By David K. Leff
“Died by Murderer’s Hand” reads the lichen-encrusted brownstone pillar erected to John Felter (1825-1875). Felter was of German extraction and operated a boarding house just over the Canton line in Burlington with his wife Caroline, who owned the building. Killed in his own home, he was one of three who would die from stabbings received on the night of April 16, 1875 in one of the most grisly episodes ever witnessed in Collinsville.
“Crazed with liquor,” as The Hartford Courant reported, Collins Company grinder Anton Linburg entered the room in Felter’s house where fellow worker Andre Johnson boarded. Johnson had been sick in bed several days. Brandishing a knife hidden under his coat, Linburg fatally stabbed the bedridden man. On hearing a noise, Felter entered the room and was knifed so many times by the infuriated Linburg that he died almost instantly. At the sound of her husband’s cries, Caroline Felter went to the room only to be cut severely in the hip. The murderer then stabbed himself and went to his own room where he slit his throat. Linburg lay in bed for some time with his wounds when a doctor from Winsted arrived to examine him. With “great effort” the dying man “raised himself up” and “grasped the knife lying on the floor beside him and threw it with as much strength as he could command at the doctor, but missed his aim and fell back dead.”
Linburg had been employed by The Collins Company for three years. He was known as a drunkard and would typically “go on a spree after pay day.” He had been in Hartford several days and returned to work after a two-week bender the day of the stabbings. While at the shop, he was “excited and nervous” while sharpening two Spanish knives which he hid under his coat. “On his way home he told a friend some one would be murdered that night.”
Caroline Felter survived her wounds. At an inquest the day after her husband’s murder, she testified that “an improper intimacy” between Linburg and Johnson’s wife may have been at the root of madman’s rage. Mrs. Felter later moved to New York City, but is buried beside her husband in the Village Cemetery. Linburg left a wife and three children in Sweden.
The house (and a portion of the property) where the murders were committed was taken by the State of Connecticut in the late 1950s as part of its project to relocate and reconstruct a stretch of Route 4 (later designated as Route 179) after the flood of 1955. Today, on the west side of Route 179 in Burlington just north of its intersection with Sand Bank Hill Road, drivers pass by the site of the bloody act whenever they travel between Collinsville and Unionville.
“Your Silent Neighbors” introduces readers to people out of Canton’s past. It will appear on the first and fifteenth of each month. Readers are encouraged to visit these gravesites and pay their respects to the people who have helped make our community what it is today. Any suggestions, questions, or corrections should be addressed to Town Historian David Leff at email@example.com
I am deeply indebted to Collinsville resident Alan Weiner whose meticulous research brought to light the enigmatic inscription on Felter’s gravestone, and to Christopher O’Herron, Canton Assistant Town Clerk, and to Mary-Jane Ulgade, Burlington Town Clerk, for their assistance with identifying the location of the Felter house where the murders took place.