Catawba County, NCGenWeb

MURDER IN THE SUNDAY SCHOOL

In the early part of the century a distressing and senseless tragedy occurred in the Sunday School room of Startown Baptist Church in Startown, near Newton, North Carolina. On September 13, 1908, a pretty young woman was confronted by a rejected suitor and became the topic of sorrowful conversations for more than a dozen years. The chronicle of this sorrowful tale is best told through the newspaper accounts given at that time
 

TERRIBLE TRAGEDY AT STARTOWN - Miss Willie Bollinger Stabbed to Death by Infatuated Lover. Awful Deed Done in Church.  The people of Newton were greatly shocked Sunday when the news reached town that Mr. Lonnie Rader had stabbed to death Miss Willie Bollinger, in the Methodist Church at Startown, a small village 4 miles west of town.

The News man reached the home of Mr. W. [Wallace] A. Bollinger soon after the awful tragedy occurred and it is impossible to describe the awfulness of the sad occurrence.
Young Mr. Rader who is about 21 years of age has been in love with the young lady for quite a while. She did not return his affections and last year he lost the power of reason and was taken to the Hospital at Morganton [Broughton State Mental Hospital] for treatment. He was released from the Hospital about the first of last June and seemed to be entirely recovered.
He and Miss Bollinger were members of the Startown Baptist Church, also members of the Union Sunday School which is conducted in the Methodist Church. Miss Bollinger was 19 years old and was the organist of the Sunday School.

Young Rader was in the Sunday School class, apparently in his right mind, taking part in the singing and other exercises.

After Mr. J. Y. Killian, the Supt. Dismissed the school all the men had gone out except Mr. Rader and Mr. Killian. There were about 25 or 30 young ladies in the building when Miss Bollinger stooped to pick up her parasol, and then Rader drew a dangerous spring-back knife nine inches long with a four-inch blade and stabbed her on the right shoulder near the neck. This caused the young lady to fall across the back of a bench, when the knife was next plunged into her heart under the shoulder blade on the left side of her back.

Mr. Killian made a heroic effort to save the girl but the awful deed was done before he could prevent it. He caught Rader as quickly as possible and held him until help arrived, when he was taken to the home of his father, Mr. W. P. [William Pinkney] Rader about three-quarters of a mile away.

The young lady died almost instantly, and was removed to the home of her father nearby.
The sympathies of our entire town go out toward Mr. Bollinger and family who are so sorely bereaved, and also to Mr. W.P. Rader and his family who are suffering so much on account of the awful deed of their son.

It is generally believed that the young man was crazed on account of jealousy and was not responsible for his acts when the deed was committed.

The families are among the best citizens of the county and the occurrence has cast a gloom over the entire community.

The burial services were held at the Startown Baptist church yesterday at 8 o'clock, conducted by Rev. R. D. Carroll of this place, who is the pastor.
[Catawba County News, September 15, 1908[

As an added footnote to what had already traumatized the family and the community, the following column followed the preceding:

Last Sunday evening Mr. Henry Bollinger who lived near the Balls Creek camp ground went to the home of his cousin, Mr. W. A. Bollinger at Startown to tender his sympathies to the family in their bereavement, and after he had gone into the room and viewed the corpse of the young lady who was stabbed to death, he came out on the porch and dropped dead, from heart disease.
Mr. Bollinger was a good citizen. He was a brother of Mr. L. A. Bollinger near St. Paul's church, and an uncle of Mr. Raleigh Bollinger of the Post office at this place. The burial was held at St. Paul's church yesterday at 4 o'clock.
Mr. R. A. Conrad, a friend of the deceased girl's family and who had been in feeble health for sometime after visiting the affected family was overcome by the vervous [sic] shock and is now in a very serious condition. [ibid.]


While a good deal of sentiment was expressed by the community, few were prepared for the placement of the grave stone which was erected by Willie's grave several months later. An imposing obelisk of striated granite, the tallest in the small cemetery, it read:
 

MURDERED in the M.E. Church at Startown, N.C. while attending Sunday School Sept 13, 1908 by Lon W. Rader. aided by a few others by keeping his threats and preparations for him. In the hands of God she is safe from sin. From his envy, malice hatred and strife. His preparations and threats. They secretly kept and gave no chance to save her life.

The infuriated Rader family sought to have the pronouncement removed or the stone replaced, free from any denouncement. While time tempered the anguished emotions, the stone remains today, free from defacement, pointing a condemning finger at a murderer.

A postscript to this sad episode of was found in the Catawba County News (September 15, 1908):

Mr. Henry Bollinger Drops Dead.
Last Sunday evening Mr. Henry Bollinger who lived near Balls Creek camp ground wont to the home of his cousin Mr. W. A. Bollinger at Startown to tender his sympathies to the family in their bereavement, and after he had gone into the room and viewed the corpse of the young lady who was stabbed to death, he came out on the porch and dropped dead, from heart disease. Mr. Bollinger was a good citizen. He was a brother of Mr. L. A. Bollinger near St, Paul's church, and an uncle of Mr. Raleigh Bollinger of the Post office at this place. The burial was held at St. Paul's yesterday at 4 o'clock. Mr. R A. Conrad, a friend of the deceased girl's family and who has been in feeble health for sometime after visiting the afflicted family was overcome by the vervous shock and is now in a very serious condition.

This sad story concludes with a short newspaper notice.

Death of Lonnie Rader in Raleigh reported.

The body of Mr. Lonnie Rader was brought from Raleigh on Tuesday where he died the day before. He was kept in the department for the insane of the State prison. It was about twelve years ago that he killed Miss Bollinger at the Sunday school at Startown one Sunday morning. No one ever thought that he was responsible for the rash act that his mind was off and remained so the remainder of his days. [Catawba News-Enterprise, Friday, June 18, 1920]

The grave stone of Lon Rader today lies nearly in the center of historic Old St. Paul's Church cemetery with the simple inscription:


Lonnie W. Rader, born June 4, 1884, died June 14, 1920
Thy Trials ended, thy rest is won

It took twelve years before the tortured mind of Lonnie Rader finally gained release.


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Derick S. Hartshorn - 2008
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