Dr. Jeff Broome:
The Dietemann Murders
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NOTES FOR PART 2 - THE DIETEMANN MURDERS
39 For a thorough and detailed account of these devastating raids in north-central Kansas see Jeff
Broome, Dog Soldier Justice, 7-34.
40 The Rocky Mountain News, August 28, 1868.
41 The Rocky Mountain News, August 28, 1868. It is interesting to note that residents of Denver were
given the opportunity to view the mutilated remains of both the Hungate family and Henrietta and John
Dietemann when their remains were brought to town.
42 The Rocky Mountain News, August 28, 1868.
43 The Rocky Mountain News, August 31, 1868.
44 Little has been written on the Colorado Indian war of 1868. Perhaps the best source that shows the
extent of the war is found in Irving Howbert, Memories of a Lifetime in the Pike's Peak Region (New
York and London: G. P. Putnam's Son, 1925), 177-214.
45 Irving Howbert, The Indians of the Pike's Peak Region (New York: The Knickerbocker Press, 1914),
195-196; Memories of a Lifetime, 183-184. There are other obscure accounts of the Dietemann
massacre, which can be found as follows: The Denver Republican, December 21, 1892; The Field and
Farm (Frontier Tales), October 28, 1893; Genealogy and Biography, A Portrait and Biographical
Record of Denver and Vicinity (1898).
46 Others filing claims for losses are Wendling, Spencer, Neff, Smith, Coplen, Williams, Butters and
Dunham. John Belkleman Indian Depredation Claim #4936. Indian Depredations Claims Division,
Record Group 123. National Archives Building, Washington, DC.
47 Benkleman Indian Depredation Claim, Stipulation, 5,6.
48 Apollinaris Dietemann Indian Depredation Claim #4941. Record Group 123, National Archives
Building, Washington, DC, 22-24.
49 Apollinaris Dietemann Indian Depredation Claim, 29-31.
50 Apollinaris Dietemann Indian Depredation Claim, 12-13.
51 Apollinaris Dietemann Indian Depredation Claim, Mrs. L. J. Deposition.
52 Biographical information regarding Apollinaris Dietemann and his family were graciously provided to
me by a descendant of Theodore Fitterer, a brother of Apollinaris' third wife. Judy Penhiter of Duluth,
Minnesota has accumulated a rich array of genealogy on her ancestors. A special "thank you" is in
order to her for her assistance and enthusiasm in this project.
|The following article, appearing here in two parts, was published by Dr. Jeff Broome
in the Denver Westerners Roundup, VOL. LX, No. 1, January-February 2004.
It is reprinted on this web site with the express permission of the author.
|The pamphlet, which
of the Hungate
plus artifacts and
recovered there, is
available for $12.
To order, contact
the link below:
E-Mail Jeff Broome
|Indian Massacres in Elbert County, Colorado:
New Information on the 1864 Hungate and 1868 Dietemann Murders
by Jeff Broome
© 2003 All Rights Reserved
Little new information regarding the Dietemann massacre has emerged, than what was originally in the newspaper
accounts of the time. Unlike the Hungate massacre, modern archeology does not provide us with any new
interpretation. However, the depredation files of Apollinaris Dietemann and Anton Schindelholz provide much
information that helps to give a more complete story of this sad massacre. It corrects errors found in the newspapers
and later pioneer reminiscences.
The first report of Henrietta Dietemann and her young son, John, comes from the Rocky Mountain News, August 26,
1868. It doesn't report their deaths, but instead says they were captured, and places the emphasis of the raid upon
the settlements in and around present-day Kiowa. The article notes that about forty settlers lived in the area, half of
them at the "basin," which is where the creek ran. The same newspaper has a commentary about the reported raid,
and notes that it involves the same Indians who had two weeks earlier made a devastating and murderous raid along
the Saline and Solomon Rivers in the vicinity of present-day Beloit and Lincoln, Kansas. It concludes that these acts
point to "the serious intentions of the Arapahoes and Cheyennes to make war." Those who believed this were entirely
correct in their fears, and it wasn't going to end until the action at Summit Springs eleven months later. 39
The August 27 edition of the Rocky Mountain News corrects the earlier misinformation of the capture of Henrietta and
The Dietemann Murders
Last evening about seven o'clock a team came into town bringing the remains of
Henrietta Dietermann [sic] and her boy, the persons spoken of yesterday as having
been captured, the latter about five years old, killed by the Indians on Comanche
Creek, Tuesday. The boy had been shot several times and his neck broken, the
woman had been shot through the body, outraged, stabbed, and scalped.
