Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Emil Kolbe's Shooting Part 5 - Family Stories

Family events develop into separate, distinct stories as years and families grow distant.

When family members leave and create their own new families, the stories go with them and are passed to their children and so on, much like DNA. It makes sense that the stories change through all the people and all the years.

Later when a document or other evidence appears that may challenge one's perception of a story they held for their whole life it may cause some uneasiness.

The document or evidence doesn't mean that anyone was wrong in their perception or belief. It is meant to help shed light on the event, not to judge the story that has been passed down.

Emil Kolbe's Shooting Part 4 - Family Feedback

I emailed the newspaper article to Kolbe family members all over the country and the response was great. Emails were "flying" all over the country:

"Amazing find. Amazing story...the written English of the time is just a little weird people do not really use phrasing like that anymore..."

"Amazing nugget of historic gold" I can see the scene as I had the opportunity to be in the remains of the store one time. It makes things come alive."

"Interesting that the news brief referred to the 2 bad guys as ‘visitors.’"

"This is fun."

"This is like a Nancy Drew mystery."

This newspaper article brought up some different views on the event:

1. Joe, Emil's oldest grandson, recalls that there was a second shooting in 1932 or 1933; a much more serious shooting in the throat that led to the decline of Emil's health.

2. Uncle Carl, who was born in 1917 (now age 92) is pretty sure he was in 6th or 7th grade when it happened. This would make the shooting around 1930 or 1931 instead of 1922. Carl recalls there were two attempted robberies. One time Emil was shot and the other time a young kid (perhaps on drugs) with a gun came in the drug store, and Emil pushed him out the door.

I've written the Detroit Police to check for any possible surviving police report. Also I've ordered the Detroit newspapers for the 1922 timeframe to see what else might be available.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Emil Kolbe's Shooting Part 3 - The Newspaper Article!


Lisa Louise Cooke read my blog and graciously emailed me the full article!


Reading the article, I noted details that were amazingly close to the story Uncle Carl had relayed: Emil was alone in the store and he opened his mouth to call for help when he was shot through his cheek. Wow - think of the split-second timing that kept that bullet away from his teeth, tongue or even other vital organs. I wonder if the bullet was ever found.

The fact that three shots were fired into the crowd that pursued the criminals was a new detail. I hope no one was injured.

I'll send a copy of this article to the Detroit Police when requesting a copy of the police report. Hopefully one exists.

Emil Kolbe's Shooting Part 2 - Finding the shooting date!


The shooting date is found!

I listened to The Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 37 about newspaper research. Lisa Louise Cooke's "gem" about expanding a search outside a target area really paid off.

At, I entered Kolbe as a search word and was stunned when an article dated October 17, 1922 for the Kalamazoo (Michigan) Gazette came up. The headline stated, "Druggist Shot By Holdup Men Bullet Penetrates Cheek Without Striking Man's Teeth or Tongue". The article snippet mentions Emil B. Kolbe.

Now I know the shooting date. Since I don't have a subscription to and neither does my local library, I ordered the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press for October and November 1922 through interlibrary loan. I also plan on contacting the Detroit Police to see if a police report still exists for this crime.

Reflecting on the crime made me realize what a miracle that Emil wasn't killed or seriously maimed after being shot in the face! Why did the criminals rob him - money, drugs or both? Did they ever get caught? What effect did the crime have on the family? Questions that will have to wait for future research.

Emil Kolbe's Shooting Part 1

Success on breaking down one of my minor brick walls!

In my August 25, 2009 blogpost I mentioned that my father in law said that Emil Kolbe was shot during a robbery of his drugstore. No one in the family seemed to recall the date or exact details of the event. I thought that a newspaper article might shed some light on things. So the brick wall became finding a newspaper article (if one existed). But in order to do that I would obviously need at least the approximate date of the shooting.

On September 5, 2009, I interviewed Emil's son, Carl, now age 92. He recalled that the shooting happened when he was in the 6th or 7th grade. He was on stage at Holy Redeemer parish for some type of celebration (75th?). Someone told him his dad had been shot. The details were as follows: Emil was alone in the drugstore and two men came in and held him up. Emil's hands were up and he saw someone go by outside and hollered for help. The robber not holding the gun said, “Shoot the son of a bitch”. So the gunman shot Emil in his open mouth and the bullet came out through his cheek. Carl believes it was the left cheek. Carl believes the police came and that there was an article in the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. Carl still has the program from the Holy Redeemer event.

Dr. Rieg who lived next door cared for the bullet wound. According to Uncle Carl, "Dr. Rieg cleaned the wound with "a stick with cotton on the end of it and it would come through the hole." Apparently this shooting led to a scar tissue growth in Emil's mouth that may have interfered with his breathing; he was known to be a heavy snorer and he had apnea.

***Note: Upon reviewing the 1920 census for the Kolbe Family (see September 8, 2009 blog post), there was a Dr. J. F. Rieg two doors down.

Next: Emil Kolbe's Shooting Part 2 - Finding the shooting date!