It wasn’t exactly the shootout at the O.K. Corral, but then again, Rochester in 1879 wasn’t the Wild West.

This, after all, was a modern, civilized city of 5,000 people, with hotels, banks, stores, passenger train service, and a no-nonsense police officer named Henry Kalb.

Marshal Henry Kalb, the Post Bulletin reported years later, “was as feared by hoodlums as he was respected by the local citizenry.”

Marshal Henry Kalb.
Marshal Henry Kalb.

Early on the Sunday morning of June 15, 1879, Kalb was awoken by P.J. Schwarg, the Kasson marshal. It was 4 a.m.

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Schwarg told Kalb that Dan Ganey—described as a “notorious gambler and burglar”—had escaped apprehension in Owatonna, had headed east. He had been traced to the Norton House, a hotel in downtown Rochester.

Ganey was a suspect in a string of burglaries, including most recently in Owatonna.

Kalb armed himself with his favorite red-handled revolver and walked over to the Norton House. He surprised Ganey, who was eating breakfast at the hotel, and placed him under arrest and escorted him toward the Winona House (an early hotel where Kalb may have been planning to hold Ganey).

The Winona House, circa 1890. Photo courtesy History Center of Olmsted County.
The Winona House, circa 1890. Photo courtesy History Center of Olmsted County.

Whether through oversight by Kalb or trickery on the part of Ganey, the suspect was somehow able to keep possession of a handgun.

As Kalb marched Ganey toward jail, Ganey suddenly pulled the gun from his coat and told Kalb to beat it. “You go,” he said, waving the gun at the marshal. They stood at the corner of what is now Broadway and West Center Street.

Instead of going, though, Kalb took a step toward Ganey. Ganey fired at Marshal Kalb’s face. ...

Just two years on the job

In 1879, Kalb had been the city’s top peace officer for only two years, but he had been living in Rochester for 23 years. A native of the German kingdom of Saxony, Kalb came to the United States at the age of 19 and settled in Illinois.

After a short time there, Kalb came to Rochester in 1856, where he worked as a farmer, clerk, and shoemaker. He was an early member of the German Library Society (originally known as the Rochester Union Turnverein), which kept German culture alive on the Minnesota frontier.

The home where the Kalb family lived still stands on Sixth Street Southwest.
The home where the Kalb family lived still stands on Sixth Street Southwest.

Kalb married the former Frederica Roedinger and, in 1870, built a home that still stands in what is now the 300 block of Sixth Street Southwest.

In 1877, Kalb, who was described as tall and straight with a thick beard and bushy mustache, was appointed city marshal. Kalb prided himself on strict enforcement of the law, the newspaper reported, but he was “good-natured and friendly.”

Only one man was going to walk away alive

On that Sunday morning in June of 1879, Ganey’s first shot grazed Kalb’s face. Ganey fired a second shot that missed, and then took off running.

In the tradition of motion picture Westerns, only one man was going to walk away alive.

Kalb fired and missed, and Ganey took refuge behind a grocery store. Kalb approached and fired a second round that hit Ganey in the chest, killing him.

When Ganey’s clothes and gear were examined, he was found to be in possession of a watch stolen from Owatonna and jewelry stolen from the St. Paul residence of Minnesota Governor C.K. Davis. The governor was so appreciative that he sent Kalb an inscribed, gold-mounted ebony cane, according to the Post Bulletin. Citizens of Rochester, meanwhile, gave Kalb a gold pocket watch.

Kalb’s first wife died in 1890, and he remarried in 1898. Kalb served as the city’s top law officer until 1899.

After leaving law enforcement, Kalb sold insurance, and then became city clerk, a position he held until his death in 1912.

“The city is shocked at his passing,” reported the newspaper in 1912. It was hard to believe Kalb, who apparently never took a vacation during his decades of public service, was gone.

In recognition of the esteem with which Kalb was regarded by the community, he was the first person for whom funeral services were held at the new memorial chapel at Oakwood Cemetery.