This page contains the "This Month in Legal History" column as
published in the current Douglas County Law Library E-Mail Newsletter.
The column features a different event from the history of law and
jurisprudence of Douglas County, Kansas, that occurred during the
month. It is published monthly in the Douglas County Law Library E-Mail
Newsletter and on the Home page of this website.
Archived entries from this and previous years can be accessed by visiting the This Month in Legal History Archive page on this website.
December 17, 1896 - Carl August Beuermann is shot by his wife.
Carl August Beuermann(1) was born September 20, 1858. The location
of his birth is unknown. He married Anna Paulina Klussmeyer, born
around 1862, on June 30, 1886, in Douglas County, Kansas. After the
marriage, the couple lived together with Anna's mother and father on
Beuermann's farm at Lake View, a community approximately four miles
northwest of Lawrence, Kansas, that surrounded an oxbow lake(2) known
as Lake View Lake. Apparently, the Klussmeyers were newly arrived
immigrants, as it was later reported that Anna did not speak English at
the time of her marriage to Beuermann, and attended school over the
next three years to learn the language. They seemed to be a relatively
happy couple with no disagreements evident to their neighbors. At
around six o'clock on the evening of November 17, 1896, Anna was
setting the table for supper. Beuermann went to the window to watch the
Santa Fe Plug(3) pass by, perhaps to set his watch by it. As such, he
was standing with his back to the supper table where Anna was. She
quickly left the room, retrieved a .38 revolver, came back into the
room, and shot her husband once in the back, killing him instantly with
a bullet through his heart. She then went out into the yard, pointed
the pistol at her own heart, and pulled the trigger. The trigger was
hard to pull in that awkward position, so the shot missed her heart and
she was only wounded. A doctor named Anderson was called. He determined
that Beuermann was beyond help, and then treated Anna. He left her at
home after determining that her injuries were so severe that recovery
was beyond hope. The next day "Coroner Leonard", presumably Dr.
Wellington Leonard, empaneled a jury and went out to the Beuermann
farm. The jury examined Beuermann's body. Anna told them that she had
been trying for six months to get her husband to divorce her, but he
would not do so. She said that he had ceased to love her, and she
decided that it was time for them both to die. She had intended to
shoot her husband three days earlier, but her courage had failed her.
Then the night before the shooting, she determined to kill Beuermann
the next day. She put poison in the biscuits she made for supper, but
became concerned that it might not kill him, so when the opportunity
presented itself, she retrieved the pistol and shot him. The jury
adjourned to wait to see whether Anna would die from her wound. The
bullet had gone clear through her body near the heart, and the doctors
expected she would not survive. She had expressed no regret for her
actions, except that the bullet had not killed her. She was also
feeling better, and was concerned that she might not die after all.
Beuermann was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Lawrence. Despite the dire
prognosis from the doctors, as the days passed, Anna began to recover
from the bullet wound. She was soon put under close guard. She engaged
Judge(4) John Quincy Adams Norton as her attorney, and waited for
whatever developed. The Coroner scheduled an inquest that was held on
January 6, 1897, where the jury examined the evidence. Anna related
more of the story behind her desire to kill Beuermann. As reported in
the Lawrence Daily World,
after she learned English, "All went well for some time until she fell
in with a company of free thinkers, or liberals, as they call
themselves. She went to their meetings and had considerable
correspondence with them. At the last meeting, which was held in
Ottawa[, Kansas](5), spiritualism was introduced. This disgusted Mrs.
Beierman. One of the letters read at the inquest was from a married
woman who said she was in love with a married man, and she expressed a
horror of the laws that would not allow them to live together." The
article continued, "The upshot of all this religious agitation was that
Mrs. Beiermann lost her belief in a Supreme Being and felt that there
was no hope anywhere for her. Her mental position was agonizing. She
had ceased to love her husband and knew that they could never have any
children. She asked for a divorce but he only laughed at her. She
wanted to become the mother of children but saw no hopes. Feeling that
life ended all she concluded to kill both herself and her husband."
