Murder-suicide 100 years ago shocked Huron County’s Elkton community

Sunday, May 8 marks the 100th anniversary of a tragedy near Elkton of which shocking news has spread across the state.

The death of Joseph and Agnes Lobert on their farm in Huron County would be discovered by a passerby who alerted authorities after hearing the cries of a child. The Loberts’ five young children – all under the age of 11 – were orphaned in what would later be known as “The Bloody Duel”.

What a Huron County Sheriff’s Deputy discovered upon arriving at the farm northeast of Elkton was so horrifying that the county attorney would be summoned to the scene and a coroner’s jury would be summoned to Elkton to determine what had happened.

What the jury heard only created more questions, with one of the Lobert children – Theresa, 5 – testifying to a mysterious midnight wagon ride that occurred the night before the tragedy and rumors of ” scandal” and a family history of madness offered as possible explanations for a murder-suicide involving a “sharp kitchen knife” and a “dull axe”.

The following is taken from the pages of the Huron County Tribune.

The front page of the Huron County Tribune for Friday, May 12, 1922 features the story of a tragic murder-suicide on a farm northeast of Elkton.

Grandstand file photo

A New Life in Huron County


When Joseph Lobert returned to Huron County in 1916 to start a new life with the woman he had met and married while living in Detroit, the future looked bright.

Joseph, who had worked as a conductor for the Detroit United Railway and later as a grocer, was born in Germany and came to Huron County as a child with his family. As a young man, he decided to up the ante and see what the great city of Detroit had to offer.

It was there that he met Detroit native Agnes Gems. The two would marry, eventually move to Huron County, and settle on land formerly known as Hasenour Farm, one and a half miles east and three miles north of Elkton. In newspaper articles published after his death, Joseph Lobert is described as a “prosperous” farmer.

The neighbors speak of “slander”

Help is available by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE), texting START to 88788, or via live chat at thehotline.org. It’s free, confidential and available in English, Spanish and more than 200 other languages ​​thanks to an interpretation service.


By 1922, Agnes and Joseph’s family had grown to include five children – a 10-year-old son, daughters aged 7, 5, and 2, and an eight-month-old baby.

Despite their success in farming, an alleged problem with farm ownership reportedly hung over the Loberts like a cloud. Joseph had once held the deed to the property after it was given to him by his father, who would later pass it on to Joseph’s brother, Conrad.

Upon Conrad’s death, the deed – and ownership of the farm – fell to Conrad’s widow. This fact was a constant source of worry for Joseph and Agnes, relatives said at the time of their deaths.

Rumors of a “scandal”, the details of which were never revealed, added further tension to the family. Joseph’s brother, Anthony, would testify that the neighbors had “slandered” Joseph and Agnes. Joseph refused to pay attention to the rumours, Anthony said, a fact that angered his wife, who had insisted he take action to end neighborhood gossip about him.

Agnes is said to have constantly ‘harassed’ Joseph over property issues and a ‘shameful story’ circulating in the community about the couple.

A few days before the tragedy, Joseph Lobert would have said to his brother: “My wife is still sick and I am at my wit’s end.

“Strange Night Stroll”

When Huron County District Attorney Alfred Sauer arrived at the Lobert Farm early in the evening of May 8, 1922, he was confronted with a scene of unimaginable violence.

At the coroner’s jury convened in Elkton two days later, witnesses – including one of the Lobert children – recounted the events leading up to the Loberts’ deaths.

In addition to Anthony Lobert’s testimony, jurors heard from Theresa, 5, who sat by her parents’ bodies for several hours until her older siblings came home from school .

The jury – made up of Andrew Schifley, Sam Krause, John Ramseyer, Harry Hedley, Henry Krause and George Thompson – were told of a mysterious trip taken by the whole family the night before the death.

