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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dingenis DeLeeuw Reprised

Last Wednesday, July 7th, the Blog presented the mysterious fire that lead to the demise of Dingenis DeLeeuw and the disappearance of his pension money. I closed with a request for any information that those out in the Blog-O-Sphere may have on Dingenis. I received the following responses.

Donald Maxwell wrote a comment on the July 7th Blog which is reproduced below. He verifies the fire which consumed Dingenis and gives the approximately location of Dingenis' small cottage and suggests that Clif Brown might be able to provide additional information.


Yes I remember the incident when Dimgimis DeLeeuew was burned to death. My father, Curtis Maxwell, was on the New Gretna Fire Department at the time, and he went to the fire. I remember him telling us when he got home about the firemen discovering Dimgimus in the ashes and the terrible smell associated with it. I was only seven yrs of age then but remember the whole town talking about it, especially in the stores and post office which were the prime meeting places where news was discussed back then. The origin of the fire was'nt but it looked like a cover up crime.

Dimgimis's little shack was located off the Greenbush Road. Where? I don't know, only that was where the fire engine went that day- over the bridge to Greenbush.

Maybe Cliff Brown can shed some light on the exact location as he is a couple of years older than I and lived in Bucktoe near Greenbush at the time.

Don Maxwell

Clif Brown, perhaps inspired by Donald Maxwell's faith in Clif's memory, emailed a photo of the small cottage that was to become the center of the mysterious episode.


Went through several shoeboxes to find the attached photo. It should answer your question as to where the cottage was that burned. In the foreground you will see my brother and I sitting on a wagon in our driveway and to the left background is the cottage that is no more. It was located directly oposite the electric pole that supported a street light, back about 20 feet from West Greenbush. Zoom up the photo and all will become clear. I will make some comments regarding on your blog.

Trust this is of some help.

Clif Brown
Dingenis DeLeeuw's small cottage on West Greenbush Road can be seen in the upper left background. Clif Brown (back) and his brother, Wharton, sit in their wagon on the graveled West Greenbush Road near their home. (Photo courtesy of Clif Brown.)
Clif followed up with the following email concerning the above photo and provided some additional memories.


Yes I do remember Dingenis DeLeeuw. I have just returned from a visit with my son in Peoria, Il. and went up on the blog and Wow! a important time in my youth came to life.

In the photo I am the boy in the back and my brother, Wharton Charles is the driver. His wife Catherine as you probably know still lives on West Greenbush.

I usually remember events with other happenings at the same time. In April 1934 I was very sick with Scarlet Fever and our home was quarantined. A common practice in those days was to plave a large yellow sign on the front door making people aware. To make it easier for my mother, my bed and hers were moved downstairs. Unfortionately that room had no east facing windows, so we were unaware of the fire until the a fire engine was positioned at the rear of the house and proceeded to wet down the shingle roof as a strong wind was blowing sparks and cinders. The fireman had positioned the new Ward LaFrance fire truck at the fire site and the old Model A at our home.

This is where my memory gets little fuzzy, as I thought it happened during the night but the newspaper indicated in the morning. Nevertheless it did happen.

Mr. DeLeeuw was our neighbor and "Sach" Robbins was also his neighbor who lived in the next home up Greenbush Road. It was the same house that was struck by lightning in the early 1960's and only the foundation surrived. Knowing this neighbors often transported others so taking one to AC would not be considered suspicous .

Having been inside the cottage, it was not a shack as previously described. What was unusal is that the home was not electrified. Candles were used for illumination, a kersone stove for cooking and a fireplace for heating. The newspaper article indicated he was in country for a short time, but he had retired from a railroad company from which he received a pension. It seemed strange that a foreign country would mail him money. It was common in the 30's to place valuables underneath your bed mattress for safekeeping.

Let me tell you, what I was told happened. Mr. DeLeeuw was a heavy drinker which he did often with "Sach" Robbins. When returning home candles were burning, as he was staggering to bed he knock one over and that started the fire. He was then aroused by the fire and carried some personnel belongings outside which were found. He then returned to get his valuables from under the mattress and then became overcome by heat and smoke. He was found not laying in bed but across his bed and clutched in his hands underneath his body was charred money.

New Gretna residents always seem have great imagination and this story was blown out of proportion. If you want a real murder story check with Don regarding what happening in Leektown in the latter '30's. Fellow by name of Hughes was sent to the State Prison and other locals were involved. Again another drunken brawl.

Trust you will find this interesting, any question I'll do my best to answer.

Regards Clif

Well, Clif's account of the DeLeeuw fire sure took the mystery out of the situation and his reporting that charred money was found in Dingenis' hands dispels the rumored motive of robbery and Sach's possible involvement in the fire. In addition, Clif whetted my curiosity regarding the murder in Leektown. Can anyone out in the Blog-O-Sphere shed any light on that incident?

