Wednesday, January 12, 2011

1922, Newspaper Account of Sentencing of Brandt for McPherson Shooting Deaths

The following is from a copy of an undated newspaper account of the life imprisonment sentence imposed upon E. M. Brandt after the May 8th, 1922, fatal shooting of his father-in-law, James S. McPherson, and McPherson's mother Mrs. James B. McPherson, as well as wounding McPherson's father, James Burns McPherson. The article also contained two letters that Brandt sent to his mother while he was in jail at Brainerd.

There was no mention in this or the previous  newspaper article, or in Brandt's letters, of the devastating effects that the shootings had on the McPherson families; five children orphaned; the loss of James, a son, father, brother and uncle; loss of Henrietta Elizabeth Ireland McPherson,  a wife, sister, mother and grandmother; wounding of James Burns McPherson, the patriarch of the family.

James Burns McPherson was my great-grandfather; Henrietta Elizabeth Ireland McPherson, my great-grandmother; James Septimus McPherson, my great-great uncle.


Admitted Fatal Shooting of Two Persons and Wounding Another


Committed Deed Following a Prolonged Moonshine Spree

E.M. Brandt was brought before a special grand jury Friday afternoon on two charges, one of murder in the first degree and the other assault with intent to kill. He pleaded guilty to the first and was sentenced to life imprisonment at Stillwater. Sheriff Theorin took him down today.

Brandt admitted the murder of his wife's father, James McPherson of Barrows and McPherson's mother, Mrs. J. B. McPherson, and wounding of J.B .McPherson at the McPherson home at Barrows, May 8th.

Brandt it seems was angry at the wife's people for influencing her against him. While under the influence of liquor he went to Barrows and did the killing.

While in jail here, Brandt wrote two letters to his mother, Mrs. H. D. Hendricks of Merrill, Wis. These letters which were not answered by his mother, are given below.

Dearest Mother and All,
Well it sure is a hard thing to tell you but I have done it. Dad, mother you were all good to me. But you shall never see your Ernie any more. I got drunk yesterday and went down and killed, shot I mean Gladys' Grandmas and her father and shot her Grandpa too but did not kill him. That is what they tell me. I know I done some shooting alright but can't see why I shot her Dad.

O well, I shall stand up and take it all like a man. I have done it and it is too late now. Why I did I do not know. But I shall write more next time. Now, don't forget to tell Hank and all so they can write me a nice long letter. O God, O God, I did lover her till it made me crazy.

Mother, I love you like I never loved before. They will send me to Stillwater, Minn., I guess.

Now brace up and I shall write soon. I am as every your loving son,

E.M. Brandt
Brainerd, Minn.

Dear Mother,
did you get my first letter. I know Dear Soul, how it makes you feel but I have done it, Mother Dear, and I shall take all I have coming to me like a man. Now I shall send you a few slips of the St. Paul paper and you can see for yourself. I was here for two days and did not think of going down there, but got drunk and sure enough this all had to happen. Maybe you will disown me for life, I guess I shall never see you again. Well, if I had only taken your advice all of us would never have any trouble.

That is it, we do not know until it is too late; then, sure, we can all see, at least I can. Now, as to my stuff, you can have all of it if Babe does not want her dishes.

The clock and blanket and all the other you can get what you can on it or keep it. Wait till I write again. I have not seen Babe yet so don't know what she wants. I have some shirts and things down there, you know; I shall send that all home to you and you make something for the babies. God bless them; they do not know what is in the world for the to have, and also to lose. Now you and Dad get along and try and keep in touch with me and I shall write as often as I can. Now, don't worry, Mother, because you shall always know where I am at now. Do you remember the morning you kissed me goodbye? I do love you, Mother, for all do, but you can't see it, that is all.

Tell Ruth and Frank to write to me and let them read this and tell Mother Dear, I love her and all my sisters and brothers; if only I could see Roy and Ethel.

Tell them hello for me and of course, it will break your heart, but we must all suffer just on account of me. O well, there is nothing for me to be outside for and I shall feel all right when I get down to Stillwater, Minn.

Someday I might get out. I am here all alone, and they are sure good to me here. The sheriff gives me smokes and papers all I need and sometimes his wife brings in my meals and always says good morning so nice. So don't worry, if they all use me like they do, I shall be contented. Now, drop me a few lines right away as soon as you get this so I will get it at Brainerd. You see I will not go up to 'court until next week so you can get me a letter here by then. Send that mail for me up here now. I remain yours, your son.
Lovingly and kind. Kiss the babies for me. Tell them all to write, you son,
E.M. Brandt, Brainerd, Minn.
I love you, Mother Dear.


  1. What a sad story. It seems the poor man did not really understand why or how he killed.

  2. Brandt, indeed, seemed to garner a fair amount of sympathy after the shooting. I have been trying to find other stories about how the McPherson family survived this tragedy -- but no luck so far.