The Back Street of Seneca and Murder

We continue our drive down Highway 27, which runs down the spine of Crawford County, from Sparta, to Viroqua, and down to Prairie du Chien.  I grew up in the heart of Crawford County on the Scheckel farm 2 miles northwest of Seneca, Dad, Mom, and 9 children.

We’re on the back street of Seneca now. There wasn’t much there, except the Fire House, and a house with 3 single men that hired out always looking for work, Sammy Fritsche and Johnnie Jacobson, and another I can’t remember the name.

Ervin Walker had a service station and garage sort of down over the hill on Second Street. It was a real junky place, but Walker was an excellent mechanic and my Dad would take stuff there to have welded or tires worked on. Walker flew an airplane and when my Dad and Mom moved off the farm in about 1964 and moved to Seneca, Walker took my Dad for plane rides to pick up cars down in the lower part of Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Charley Mulligan had a house back there and Kenny Martin ran a feed mill.

I like walking through a cemetery and looking at the names and the dates. Unless you knew them or heard about them, you never really know what they were like. Some were saints and some were sinners, some drank too much and some never touched liquor. Some took good care of their families and farms, and some did not.Seneca Church

The following is from a newspaper article dated Dec 9, 1969. “Grant County authorities said witnesses reported that George Torgerson, who was suing his wife for divorce, came to the Torgerson home and began stabbing his wife when she came to the door. Dickeyville Police Chief Joseph Baumann arrested Torgerson at a service station here shortly after the slaying. Torgerson is employed at the John Deere Tractor Works at Dubuque, lowa.”

            The following is from the Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper dated Aug 31, 1960. “James E. Keene, born 1941, killed Irwin E. Reed, age 48, a tavern operator in PDC, trial set for Sept 12. Reed was visiting a relative in Minneapolis area, and gave Keene, a hitchhiker, a ride. Reed was knifed 9 times and took his wallet with $130”.

I knew both George Torgerson and Jim Keene from my high school dates. We’re about the same age. Who would have thought these two, guys I knew, would be convicted of murder.

But there is a balance to most everything. When I walk through the Seneca St. Patrick’s Cemetery, I see names of families that I know were really good people; Finley, Garvey, Snell, Bernier, Weber, Boland, Ingham, Dagnon, and Alvin and Martha Scheckel.


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