A Look Back in Time: Officials Investigate ‘Tragic Slaying’ of a Lewis County Area Farmer in Hunting Accident in 1952


Lewis County authorities were examining the “tragic slaying” of Charles Erickson, a 72-year-old farmer, in what appeared to be an accident during a deer hunting “mishap” on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 1952.

Martin Huhta, the 39-year-old neighbor of Erickson, was believed to have fired the shot that killed Erickson. The two were on a hunting trip with Erickson’s son, Lauri Erickson, near Erickson's home in the Independence Valley area.

Huhta had attempted to shoot a deer that Erickson and his son had flushed out but had missed.

“Erickson and his son, (Lewis County Sheriff Frank) Thayer said, had entered a canyon to flush a deer, Huhta remaining on higher ground. The officer said Huhta told him he saw a deer, fired and missed. Moments later he saw the elder Erickson laying on the ground,” The Chronicle reported.

The bullet, described as a “30-30 caliber rifle slug,” struck Erickson in the head, killing him instantly.

Huhta faced manslaughter charges that were mandatory under a law governing hunting deaths. However, Huhta was not in custody and was “released on his personal recognizance Tuesday.”

On the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 29, Thayer was joined by Game Protectors Norman Ellswroth and Luther Morgan to discuss the case. That afternoon, the three were joined by Lewis County Prosecutor John Panesko who went with them to visit the scene of the death.

Erickson was born on March 18, 1880, in Finland and had lived in Lewis County for 63 years. He was survived by his son, a daughter and six grandchildren.


Saturday, Oct. 29, 1932

• August Titzy was arrested on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 29, becoming the first person arrested under Centralia’s new ordinance requiring barber shops to close at 6 p.m. except for on Saturdays. In court, Titzy entered a guilty plea and was fined $10. The warrant for Titzy’s arrest was based on the sworn testimony of another barber, J.M. Louden.

• Multiple people were given sentences in Lewis County Superior Court, The Chronicle reported on Oct. 29. Lee Carter was sentenced to four to six years in prison for forgery. M.W. Donohoe was sentenced to one to two years in prison after pleading guilty to burglary. Betty Ward was given a fine of $100 and a suspended 60 day jail sentence for shoplifting.

• The Centralia Police Department warned young people against excessive Halloween pranks, according to The Chronicle. “Notice was given by Chief of Police J.C. Kriebel today to the city’s younger generation, that no Halloween pranks of a vicious nature will be permitted in Centralia,” The Chronicle reported. The Chronicle further reported “all juveniles caught on the streets at an unreasonably late hour” would be taken to the police station. Kriebel’s comments came after the tires of a parked car were slashed on the night of Friday, Oct. 28. “That kind of thing isn’t funny, and if we had caught the little devils that did it, it wouldn’t have been funny to them either. Halloween wasn’t invented for destruction of property or endangering of life,” Kriebel said.

• James Wallace, a Toledo resident, passed away at the age of 65 late on Thursday, Oct. 27. Wallace was born in Dekalb County, Missouri, on Aug. 2, 1867. He was survived by his wife, five sons, two daughters and two sisters.

• A large ad was featured in The Chronicle encouraging readers to “learn before you vote.” The ad encouraged people to attend an event at the Centralia City Hall Auditorium to hear former Lieutenant Governor Lon Johnson speak. “Mr. Johnson Knows His Subject,” the ad stated. The event was scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 29 at 8 p.m.

• A full-page ad for incumbent president Herbert Hoover was included in The Chronicle. “Circumstances have conspired to put a certain man at the head of this government … You cannot read his speech of acceptance without knowing that the man is inspired … Something is at work within him … No one would be quicker than he to say: ‘Alone I am nothing, but with the help of God and the American people we are outriding this storm,” the ad stated. The ad was paid for by the Lewis County Republican Party.