After deliberating, the coroner's jury found that Anna was "mentally
irresponsible at the time of the commission of the crime." Because of
this, there was speculation that she might not be prosecuted for the
crime, but this proved too optimistic. Five days later, on January
11th, "One of the brothers of August Beiermann this morning swore out a
warrant against Mrs. Anna Beiermann, charging her with murder." She was
arrested and brought in to court that evening to appear before Judge
Charlton, who allowed her to go back home under guard for the night. At
10:00 a.m. the next day she again appeared before Judge Charlton, who
set her bail at $5,000. He continued her hearing until January 19th,
because of the illness of her attorney. Anna was able to make bail and
was released. The newspaper commented on her appearance, noting that,
"She is somewhat pale but walks with a steady step. One would think she
was a third party to the proceedings." The case was called on the 19th,
but Judge Charlton again continued it to January 28th. The reason for
the continuance is explained by another article in the same newspaper
reporting the court action. The article read in part, "Judge Norton is
still a very sick man. His attending physician thinks he is improving
but he is in a very precarious condition." He must have recovered
sufficiently to appear in court with his client on the 28th, because
that morning Anna had her preliminary hearing and was bound over to the
district court with the same $5,000 bond that she had previously met.
The case was scheduled for the next session of the Douglas County
District Court, but because Norton was still too ill to participate in
a trial, she did not go to trial until November 8, 1897. The case was
called that day in front of Judge Samuel A, Riggs, and a jury was
empaneled. The charge was first degree murder, and Anna pled not guilty
by reason of insanity. The prosecutor was county attorney A.C.
Mitchell, and Norton served as Anna's defense council. There was
testimony given that Anna, "was very desirous of having children." And
that, "her husband [Beuermann] was lacking in physical power, amounting
to sexual disability, and that he had not informed her of his condition
before marriage, that the lack of virility and the impotency of her
husband preyed upon her mind, and that by constant brooding over the
situation her mind was finally unbalanced." The case went to the jury
the afternoon of the 10th. They deliberated three hours and then
returned with a verdict of guilty of second degree murder. Anna was
sentenced to ten years at hard labor in the Kansas State Penitentiary.
She was taken into custody. An article in the November 11, 1897,
edition of the Lawrence Daily World gloated at her conviction. The article, titled Justice Done,
stated that, "Justice is vindicated…", and that, "The verdict meets
with universal favor." The article continued to make the point over and
over again how the local citizenry wanted her tried and convicted of
murder. It reported that in her testimony, Anna had not loved Beuerman
from the day they were married, and that she had loved another man for
two years. It complimented Mitchell on his handling of the trial and
that, "The case was ably tried." It then made a curious statement,
which read, "Although put in a delicate position on account of previous
personal relations with the family[,] County Attorney A.C. Mitchell did
not flinch in his officiall (sp.) duty." The article ended with, "There
will be the usual effort for a new trial and possibly the case will be
taken up. Mrs. Buerman is quite well off and it is not likely that she
will go to the penitentiary without exhausting every effort to keep
out." The newspaper was correct, in that Norton moved for a new trial
on November 12th. The motion must have been denied, as Norton filed a
notice of appeal with the district court on December 17th. He filed a
second notice of appeal on March 2, 1898. Anna's appeal had been made
to the Kansas Supreme Court, and she was released from the penitentiary
on bond pending the Court's decision. On July 8, 1898, the court found
four errors(6) in the original trial, and made a unanimous decision to
reverse Anna's conviction and remand her case for a new trial. A new
trial was scheduled for February 6, 1899, the first day of the District
Court's February session. On that date, a jury was empaneled and the
new trial began. The case went to the jury on the 8th, and they
returned that same day with a verdict of not guilty. Anna was set free.
The feelings of the Lawrence Daily World editor over the
verdict were evident by the length of the article in the paper that
day. The previous article celebrating her conviction published in the
November 11, 1897, edition ran for two-thirds of a column, while the
one announcing the not guilty verdict on February 8th read in its
entirety, "Mrs. Anna Buerman was acquitted in district court today on
the charge of murdering her husband. The jury had the case for six
hours." Short, but from the editor's viewpoint, definitely not sweet.
Where Anna went after her release, what she did, and what subsequently
happened to her is unknown.
(1) Depending on the source, his first and middle names
are recorded as either August Charles or Carl August. The spelling of
his last name varies, again depending on the source, as Beiermann,
Beirman, Beirmann, Beuerman, Beuermann, Beurman, Beurmann, and Buerman.
