There aren’t many people who get shot right between the eyes yet live to tell the tale. Old Fred Lutterbei was among that exclusive company.
Lutterbei was a truck farmer. No, he didn’t grow trucks; a truck farmer raised vegetables for market. Lutterbei gardened near his house on Dreman Avenue in what is now South Cumminsville. Right where Dreman bridges the West Fork of the Mill Creek, there was an old Friends’ Cemetery. The cemetery was no longer used and Lutterbei leased it to graze some cows. The cows, as a bonus, acted like four-legged lawnmowers and kept the old cemetery trimmed.
The cows had a peaceful life, nibbling sweet grass among the few and crumbling tombstones, except that boys from Cumminsville considered the Friends’ Cemetery their private park. They hung out there, built fires, set off firecrackers, told bawdy jokes and generally irritated the livestock. Fred Lutterbei chased them off many times.
Sunday morning, 25 March 1900, was different. Lutterbei, 38, heard the usual commotion in the cemetery and walked over to shoo the boys away yet again. Mounting the crest of a small hillock, Lutterbei surprised Warner Eversull, 17, showing off a new Flobert rifle to several of his chums.
Now, the Flobert rifle was a cheap, Belgian product firing a .22 caliber BB cap bullet – basically a BB-sized lead ball powered only by the primer in a .22 cartridge. Floberts were made from soft steel and generally cost less than $3.00 during their popular lifetime between 1880 and 1910. More a target piece or varmint gun than a hunting rifle. Thousands were imported to the United States.
Lutterbei hollered an order for the boys to vamoose. Eversull raised his new rifle, aimed and fired. The Cincinnati Enquirer [26 March 1900] tells the tale:
“Lutterbei fell to the ground, the bullet having struck him squarely between the eyes, and, ranging upward, came out of the top of his head. . . Lutterbei managed to struggle to his feet, and, although suffering intense pain and blinded with blood, managed to make his way home.”
A doctor examined Lutterbei’s wound and declared it serious. The injury was apparently a flesh wound, the bullet never penetrating his skull because of the oblique angle from which the gun was fired. Still, Eversull was arrested and charged with shooting to kill.
The trial, in May 1900, resulted in acquittal for young Eversull. His friends all testified that Lutterbei had thrown rocks at them and so the jury determined the gunshot was self-defense. Lutterbei’s demand for payment of the doctor’s fee and $200 in damages was denied.
Fred Lutterbei went back to his truck farm and lived another 50 years. His assailant was not so lucky.
Acquitted at trial, young Warner Eversull went on with his life. He married in 1903 at the age of 21 to Alice Reno, 18. They had three children together and Warner (he sometimes went by “Warren”) got a job at the National Lead Company. When World War I broke out, Warner registered for the draft on 12 September 1918. He was 35 years old.
Less than two months later, Warner Eversull was dead. He was just one of many victims of the 1918-19 influenza epidemic.
Fred Lutterbei gardened on. When Dreman Avenue got too crowded, he found a plot on Beekman Avenue and later delved the wide-open spaces along Winton Road, where a few greenhouses still memorialize the many gardeners, small farmers and florists who set up shop there in the 1930s.
Fred and his wife, Carri, kept house with seven children – a girl and six boys. Several of the sons followed Fred into gardening and his daughter married a gardener. It was finally heart disease that got Fred Lutterbei, on 16 March 1950 – not quite 50 years to the day after he was shot by Warner Eversull. Fred and Carri are buried in Vine Street Hill Cemetery.
You can find Flobert rifles for sale online in the $100 to $200 dollar range, but they’re of interest only to collectors. Almost everyone who lists one for sale includes a warning that they are so poorly made they can’t handle modern ammunition.
This article was reposted with permission from Greg Hand, editor of Cincinnati Curiosities.