Galena Daily Gazette
17 Dec 1897


Charles Heller, a Former Galenian, Killed Early This Morning at East Dubuque
He Fell Off the Illinois Central Railroad Bridge While Crossing Over and Broke His Neck

Charles Heller, a former well known Galena citizen, was killed instantly at an early hour this morning at East Dubuque. He fell headlong from the Illinois Central railroad bridge, which he was attempting to cross, and broke his neck on the ice below.

The distressing accident occurred about 2:30 o'clock. Mr. Heller had been in Dubuque during the night and returning to his home in East Dubuque proceeded across the railroad bridge. Why he chose this route instead of the high bridge is not explained. He had reached the draw span, which is near the Illinois Central shore, when the tender of the draw hearing footsteps opened the door of his house to see who was approaching. No one who is not provided with a pass is allowed to cross the railroad bridge on foot. It is surmised the sudden appearance of the watchman startled Mr. Heller for at the moment of his appearance he made a step too far to one side and down he fell forty feet to the glare of the ice below.

The watchman immediately telephoned the police. He was not sure at first whether the ice had withstood the shock or whether the body had plunged through the river. As soon as lights were brought the body was seen lying where it fell and one glance showed that the man was dead. A subsequent examination revealed that his neck had been broken by the fall.

Mr. Heller was well known and his body was identified at the first glance. It was removed to his home, and a telegram was received here early in the morning by Mr. Geo. C. Biesmann, his brother in law, notifying him of the accident. The venerable mother of the man lives on Seminary Hill in this city and she went to East Dubuque on one of the day trains.

Charles Heller was 48 years old. He was a native of Germany and came to Galena with other members of his family in the early 60s. He was a cigar maker by trade and for a number of years was employed in the factory operated here by Heller & Biesmann. When the roller-skating amusement was the popular recreation he was proprietor of the rink in Turner Hall. Later he conducted a bar on upper Main street. A few years ago he moved to East Dubuque and has since been employed in the extensive cigar factory of his brother, R. H. Heller in Dubuque.

He leaves a large family consisting of his wife and nine children. He is also survived by his aged mother and three brothers, R. H. Heller of East Dubuque, and William Heller of Rice Township. {sic and Henry of Dunleith}. The first wife of Geo. C. Biesmann was his only sister.

The Dubuque Herald
Dubuque, Iowa
Saturday - December 18, 1897


Further Particulars of the Draw Bridge Tragedy

Deceased Identified as Charles Heller, of East Dubuque -- Coroner's Jury Verdict.

Charles Heller was the name of the victim of the draw bridge tragedy early yesterday morning. The catastrophe occurred at 2:15 and was witnessed by Bridgetender Chapman. Mr. Chapman heard the man approaching from this side, and, as pedestrians are not allowed on the bridge, he stepped out to stop the man. When he emerged from his office on the draw bridge the pedestrian had passed and was a few steps away. Before he could call out, the man stumbled, probably startled by Chapman's opening the door, and fell with a crash onto the ice below.

The night was dark and Mr. Chapman could not distinguish whether the dark object he could see on the ice below was the form of the man or a hole his body had made in the ice. For the reason it was directly in the channel and the ice was thin he was fearful it was the latter. He immediately telephoned the police headquarters and Officers Sullivan and Connors went down. Officer Connors worked his way out on the ice and found the body. Officer Sullivan and Mr. Chapman, who were on the bridge, lowered a rope which Connors fastened to the body and the men above drew it up onto the bridge. This was at 3 o'clock, the time when the Herald goes to press, so there was opportunity for no more than the brief mention of the tragedy yesterday.

While the body was still warm, life was extinct when Connors reached it on the ice.

Coroner Bennett was called, took charge of the remains and removed them to his undertaking establishment. He found the neck broken, but no other injuries. The distance from the bridge to the ice, is stated by Mr. Chapman to be thirty feet.

The deceased was a brother of R.H. Heller of the firm Heller & Vogt, and was employed there as a cigar maker. He lived in East Dubuque and has there a wife and family. He was in Dubuque Thursday evening to attend a party at a relatives house. He left there for home and was seen by Officer Sullivan on the Chicago Great Western track. He went out on the track to the bridge, and it is presumed because of the ice on the embankment hesitated to go down and across to the high bridge. Coroner Bennett empanelled a jury composed of John Sheridan, Clem McNamara and James Lyons and held an inquest yesterday afternoon. The verdict was in accordance with the facts above related.

The remains were taken to East Dubuque yesterday afternoon.

The Dubuque Daily Times Dubuque, IA
Saturday - December 18, 1897


Charles Heller, Of East Dubuque, Falls Off The Railroad Bridge And Is Killed

His neck was broken by the fall -- He was on the way home from Dubuque at the time An inquest -- He fell a distance of thirty feet.

