Written and contributed by Ben Feld
He Done Her Wrong
Remember when I told you about the business of the night watchmen falling asleep on the job? And remember how I gave you the impression that our City Marshal, C. F. Zautner was a fine, upright person, the guardian of the people, and called him a paragon of virtue, among other things? Well, he wasn’t all that all the time. He had his weaknesses just like so many others. But he did have the respect of the community; so much respect that they elected him 1st Lieutenant of the Watertown Rifle Company, sort of a Home Guard often organized by a town or city, which had, shortly before 1886, been asked to come to Milwaukee to assist in protecting the city and its residents during a rather nasty strike.
Zautner’s position as 1st Lt. in such an organization was definitely an honor not to be lightly regarded. And so it was that one morning in early February, 1886, the whole town was shocked to hear that Charles Zautner had handed in his resignation from the Watertown Rifles.
I remember hearing over and over, people saying “There must be some kind of reason for that”. But what could the reason be? He had taken care of the case of the sleeping night-watchmen very well. It wasn’t his fault the City Council fined Fred Behling instead of Wendtlandt, the watchman who had slept on the job. So, if a fine, upstanding man like Marshal Zautner is in trouble, as he certainly seemed to be, something terrible must have happened.
And that “something terrible” became apparent when, later that day, Deputy Sheriff Brook arrested, actually arrested Mr. Zautner, our City Marshall, C. F. Zautner. On a charge of bastardy, no less! The complainant was Lydia Lehman, address unknown, whose parents lived at Hustisford. Nobody seemed to know her or had heard of her but she swore Marshal Zautner was the father of her baby which had been born just a few days previously. The marshal, of course, maintained the charge was false and malicious which means, I guess, she was mad at him.
After the initial shock had worn off, and the people had had time to give the whole affair some calm, sober thought, the alarm subsided quite a bit. It was no big deal, many maintained. He will beat the rap. Granted, Frank Boettcher had, two years earlier, spent some time in jail as a result of his dalliances; and when Emil Zillmer was brought before Justice Stacy on a bastardy complaint by Barbara Schurr, Justice of the Peace Carl Feld settled the matter by marrying the couple. So Marshal Zautner has nothing to worry about; if he actually is guilty, his buddies in City Hall will get him off easy.
So, not cloud of gloom hung over the city when Justice Stacy set the bail at three hundred dollars and adjourned the case for hearing the following week, February 15. This gave the local papers as least one issue in which to come to the defense of Zautner. The Watertown Republican in its usual manner did not rush to the defense but meticulously repeated the facts, just the facts. The Gazette, however, took an I-told-you-so attitude intimating that the complainant was an unsavory character and, had his (the editor’s) advice been heeded some time previously, the main cause of the marshal’s trouble would have been banished from the city long ago and we wouldn’t be in this mess.
Ma gave us kids quite a lecture one night about loose women and wicked men. When she was finished I didn’t know if Marshal Zautner was the bad guy in this affair, or that loose woman, Lydia Lehmann, was. Ma raised her voice when she spoke about either one.
February 15 came and went but the hearing wasn’t held because Lydia Lehman, that loose woman, was ill so the hearing was put off until February 25. Everyone was there -- Lydia Lehmann, Charles Zautner, District Attorney Conway and Justice Halliger, everyone necessary to conduct the hearing. And I was surprised how swiftly things happened.
Right off, the District Attorney moved (that’s the word he used) that the case be dismissed and the defendant, that was Marshal Zautner, be judged innocent of all charges. When the District Attorney finished his spiel, the judge quietly said he agreed and the case was dismissed.
Ma and a lot of her lady friends were angry about that. They kept saying that the marshal should be made to pay for what he had done. They never did say what he had done that needed paying for, but he should not be allowed to get away without paying something for something or other. They were mad.
When Pa came home for supper that night, he told us how the District Attorney had explained dismissing the case. The people Pa talked with seemed to have had two different versions of what the DA said. From what I could make out, the reason for dismissing the case was either because Lydia Lehman was not a resident of Jefferson County when she filed the complaint, or, because she was not a resident at the time of “the incident” (Ma says that was probably the real reason) and it would have been improper to put the county to the expense of a trial for a non-resident of the county.
Ma got awful mad when Pa laughed about the whole affair and said there was a lesson in it. The lesson, he said was either:
1. When planning an affair, be sure the participants are residents of the same count -- or --
2. When planning an affair, be sure the participants are not residents of the same county.
It all depends on the good old boys in City Hall.