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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gig Harbor Man Murdered



Imagine how you feel whenever you hear on the news, or read in the newspaper, that a local resident has been murdered.  The first thought is why?  The second who did the deed?  And then we calm down and try to understand the whys and wherefores of the incident.  Generally always, we are shocked and rarely understand how such an act or why is was committed.

Well, the Gig Harbor community felt the same sense of shock when they read the Tacoma News Tribune on the evening of June 14th, 1920 or the following Wednesday, in the Peninsula Gateway an account of a murder of one of its residents.

The man murdered was John Magnus Sather, a Gig Harbor businessman.  Sather was born in Norway in 1880, and immigrated to the US as a young man.  He had married Amanda  (Theodora Amanda Simonette Tollefsen.   The had four children:  Marion*, Jean, Leona (Lettie) and John Jr.   John Jr. was the youngest child, having been born the year before in 1919. 

The account of the murder as related in the Tacoma News Tribune reads as follows:

The body of Sather was found on a fishing scow which he had been using as an office and where he slept.  There were two bullet holes in the body, two in his arm and one through his hand.  His head was battered in with the butt of a revolver.  (the next few words I cannot read and some are missing) Sather grappled with the murderer, who used two more shots, which entered Sather’s body.  To make sure that his victim was dead, the authorities believe, the murderer then struck the crumpled form over the head with the butt of the revolver.

That the murder was committed by someone who was well acquainted with that part of Neah Bay, and who knew Sather had a large sum of money in his possession, is accepted as a fact by the authorities.  The search is being continued with this idea in view, it was stated Tuesday, and the possibility that revenge as well as robbery was the cause behind the crime is being given considerable attention.”

The article continues:  “It is believed that the murder was committed last Friday night, for at that time a fisherman reported he heard five shots, but he did not investigate.  On Saturday night Mr. Martin and another man, having not seen Sather for a few days, went to the scow, where they discovered the body.  Five 45-caliber shells were lying nearby.  Every indication pointed to a short but furious struggle.

The body was brought to Tacoma Tuesday morning.  Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

Sather was born in Norway in 1880, and came to this country as a young man.”

“The body was brought to Gig Harbor Thursday noon and interment took place in the Gig Harbor cemetery.”

Find-a-Grave Memorial shows that John Magnus Sather was born May 24, 1880 and have his death listed as Sep. 10, 1920 in Gig Harbor, Pierce County, Washington.  However, we know, based upon the news article that his death actually occurred in June.  His grave is in the Gig Harbor Cemetery, Plot: Lot 7, Sec. 2, #5.

Amanda and John’s daughter Lettie married Peter Sound, Marion or Matilda (this name is listed both ways) married Ruldolph Moller.  John Jr. served in the US Army during WWII as a Sergeant and died in 1977, and is also buried in the Gig Harbor Cemetery, Plot: Lot 7, Sec 2, #8.  
Source: Agnes Sund Ward  
Date: May 1975  
The 7 Tollefson Sisters, 3 of whom settled in Gig Harbor.  
Sitting, from left: Emma Peterson missionary to India; Mathilde Moller; Amanda Sather; Mrs. Tollefson; Anna Petrson; Gerhard (Hardy) died of TB at 23.  
Standing: Jennie Anderson; Martha Anderson
 This is the only photo I could find of Amanda Sather; none of her father or her husband..


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