Pete S


  1. When Sam was a young boy during the late 1930's he lived in an old two-story house in Leektown. He was told there were blood stains from the Kline murder at the top of the stairs. There were two sets of stairs in the house, one going up from the kitchen and the other from the living room. He doesn't know which stairs held the blood stains. The attic contained swarms of bats hanging & living next to the brick chimney. Later Sam & his family moved to a different house in Leektown. The empty house soon attracted another family but they never moved in. The locals heard about these different people wanting to rent the house and soon the house burned to the ground, possibly arson.
    The burned house was located directly across the street from Gladys Wilson's house which I believe is now the home of Gladys Wilson's granddaughter, Bass River Township Mayor Deborah Buzby-Cope.
    Phyllis & Sam Briggs

  2. I wonder if anyone has a photo of the old Kline murder house that burned?

    Pete S

  3. Pete,

    The murder in Leektown in the latter 30's occurred in a house on the Leektown-Wading River road. The house was inhabited by a family named Kline. It seems that Sach Robbins and a fellow named Bill Hughes and another New Gretna citizen and a Mr. Kline, the occupant of the house, were all doing some heavy drinking when it started to get out of hand. The New Gretna citizen seeing trouble ahead got out ahead of the fracus and walked or probably ran part way back to New Gretna to avoid any trouble.

    Anyway, things must have gotten much worse as Mr. Kline was stabbed to death. Both men, Sach Robbins and Bill Kline, were rounded up, indicted, and went to trial resulting in their incarceration in State Prison for a few years. There was some talk that they might get the chair; however, in about 5 yrs they were out and back home in New Gretna.

    I do remember Bill Gray, the local political leader at the time, circulating a petition to get Bill Hughes out. Bill had a wife and son. They lived in Frog Town in the house I think was near the litle restaurant on Rt 9 just before getting on the Parkway. Mrs. Hughes was a quiet woman, and I remember her, the son, and Bill Hughes picking blueberries at Cutt's blueberry farm. I don't know whatever happened to them, as they moved away soon after his release from prison.

    The other fellow, the New Gretna citizen who I won't name here, was never charged with anything, as he wasn't there at the scene of the crime. He lived his life out as a respected citizen.

    That's all I can remember about New Gretna's most famous homicide.

    Don Maxwell

  4. Pete, I remember my father,(Charles W. Weber,Jr.), talking about the murder of Kline. The son of Kline was my father's brother-in-law. The son witnessed the murder of his father. To keep from being another victim of Hillary, he moved away and changed his last name. We used to visit him and his family in his new location. I also remember Hillary and his wife, Reba, very well. Hillary and my father fished together. Hillary was at our house in Leeds Point often. I remember that he was a "Bad Dude" when he was drinking. One time I remember he cut his wife's face up really badly. She used to be an attractive woman until he did that.

  5. Pete,

    Reading Phyllis Brigg's article about the Kline house jarred my memory a little. The house that she is talking about, the kline house scene of the murder, was I should judge about the third house in on the left after turning off on the Chatsworth Road heading toward Wading River. it was the next house and just before James Howard Bozarth.

    I remember James Howard Bozarth well. His father was a Civil War veteran. He was a kindly old gentleman and had two daughters and a son. The oldest daughter married James Maxwell of Wading River. Earl Cramer, normancramer's father, told me (He was a resident of Leektown then, and J. Howard Bozarth was his uncle.) that when Jim Maxwell came a courting Mary, J. Howards oldest daughter, you could hear the horse that Jim Maxwell was riding, hoofs pounding on the wooden planks of Wading River bridge.

    Anyway, getting back to my story. Sam Briggs senior told me that when the depression hit he was wiped out, so he and his wife, Frances, and young son Sam, Phillyis' husband, went looking for a place to live and wound up in Leektown. They stopped in front of the old vacant Kline house. Pop Sam, as he was called, said he had only one dollar in his pocket so he went next door to James Howard Bozarth's house and explained his situation and wondered if it would be alright if he and his wife and son stayed there, if the present owners wouldn't mind. Old Mr Bozarth told him about the recent murder committed there and that the family had vacated the house. He said he didn't think the absent owners would mind, so Pop Sam and his family settled in and, I believe, stayed for a few years. I remember young Sam coming to Bass River School on the school bus from Leektown. The bus was driven then by Milton Cramer who lived where Eddie Bourguion's store is today [Editor's note - Actually, today it is the Speedy Deli. on Route 9.].

    Also I may have some more Sach Robbins stories soon.

    Don Maxwell

  6. Sam Briggs added an sinister element to the "Murder in Leektown" blog with blood on the stairway and bats in the attic. Would be great TV.

    Disappointed that you did not follow up with newspaper stories about the incident. [Editor's Note - Sorry, but I don't have any newspaper articles on the Kline murder.]

    A question I have why was this group of men gathered together in the Kline home? The others were, by fact or rumor, Ralph Loveland, Ed Brown (no relation), Everit Allen, and Bonsdale plus Hughes and Robbins. Which one could be Don's respected Citizen?

    Bass River area was known to have many stills during prohibition and after its repeal. Could they been dividing up the assets both liquid and solid, a argument developed which caused the death of Kline? Perhaps the answer is in the newspapers.

    The last still in New Gretna took place on Voorhes Farm on the right side of Hamonton Rd approx a quarter mile from Merrygold. The road to the still went right by their back door and when questioned he stated "I was told the boys from Hamonton was only spot lighting deer." This happened in 1940.

    Clif Brown

  7. The Voorhes farm on Rt 542 was located across the highway from the home of my parents, Ted & Naomi Sharp. Later the Huxley family lived in the old house. A few years passed,the house sat empty & suddenly burned to the ground. Sam & I discovered the still remains when we walked back into the woods behind the house. We saw the axe marks in the metal of the still destroying it.
    Phyllis Briggs

  8. Bill Hughes lived near Shermans corner on the old Hammonton Rd. He had a son Billy and a Daughter Eileen. We used to play together as kids.

    Dave Kalm