Joseph Lobert had apparently loaded a large farm wagon with food and bedding, and the family headed north around 7 p.m. Sunday. Joseph told his family that they were going camping for the night at Lake Rush. However, the family returned from the east, the children said, adding that they were unsure what had happened because they had slept through the night.

The oldest boy told authorities he woke up at night and heard his parents talking about Poland. Joseph and Agnès are both of Polish origin.

The family returned to the farm at 6 a.m. on Monday and the two eldest went to school.

Investigators then found blankets, a woman’s wallet, a check for $3.50 and $6 in cash inside the train car.

Huron County farmer Joseph Lobert, who perished in a tragic murder-suicide on his farm northeast of Elkton on May 8, 1922, is buried in St. Felix Cemetery in Pinnebog, according to a genealogy website .

Huron County farmer Joseph Lobert, who perished in a tragic murder-suicide on his farm northeast of Elkton on May 8, 1922, is buried in St. Felix Cemetery in Pinnebog, according to a genealogy website .

Mark Birdsall/Huron Daily Tribune

“The Bloody Duel”

The coroner’s jury would later decide that the deaths of Joseph and Agnes Lobert had occurred around 8 a.m. on May 8.

The jury found that that morning, probably between 8 and 9 a.m., Agnes attacked Joseph with a butcher knife, inflicting “serious” injuries during a struggle in the farmhouse kitchen. Joseph was holding his two-year-old daughter in his lap when his wife attacked him, as evidenced by a deep knife wound on the child’s arm.

Bleeding profusely, Joseph attempted to fight off his wife, somehow ending up outside, where he collapsed in a pile of wood.

Mrs Lobert followed her husband outside, grabbed a dull ax lying near the pile of wood and struck him on the neck, nearly cutting off his head, the jury found. She returned to the kitchen, stabbed herself several times, returned to where her husband had died, fell beside him in the pile of wood, and expired.

According to newspaper reports, “there was blood everywhere and furniture toppled over, indicating a terrible struggle before death befell husband and wife.”

“Engaged in a fight with each other”

At around 3:30 p.m. that day, the two eldest returned from school. They found their younger siblings sitting in a buggy in the barnyard. Theresa led them to their parents’ bodies and told them what had happened.

That’s when a man named Frank Brysdrak from Pigeon was passing by the farm when he heard the screams of children. Brysdrak informed a sheriff’s deputy named Huffman, who called Sauer at the farm.

At around 4:30 p.m., Dr. A. W. Campbell, Ray Brown and Walter Doepker were passing Lobert Square when they also heard the cries of the Lobert children.

Campbell examined the bodies and determined a time of death. He said Joseph and Agnes both suffered wounds to their hands and arms, which indicated that Joseph Lobert fought back with a knife. The cause of death was given as loss of blood and shock.

“Five Orphaned Grandchildren”

Joseph and Agnès Lobert were buried on Thursday, May 11, 1922, following what was described by a journalist as a small private double burial at their home. A genealogy website lists Joseph Lobert’s burial place as St. Felix Cemetery in Pinnebog. Joseph’s age was 33, according to a Tribune article published on May 12, 1922. Agnes was 30 years old.

Anthony Lobert, who had six children himself, briefly provided a home for his nieces and nephews, but the children would be separated and sent to live with various relatives.

Articles about the tragedy appeared in Michigan newspapers, including the Charlevoix County Herald and the Yale Expositor in St. Clair County. Longtime Elkton resident Don Weiss said he remembered adults referring to the tragedy from his youth, but added that details of what happened remained unspoken.

Help is available

Whether “a quarrel over money matters” or “a family scandal” led to the horrific events of May 8, 1922, five innocent children lost their parents and the only home they had ever known. The concept of domestic violence and the laws to prevent it were on the verge of becoming commonplace for decades, but a lot has changed in 100 years.

Help is available by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE), texting START to 88788, or via live chat at thehotline.org. It’s free, confidential and available in English, Spanish and more than 200 other languages ​​thanks to an interpretation service.

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