• C. Palmer Dunlap, a Chehalis resident, received a letter from a friend in Ithaca, New York, detailing the “extravagance” of Franklin Roosevelt, the Democratic presidential nominee and New York governor. The friend, James Robinson, was a member of the New York Legislature. Dunlap turned the letter over to The Chronicle for publishing. “(Roosevelt) went into office as governor of the state of New York four years ago with a surplus in the state treasury of approximately 30 to 50 million dollars. He has raised our state budget from 232 million dollars to 328 million dollars ... In the face of this, Roosevelt has the gall to go before the people of the country and tell them that he will economize in federal matters. Certainly from his record as governor of the state for the past four years he will be one of the greatest spending presidents that was ever elected. He has been holding himself out as a farmer. I do not believe that he knows what a farm is. He has a very palatial place on the Hudson which has only taken on the farm idea in the last year because he is a candidate for president. Using the Biblical term, ‘He is all things to all men.’ He trims his sails to every little breeze that blows and if he is elected the people in the east feel that the year 1932 will be known as the year before the depression,” Robinson wrote.


Thursday, Oct. 29, 1942

• A defense test was scheduled for Friday, Oct. 30, according to The Chronicle. The test was to be the last for Centralia’s civilian defense organization. According to Ed Mayes, the Centralia defense coordinator, all units were to participate in solving a “number of make-believe emergencies.” Four-hundred people were expected to participate in the test.

• Thomas Stonex died in Centralia on Oct. 29 at the age of 81. The Onalaska resident was the father of Wilbur Stonex, the Onalaska postmaster. Thomas Stonex was born in 1861. He was survived by his wife, two sons, a sister and eight grandchildren.

• A joint meeting of the Centralia’s Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club and Kiwanis Club was scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 3. The noon meeting was to hear Vernon McKenzie, the dean of the University of Washington Department of Journalism, speak. The Chronicle reported McKenzie was widely known as an authority on European politics. The topic of the speech was “When the War Ends — What Then?”

• Addressing a crowd of about 150 people in Centralia on the night of Wednesday, Oct. 28, Martin Smith announced he had secured multiple endorsements from labor organizations in his campaign for reelection to Congress. Smith was a Democrat who had represented Washington’s 3rd Congressional District since 1933. In his speech, Smith reviewed his record during his 10-year term in Congress and the seniority he had gained on committees, including his chairmanship of the committee dealing with veterans issues. After reviewing his tenure, Smith made a prediction that would prove inaccurate when he said “both Italy and Germany would be conquered by the end of 1943.” He also announced “the United Nations (the term that was used for the Allies during the war) are preparing to open not only a second front in Europe, but a third, fourth and fifth front.” Smith also declared the Chehalis Airport, at the time being developed, would “become one of the most important in this section of the country.” Smith would lose his reelection campaign that November to Republican Fred Norman.

• The Chehalis School District and the Lewis County Health Department were scheduled to hold an immunization clinic on Nov. 5 and 6. The clinic would provide free vaccinations for smallpox and diphtheria. According to The Chronicle, a recent survey had shown 83% of Chehalis students were susceptible to diphtheria and 36% to smallpox.

• Richard Cole was promoted to the rank of major, “marking another step in his meteoric rise in the Army,” The Chronicle reported. Cole, the son of “Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Cole,” grew up near Adna and in Chehalis and graduated from Chehalis High School, now known as W.F. West High School. At the time, Cole was serving as an assistant adjutant-general in the Army ground forces headquarters in Washington, D.C. He enlisted in the Army in 1933 and received his commission as a second lieutenant in 1935.

• An announcement for a surprise visit by U.S. Sen. Mon Wallgren was included in the Oct. 29 edition of The Chronicle. He was scheduled to speak at 8 p.m. that night in Centralia. “What about this war? What about Pacific Coast defense? What are the facts about production? He will give the answer!” the announcement stated. The announcement also highlighted Wallgren’s membership on the “important” Truman Investigating Committee. The committee was led by then senator and future president Harry Truman and was responsible for investigating military waste and inefficiency.


Wednesday, Oct. 29, 1952

• The Twin Cities saw 0.29 inches of rain on the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 29. “The downpour was one of the heaviest to wet down the countryside in months but it lasted only a short time, and by noon the sky was practically clear,” The Chronicle reported. Despite the heavy rain, The Chronicle reported October, 1952 was expected to see only about a third of the normal amount of rain for the month. As of Oct. 29, the total rainfall for October stood at 1.11 inches of rain, compared to an average of 3.7 inches. Additionally, “a flood would almost be required to reach the 1951 fall for October of 6.43 inches,” The Chronicle reported.

