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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Jessica Fletcher - We Need You!

A week or so ago I saw a feature story on TV about Angela Landsbury and her former hit TV show "Murder She Wrote". In that show Angela's character, Jessica Fletcher, showed a knack for solving murders in her small Maine village. Well, we could have used Jessica in New Gretna when a New Gretna resident, Dingenis DeLeeuw, died in a mysterious fire in the mid 1930's. Legal inquiries were made, but the cause of the fire remains a mystery. Charges were never filed; however, rumors did fly! Many locals suspected foul play.

The following two newspaper articles from 1934 present the essence of the case.

The man who accompanied DeLeeuw to Atlantic City where the article said DeLeeuw withdrew money from his bank account was not identified in the above article; however another article (see below) identified the man as Hillary Robbins, known locally as "Sach". Evidently, Sach was the last person to see DeLeeuw alive.

A young Hillary "Sach" Robbins. He was the last person to see Dingenis DeLeeuw alive. (Photo courtesy of Ronald & Marjorie Bozarth.)

The second article reports that DeLeeuw went to Atlantic City to get his $50.00 pension, while the first article says that DeLeeuw withdrew money from his bank account. Regardless of the slight descrepency, the important point is that DeLeeuw had a sum of money when he returned with Sach to his New Gretna home. The money was never accounted for. At the time of the fire and tragic death there were many rumors flying around which shall go unmentioned here, as they can not be substantiated. Most centered around Sach.

DeLeeuw's final resting place may be found on the hill in Miller Cemetery. I'm sure that many a person who walked by the stone was puzzled regarding how a man with a strange name from a strange place ended up in a quiet New Gretna cemetery.

Dingenis DeLeeuw (1874-1934) is buried on the north side of the hill in Miller Cemetery in New Gretna. (Photo courtesy of Pete Stemmer.)

If we have any amateur detectives, in the mold of Jessica Fletcher, out there in the Blog-O-Sphere who might be aware of any evidence or would like to venture a theory on the mystery, let's hear from you. Also, does anyone know where Dingenis DeLeeuw lived in New Gretna?

Pete S


  1. Pete,

    Yes I remenber 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

  2. I've been trying to do my research on my family for some time now and I have learned that this is my great great uncle, along with adelbert. I just wish I knew more about them, is there anyone I could talk with that may know more about them or about any of the Robbins family from New Gretna? I'm also related to the Robbins out in the Cramer graveyard, but again I don't know much. Thank you. My email is