Editor’s note: This is part one in a two-part series. Part two will be published in Sept. 16 From the Past page.

When the U.S senate issued a public apology June 13 for failing to stand against the lynching of thousands of black people from the 1800s to well into the 20th century. It tripped a memory wire about a lynching that took place in Menominee during the same period. I’m glad I wasn’t there to witness the local carnage, but being a student of local history and a newsman at the same time spurred me to write about the ugly chapter in the city’s history.

According to the Associated Press about 4,743 people were killed by mob violence from 1882 to 1968. Of course, 3,446 were African Americans. Recorded lynchings reached a peak of 230 in 1882, but the bloodshed continued well into the 1930s. The record is an ignominious blot in American History. While most lynching’s took place in the Deep South, one can only imagine how many lynchings and other violent killings occurred in other parts of the country, particularly the Wild West.

What adds to the intriguing story of the disgraceful Menominee lynchings is that they occurred in the neighborhood where I was born and reared — this historic West End or Frenchtown as some may prefer to identify the old neighborhood. In fact, most of the chilling terrorism occurred in the same block as my birthplace at the corner of Ogden Avenue (10th Avenue) and Bellevue Street (20th Street) 50 years before my arrival in the old Fifth Ward.

My parents weren’t even born yet, but they used to talk about it with relatives and friends. Their discussions were based on hand-me-down information from my paternal grandparents and great-grandparents who were early West End settlers.

The stories about the lynchings have become exaggerated over time. Some recordings of the bloodshed in local journals are shamefully inaccurate. Perhaps the finest piece of work about the history of the case was researched and written by Jim Borski of Menominee, a friend and local history buff. Jim and I have compared our notes over time for reasons of accuracy. All of my information was taken from the files of the Menominee and Marinette newspapers, both reliable libraries of Information and facts.

Frank and John McDonald came to Menominee in about 1880 from Nova Scotia to work in area woodlands and sawmills during the great timber boom on the Menominee River. Menominee and Marinette may not resemble some of the scenes we’ve watched in “Wild West” movies or read about it in novels about the uncivilized West, but they were rough-tumble lumber towns. When the “boys invaded our towns after hard work of cutting timber in the winter months for the spring log drives, booze, fights and women were a part of the local lifestyle. The McDonald cousins were a part of the mix.

Trouble followed the McDonalds to Menominee within days of their arrival. They were arrested for being drunk and disorderly and sentenced to three days in the Menominee County Jail. In an age when prohibition was nonexistent and monitoring devices uninvited for criminals released from custody, the first thing the McDonalds did upon their release was to purchase large knives and tell anyone willing to listen that they intended to “pay back some debts.”

The two lumberjacks were working for the Girard Lumber Co. in the Quinnesec Mich., area where they encountered more trouble after a drinking binge. Sheriff Julius Reprecht of Menominee County, his jurisdiction extending to the Quinnesec area at the time, went to the lumber camp to suppress the activities of the belligerent cousins. The sheriff should have stayed home. The youngest of the combatants, Frank McDonald, knocked the sheriff unconscious.

The abashed sheriff returned home and deputized burly George Kittson, son of John G. Kittson who happened to be one of the first white settlers on the Menominee River. George Kittson had two half-brothers, Norman and Billy, who resided in Frenchtown. The muscular deputy went to Quinnesec to apprehend the cousins who had clobbered the sheriff.

The two McDonalds were convicted of assault and battery on the sheriff and sentenced to 18 months of hard labor at the state prison in Jackson, Mich. When released from prison, the two lawbreakers went to work at Jesse Spalding’s lumber mill in Cedar River, returning to Menominee several weeks later to look for work. They never saw a saloon they didn’t like. One of their stops was the Montreal House, a well-known establishment on Bellevue Street at the corner of Dunlap Avenue (11th Avenue), a location in later years that housed J.G. Blahnik General Store, Ed’s Super Market, Larry’s Super Market and the Menominee Knights of Columbus.

Norman Kittson was bartending when the cousins entered. They informed Norman they intended to square accounts with his brother George, then left to visit another bar a few blocks away to the northwest of the Montreal House. They found Billy Kittson drinking booze with prostitutes. The women immediately dumped Bllly and turned their charms to the McDonalds. Billy Kittson became upset, an argument erupted and Billy belted Frank McDonald with a whiskey bottle, putting a deep gash in his noggin, adding fire to an already inflamed rivalry. The scene gets even uglier.

Billy Kittson needed help in taking on the fighting cousins. He exited the saloon/brothel for the nearby Montreal House to solicit help. He was savagely beaten in the dusty street before he could obtain support.

The violent deaths of four people will be covered next Monday.