Voices from the Grave: The horrific death of George Laurs
By Kathi Kresol
George Laurs was a 24-year-old immigrant who like many men in 1913, came to Rockford to look for employment. He considered himself very lucky when he was hired by the Cyclone Blow Company from Chicago to assist in the installation of a giant blow pipe on the third floor of a furniture factory.
George was part of the crew hired to hoist the huge pipe into position. He was stationed in the basement of the factory. George was in charge of the slack rope in the hoisting pulley. The rope came in through a window about 10 feet from him.
All was going according to plan on the morning of June 12, 1913. Everyone was at their stations and though no one was in the room with George, it seemed the work would go according to plan. Then suddenly, things went horribly wrong. The only indication that there was anything amiss was a strange thudding noise. When George’s co-workers decided to investigate, they could not comprehend what they were seeing.
They looked up to the shaft bar, which was spinning around. Clothing hung from the whirling piece of metal. Blood covered the clothing; in fact, blood covered everything.
The men’s eyes followed the blood droplets from the bar above them down the walls to the floor. Their confusion turned to horror as they realized that there were body parts scattered around them.
Somehow, though no one could figure out quite how it might have happened, George became caught in the rope that he was supposed to keep tight. The slackened rope tangled around George’s body and it wrenched him up and slammed him into the galvanized iron pipe, denting it out of shape.
The damage to George’s body was incredible. His limbs had been torn from his body and he was also decapitated. A quote from the Rockford Republic from June 12, 1913 stated, “Sight of the gore splattered area and the collection of the scattered remains was enough to unnerve the men. The factory was closed for the day to allow a clean up.”
George Laurs was highly thought of by his crew and the men at the boarding house where he stayed. His landlord told the authorities that George’s parents lived in Lithuania but that he had a sister and brother that lived in Chicago. The sister had recently visited George at the rooming house. She had been courting a Lithuanian man that she met in Chicago and he had proposed. Since her father could not give his consent, she came to ask George for his. George was honored and very happy for his sister. He not only consented, he bought her a dress.
Unfortunately, George wouldn’t be the one to give his sister away. The wedding was supposed to take place a few days after the accident. On the day they were scheduled to gather to watch his sister walk down the aisle, George’s devastated friends and family gathered instead to watch his body lowered into a grave.
Local author and historian, Kathi Kresol, will be hosting a Cedar Bluff Cemetery Tour on Saturday, August 6 at 7 p.m. She will be joined by historian, author and teacher, Amanda Becker, and Psychic Sara Bowker. Kathi and Amanda will tell stories from Rockford’s past and Sara will share her impressions of any spirits that may linger in the old cemetery grounds. The cost for this is event is $20 in advance and $25 at the event. Tickets and more information can be found at hauntedrockford.com.