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A Murder at Ball Brothers Company

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Recently, some early twentieth century Muncie-related correspondence and Muncie newspapers were donated to the Minnetrista Heritage Collection. As I quickly skimmed through the newspapers, the headline “Workman Slain in Cold Blood” from The Muncie Evening Press of Thursday, December 23, 1920, screamed at me. Next, I read, “George Kling, 45, is Victim of H. M’Hargue” then “Murderer, Holding Grudge Against Fellow Worker Ball Bros.’ Plant Fires Four Times After Man Drops.”

Why hadn’t I heard about this incident before? Minnetrista Archivist Susan Smith hadn’t heard about the murder either, nor had Minnetrista’s former curator of business and industrial history, Dick Cole, who also worked at Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company for more than twenty years.

The murder did happen at Ball Brothers Company, although it certainly could have happened any place where two men quarreled and a festering grudge ensued. The newspaper story is long, quite detailed, and even includes Hallett McHargue’s confession. In the confession, McHargue gives his age as thirty, says that he has a wife in Medora, Indiana, has been in Muncie three or four months, and works in the corrugated paper room at Ball Brothers. He described his conflict with the victim: “After working there two or three weeks George Kling, whom I shot and killed this morning, told Frank Arnold and some women who were working in the room with us that I was not fit to talk with women and for them not to talk with me.”

An argument followed, and McHargue claimed that Kling pulled a knife on him. After this incident, the two men never spoke again. On December 23, McHargue walked into the workroom with a Savage automatic revolver. He said, “George Kling was in there and I pulled out my revolver and shot him four or five times.” McHargue then asked a co-worker to call the police. 

While it may seem that workplace violence is a more recent phenomenon, this story shows that it happened here almost ninety-three years ago.