakota and South Dakota, Wills and Probate Records, 1878-1928 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com operations, Inc., 2015.