Solon Township family held up
It’s the kind of story you expect to hear about today: one man, down on his luck, the other a gun-wielding parolee, break into a home, tie people up, flee, then grab a hostage and have a standoff at another home. It happened on April 18 but it wasn’t this week; it happened 85 years ago.
A story in the February issue of the Golden Times, put out by the Cedar Springs Historical Society, recounted the tale, as told in several articles in the Cedar Springs Clipper.
On April 21, 1927, the Clipper headline read: “Dan Reichelt, wife and brother tied and abused.” About 4 p.m. in the afternoon on Monday, April 18, two men drove to the Reichelt farm, 6-1/2 miles northwest of Cedar Springs (in Solon Township). They went into the barn where Dan Reichelt and his brother were unloading hay. One of the men drew a gun and held them up, while the other tied them. They then went to the house and tied up Mrs. Reichelt. They tore the telephone from the wall, then went to the cellar and got potatoes and canned fruit and put them in the car.
Just before dusk, Albert Reichelt, another brother, drove to Dan’s to see why he had not returned for another load of hay. When he drove into the barnyard, one of the men held a gun on him until 9 p.m. In the meantime, Mrs. Reichelt had freed herself and ran ¾ of a mile to the home of Frank Seigel and called the Sheriff and Deputy Arthur Woodhull, in Cedar Springs. She was quite badly bruised about the face, neck and arms.
About 10 p.m., when Deputy Woodhull and several men deputized by Justice Totten arrived at the Reichelt farm, they met a posse of citizens who had joined the hunt. Here they captured Wm. Boynton, who denied he had anything to do with the incident. Dan Reichelt shot at the other man and thought he wounded him, but he escaped.
Questioning Boynton, they found where he lived and the identity of the other man. They drove to Boynton’s house and found his wife, seriously ill, with six children, ages 5 months to 9 years, and nothing to eat in the house.
They learned that the other man was Joe Golliver, alias Joe Williams, and was a paroled convict from Marquette. The next morning, Tuesday, the sheriff and deputies searched the Reichelt neighborhood but found no trace of him.
Tuesday afternoon the suspect was discovered hiding in the barn on the Fitz farm, two miles west of Solon Center. Seventeen-year-old Floyd Koehnle, who lived on the farm, went to the barn to do evening chores. He was faced with a revolver in the hands of Golliver and told to go about his chores. Ed Koehnle drove in from the field and was also confronted by Golliver. The father was tied to a post in the potato cellar and Golliver took the boy to the house to get something to eat. The father freed himself and left the barn through a small window and ran through the fields to the Frank Peterson home. They drove to the Dines farm, and the three men were met with the posse on the way back to the Koehnle farm.
About 5:30 p.m., Golliver, in the house with the boy, discovered that a posse was surrounding the house. He told Floyd that they had him, but he would get some of them before they got him. Golliver left the house through the rear, taking Floyd with him. As he started to run through the barnyard, he left the boy behind. Golliver knew he was cornered, so he turned and began shooting. The only shot he fired went into a board fence. The posse closed in from all directions and as Golliver again shot at the posse, he was shot in the head. According to Floyd Gibson, editor of the Clipper and on the scene, Golliver would have killed one member of the posse and possibly more if he had not been shot down when he was.
On Thursday, April 21, hundreds of people gathered in Cedar Springs to be present at the inquest of Joseph Golliver, who was shot to death by a member of a posse of Solon Township farmers. The jury brought in a verdict that Golliver came to death on the farm of Edward Koehnle, in Solon Township, Tuesday night, resisting arrest, and the fatal bullet that ended his life was shot by some unknown person, a member of the posse. The jury commended the officers and farmers.
Joseph Golliver Williams, 31, had spent 18 years of his life in prison and was on parole from Marquette after serving only part of a 15-year sentence for robbery. A series of similar crimes in Kent and Ottawa County were also blamed on him. His brothers-in-law told police they had been asked to join him in “jobs.” Several of his family members had served time for various crimes also. His own family refused to accept his body, and it was sent to the medical school at the University of Michigan for use by medical classes.
Special thanks to the Cedar Springs Historical Society for allowing us to use this story.