August 19, 1918
John Meints, a farmer of German descent, is tarred, feathered, and run out of town
As the end of World War I approached, anti-German sentiments flared. German-language newspapers closed when advertisers pulled their ads. Thousands of Americans of German descent and German immigrants were accused of being spies and forced to prove their loyalty by buying war bonds. Schools stopped teaching German-language classes, and German books were removed from shelves; some were burned. German words were temporarily changed, including sauerkraut to “liberty cabbage” and hamburgers to “liberty sandwiches.” Mobs gathered to intimidate or lynch German-Americans.
One such victim was John Meints (alternate spelling: Meintz). On August 19, 1918, a masked mob forcibly removed Meints from his farm, drove him to a location near the South Dakota border, and “assaulted him, whipped him, threatened to shoot him, besmeared his body with tar and feathers, and told him to cross the line into South Dakota, and that if he ever returned to Minnesota he would be hanged.”
Meints did return and sued 32 men for $100,000 for false imprisonment. The judge sided with the defendants, much to the glee of the town of Luverne who threw a celebration after the acquittal. He attempted to sue his attackers again and settled out of court in 1922 for $6,000.
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Today in Horror History: August 19