• It was announced on Oct. 29 that the “huge” Kelley-Farquhar and Company processing plant would be sold to the National Cranberry Association. No purchase price was disclosed, according to The Chronicle. The plant could freeze 1,200 to 1,500 barrels of berries every 24 hours and there was freezer space to store 11,000 barrels of berries. According to the association, cranberries for the Centralia plant would come from Grays Harbor.

• The final plans for a $400,000 music room and gymnasium to be added to Chehalis High School, soon to be renamed W.F. West, were approved by the Chehalis School Board on Wednesday, Oct. 29. The district said it hoped to have the construction work completed “shortly after Sept. 1 of 1953.”

• Melvin Hickle was wounded in Korea, The Chronicle reported. Hickle, a Corporal in the Marines, was the son of “Mr. and Mrs. John Hickle” of Randle.

• A half-page campaign ad for Dwight Eisenhower was included in The Chronicle on Oct. 29. The ad was paid for by a group of local doctors and was in the form of a message from Eisenhower. “Once before I had the honor and duty of leading a crusade for human freedom and dignity - in Europe during World War II. That crusade was won not by Generals and Admirals but by the blood and effort of American G.I.’s and all the other forces fighting for freedom…. This time the effort is civilian - not military. But again, the crusade will be won not by me nor by the political leaders, but by everyday Americans who value their national heritage and are willing to go to the polls and vote to protect it…. AMERICA NEEDS YOU… in this Civilian Crusade…. I invite your support November 4th,” the ad stated.

• A campaign ad paid for by the Lewis County Republican Party announced a “Republican Victory Rally Night,” for Oct. 30 from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m. “No campaign speeches…. Just folks talking … people like you … people you know … the men and women who ARE the Republican Party of the State of Washington!” the ad stated.

• A picture depicting Dwight Eiesenhower and his family was included in the Oct. 29 edition of The Chronicle in which The Chronicle inaccurately described Eisenhower as the president-elect and referred to the family as “AMERICA’S NEXT ‘FIRST FAMILY.’’ The description was inaccurate at the time as the election had still not occurred. The picture depicted the family in Eisenhower’s New York City home at Columbia University where he was serving as the university’s president.


Monday, Oct. 29, 1962

• Two front-page stories were included in The Chronicle announcing the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis. “Western Europe hailed the Soviet Union’s retreat in the Cuban crisis as a stunning victory for the United States and greeted it universally with profound relief today,” one of the stories stated. The other story stated “informed sources said there were no deals or secret understanding involved with the Soviet leader’s offer to dismantle the Cuban bases and return their rockets to the Soviet Union.” It is now known this reporting was false as President John Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had reached secret agreements after negotiations.

• Heavy fog was blamed for two car crashes in the Twin Cities over the weekend of Oct. 27 and 28. One crash was a rear-end collision that was caused by fog that reduced visibility to 100 feet. The second accident occured when a car was parked along the road with no lights on. A second car then struck the back of the car, which was “obscured by fog.”

• Lee Billings, a 87-year-old Centralia resident died on Monday, Oct. 29 after an illness. Billings was born on April 4, 1875 in Blue Earth, Minnesota. He was survived by two sons, four daughters, 23 grandchildren, 62 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandaughter.

• B. Johnson, a retired Chehalis farmer, died in a Portland hospital on Friday, Oct. 26 at the age of 92. He was born on Jan. 22, 1870 in Sweden. He was survived by two daughters, three sons, eight grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and a brother who still lived in Sweden.

• A campaign ad for Hugh Kalich was featured in The Chronicle. “Money is valuable only as a medium of exchange, and only by spending it wisely, investing it in the things of value, may dividends be realized,” the ad stated. Kalich, a Democrat, was running for reelection as a Lewis County Commissioner.

• A “nearly new” three bedroom house on a hillside overlooking Chehalis was listed for $20,000 in The Chronicle. The house included a daylight basement and a family room.

• Longtime Chehalis resident Edna Murray died on Sunday, Oct. 28 in a local nursing home. Murray was 72 years old and was born on Nov. 17, 1882 in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. She was survived by her husband, four sons, two sisters, two brothers and six grandchildren.