from Merrily Lawson:
Civil War Service: Enlisted as a Pvt in the 16th Iowa Infantry, Company A.
From the Oakland (CA) Tribune of 12 Apr 1905:
Brutal Murder In North Steel Skewer is Driven Through Skull of a Butcher.
Bellingham, Washington Frederick L. Dames, a butcher, was found murdered in
his room today. A steel skewer had been driven through his skull with a hatchet,
and his head was horribly mutilated by the hatchet. Blood was splashed around
the room, giving evidence of a fierce struggle. A watch and about $20 in cash,
known to have been on Dames' possession last night, were missing. Ed Leonard, a
boy employed in the shop owned by the murdered man, found the body. Dames was
about 60 years old. He formerly lived in Portland. No trace of the murderer or
murderers has been found.
Dames was bludgeoned to death in his butcher shop in 1905. His thirteen year old delivery boy discovered him the following morning, his skull pinned to the ground with a screwdriver and the top of his head chopped off. No one had been arrested. For a while, it was assumed that some robbers had killed him. That was until a Maple Falls man was tried in Stevens County, Washington. He had killed a woman he was engaged to for her money and was discovered to have likely murdered at least 3 other people. After reviewing the evidence, a local detective figured out that this murderer had lived in Bellingham at the time of Dame’s death, and that witnesses had seen the two arguing the week before Dame’s death.
I went to the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies to look at their collection of hard copies of local newspapers and discovered so much more. Sara, two other Good Time Girls and I recently took a trip to the State Archives in Olympia to find out more about Dames and his murderer. In the two years since I first read the story of the Elk Street Butcher in the dry and crumbling leafs that recorded his tragic death, I have imagined, researched and re-imagined his life countless times.
I contacted Kolby LaBree who runs the website https://bellinghistory.com/ and he gave me the following information.
Thank you Kolby.
Freidrich Lothaire Dames
Born in Trier, Rheinland… Germany March 3, 1842
Died April 11, 1905 in Bellingham, Washington
Mother died at birth? Or when an infant. Father remarried 2 more times.
Came the US in 1858 – age 16 with father, stepmother Anna, half siblings Jacob and Fredericka and full brother August. Jacob must have died between this time and 1860 census, would have been around 8. Dames not listed with family in this census… family settled in Milwaukee, father was a butcher. Elder brother August also became a butcher.
In 1861 Comanche, Iowa – Dames enlisted in military. 16th Iowa Infantry
In 1863 registered again in Wisconsin where his family was living. His older brother also registered but was discharged for being epileptic.
Military records show prisoner of war at Andersonville. Said to have lost the middle finger on his left hand at the battle of Shiloh.
1870 – miner in Elko county, Nevada. Full brother August died in Chicago.
1873 father died in Milwaukee.
Dames naturalized in 1874 in Nevada
1879 in California, age 37 opened a meat market
1886 – Los Angeles California, age 46
1892 – California, age 50
1896 – Los Angeles, CA
1899 -1901 – Portland Oregon
1902 – Bellingham
Dames described as a “large man” 5’9” a loner who never talked about family. Known to have a quick temper, and sometimes had talked and jested about ‘enemies.’
Stepmother Anna and her daughter, Dames’ half sister lived in Milwaukee many years.
Anna Fredericka Dames (sister) was born in 1853 so 10 years younger than Dames. She married Henry Wellhausen in 1870 at age 17, they had 2 children, Lillian and Frederick. Lillian died young but had a daughter Fredericke “Frida” Camin who lived with her grandmother. Never married, no children.
Fredericka was Dames’ sole heir after his murder.
May 1, 1905 Bellingham Herald: An heir has been discovered to the estate of Frederick L. Dames…. The mother and sister, Mrs. Fredericka Wellhausen… the first news they had received of the whereabouts of Dames in 19 years.
Mrs. Dames was 83 years of age, paralyzed and blind, and the daughter was her caregiver.
