The Mysterious German Count of Constance

Everyone loves a good “whodunit”, but how about a “who is it” mystery?  In 1906, the good folks of Constance were pondering that very question.

In those days, the Ohio River offered a major means of travel, and accidents occurred with as much frequency as on our modern highways. One major difference is that the roads stay in one place, and the river moves along, sometimes carrying its victims downriver with the current.

The flow of the Ohio River is rough in some spots, and calmer in others.  In some cases, the current moves toward the river bank, bringing flotsam and jetsam with it.   This happened with great frequency along the banks near Constance.  There are numerous reports of the bodies of unfortunate victims of floods, river accidents or foul play washing ashore in this sleepy river town.

These sad discoveries were made so often, that the coroner was not surprised to be summoned, yet again, to Constance.  In 1904, the body of an unknown man floated ashore at Constance, and could not be identified.  As the body’s condition did not prompt further investigation, and no one came to claim him, he was buried in a plain box near the river.  Two years later,strangers came calling to the Boone County Coroner, looking for the remains of this mysterious man.Graf Lubbert von Westphalen

The two “middle aged men” asdescribed in the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1906, claimed to be brothers of the unidentified man, but refused to give their names.  What they did disclose is that the deceased was a member of European nobility. The men had traveled from their native Germany in search of a missing brother, who had boarded a boat in Cincinnati, carrying a large sum of money and other valuables.  They feared that he had met with foul play.  They asked for the body to be exhumed, to confirm their suspicions.

Upon examination of the remains, the men identified several gold fillings in the teeth and were convinced. This was their long lost brother, the German Count.  Though the mystery surrounding the identity of the deceased and the two men might have caused a bit of curiosity, everyone was cooperative with the visitors. They received the coroner’s permission to take possession of the body, and placed it in an expensive metal casket.  The two men loaded the casket onto a west-bound boat, and took their leave of Boone County.  To this day, the identity of the “Count of Constance” has not been revealed; another unsolved Boone County mystery.

More information on German nobility:
Genealogy research of German nobility:

–Hillary

Hillary Delaney is a Local History Associate at Boone County Public Library. She is a Boone County native, but has also lived in Richmond, VA, where she attended Virginia Commonweath University to study journalism. Hillary moved back to her hometown of Florence in 2007, with her husband and two children. Her lifelong love of all things historic brought her to her current position at BCPL.

David Osborne on the Library: Genealogy Help, Local History…


David A. Osborne on the Library: “Staff are very cooperative, very knowledgeable, and assist me in any way that they can.”David Osborne

David A. Osborne remembers a time before the library, “Years ago, we did not have the luxury of going to the library. It took years to get a small library. As the population has increased, the library has stepped up to fulfill needs.”

Mr. Osborne uses the library a little differently than you might expect. He is a regular visitor to the Local History Department and a genealogy enthusiast. “I attended a one-night class at the Florence Library. At that class, I found out about the Local History section at the Main Library in Burlington. Because of that I started coming to Burlington 9 years ago. I was impressed.”

“Burlington has a Local History Department made up of different individuals with different responsibilities. Staff are very cooperative, very knowledgeable, and assist me in any way that they can. When I have difficult issues with genealogy, Kaitlin and Hillary find the resources to help me.”

He credits the Local History staff’s community involvement as a major contributor to its success, “When they employed (Local History Coordinator) Bridget to come aboard, she was very involved with the community. She has always partnered with other organizations to bring programs to the community.”

If the Local History Department isn’t partnering with organizations, community members are gracious enough to volunteer, “It is impressive to see the number of volunteers, almost every day that I come in, transcribing old records and doing other things.”

Mr. Osborne notes the other activities available at the library, “The public has noticed that they need more reading and activities for children. In the summertime, the libraries are busy with reading programs all through the county.”

“I’m grateful that people had the foresight to enhance a major library like we have in the county.”

–Kaitlin

Kaitlin Barber is a Boone County native with an MA in Public History from NKU, and an MLIS from the University of Alabama. She began her work with Local History at BCPL in 2011, as a digitization intern. She is now a Local History Librarian who is grateful for the opportunity to work with members of the community like David A. Osborne.