William R. Tratebas, Obituary/Death NoticePorter County obituaries and death notices . . . .

William R. Tratebas


The Murderer Fires Two Shots, Both Take Effect and the Victim Dies Instantly.

As The TRIBUNE was about to go to press a caller at the office asked if we had a report of the murder at Chesterton. Hardly believing that our interrogator was in earnest, we asked the particulars, and were dumbfounded on being told that Alonzo Powers had shot and killed William Tratebas. It was almost impossible to credit the report, but realizing that our informant was not of the joking kind, we accepted his information and proceeded to investigate and secure the particulars. The prime facts of the case are as first reported to us, that Al Powers shot and killed Wm. Tratebas. On Wednesday evening the two men met in Chesterton and had some words, and threats were then made by Powers against the lives of the Tratebas boys -- Frank and Will. Thursday morning Will Tratebas had occasion to visit Truedell & Shaner's blacksmith shop, and there again met Powers. Mr. Shaner called Tratebas out and told him that he had better keep away from Powers, as the latter seemed bound to quarrel. Tratebas said that he was not afraid of anything serious happening, and thereupon returned to the main room of the shop, where the quarrel was renewed. The parties soon came together and clinched, but were separated by Mr. Truedell, who gave them to understand there must be no fighting there. Powers then stepped back a pace or two, put his hand to his right hip pocket, pulled a revolver, saying "You s-- of a b----, I'll end you," and fired, not once, but twice. Both shots struck Tratebas full in the breast, in close proximity to the heart, and either shot would have proved fatal, and both made it sure. Tratebas, after being shot, took about four steps toward the rear door in the shop, uttered the words, "My God --," fell to the floor and expired. Shaner, who was outside at the time talking to some customer, hearing a shot fired, rushed to the door of the shop, and seeing Tratebas falling and realizing that he must be shot, ran for Dr. Green, who immediately arrived at the scene and pronounced the victim beyond help.

After the shooting Powers coolly walked away from the scene and into the house where he lived with his grandmother, and remained there until placed under arrest by Deputy Sheriff Maxwell and Constable Brown. The sheriff's office was immediately communicated with, and Deputy Sheriff Green soon arrived, secured the prisoner and departed with him for Valparaiso, to be held for trial for the crime of murder.

The murderer and his victim met in the blacksmith shop about half past seven o'clock Thursday morning, Aug. 15, 1895. Before eight o'clock of the same morning William Tratebas was deprived of his vigorous manhood and only his body left to be prepared for the last sad rites by a loving father and mother, brother and many sympathizing friends. The body was removed to the Tratebas home at ten o'clock to await the coroner's inquest.

Powers was placed under the care of Deputy Sheriff Green at 9:45 a. m. and no time was lost on getting on the way to Valparaiso; and the departure was made none too soon, for dire threats were beginning to be heard on every hand, and before many minutes more had expired the law would have been set aside and justice meted out by an infuriated mob at the end of a rope.

The causes that led up to the tragedy we are unable to find out, other than that the difficulty commenced last winter between Powers and Frank Tratebas, brother of the murdered man, while working together in the timber. Wm. Tratebas was of a very quiet disposition, well like by everybody, and not considered quarrelsome in the least. The immediate cause of his murder as near as we can learn is because he upheld his brother's side of the difficulty. On the other hand Powers is credited with being quarrelsome, filled to overflowing with the deeds and darings of dime novel literature, and prepared at all times to "draw" at a second's notice. When starting away with the officer he turned in his seat in the buggy and, stretching forth his manacled hands, shook them at Frank Tratebas, who was near, and cried, "Defiance to you! I'll put you all on the hill yet!"

William Tratebas was a young man, between twenty and twenty-two years of age, and lived with his parents, who reside a mile south of Chesterton.

Powers is a single man, twenty-eight years of age, and lived with his grandmother, Mrs. Ann Powers, in the house adjoining the scene of the murder.

