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June 27, 1880: Murder at the Tischer Farm beer garden

On this day outside Duluth in 1880, Edward Brennan was killed by Herman Oppel at the Tischer Farm beer garden. John Tischer, whose parents owned the farm located along the Lake Superior Shore immediately east of the creek named for them, had obtained a Sunday beer license from St. Louis County, as the farm was outside of Duluth’s city limits at the time. Tischer’s friends Mike Fink and Nicholas Decker, Jr., who operated Duluth’s only brewery, supplied the beer. Brennan, from St. Paul, was attempting to break up a fight between his brother and a Duluthian when Oppel—son of Duluth’s largest dry-goods merchant, struck him over the head with a loaded cane, a normal walking stick topped with a head made from lead. Three minutes later, Brennan was dead. Oppel was charged with murder and sent to St. Paul for incarceration—the structure that served as Duluth’s county jail was deemed unfit for human habitation. The trial was delayed for over a year, and Oppel was acquitted. There is much more to this story, and you can read it here. Coincidentally, June 27, 1977, the bodies of Elisabeth Congdon and Velma Pietila were found at Glensheen, the Congdon estate located on the former Tischer Farm site. Like Oppel, suspect Marjorie Congdon Caldwell—adopted daughter of Elisabeth Congdon—was acquitted of the crime. (Her husband Roger Caldwell however, was convicted; due to Marjorie’s acquittal, he was released following a controversial plea bargain designed to get to the truth and avoid an expensive retrial.) There is also much more to that story, and you can read about it all in Will to Murder, the “definitive book about the Congdon-Pietila murders.”

John Tischer, whose purchase of a license to sell beer on Sundays led to murder. (Image: Zenith City Press)cher