Decomposition had set in and the sight was horrible. They were killed near their
house, Mr. Dietermann [sic] being absent. A man who was about to marry Mr.
Dietermann's sister, his said sister, and a daughter of the Dietermanns considerably
older than the murdered boy, were at the house at the time, but escaped. About thirty
Indians came after the man who brought away the bodies Tuesday night, but he
succeeded in getting into the station safely. The remains were taken to an empty
house in front of the Tremont House, where for an hour or two people came and
viewed them. 40
After the bodies were brought to Denver, a Coroner's Inquest was soon held for the murdered thirty-one year old
mother and five year old son. John Benkleman was one of the jurors. The newspaper reported his testimony. He first
recounts a harrowing encounter with Indians near his cabin where three other persons were living. His cabin was
near the Dietemann home. One of the men was rounding up stock about a quarter of a mile away when the Indians
came upon him and tried to take the horses he had rounded up. The man was not armed and immediately raced
back toward the cabin. Other Indians came out of a draw and tried to ambush him while he was retreating to the
safety of the other men inside the cabin. The other men, hearing the gunfire from the Indians, came out and relieved
him. Still, the Indians were able to steal about twenty-five horses. Shortly after this incident they were told of the
Dietemann killings and asked to come to Kiowa Station and help with a search party to retrieve the bodies. They
soon joined the gathering men. Benkleman testifies what happened next:
... so we joined in with two men who were present when the deceased were captured.
They guided us to the place where it occurred, and we found the little boy about thirty
yards from the place where first captured, dead. After making further search, we
found the mother about fifteen yards from where the boy lay. We then sent four men
after a wagon, to convey the bodies to Denver, where they now lay. These Indians are
supposed to be Arapahoes. The deceased were both about four miles from their
home, in company with some others, trying to make their escape to a neighbor's
house, but from fatigue from traveling, were a little behind their comrades, when they
were cut off by some Indians concealed under a bank. When we found the said
bodies, they were horribly mutilated; the mother was shot (by a gun or pistol) in the
front of the right shoulder, her face badly bruised as though she had been beaten
with a revolver or club, bruises were also found nearly all over her body; she was also
scalped. I think she must have been dead about five hours; she had, also, from
evident signs, been ravished, which was the conclusion of myself, and those that were
with me, signs of great struggle were also visible where she lay. 41
W. F. McClelland was sworn in as the surgeon for the Coroner's Inquest. He testified that the cause of death of the
mother was a gunshot and other violent bruises. The boy had five arrow shots and many bruises. He concluded: "I
give as my opinion professionally that the mother is pregnant about seven months gone." 42
How many Indians were involved in the raid that killed Henrietta and little John? One newspaper report said as many
as 150 northern Arapahoes were the culprits. They were armed with weapons recently given them at Fort Laramie,
and in addition carried papers signed at Fort Laramie attesting to their peacefulness. 43 While this may be an
accurate estimate of the total number of Indians entering Colorado Territory for the purpose of looting and murdering
settlers, it was a much smaller party of Indians that raided in and near Comanche Creek. 44
Besides the newspaper accounts already noted, very little has been published regarding the Dietemann massacre,
and few, if any accounts, note Henrietta's pregnancy. Indeed, the death of Henrietta and her son receive the
scantiest attention when they are mentioned. Probably the earliest account comes from Irving Howbert, which was
published in two books written in 1914 and 1925:
On August 27 [sic], 1868, the Cheyennes and Arapahoes killed Mrs. Henrietta
Dieterman [sic] and her five-year-old son on Comanche Creek, about twenty-five miles
northeast of Colorado City, in a peculiarly atrocious manner. The Dieterman family
consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Dieterman, a daughter about twelve-years-old [sic], a son of
five years, a sister of Mr. Dieterman's, and a hired man. The sister was soon to marry
the hired man, and he and Mr. Dieternman had gone to Denver to buy furniture for the
new household, leaving a German farmhand temporarily in charge. On the morning of
the 27th [sic], something happened to alarm Mrs. Dieterman. She evidently believed the
Indians were near, for she hurriedly started with her sister-in-law and the two children
for a neighbor's house some distance away. After having gone a few hundred yards she
remembered that she had left a considerable sum of money in the house, and with her
small son went back to get it. They reached the house, got the money, and started
away again, but had gone only a short distance when they were overtaken by the
Indians, who at once shot and killed both of them. The savages shot the boy repeatedly
and finally broke his neck. The mother was shot through the body, stabbed, and
scalped, and the bodies of both were dreadfully mutilated. Those who afterwards saw
the victims said that it was one of the most horrible sights they had ever looked upon.
