Minnesota County Histories
Main Page Table Of Contents
The Murder of William and Cora Wolff
The History of Renville County, Volume 2
Compiled by Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge
On Saturday morning, August 5, 1911, the county seat was stirred by the news of one of the most terrible tragedies in the history of the county. At the home of William Wolff, in the east end of Olivia, lay three dead bodies - father and daughter, and the son of a former neighbor - mute but compelling evidence of the night's horror. Beyond the immediate comprehension of the mind - so appalling were its aspects to the townspeople - the calamity seemed link some terrible nightmare which could not, perforce, be driven from the mind. Father, honest in life and generous, the afternoon of life suddenly changed to night; daughter, springtime's flower cut down by Time's relentless sickle; youth, so heated in passion, now so cold in death. Misfortune never wore more sombre hue.
At about one o'clock Saturday morning, Mr. and Mrs. Wolff had been awakened by the cries of the daughter, Cora, who occupied an adjoining room upstairs. The father immediately proceeded to the girl's room while the mother hastened to light a lamp. Hearing the report of a revolver, the latter hurried out of the house and summoned the sheriff, the county jail being only a few blocks distant. Together with the village marshal they proceeded to the bedroom, only to find the door closed and blocked. Two shots rang out and the officers believed they were being fired upon. Forcing the door they entered the room. Three dead bodies met their dumfounded gaze. Mr. Wolff's body had fallen against the door, that of Cora lay at the other end of the room, and across her body that of Edward Corey.
Physicians located three bullets in the body of the father, two in that of the daughter, and two in Corey's breast. At the inquest held the jury's verdict was that William and Cora Wolff had been shot and killed by Edward Corey and that the latter had met death at his own hands.
In commenting on the motive for the crime, the Olivia Times relates the following: "It seems clear that young Corey was actuated to commit the crime by a desperate love for the girl. It appears he became infatuated with her some time ago and, although she tried repeatedly to avoid him, he continued to force his attentions upon her. They were reared in the same neighborhood and saw much of each other, but it appears she never encouraged him in his wooing or returned his affection. While attending school at Mankato last winter she received a visit from him, and at that time she gave him to understand she did not regard him as a lover. On the day before the murder he had prepared to leave town, intending to go to Montevideo, where he was offered a position. He left his father's home, two miles south of town, in the morning and after coming to town called at the Wolff home, presumably to say goodbye to Miss Cora. She refused to see him and Mr. Wolff ordered him away. Whether he made any threats at this time is not known for a certainty but his actions were such as to alarm Miss Wolff, for shortly afterward she went to see Sheriff Vick and informed him she was afraid Ed would do her harm. Mr. Vick hunted up Ed, who was still in town, and advised him to stay away from the Wolff place, and threatened him with arrest should he repeat his visits there. Ed promised to do as advised, saying that he intended leaving town that day. He did leave, but it appears he went to Hector, where he remained during the afternoon, boarding the westbound evening passenger train. It is supposed he came as far as Bird Island, as he is reported as having been seen at both Hector and Bird Island that evening, and that he walked from Bird Island to Olivia during the night. Upon arriving at the Wolff home he took off his shoes, leaving them upon the porch, and by means of a key which he had secured in some way, he gained entrance to the house. Just what his intention was in going into the house cannot, of course, be known, but it is altogether likely that his mad love for the girl rendered him temporarily insane and that his only thought was to do away with her. . .
"Both the Wolff and Corey families are old and respected residents of this community and are numbered among our best people. Both are sorely tried by the terrible affliction that has come upon them and are deserving of heartfelt sympathy."
© Copyright 2005 KinSource All Rights Reserved