Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series. Part one was published Sept. 9

Sept. 27, 1881, will forever be a “day of infamy” in the journals of Menominee history. It was the day when an angry mob charged the county jail, broke down the doors and dragged John and Frank McDonald to their deaths. Menominee didn’t become a chartered city until 1883, and already it had a lynching on its record, plus two other deaths associated with a vicious brawl. John McDonald was 27, Frank was 23.

The imbibing and combatting lifestyle of the McDonald cousins who came to Menominee from Nova Scotia in 1880 to work in area lumber mills was detailed in last Monday’s column, along with their arch rivals, George, Billy and Norman Kittson. The Kittson’s were kinsmen of John E. Kittson, one of the first white settlers on the Menominee River.

The scrap between Billy Kittson and the McDonalds took place at the Three Chimney House, a saloon and house of ill repute on Stephenson Avenue (14th Avenue) near Boswell Street (21st Street). After Billy Kittson whacked Frank McDonald over the head with a whiskey bottle, he left to seek aid at the Montreal House, located on Bellevue Street (20th Street) at Dunlap Avenue (11th Avenue).

John McDonald decked Billy with a cast iron logging tool, then plunged a six-inch knife into his back. Norman Kittson, who was tending the bar at the Montreal House, heard the screams from the crowd that had gathered outside the Three Chimney House and rushed to investigate. Frank McDonald, seeing Norman approaching, rammed a knife into his neck. A badly wounded Billy Kittson, struggling to help his brother, was stabbed a second time. Norman pulled a pistol from his pocket and shot Frank McDonald in the leg. Meanwhile, a bleeding Billy Kittson managed to reach the Montreal House where he toppled over dead. Norman died of stab wounds in the street. Two brothers were dead. The town was incensed.

The McDonalds, sensing revenge, pilfered a horse rig from a customer at the bordello and drove to the home of Dr. Benjamin T. Phillips on Broadway (13th Street). Phillips, who later moved his practice to the downtown district where the bandshell now sits, treated the wounds. The McDonald’s then continued their getaway and headed for Cedar River. Before they reached their destination, they were arrested by newly elected sheriff David Barclay. The arrests, according to jail journals, were made at 4 p.m. Sept. 26, 1881.

Six other people, including one woman, were “arrested” the same day. They were witnesses to the two murders. One man, Ranson Darrow, provided testimony and was “discharged” the next day. The other five were discharged under a brief jail time listing, “no use for testimony.”

Local newspapers were the only source of public information other than widespread town gossip. The slaying of the Kittson brothers was indeed big news in Menominee and Marinette.

There was national news of great importance, too. President James A. Garfield was shot by a mentally disturbed man July 2, 1881. He died Sept. 19, 1881, a week before the fatal fight of the Kittsons and McDonalds.

The death of the president and murder of two hometown brothers entrenched the community in a foul mood. Judge Henry Nason attempted to conduct an inquest, but the courtroom setting forced him to adjourn the hearing. He ordered the defendants to jail.

The Marinette Eagle-Star, giving extensive coverage to the deadly street fight, warned its readers of a possible lynching. Lumberjacks assembled at the Forvilly House, a hotel and saloon. The more the men imbibed, the more they became enraged. Owner Max Forvilly was generous in pouring the drinks. The clan was minded for trouble. About 10 o’clock that night, two deputes at the jail were greeted by the inflamed lumberjacks. The sheriff had left the deputies in charge of the jail while he went to tend to his livery stable. Using a large wooden pole, the men smashed the door to the jail, put a noose around the necks of the McDonalds, and yanked them from the cells onto Ogden Avenue (10th Avenue.)

A bystander raced to the nearby rectory of the Rev. Francious Heliard at St. John’s Catholic Church (Menominee County Historical Museum) as the howling crowd was dragging the McDonalds down the street. The priest pleaded with the men to stop the onslaught. His pleas were ignored.

The McDonalds were tied to the rear of a horse rig and the dragging continued west on Ogden to Frenchtown. Some of the participants jump on the traumatized bodies of the cousins to inflict more punishment. When the lynchers reached the railroad crossing at the former Menominee Boiler Works, they lifted their prey for hanging. This was the same site where the friendly West Enders would gather in the early morning hours to watch the colorful circus trains unload in the 1930s. My birthplace was at the opposite end of the block across from Reindl West End Park.

Although the McDonalds were no doubt dead before the hanging, the persecution continued. The crowd hurled stones at them before the bodies were lowered and dragged to the Montreal House just around the corner, and hung to a tree a second time. Still, the madmen weren’t satisfied. They lowered the rope and pulled the McDonalds to the Three Chimney House where the fight originated and dumped the mangled bodies on a bed. The bodies were later removed to the street, the prostitutes were ordered from the home, and the house was burned. The McDonalds are buried in Potter’s Field at Riverside Cemetery.

Max Forvilly and James McGearty, accused as ringleaders in the lynchings, were arrested. A code of silence befell the town. McGearty was released for a lack of evidence. Forvilly went to trial a year later and was found not guilty.

The violent deaths of four men — two by lynching — is almost unbelievable, except that court records, jail records and newspaper files don’t lie. It is even more chilling for me because the massacre took place in my old neighborhood.

The story of the Kittsons and the McDonalds has been covered in books and newspapers, from local to state and national publications. An eight-verse poem was even penned about the lynchings The depository of history includes an overwhelming amount of positive tales about Menominee, but the brutal murder of four pioneer residents will forever taint its legacy.