Meanwhile, the sister-in-law and daughter ran to where the German was working in the
field near by. He stood the Indians off by pointing the handle of his hoe at them, making
them believe it was a gun. 45
Fortunately, the depredation files housed in the National Archives gives a more complete and accurate story of the
Dietemann massacre. From these documents (the relevant affidavits are listed below), this story emerges: Two days
before the raid, Henrietta's husband Apollinaris and long-time business partner Anton Schindelholz, journey to
Denver. Their purpose was two-fold, to procure furniture and supplies, and to obtain a marriage license so Anton
can marry Apollinaris' sister, Maria Dietemann. Maria had only been in America for a few weeks. Her marriage might
well have been arranged before she came over from Alsace, France.
While Anton and Apollinaris were returning from Denver, on the morning of August 25, Indians came upon the
Dietemann premises along Comanche Creek. There were two ranch hands then living and working for Apollinaris
and Anton. Indeed, a second house had just been built next to the Dietemann house. This was for Anton and Maria
once they were married. One of the ranch hands came running to the Dietemann house with Indians closely
pursuing him. He had encountered them a short distance from the house when he went to round up some horses.
The Indians boldly entered the area near the house and stole the horses.
Henrietta and the others felt it best to flee the house and travel down the creek and away from Kiowa to a neighbor's
house, the opposite direction from which they earlier saw the Indians and where they felt they would find better
protection. Before leaving the house, Henrietta took her valuables, which included several thousand dollars, about
$400.00 of it in gold pieces, which she hid in a money belt. The rest was rolled up and hidden inside the clothing
over her bosom. When they had gone between three and four miles, one of the ranch hands saw some horses in a
nearby draw and thought it wise to take one and ride over to the Kiowa settlement and report the raiding Indians.
Before he got to the horses, however, several Indians suddenly came out of the draw, yelling and firing their
Henrietta was a little behind the rest of the party and thus fell into the Indians' hands. They quickly shot her. Maria
and one of the men were protecting the two Dietemann children. The daughter, Henrietta, was barely three years
old. She was carried on the back of the ranch hand, Benedict Marki. John, five years old, was apparently holding the
hands of both Benedict and Maria.
When little John saw his mother fall to the Indians, he yanked his hands free and ran back to her. The Indians
quickly killed him, first by grabbing him and violently breaking his neck and then shooting him with arrows. In the
meantime, while this was happening, the two ranch hands and Maria and little Henrietta, turned from the south to the
northwest and fled about six miles to the protective settlement on Kiowa Creek, called in 1868 Middle Kiowa.
Anton and Apollinaris soon heard of the murders at the Running Creek stage station. Quickly they unhitched their
wagons, and raced their horses into Kiowa, where they met with the surviving members of the deadly raid. A party of
about a dozen men then went in search of Henrietta and John. They soon found them where they had been killed.
