It had been over a month since anyone had heard from Catharine Schneider.
Widowed for nearly 25 years, the old German woman rented a room on Walnut Street in Hamilton, Ohio, but spent much of her time visiting the homes of her children. Her sons George and Henry Schneider and daughter Mary Betz, one of her oldest, all had farms in Butler County, but Catharine stayed mostly at George’s remote farm when she wasn’t in Hamilton. His siblings would often remark that George, the youngest of her ten children, was her favorite.
Henry’s wife Gretchen picked her up in front of Miller’s Drug Store in Hamilton on the afternoon of October 31, 1884. Catharine wore a blue calico dress with white spots and a velvet hood trimmed with fur that she had been wearing for the last six winters. She carried a basket, which she said contained a clean dress and an apron, and handed it up to Gretchen so she could climb into the buggy.
“It was heavy, as if it contained something besides her clothing, but I do not know what it was,” Gretchen later said.
They rode together to Darrtown, a carriage-stop village about eight miles from Hamilton on the road to Richmond, Indiana. Gretchen dropped her off at the road that led to George’s farm, and handed her the basket when she got out of the buggy, still thinking that it was awfully heavy for an apron and a dress, but still not saying anything. The 74-year-old woman walked the rest of the way, about two and a half miles west of the village over a bad, broken road in a remote area of Butler County. There were not many houses on the road, and along the creek bank on his property there is nothing within a quarter of a mile. George’s house was another 200 yards or so off the road on an even rougher lane.
That was the last time anyone in the family saw her.
So when George, Margaret and their seven children showed up to have dinner with Gretchen on Thursday, December 4, 1884, while Henry was away, she was surprised that Catharine wasn’t in the spring wagon with them.
“Where’s your mother, George?” Gretchen asked as the family clambered down.
George, a small man of about 135 pounds with sharply cut, regular features and a light mustache, did not answer at first, but she pressed him. He told her that he put her on a train to Hamilton at McGonigle Station the evening of October 31.
“She has not been to Hamilton,” Gretchen said, her suspicions aroused, and she continued to question him.
“I know where she is,” George finally said. “She is buried. I can’t tell you, but I can write it down.”
“No,” Gretchen demanded. “Tell us about it.”
George told the story casually, nothing unusual about his demeanor. He didn’t seem nervous or upset, but Gretchen could hardly believe the story he told. Henry was not at home, so Gretchen, not knowing what else to do, fed dinner to her in-laws and all of the children. After George and Margaret left, she relayed his story to Henry’s brother-in-law Jacob Betz, and together they told it to Henry when he got home.
Around 3 p.m. the next afternoon, Friday, December 5, Henry Schneider and Jacob Betz went to George’s farm and found him stacking wood in his wood house.
“Where’s Mother, George?” Henry asked.
“If you don’t get mad, I’ll tell you where Mother is,” he said, and repeated the story he had told Gretchen…