An accident resulting in the instant death of Charles Heller, of East Dubuque, occurred on the railway bridge at about a quarter to 2 o'clock Friday morning. The victim, who is the brother of R. H. Heller of this city, was on his way home at the time. He worked for his brother in his cigar manufactory on Clay Street. He was at work all day Thursday and remained in the city longer than usual, but when he started home nothing unusual was noticed in his condition. He wore a pair of blue overalls, and when he started for home walked down the Chicago Great Western tracks, and kept on until he came to the bridge. At the bridge the railway embankment, which is quite steep at this point, was covered with snow and ice, and it is presumed that he concluded to walk over the bridge rather than run the risk of falling, by going down the embankment. The watchman on the draw heard him coming and went out of his little shanty to see who it was. Mr. Heller had just passed about twenty feet when he struck his toe against an obstruction and lurched sideways, and before he could save himself he fell headlong from the side of the bridge, falling a distance of about thirty feet to the ice below. Just as the watchman came out of his shanty he saw the form of a man going over the side of the bridge, and on looking down he could see a black object lying motionless on the ice. He telephoned at once to the police headquarters, saying that a man had fallen off the bridge, and Officers Sullivan and Connors were detailed to go down to the bridge. They ran all the way down and on going out to the draw they could see the dark object lying on the ice. Officer Connors went down on the ice and found that the dark object was the body of a man -- cold in death. The bridge watchman and Officer Sullivan lowered ropes, which Officer Connors tied around the body, and the latter was pulled up and placed in the watchman’s house. Coroner Bennett was then telephoned for and arrived in a short time. A message was also sent to the marshal's office at East Dubuque, but from the description given the night policeman replied that he did not know the dead man. This was because he wore the blue overalls, something unusual for him, for the officer would have known him if his name could have been given.

As soon as Coroner Bennett arrived the remains were carried off the bridge and taken to his office, and during the forenoon were taken to the home of deceased in East Dubuque. An examination showed that his neck was broken and that he was bleeding internally; but, strange to say, no bones were broken.

Mr. Heller leaves a wife and several children to mourn his death, and in this great affliction they will have the sympathy of all.

Deceased was about 54 years of age, and highly esteemed by all who knew him. He had a round trip ticket on the high bridge in his pocket and some change, and it is likely that if he thought he could have gone down the embankment in safety that he would have taken the high bridge.

Coroner Bennett empaneled a jury consisting of Clem McNamara, John Sheridan and James Lyon and an inquest was held Friday afternoon. The verdict of the jury was in accordance with the facts as stated in the papers, that death was accidental and was caused by falling off the railroad bridge onto the ice.

Telegraph Herald, Dubuque, Iowa
Friday morning, December 17, 1897


Man Killed By Falling Through Drawbridge Early This Morning

At 2:20 this morning word came from the drawbridge that a man had fallen onto or through the ice. The man stationed at the draw heard him coming and as crossing the bridge is now allowed went out to meet him.

Either the sudden appearance of the bridgeman startled him or he staggered and fell through. The bridgeman immediately telephoned to the police station and two officers were sent down.

The bridgeman says he can see something dark down on the ice but whether it is the body of a man or a hole in the ice, he cannot tell. At 3 o'clock the bridgeman telephoned the police, reached the place, and found the man dead. It is believed his name is R. H. Heller (sic), a cigarmaker, with a wife and family living in East Dubuque. (It is now proven that the person who died was not R. H. Heller, but his brother Charles Heller)

Galena Daily Gazette
20 Dec 1897


Funeral Rites of Several Residents Performed on Sunday

Sunday afternoon the funeral services of Mrs. J. H. Huhlmann and Adam Hesselbacher in Galena, William Knuckey of Scales Mound, and Charles Heller at East Dubuque were performed.

The funeral of Mr. Heller took place from the East Dubuque Methodist Church and was conducted by Rev. H. Figge {sic Ficke} of Dubuque, assisted by the resident pastor. There was a large concourse of friends from both sides of the river assembled and a number of beautiful floral offerings were deposited on the casket. Mr. Figge delivered an eloquent sermon. a quartet choir rendered the hymns, the selections being, "Nearer My God to Thee" and "Rock of Ages" and "Jesus Lover of My Soul." Interment was made in the East Dubuque City Cemetery. The pallbearers were Messrs. Robt. Rietz, Geo. Moste, G. B. Huekels, Ernest Sanders and J. E. Staundenmeyer. Those present from Galena were the venerable mother of Mr. Heller, his brother William Heller, Messrs. W. F., Richard and Geo. Biesmann Jr., and Mrs. John McLaughlin.

Submitted by Christa Hughes.