Apollinaris there learned that his money was missing. This money had been for payment of the sale of his business
on Plum Creek in present-day Castle Rock, where he ran a hotel and sold provisions and stock to travelers on the
road to Denver. Both his children were born there, John sometime between the fall of 1862 and summer of 1863 and
Henrietta on July 18, 1865. He had moved to Comanche Creek after selling his business and property and most of
his stock, just a few short weeks before his wife and son were murdered.
John Benkleman, the man testifying at the Coroner's Inquest of August 27, also lost stock at the time the
Dietemanns were murdered, as did seven other settlers. 46 He testifies that he was part of the party that discovered
the dead mother and son, and then accompanied them in the wagon that brought them to Denver. His testimony
matches pretty well with what was reported in the Rocky Mountain News August 28. He notes that after the years
1864 and 1865 there really had not been any Indian trouble until the raid when Mrs. Dietemann was killed. His
principle residence at the time was a suburb of Central City called Bortonburg, where he was a butcher. But he had
a ranch near Kiowa and was visiting his three employees there on August 25 when the Indians first struck near his
cabin, rustling several horses.
The raid began about nine o'clock in the morning. As soon as the theft occurred, one of his ranch hands, Thomas
Morrison, quickly mounted another horse and went after the Indians. Armed with a rifle and revolver, he took with
him two Shepherd dogs and succeeded in retrieving most of the horses back from the Indians. But when the men
then went over to the protection of the settlements at Kiowa the Indians returned, broke the corral and again stole
Once Benkleman and the other men reached the settlers in Kiowa, only about eleven horses could be mustered for
the search party to find the Dietemann dead. Benkleman was a close neighbor of the Dietemanns. He noted that
Henrietta was killed in the afternoon and her body found about six or seven o'clock that evening. 47
In 1892 Maria Schindelholz was no longer married to Anton. She was now Mrs. George Wortman, having married him
in Boulder on May 21, 1885. From her testimony it is clear the Indians first appear at the Dietemann home before
attacking at the Benkleman ranch. Her memory remained vivid:
During the summer of 1868 my brother and Mr. A. Schindelholz to whom I was going to be
married, built a couple houses for both families to live in, on Comanche Creek, near
together, and when they were completed my brother and Mr. Schindelholz went to Denver
to get what was necessary to furnish the houses, to get a marriage license, and they left
on Sunday morning, the 23rd of August, 1868, for Denver, and left us at home, his wife,
two children, and two hired men, and myself, with the intention to come home about
Tuesday evening. On Tuesday morning, about eight o'clock, the 25th of August, 1868,
about twenty-five or thirty Indians came right near our house, with a herd of horses that
they had stole all over the country; and one of the Indians came up to the house and took
two horses that were picketed in front of the house, one of which was my brother's and the
other A. Schindelholz', and they took all the horses, about seven or eight in number, that
were grazing near the house; and two mares and a colt, belonging to my brother, were
taken at that time. I saw the Indians drive them off. I know that they were Indians, and the
people told me that they were Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians. After they had the horses
away we got frightened and thought it wasn't safe there, and my brother's wife wanted to
go away to some neighbors, and those neighbors were ten miles away; so we took all the
valuables along that we had in the house that we could carry, and my brother's wife and
two children and the two hired men, Benedict Marki and Mr. Lawrence, and myself, and
started up the creek to the nearest neighbor, which was about ten miles. It must have
been about nine o'clock when we started; but as we was about half the way we seen five
or six horses grazing in a gulch. Before leaving the house we took all valuables along,
which was of course this money, and I seen my brother's wife take the money along, and
she counted it before going, and she put the paper money in her bosom, and she put the
gold in a buckskin belt. She counted it before putting it on her person, and she said it was
between seven and eight thousand dollars. She kept the money in the house, as they
expected to go down to Arkansas to buy some cattle after our marriage, so I was positive
that she had the money with her. She took the money along. I saw her put the money on
her person before we left the house. She took her gold watch and chain, worth about
$100.00. Then all of us started up the creek and when we got about five miles we seen
five or six horses grazing in a gulch, and one of the hired men (Lawrence) wanted to go
and take one of those horses and ride over to Kiowa to tell the people we were in trouble,
but as we neared the horses some Indians came out of the ravine and shot at us, about
five or six in number; and they commenced to shoot at us and we commenced to run, and
my brother's wife wasn't able to run, and the Indians overtook her and shot her, killed her
and scalped her, and the little boy I had hold of with my hand, but he run toward his
mother, as he thought he was safer with her, and they took a hold of him and killed him.