When Wm. Tratebas fell dead his cousin went out to the farm to notify the old folks. When Frank Tratebas, a brother of the dead man, heard the awful news, he got down his shot gun and, saw that it was well loaded, and followed his distracted parents to the scene of the tragedy. They went in a buggy, while he was on foot. He came directly to the home of Powers, thinking he was still in the house. A crowd surrounded him, knowing another tragedy would soon occur if he was not disarmed; but the enraged man kept everybody back with his gun. Finally his mother came towards him. He would not hurt her, and she was followed by his father. The young man tried to prevent his father from taking his gun, and John Coulter, deputy prosecuting attorney, rushed in and grabbed him. A scuffle ensued in which Mrs. Tratebas, father, son and Coulter participated. Young Tratebas clung to the gun, and there was imminent danger that it would be discharged into the crowd of spectators. In the struggle all went down with Coulter underneath. Coulter succeeded in grasping the muzzle of the gun, and pointing it into the ditch, called upon the elder Tratebas to shoot. The mother had hold of the stock and the father succeeded in cocking the weapon and pulling the trigger. The shock was terrific, and in the scuffle Coulter got a sprained hip. Without doubt, but for the courage of the participants, Frank Tratebas would have avenged his brother's death by shooting the murderer, for he, would soon have found him and nothing could have then prevented the execution.

After doing the shooting Powers went to his room and his revolver in a hole in the ceiling, where it was afterward found by Constable Brown. Powers had another revolver which he said was under his pillow, but when a search was made nothing but its case could be found. The constable found a pair of knuckles and a dagger in the murderer's, which he also took possession of.

The weapon that did the deadly work when found was examined. It was an imitation Smith & Wesson, self cocker, 32 caliber, with five chambers. It showed one exploded shell, one that had been snapped and failed to explode, one empty shell, and two loaded ones. This revealed the fact that Powers had pulled the trigger three times. From all that can be learned, the murder was a cold-blooded one, and the murderer gloated over his crime. In Justice Sever's office he was insulting and attempted to play the role of "Dare Devil Dick." It now appears that the fellow is a brute, and for years has been in the habit of beating his old grandmother. Only a short time ago he blacked her eye, and she sent for Mr. Tratebas, the father of the murdered boy, to come and protect her. In spite of this, she upholds the fellow and tries to excuse his act. She has valuable property here and may put it up to defend him. Unless the insanity dodge can be played successfully, Powers is pretty apt to stretch hemp. Should he escape full penalty of the law, the next murderer will never get a chance to be tried, for even now there are loud murmurs against trusting to the uncertainties of litigation, and were it not for the cool heads of the town a lynching party would have gone to Valparaiso last night and stormed the jail.

Thursday evening Prosecuting Attorney Heard came down and swore in a lot of witnesses and Court Reporter Daly took their statements. Coroner Coates will begin the inquest to-day.

Mrs. Powers, mother of the murderer, arrived in Chesterton on the 10:14 train last night. She is a sister of Tony Leiben, a former well-known citizen of Valparaiso. Her husband and Leiben were once partners in the butcher business in Valpo. Mrs. Powers said she was living with her son-in-law in Chicago, and was entirely without means. She was the mother of four children, three of whom are living. Her husband left her years ago and she did not know whether he was living or dead. She was met at the train by Mrs. Elizabeth Johnston and her little daughter, who was her visiting previous to the murder, and was taken to Valparaiso early this morning.

Newspaper: The Chesterton Tribune
Date of Publication: August 16, 1895
Volume Number: 12
Issue Number: 19
Page: 1
Column(s): 4 and 5

Key to Newspaper Publication Locations:
    Newspapers Published in Chesterton, Porter County, Indiana
                Chesterton Tribune
                The Tribune
                Westchester Tribune

    Newspapers Published in Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana
                Porter County Vidette
                Practical Observer
                Valparaiso Practical Observer
                Vidette and Republic
                Western Ranger

The obituaries and death notices appearing on this website have been transcribed exactly as they were originally published in the newspaper. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of obituaries and death notices appearing on this website.

Obituary/death notice transcribed by Steven R. Shook


CSS Template by Rambling Soul