After many years of searching for the mystery of what happened to great uncle Bert, a chance discovery of the posting
of an old newspaper article led us to the answers at last.
The life of Bert was a total mystery to everyone. We had his date of birth, the fact that he was a witness to the
marriage of his brother Charles, and the information that he had died and was buried with no services one day in 1909 in Minneapolis.
For a family who traditionally held large funerals and wakes to lay a son to his rest without even a service or acknowledgement
of any kind was quite unusual. A cousin and I spent over eight years trying to solve the mystery of what happened to
our great uncle Bert.
It was the chance discovery of a post in a genealogy forum that led us to the answer at last. Here is the post
exactly as it was discovered on Rootsweb.com:
NYTimes, 1911Sep08, page 1
RUNAWAY COUPLE HELD.
Flee an Hour After Man's Wife
Woman's Husband Slain, Say Relatives.
MINNEAPOLIS, Sept. 7.--The flight of L. W. PLOTNER, former Sheriff
of Davison County, S.D., with Mrs. QUINN within an hour of the death of the former's wife, caused relatives of Peter Albert
QUINN, formerly of Minneapolis, to leave this city for Mitchell, S.D., with the intention of placing a murder charge against
QUINN died in Mitchell Aug. 81 [sic], 1909. PLOTNER and Mrs. QUINN were arrested in Omaha, and are being taken
back to Mitchell.
Relatives of QUINN charge that PLOTNER, with the assistance of Mrs. Peter Albert QUINN and a person
whose name is being kept secret, murdered QUINN in such a manner as to make his death appear suicide. It is charged that Mrs.
PLOTNER, who was an invalid, was driven to suicide because of PLOTNER's attentions to Mrs. QUINN.
This is the most extreme "digest version" I can give at this time. This is due to the fact that
research is still being conducted for an upcoming book.
The "very" digest version: Bert was murdered on 31 August 1909. His death is reported
as a suicide by carbolic acid poisoning. The family arrived in Mitchell, SD to try and get murder charges filed against
Sheriff Plotner, but fail. The final result of suicide stands. The autopsy report issued by the coroner states
that Bert showed signs of chemical burns inside and out on his body. The case is closed.
The family returns home to Minneapolis and lay Bert to rest. However, 2 years later to the day,
Sheriff Plotner's wife is ALSO found dead. Her death is also ruled a suicide by carbolic acid poisoning. The family
receives word of her death, and come from Minneapolis and NYC to once again attempt to file charges of murder against Plotner.
Unknown to anyone, one of Bert's brothers had stayed on in Mitchell for the entire two years, very
quietly investigating Bert's death. He is the man who notified the family when Mrs. Plotner died.
When the family is denied once again the chance to place murder charges, this one brother heads for
the college in Minneapolis (now the University of Minnesota) to request a second autopsy be performed on Bert. The second
autopsy report shows a much different cause of death. One much more violent and physical.
This new autopsy report is taken back to Mitchell, where it is systematically refused "from the ground
up." It was even taken to the governor of SD, who also refused to accept it.
Plotner and Kate Quinn stand trial - not for murder, however. They are on trial for adultery!
After a lengthy delay the trial is moved to Sanborn County, SD and begins in November 1911.
To give the digest version of the outcome -- early one morning in January 1912, Plotner's body is
found in the town dump. The case against Plotner is closed forever.
If you would like details of these events - or happen to be related to the Plotner, Gardner, Foley
or Quinn families involved in this, please don't hesitate to contact me! I would love to hear from you!!