She had the money on her person when the Indians killed her, and no one disturbed her
on the road going except the Indians. The balance of us turned our course and went to
Middle Kiowa. All the white people in that neighborhood was together there at Middle
Kiowa, as it was safer, and we stayed there until all the trouble was over and we knew that
the Indians were gone. I saw them shoot my sister-in-law with a revolver, in the breast, and
they shot the boy with arrows, and one of them took a hold of him and I saw them break
his neck. I didn't know that his neck was broken at the time, but I saw them take a hold of
him and twist his neck. This occurred about ten o'clock. After we was at Middle Kiowa
about two or three hours, my brother came from Denver and A. Schindelholz, also, and
about a half a dozen of the men went to hunt the remains, which they found at the same
place we left them, and the next day they fetched them into Denver to be buried. I saw the
remains when they were brought in to Middle Kiowa. 48
I was an ordinary hired man. The household goods were all destroyed and the dresses of
the women were all torn up and distributed in the yard, and the dishes broken in the
house, and the tables and chairs were throwed over and knocked to pieces, some of the
bedding was destroyed; in fact, everything in the house was destroyed. All that we ever
took from the house after the Indians were there that was of any value was a little bedding
of but little value. A few days before the 25th of August, Mr. Dietemann and Mr.
Schindelholz went to Denver and left his wife, two children, his sister, and two hired
hands, of which I was one. On the morning of the 25th of August I went about two miles
north of where Dietemann lived, which was on Comanche Creek in Elbert County, about
45 miles, or a little more east and south of Denver, after three head of horses belonging
to Dietemann, and I got home with them and picketed one, the Indians were chasing me,
and I didn't have time to picket the other two horses; they cut the one loose that I had
picked and drove it with the others off, and I never saw them afterward.... Immediately
after the horses were taken, the family packed up what thing they could carry and we
walked up the creek about four miles, and the Indians came after us. There was another
party of Indians there in a washout. They came for us, and Mrs. Dietemann was a little
behind. I was carrying the little girl on my back, and I had the little boy by the hand. I
walked up the hill, and when I looked back the Indians had grabbed Mrs. Dietemann, and
with a pistol shot her through the breast. The little boy was with me, and he wanted to run
back to his mama, and he went back to her and got killed. From there we went on about
six miles to Kiowa: Mr. Dietemann's sister, Mr. Lawrence, and myself, and the little girl
went on to Kiowa. There we met the people of the whole neighborhood, were there,
huddled together, on account of the Indians, and we told them what happened, that the
Indians killed Mrs. Dietemann and her son. We organized a party at Kiowa and went back
to hunt for them, and found Mrs. Dietemann and her son both killed. Some of the settlers
went with us, there was 16 or 18 in the party. I cannot name them all, but can name a few:
Mr. Wood, Mr. Gleason, Mr. Dietemann, Mr. Schindelholz, and Mr. Lawrence and myself,
and others. We did find the woman pretty naked, her dress was over her face and she
was scalped. We found the boy, and he was shot by lances, as near as I could call it, and
was stabbed all over. 49
Mr. Apollinaris Dietemann testified:
I heard on Running Creek, about fourteen miles from where I lived, that a family had been
killed on Comanche Creek. I immediately feared it was my family, as my family was the
only ones then living on Comanche Creek. I went on about five miles in the direction of
my ranch to Middle Kiowa. At Middle Kiowa I found all the members of my family, except
my wife and boy, and was informed by them that my wife and boy had been killed by the
Indians. About a half a dozen of the men, and myself amongst the number, went to hunt
