New book sheds light on the 140-year-old Saxtown murders

The bloody massacre of an entire household occurred nearly 140 years ago in the countryside not far from Waterloo, almost right on the St. Clair-Monroe County line.

A new book written by St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Nicholas Pistor, who grew up just a few miles from the crime scene, covers the murders in-depth and exposes new information in the unsolved case.

The book, “The Ax Murders of Saxtown,” is a detective story about the gruesome deaths of the Stelzriede family — three adults and two children who were murdered in 1874 on a farm in Saxtown, a German immigrant community near Millstadt.

The murders became folklore in the decades that followed, wives feared their husbands would confess on their deathbeds, and ghost stories reigned.

The new book will be released in hardcover form Jan. 14 by Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press. It can be purchased online at For more information, visit

An article from the March 26, 1874 edition of the Waterloo Republic reads:

“Charles Stelzriede, a German, aged 65 years, and for 32 years a resident of St. Clair County, with his son Charles, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren, were murdered near Saxtown last Friday. Robbery does not seem to have been the incentive to the crime, as no property was taken. Fred Boeltz and John Afken are in jail in Belleville under suspicion of being the murderers… It is thought (Boeltz) might have committed the deed under religious excitement.”

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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.
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