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As It Was: Tragedy Stalks Christina Bruck, from Indian Slayings to Murder

Christina Bruck was born in Germany in 1823, married John Geisel at the age of 20 and moved to Southern Oregon’s Curry County, where they had five children over the next 13 years.

A knock on the door by a trusted Indian on Feb. 22, 1856, foreshadowed tragedy. Five Indians brandishing guns and knives burst into the house, killing her husband and their three young boys in front of her and the girls. The Indians took Christina, 13-year-old Mary and two-week-old Annie captive for a time.

Over the following years, Christina married three times, divorced twice. As a 76-year-old widow, she received a $75 government reparation check on Sept. 18, 1899, to compensate for her Rogue Indian War losses. The next day she was murdered and her cabin set afire with her body inside.

The check turned up in Roseburg and was traced to Coleman Gillespie, Christina’s neighbor in Gold Beach. Gillespie was hanged at Gold Beach on October 5, 1900, and died by strangulation.

Today, the peaceful and secluded Geisel Monument State Heritage site alongside U.S. Hwy 101 north of Gold Beach includes the graves of John Geisel, his widow and three sons.

Sources: Goeres-Gardner, Diane L. Necktie Parties: A History of Legal Executions in Oregon, 1851-1905. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Press, 2005. Print; "Geisel Monument State Heritage Site." Oregon State Paks. Oregon Parks and Recreation Departent, 2014. Web. 21 Mar. 2014. <https://www.oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=39>.

Diane L. Goeres-Gardner began writing about little known aspects of Oregon history after retiring as a teacher and administrator. Her first book, "Necktie Parties, A History of Legal Executions in Oregon, 1851-1905," was published by Caxton Press in 2005. She went on to write and have published four more books covering women's rights, the treatment of mental illness, and the history of Roseburg, Oregon. Goeres-Gardner passed away in December of 2017.