Daily Public Ledger
September 5, 1899
The canteloupe and watermelon crop in West Kentucky this season has been exceedingly large, the product of many patches being allowed to rot in the fields, as prices will not pay for hauling them to market.
This was the state of things that late summer of 1899. Anton Koewler had recently purchased the old James Stephenson farm just east of the town of Ripley. Early in the season, Anton rented a small patch of land on the bank of the Ohio River to Daniel Sidwell and his sons to raise watermelons. As the crop grew, Anton had concerns about the amount of money that would be realized from it, however, fearing the melons would be stolen during the night, Anton had lent the Sidwell boys his gun to protect themselves.
On Sunday, September 3, Anton decided he wanted his gun back and went to retrieve it from the Sidwells who were tending the watermelon patch. Angry words were spoken and William Sidwell resented Anton's demeanor. Anton turned and pointed his gun at Sidwell, "pulling it off". Sidwell ran to his house, returned with a revolver, and shot Anton three times. Two of the bullets did little harm, however, one entered his left breast and came to rest upon his spine.
Anton was taken home, and the Doctors Prine and Francis were called. Anton was soon partially paralyzed and, fearing the worst, the priest was summoned to administer the Holy Sacrament of the Church. Meanwhile, William Sidwell had started to town to turn himself in when he met Sheriff Miller to whom he surrendered. On Tuesday, September 4, he was released on $2000 bail. One week later, Anton's condition remained the same.
This story is taken from newspaper articles in the September 7 and 14, 1899 issues of Georgetown, Ohio's News Democrat. I want to sincerely thank Alison at the Union Township Public Library in Ripley, Ohio for taking the time to hunt for the articles in the unindexed newspaper microfilm. I am sure she had better and much more important things to do. If you are wondering why the story is not taken from the Ripley Bee, it is because that newspaper microfilm is not available for the year 1899. I am just so thankful that the library does have access to the News Democrat! You may have also noticed that the Hamilton, Ohio newspaper in which I first found my clue for this story named the shooter as William Tidwell, instead of Sidwell, so I am doubly glad that I was able to read it from a newspaper closer to the actual location.
I cannot imagine how the Koewler family felt that September day. I found it very interesting and sad that the article's author described Anton as having a reputation of being quarrelsome, yet standing well in the community. I can't help but wonder what sort of man he was that he would be thought of in this way.
In case you are wondering, Anton's injuries did turn out to be deadly and in my next posting you will be able to read his obituary and all about the fate of William Sidwell.