Marshfield, August 1919: Rabid dog chase ends in tragedy
By Kris Leonhardt
It was a quiet summer evening in 1919. Following a slow August day for Marshfield officer Louis Thompson, he talked with local William Paape. The sun was slowly making its way towards the horizon as Marshfield city employees Edward Merkel and Robert Derby approached Thompson. The pair reported seeing a “mad” dog near the Palmetto Street area on the east side of town.
Grabbing Paape, Thompson hurried to the area where the dog had been, stopping by his quarters to obtain his shotgun for the task.
Arriving in the area where the dog was roaming free, Thompson found that the canine had taken shelter in the basement of the Kretser home at 722 E. Third St. The Kretser residence was home to Hesper and Earl Kretser, who had moved from Plainfield in recent years. Earl was a machinist, and Hesper, a woman with a difficult childhood, looked after their home and their three children: Norman, Virginia, and Kieth.
Norman, the oldest at 8 years of age, gathered with the other neighborhood children to watch the developing scene. Thompson approached and ordered the assembly to stand back as he entered the cellar door with his gun drawn, Paape operating as his backup.
Curious and searching for a better vantage point to see the progressing action, young Norman moved to the basement window to look inside the dim basement.
As Thompson made his way into the cellar, he was immediately greeted by the growls of the frightened but aggressive dog. Blinded by the low sun, Thompson was unable to make out where the hound had positioned itself in the dark basement.
Struggling to see the action from the window, Norman advanced to peer around the boxes blocking his view and poked his head inside the cellar area.
Seeing the head of hair advance into the low light, the frightened officer shot.
Norman was rushed to the nearby Marshfield Clinic, but efforts to save him were unsuccessful.
A jury was impaneled late the following afternoon, commanded by Municipal Judge R.E. Andrews and District Attorney Frank Calkins. Paape, Thompson, Earl Kretser, and the owner of the dog were all called to testify. At the conclusion the shooting was considered accidental, and no charges were filed on Thompson.
Norman Harry Kretser was laid to rest in the Hancock Cemetery in Waushara County.