Minneapolis, MN

The December 3, 1894 Murder of Catherine “Kitty” Ging Near Lake Bde Maka Ska

Matt Reicher

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The Catherine Ging Murder CaseThe Minnesota Historical Society

“[Hayward] was recognized by his school fellows as a bully, brutal in his instincts, enjoying the sufferings of others, and delighting in the torture of domestic animals [deliberating impaling a cat on a fence].” ~ W.A. Jones M.D.

On a cold December 3, 1894, night 29-year-old Minneapolis dressmaker Catherine “Kitty” Ging took a carriage ride to meet with her beau Harry Hayward. She was later discovered dead in the middle of the road.

Her body had been noticed by railroad baggage handler William Erhardt while on his way home from work between 8:30–9 pm. After almost tripping over Ms. Ging lying in the road, Erhardt attempted to render aid. Seeing her barely clinging to life, he ran to a nearby drugstore to get help.

Soon after, the police arrived. In the time between contacting the police and the arrival of the authorities, Erhardt had run home to grab lanterns. He wanted to help light the scene of the accident.

After a short investigation of wheels marks in the road and the injuries on Ms. Ging, officials on the scene believe she had been thrown from her carriage and trampled. Erhardt, who remembered his incident with a runaway carriage earlier in the evening, assumed the case was closed.

The initial opinion of the investigators involved was that Ging was thrown from the buggy and subsequently trampled. However, during the autopsy, a bullet was discovered lodged behind her left eye — someone had murdered Kitty Ging.

After a series of witness interviews, including Ging’s former fiance Frederick Reed, officials zeroed in on three men, Hayward, his brother Adry, and janitor Claus Blixt. The three were arrested on December 6.

Ging was a resident at the Ozark Flats in downtown Minneapolis — a building owned by Hayward’s father. She had struck up a relationship with the man who would come to be known as the ‘Minneapolis Svengali’ in the weeks before her death.

Their relationship was likely one of convenience for both parties. Hayward, who regaled Ging with tales of his ties with the criminal underworld, had made her out to be a mark — a rube to take advantage of. Her business success had made her reasonably wealthy, and she had no qualms with including him in her opportunities to spend money.

Hayward saw her as nothing more than a chance to make money. However, he needed to have her dead to cash in.

The plot to kill Kitty Ging had been hatched weeks before her death. Hayward first went to his brother to get him to help with the murder for a portion of the two $5000 life insurance policies Hayward had taken out on Ging as collateral for a loan. Adry vehemently refused the outrageous request.

On November 30, still shaken by his brother’s plan, Adry contacted lawyer and Hayward family realtor Levi Stewart and told him everything. Stewart didn’t think much of the story — until after Ging’s death. He then went to the police.

When Adry declined his offer, Hayward sought out Claus Blixt — the janitor at the Ozark Flats building. Through numerous conversations combining personal threats against him and his wife, blackmail, liquor, part of the insurance money, and sheer force of will Hayward was able to get Blixt to agree to participate in the murder.

Blixt wavered back and forth between taking part and backing away from the crime. Hayward told him to set fire to burn down a nearby local barn to test the commitment of his potential accomplice.

The janitor did as instructed.

After his arrest, Blixt implicated Hayward while confessing to his part in the evening’s plans. Hayward had set up a date with Ging, and Blixt was tasked with picking her up by carriage. She believed he would take her to rendezvous with Hayward, but the two men had other plans.

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The horse and carriage that Ging was riding on the night of her deathHennepin County Library

As she looked out the carriage seat while they neared the lake, Blixt produced a .38-caliber revolver and shot Ging. He then dumped her body out of the moving carriage.

Once Blixt had carried out the evil deed, he released the horse and carriage and disappeared from the crime scene. He ended up at a saloon later that night to have a couple of glasses of beer and play dice.

The first-degree murder trial began on January 21, 1895. Almost immediately it pitted Hayward against his brother and the janitor.

Claus Blixt confessed to his part in the murder, but accused Hayward of setting up the crime. He spoke of the manipulative, narcissistic behavior of the man that convinced him to murder Ms. Ging, and explained that due to Hayward’s pressure he was unable to say no.

Adry told the jury of the man his brother had become. Harry Hayward was evil and manipulative — unrecognizable to the people that once cared for him. His brother had changed, and not for the better.

Hayward proclaimed his innocence. He had an airtight alibi for his whereabouts on the night of the crime, and implicated his brother and Blixt in the murder of Ging. He told anyone who would listen that both men were lying.

The trial lasted forty-six days and had testimony from one-hundred and thirty-eight witnesses — including Hayward in his defense. On March 8, 1895, the trial carried in more than two hundred newspapers nationwide ended with his conviction for the first-degree murder of Catherine “Kitty” Ging.

On March 11, 1895, the judge sentenced Hayward to death.

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Photo of Harry T. HaywardMurder by Gaslight

Between his sentencing and execution, Hayward both (eventually) confessed to the crime and exonerated his brother.

He noted that he was the brains behind the crime and had used Blixt as little more than a tool to get what he wanted. Hayward had planned on killing Blixt after the murder but eventually changed his mind.

At 2:10 am on December 11, 1895, Harry T. Hayward was executed for the murder of Catherine Ging.

His ashes were buried at the Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery. The Hayward family had family plots available at Lakewood Cemetery, but due to concerns about the desecration of their burial grounds, they refused to have Harry buried alongside them.

Blixt, clearly a pawn in the nefarious plot, was also the one that pulled the trigger on the gun that killed Catherine Ging. He was given life in prison for his part in the crime, and died in Stillwater Prison in 1925 at the age of seventy-two.

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Researcher and content creator for the Minnesota Then Beer and Brewing History Museum.

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