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Odd Wisconsin Archive

"Killed by Remorse"

In the summer of 1834, Rev. Cutting Marsh of Kaukauna journeyed across Wisconsin into Iowa, keeping a daily diary as he went. On the Mississippi he heard about the recent death of "a very wicked man" named Nadeau, whose fate was worthy of a story by Edgar Allan Poe.

The Murder and the Haunting

"It was said," Rev. Marsh wrote on August 23rd, "that he and his wife a few years ago killed a Menominee woman and cut her almost all to pieces with a knife, and then threw her into the river. Ever since then he had been afraid to be alone in a room, but would run out as tho frightened at something -- was horribly profane and a drunkard. At times he would look round and start on a sudden, and run saying that the dead and the devil were after him."

Nadeau's friends found him a job on a Mississippi River steamboat, which they hoped would keep his mind off his delusions: "At times they were fearful that he would make away with himself, and so they watched him; but a day or two before his death, he was at work on a steam boat. They got him to do this thinking to divert his mind. But nothing availed to erase from his memory the heinousness of his past offence."

The Minister's Take On It

Marsh was a strict Congregationalist who believed that we are all sinners in the hand of an angry God. He noted in his diary that "judgement, it would seem, lingered not. A night or two after this he died in a sitting posture, as I was informed, holding himself up having his hands clasped round a post or stake stuck in the ground!! 'But o their end, their dreadful end!'" (a quote from the hymn "The Prosperity of Sinners Cursed" by 18th-c. author Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 73).

Marsh concluded his diary entry with the terse note, "Was much disturbed during the night and slept but little."

Learn More from Rev. Marsh's Diary

Marsh's diary includes intimate details about frontier characters, as well as a wealth of ethnographic observations of Fox and Sauk life just after the Black Hawk War. He lived among the Indians for several weeks that summer, and interviewed Black Hawk, Keokuk, The Winnebago Prophet, Poweshiek, and other Indian leaders as they tried to cope with the onslaught of white culture. You can read his diary, and explanatory notes, at our Historic Diaries pages.

:: Posted in Strange Deaths on November 28, 2012
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