December 22, 1905 started out bright and chilly. Mr. Enderle was walking down South Main Street shortly after 6:00a.m., when he noticed a man staggering into the Harbough’s Restaurant. Enderle thought he recognized the man so he pushed open the door. He found a man that he considered to be a close friend on the floor covered in blood.
Enderle was shocked by the condition of his friend, Gottlieb Arnold. Gottlieb operated a tavern near the intersection of South Main and Green Streets. When Enderle questioned Gottlieb, he stated, “My God, I have been shot.”
Gottlieb also told Enderle that he was putting money into the cash register when a man stepped from behind the ice chest. The man said, “Hold up your hands,” before he opened fire.
Enderle agreed to go back to the tavern to check on the money. As he pushed open the swinging doors, he found another injured man on the floor. Enderle knew that the authorities had already been called so he locked up the money that still sat on the bar. Later it would be determined that only $30.00 was taken.
The other injured man was David Fuller, another friend of Gottlieb’s. Both of the injured men were rushed to Rockford Hospital for treatment. Fuller would live for several months before finally passing away from his wounds. Gottlieb was taken into surgery but the bullet had ripped through his liver, completely destroying it. There was nothing the doctors could do to save him.
This crime shocked the entire town for many reasons. Gottlieb Arnold was a well-known and respected business owner. He was also known to be a kind, generous man who served his community through the Germania Society and the Bar Tenders Union. Gottlieb was fair to his employees and customers. But he was best known to be a wonderful family man. He had a lovely wife Annie and four children that were under the age of nine.
Another shocking element of this crime was how close it was to Christmas. Everyone who knew Gottlieb knew that the Christmas season was his favorite time of year. He was especially excited that year because he found the perfect presents for his family. Gottlieb had purchased some beautiful dolls for his girls and rocking horses for the boys.
Gottlieb told everyone who came into the bar about the presents he had purchased. He even kept the presents at the bar just to ensure that the children did not find them. It was these presents that would catapult this story into the headlines of all the local papers.
Authorities were searching the tavern for clues and collecting evidence when they found the stash of presents that Gottlieb had hidden. It was common practice to collect, register and then store all the evidence from a crime scene but this was a special case. The men that were charged with the task decided not to confiscate the toys that they found in the tavern.
Gottlieb’s funeral was hosted on Christmas Eve at the Arnold house on Charles Street. Family and friends escorted Gottlieb’s body to its final resting place at Cedar Bluff Cemetery. When the family returned to the house afterwards, several officers came to pay their respects and to drop off the presents for the family. Later, Gottlieb’s widow would state that the officers’ gesture meant more than they could ever know.
It would be some of those same officers who would attempt to get justice for the murder of Gottlieb. It took over eight months but they finally arrested someone for the crime in August of 1906. Stone Boyce was a drifter from South Carolina who had been suspected of several crimes. He was arrested when he was identified by one of the witnesses of Gottlieb’s murder as the man he had seen running from the tavern that morning. Unfortunately, there was not enough evidence to prosecute Boyce for the murder of Gottlieb Arnold and he was released.
Some townspeople thought that justice still prevailed a few months later when the word came that Stone Boyce had been killed while attacking a woman back in South Carolina. The woman’s husband heard the screams and grabbed his gun when he ran to rescue her.
Though Gottlieb’s tavern was closed because of his murder, his wife Annie would eventually open a grocery store and bakery on Crosby Street in Rockford. Annie would live to be ninety four years old and was laid to rest by Gottlieb’s side in Cedar Bluff Cemetery when she died in 1966.
According to her friends and family, Annie never forgot the kindness of the Rockford Police Officers who helped get Gottlieb’s presents to his children. Their selfless act made that dark Christmas of 1905 a little brighter for her family.
Copyright © 2017 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events