The Story of St. Joseph’s Deadly Bar Fight At Brunke’s Saloon
For those from St. Joseph, all that's left of Brunke’s Saloon is stories and legend. In fact, physically there is nothing left of the saloon. The plot of land at 115 North State Street was later turned into the Home Restaurant and now is just a parking lot. But nearly 120 years ago, there was a deadly bar fight that shocked the town, over a matter of only $2. The owner of the saloon, Amos Brunke had apparently made an enemy when he decided not to give a loan of $2 to a local kid, Lee Shearer. Back in 1902, this was cause for a scrap, which is exactly what happened. While arguments flared, Amos' brother Henry came up from behind Lee and attacked him, as this historical article recalls:
Lee kept repeating, “Who hit me” while he started after Harry in the poolroom. Harry admitted to Lee that he hit him, and he took off his jacket, ready for a fight. Amos caught Lee by the lapels and Lee took a swing at the barkeep, missing. Amos ordered Lee to leave the saloon but he refused. Amos then told Harry to leave and Harry was on his way out the door and Lee followed. Lee struck him on the back of the neck, and Harry swung around and hit him. Lee Shearer ended up on the floor and at some point, Harry kicked him, either in the stomach or in the throat.
Lee would suffer trauma to his throat and the fractured cartilage in his trachea caused his blood to coagulate, which led to his death. Henry Brunke ended up only serving 3 years for Manslaughter, after being found responsible for Lee's death. According to inflation, what cost $2 in 1902 would cost $64.76 in 2021.