They sent clipping from Milwaukee paper:
“News of the brutal murder of her brother, Frederick L. Dames, in Bellingham, Wash, which may at the same time mean a fortune for her as his heir, has just been received by Mrs. Fredericka Wellhausen… For nineteen years Mrs. Wellhausen has not heard from her only living brother … Dames, who ever since his youth had been a wanderer, was reputed in Bellingham to have been wealthy. He never married and Mrs. Wellhausen and her mother, Mrs. Anna Dames, are the only surviving members of the family.
From the first to last the story of Frederick Dames reads like a work of fiction, and his death finishes the last chapter in a gruesome mystery as even a Sherlock Holmes would wish to attempt solving.
Talks about his father a butcher also named Frederick. Fred Jr. early showed a wandering disposition and although only a youth… found himself in Dubuque, Iowa, where he enlisted in the 16th Iowa Volunteers.
After serving through the war he returned to Milwaukee for a short visit, but soon left for the west again. Working as a butcher like his father… from time to time he wrote home from different places. Last letter in 1886. When there was a need of money at home, he always had the cash… he furnished all the money for his brother’s burial… that was the last time they’d seen him. He sent money for his father’s funeral expenses…
April 17, 1905 Bellingham Herald– Light on Past of F.L. Dames
Old friend - C.L. Parrish gave details about his life to Oregon Statesman. Among the effects of the deceased was a picture of Mr. Parrish, showing a close friendship between the two…
C.L. Parrish, deputy clerk in the office of the clerk of the state land board, of this city… is well acquainted with him, in fact, has known him since 1879, when he was in business in Bodie, California. Mr. Parrish was employed with him in New Mexico in 1881-82, and kept books for him in 1901-02, and has kept in touch with him by letter at long intervals for the past 20 years. In speaking of his friend yesterday Mr. Parrish said:
“Fred L. Dames was a union soldier and well known in the west from Texas to British Columbia. HE was born in New York, but is of German Parentage. At the age of 18 years he enlisted in the union army and passed through many battles, losing the second finger of his left hand at the battle of Shiloh. At the close of the war he came west and has never heard of nor corresponded with any of his relatives. It is not known whether any survive him or not. He rarely discussed or referred to his parents or early life with his most intimate friends. He was in all of the principal mining camps during the 70s and 80s in California and Nevada. In 1878 he went to Bodie, California, from Virginia City, Nevada, where he had been during the mining boom. At Bodie he was employed in the market of J.N. Summers and Tom Richey for two years and then opened a market for himself. In 1880 he went to Las Vegas New Mexico, opening a shop there and remaining but a year. In 1881 he was at Gunnison, Colorado, and 1885-6 at Copper City, California. From there he went to Austin, Nevada, and then to Point Arthur, Texas, where he remained until 1886. He came to Portland in 1889 and conducted a meat market at 149 First Street until early 1903 when he went to Bellingham, where he met his death so foully.
Mr. Dames was a butcher by trade and a large, robust, clean man, of pleasing appearance and fine business tact, and at the age of 60 was capable of doing a day’s work equal to any man of 30. He had no bad habits, retired and rose early and was always attentive to business. He had a reputation of running his business in a straightforward and cleanly manner, and his former Portland customers will doubtless regret to learn of his sad fate. The brutal robbers were undoubtedly poorly paid for their heinous crime, as it was the custom of Mr. Dames to daily deposit his receipts in the bank.
That Frederick L. Dames, the murdered butcher, left no will is the opinion of coroner Thompson to a representative of the Herald. Coroner Thompson stated this morning that …. “I have investigated all of the banks of the city… and cannot find that Dames left a will…. I have received word from men acquainted with the deceased for the past twenty years and while he had some enemies, I have been unable to discover anything in his past that would lead to the belief that the murder was committed for revenge.”
Buried at BayView Cemetery Whatcom Co.
Row: SECTION K, Lot 766
Site: Grave 4-A
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