Marquardt's Ghost Returns Christmas

Negroes Living on Wheeler Avenue Tell Grewsome Stories
of a Mysterious Visitor

The colony of negroes living near the old brick store on Wheeler Avenue used by L.M. Alford as a storeroom, did not enjoy their Christmas with as much freedom from care as those living in other parts of town. They are disturbed by a ghost, which they say visits the locality each Christmas night.

Thirteen years ago Richard Marquardt, a prominent grocer who was the owner of the building, committed suicide and it is his ghost that the negroes say roams in their midst when all should be making merry.

Shortly after the suicide of Marquardt, these negroes became disturbed by the ghost which they claim made nightly visits. Their fears were finally allayed when it was only at intervals of several months that they would report seeing the morbid creature moving about; entering doors with a gust of wind; rattling upon window panes; overturning furniture; fanning smouldering fire into flame and otherwise performing uncanny feats which made them pull the cover over their heads and spend a night of torture.

This ghost, according to some who have claimed to have seen it, was deformed, being very short in stature. Instead of legs, it walked upon wooden pegs, which made a loud noise as it passed to and fro over a wooden surface. The ghost always carried a stick, and although it never approached anyone, would constantly whisper: "I am Marquardt. I am Marquardt" which was audible to people several blocks away.

The visits of the illusion became less frequent as the years passed until now the negroes only see it once a year and some of the more hardened and less superstitious ones are growing out of the habit of responding with fear to the annual inspection of the spirit.

Richard Marquardt was a prosperous grocer of Fort Smith before his suicide which took place [Dec. 31, 1890]. He was a German, very popular with both the young and old, always making his sunny disposition felt by everyone and never failing to be the first in making a contribution for charity.

Soon after his arrival in this country, the firm of Marquardt & Zellar was organized at Paris, Ark., a grocery store started at that place. They prospered and in the early '80s

opened another store in Fort Smith. Each member of the firm alternating in taking charge of the different store, spending six months at each place. The firm disbanded in 1888 and Mr. Zellar took the property at Paris, and Mr. Marquardt the Fort Smith investments. Mr. Marquardt moved his store from where the Wells Fargo Express Co. is now located to the building in which Hambric conducts his secondhand store. Here he continued to prosper and was persuaded by a man of the name of Miller to erect the Wheeler Avenue store, Miller agreeing to rent the building when it was completed. This Miller failed to do and Marquardt conducted a branch store there until the time of his suicide.

One morning in [December 1890], Mr. Marquardt was walking about his store discussing daily orders. Ben Meister and I.J. Rains, employees of the store, were standing near the desk and Paul Lorwein, another clerk, was behind the counter. Suddenly, Marquardt became violently insane and grabbing a long cheese knife made for the men. Meister and Rains ran out a side door and the maniac turned his attention to Lorwein, who had not witnessed the assault upon the other, was taken unawares. The long knife made a steep gash in Lorwein's wrist as he threw up his arm to ward the blow. Seeing the blood, Marquardt did not renew the attack but ran out of the store chasing everyone in sight. Charlie Sengel, since deceased, passing in front of the Elevator office, and seeing Marquardt coming at him, stepped inside of a saloon, where the Munder saloon is now. The insane man followed Sengel inside and rushing at him, split his hat brim and scratched his face with wild sweep of the knife. Marquardt then was overpowered and taken to the city jail, where a few hours later he tore a blanket into shreds and fastened the gone end of the improvised rope, made from the remnants of the blanket, around his neck, and the other to a top bunk, climbed into the bunk and rolled off, dying from strangulation.

It has always been the theory of the three who knew Marquardt that he recovered his mind and seeing the blood upon him, a faint recollection of the events was recalled, and thinking that he had killed someone, took his own life rather than face his friends.

This is the theory which caused the negroes to believe that the spirit of Marquardt roams about his losing venture on Wheeler Avenue on the night of the anniversary of the birth of Christ.

This article appeared on page 3 of the Fort Smith News Record, Dec. 27, 1903. Although I have been very true to the text in copying it, I have corrected a couple of errors. The author spells the name "Marquadt" but Oak Cemetery records and earlier article give it as "Marquardt." I chose the latter spelling. The other substanial error is the date of the Marquardt's arrest and death. Although the second paragraph says those events took place 13 years before the writing, in subsequent paragraphs the writer gives the time as January 1901. I've doublechecked this and changed the text accordingly. Also, the original gives Marquardt's partner's name variously as "ellar" and "Zellar." I assume the former is a typographical error omitting the "Z." The original 1891 account of these events differs somewhat from the account given here. Click here to read more.