News From Terre Haute, Indiana

History

October 18, 2008

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: The murder of Indiana State Normal graduate Sarah Schafer

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State Normal School students, faculty and alumni were awakened on Saturday, Jan. 23, 1904, to read about the horrible tragedy in Bedford.

The badly mutilated body of Sarah Catherine Schafer, a 1903 ISN honor graduate and popular Latin teacher at Bedford High School, was discovered in a buggy shed near the boarding house where she resided on Friday morning, Jan. 22. She was reported missing the night before.

Her skull had been crushed by a paving brick and it was apparent she had been dragged at least 60 feet down an alley through rain, sleet and snow.

Miss Schafer had eaten dinner Thursday evening at the residence of Mrs. Martha Johnson and was scheduled to meet a class of students to offer a lesson in Latin. She did not reach her destination.

The Bedford City Council and the Lawrence County Council each offered $500 rewards for information leading to the arrest of the killer.

A daughter of John and Elizabeth Schafer of Elkhart, Sarah graduated from Elkhart High School in 1898. Her father was a realtor. Sister Jennie was five years younger.

Well-acquainted in Vigo County and known as “one of the best and brightest girls in the school,” Schafer was a Terre Haute resident for four years. She was a member of Alpha social sorority. President of the Y.W.C.A. for two years, she resided at the old Alexander McGregor “Mansion House” at Sixth and Chestnut streets during her final academic year.

Professor Francis Marion Stalker, for whom Stalker Hall later was named, recommended Miss Schafer to the Bedford School Board. Stalker, a former Bedford resident, was the first to be notified of her death.

After graduating from Indiana State, Sarah took a summer school class at DePauw University in Greencastle.

When word was received about Schafer’s barbaric death at age 22, gloom settled over the Indiana State campus. A memorial service was scheduled at the YMCA. Mansion House on Tuesday evening, Jan. 26, and a campus-wide memorial service was held in the Normal School building on Thursday, Jan. 28.

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