for the remains of my wife and son. We went five or six miles in the direction of my ranch,
and found the bodies about three or four miles south of my ranch.... I found my wife
scalped and shot through the breast, and the boy with his neck broken, and with four or
five arrow shots in his body. 50
Mrs. L. J. Fahrion, a young woman in 1868, who saw the bodies of Henrietta and John when they were brought into
Kiowa, testified on April 8, 1916:
Bands of Indians raided the country in this locality, then called Douglass County, now Elbert
County. Comanche Creek, about six miles from Kiowa, was one of the streams raided. On
that day [August 25, 1868] the bodies of a woman named Mrs. Dietemann and a boy, who
had been killed by the Indians were brought to Kiowa. I saw the bodies. They were said at
the time to be the bodies of the wife of Apollinaris Dietemann and their boy. This family had
just located on Comanche Creek. They were the only persons killed in the raid of that day. I
helped lay out the bodies and assisted the two women, both of whom are now dead, who
prepared the bodies. I held the washbowl at the time. Her scalp was entirely taken off and
her clothes were partially torn off. There was no belt or money on her body at the time. 51
After the murder of his wife and young son, Apollinaris moved to Minnesota where he later married a second time.
Sometime in 1875 he had another daughter. But tragedy again struck and by late May his wife Catherine died and
then by August infant Mary had also died. He buried his second wife and child near Minnesota Lake, Minnesota. With
his surviving daughter of the Colorado Indian raid, "Hattie," he then met Catherine Fitterer. He married her on July
11, 1876. They had a daughter, Ida, born in late November 1877. By 1885 Apollinaris was again living in Colorado,
where he ran a saloon in Denver at 3023 Market Street. Daughter Hattie married Jake Weinman and eventually
settled in Los Angeles. She died in 1950. Daughter Maria Ida married Rudolph Roesch and had ten children. She
died in Denver in 1952. Apollinaris died in Denver December 14, 1909. His first wife and son John are buried at
Mount Olivet Cemetery in Golden, as is Apollinaris, though their graves are not together. John, however, is buried in
the same grave with his mother. Marie Catherine Dietemann, Apollinaris' third wife, died in Denver in 1923. 52
About the author . . .
Dr. Jeff Broome has been a professor of Philosophy and History at Arapahoe Community College (Littleton, CO)
since 1985. He received his M.A. degree at Baylor University in 1976, and earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the
University of Colorado-Boulder in 1998. Prior to teaching, he was a detention counselor with the Arapahoe County
(Colorado) Sheriff’s Department and Treatment Director for the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center.
Dr. Broome has published articles in the Journal of the Indian Wars, Pacific Historical Review, Wild West, Denver
Westerners Roundup, Greasy Grass, and Research Review. He was awarded the Lawrence A. Frost Literary Award
from the Little Big Horn Associates, and contributed a chapter, Libbie Custer's Encounter with Tom Alderdice . . .The
Rest of the Story, (Custer and His Times, Book 4, Little Big Horn Associates, 2002). Dr Broome’s book, Dog Soldier
Justice: The Ordeal of Susanna Alderdice in the Kansas Indian War (Lincoln County Historical Society, Lincoln,
Kansas, 2003), is now in its 2nd printing.
|Order a copy of Jeff Broome's
Indian Massacres in Elbert County, Colorado:
New Information on the 1864 Hungate and 1868 Dietemann Murders
The pamphlet includes never-before seen photographs of the
Hungate massacre site, plus artifacts and personal items recovered there.
Available for $12
To order, contact Jeff at the link below:
E-Mail Jeff Broome
|Order a copy of
New Information on
the 1864 Hungate
and 1868 Dietemann
Benedick Marki, Mr. Dietemann's principle ranch hand, also had a vivid memory of that fateful day in August 1868:
|LISTEN to Dr.
Broome discuss his
Justice: The Ordeal
Alderdice in the
Kansas Indian War
with Mike Rosen on
KOA 850 Denver
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