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Nonfiction - Crime

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Minnesota's Oldest Murder Mystery

ISBN: 9781592985357
Binding: Paperback
Author: Gary Brueggemann
Pages: 328
Trim: 6 x 9 inches
Published: 11/1/2012

On September 27, 1839 the battered body of a middle-aged Irishman was found by some Dakota Indian boys. The corpse washed up along the Mississippi River shore about seven miles downstream from Fort Snelling near the ancient Indian landmark the non-Indians called Carver's Cave. It was the body of Sgt. John Hays, a popular former soldier who prior to his disappearance - twenty-one days earlier - had been sharing a log shanty a few miles upriver from the cave with his friend and business partner Edward Phelan (or Phalen).

Before the year was over Phelan was arrested and charged with the murder of his friend. This is the first book to focus on this historic murder and the first thorough biography of Phelan a notorious pioneer intimately involved in the making of St. Paul and founding of Minnesota. Was he guilty? All investigative reports and records of Phelan's trial were mysteriously lost and no newspapers covered the story. However in 1994 St. Paul historian Gary Brueggemann made an amazing discovery in the Minnesota Historical Society archives: hidden in the papers of Joseph R. Brown was Brown's original Justice of the Peace casebook which included his handwritten transcription of the Hays's murder hearing. Using this record other primary sources and drawing from decades of studying Minnesota and St. Paul history the author theorizes a logical solution to Minnesota's oldest unsolved murder,


Gary Brueggemann teaches history at Century and Inver Hills Community Colleges. A lifelong resident of St. Paul he has spent the last 35 years researching writing and teaching Minnesota History. He is the author of numerous works on St. Paul History including at least 40 newspaper and magazine articles.