His tombstone reads Carl August Beuermann, so that is the spelling used
in this article.
(2) An oxbow lake is the remnant of an old meander in a river
channel, in this case the Kansas or Kaw River, that had at some time in
the past been cut off and bypassed by the river and then been partially
silted up, resulting in a U-shaped lake.
(3) The Plug was a local train on the Santa Fe line that operated
between Kansas City and Topeka, Kansas, from 1881 to 1931. It plied the
tracks that crossed just north of Lake View Lake and near the Beuermann
farmhouse. The train held the longest continuous on-time service record
of any train in the entire Santa Fe system, and was so reliable that
people who lived along the tracks could set their watches by it.
(4) Norton had at one time been Probate Judge in Douglas County, Kansas, and was thereafter known as Judge Norton.
(5) It was a meeting of the Kansas Freethinkers Association, and
was held at Forest Park, Ottawa, Kansas, in August of 1896, four months
before the shooting.
(6) The syllabus of the decision of the Supreme Court noting the
four areas where the District Court erred in its handling of the case
"1. A person who has read a newspaper account of a homicide, and
has also learned the facts pertaining to the same from one who assumed
to know and state them, and, based thereon, has formed and expressed an
opinion as to the guilt of the accused, which would require evidence to
remove, is not a qualified juror, although he may state that he
believes he could give the accused a fair and impartial trial.
2. A nonprofessional witness, acquainted with one whose sanity is
in question, may, after stating the facts, words, and conduct of such
person which have come under his personal observation,-and based upon
these,-express his opinion as to the sane or insane state of such a
3. If the witness' knowledge of the acts, words, and conduct of the
person claimed to be insane is meager, his opinion will not be as
valuable as that of one who has had better opportunities of knowing,
and who is thoroughly informed in that respect; but what weight the
opinion shall receive is a question of fact for the jury.
4. It is the duty of the presiding judge to be present throughout
the trial; to supervise the proceedings, and see and hear all that
transpires during the trial, and especially during a criminal trial
where the highest penalty of the law may be inflicted. If the presiding
judge leaves the court room, goes out of the sight and hearing of the
jury and counsel, and temporarily relinquishes control over the trial,
the accused has good cause to complain."
From: Carl August Beuermann, Find A Grave website; Carl August Beuermann, BillionGraves website; Beirmann, August Charles - Anna Paulina Klussmeyer - 30 Jun 1886, Douglas County, Kansas Marriages, 1886, Blue Skyways website; Beirman August (or Beurmann), Lawrence Cemetery Interactive Map, City of Lawrence website; Carl August Beuermann, "BillionGraves Index", FamilySearch website; Shot dead by his wife, Kansas Trails website; August Charles Beiermann, "Kansas, Marriages, 1840-1935",
FamilySearch website; Lawrence Daily World, v. 5, no. 270 (January 7,
1897), p.3; Lawrence Daily World, v. 5, no. 264 (December 31, 1896),
p.3; Lawrence Daily World, v. 5, no. 253 (December 18, 1896), p.3;
State of Kansas vs. Anna Beurman, Case no. 1443, Douglas County,
Kansas, District Court Records; John Q.A. Norton papers, 1868-1869, Archivegrid website; The Lawrence Gazette, v. 17, no. 747 (December 24, 1896), p.3; Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad,
My Present Past website; Lawrence Daily World, v. 5, no. 273 (January
11, 1897), p.3; Lawrence Daily World, v. 5, no. 274 (January 12, 1897),
p.3; Lawrence Daily World, v. 5, no. 280 (January 19, 1897), p.3;
Lawrence Daily World, v. 5, no. 288 (January 28, 1897), p.3; Lawrence
Daily World, v. 6, no. 219 (November 10, 1897), p.3; Lawrence Daily
World, v. 6, no. 220 (November 11, 1897), p.3; State v. Beuerman, 59
Kan. 586; Lawrence Daily World, v. 7, no. 293 (February 6, 1899), p.3;
and, Lawrence Daily World, v. 7, no. 295 (February 8, 1899), p.3.
© 2013, by the Douglas County Law Library. All rights reserved.