Amy, of We Tree, has a weekly challenge for genealogy bloggers, number 43 for this year is “Go directly to jail and talk about your ancestors in the slammer.”
Now, every family researcher will find a few black sheep. Some don’t want to admit to finding them, and I have heard researchers that turn their backs, ignoring the black sheep, not listing them or their difficulties in their data base. Actually black sheep are kinda fun to research, at least there is a possibility of some choice news articles, which may not be said for so many of our ancestors that farmed or worked hard, kept their noses to the grindstones and never made any press except for their death notices (if then). All that said, I have changed the name of my guilty party to “XXX YYYYY”. After all, it is NOT his name that is important, but his story, and some of it is pretty interesting and humorous, if you have a black sense of humor, which I do.
In 1906 we find our first newspaper article about our troubled XXX YYYYY, parts of this very long article follows:
"Judge Wofford in the criminal court... made this statement recently to three young men, each of them 18 years old.
‘It is an absolute certainty that a boy of your age who goes to the penitentiary will come out a crook’, the judge continued. He folded his arms, dropped his head forward and for a minute or two sat in a deep study. The three young men stood in a row before him. They wore good clothes and are rather good looking. They are XXX YYYYY, F. W. and S. H. Each had pleaded guilty to burglary of the home of Mamie Sullivan....
‘XXX’, said the judge to YYYYY, ‘you’ve been here before.’
‘What were you here for before?’
‘Burglary of a drug store at Fifteenth and Holmes.”
‘Yes, yes. I remember now. And I paroled you then upon your promise to do better. That’s where I made a mistake.’...
Then the judge turned again to YYYYY. The judge moved his chair out to the edge of the judicial bench and beckoned the youthful burglar to him and questioned him. YYYYY said he was the eldest of seven children; that his father worked in a packing house, and his mother was a janitress of a school.
‘Why did you steal?’ asked the judge.
‘I was learning the bricklayer’s trade and mashed my finger up and had to quit work ‘nd I got out of money ‘nd met W. ‘nd he got me to go out and do this job.’
‘Honest, Injun, now how many burglaries have you done in all your life?’ asked the judge.
‘Four altogether’, answered the boy.
The judge took his hand and examined the wounded finger and held it as he looked into his eyes and said:
‘XXX, I like your looks and manner in spite of the fact that you fooled me and broke your promise. I want to give you another chance. Suppose I do, will you go to work and be good?’
‘Honest, I will, judge, I can go back to work right now. I’ll learn that bricklayer’s trade and then you will know I’ll be all right’.
‘I believe you will. Anyway I’ll chance it. I’ll give you a year in jail, and as soon as the weather opens, I will parole you and let you go to work’.”
Despite a compassionate judge, five years later, in 1911, XXX was in trouble again, there are several news articles covering this incident, the final article included:
“Stolen Goods Sell Easily
Merchants Here Are Ready Buyers, a
Thief Told the Grand Jury.
The grand jury this morning spent the greater part of the time examining witnesses in the investigation it is making into the statements made by XXX YYYYY that many Kansas City merchants knowingly, purchased stolen goods. YYYYY is a transfer wagon driver who has been sentenced to two years in the penitentiary for stealing goods off his wagon. It is believed that indictments in this investigation will be returned this afternoon or tomorrow."
In 1913 our XXX really is desperate, as he steals a cow from the soon to be police commissioner. Part of that news article reads:
“Sometime last year a thief stole Mr. O’Dowd’s cow. Mr. O’Dowd was very indignant over the theft and took the detection and apprehension of the thief into his own hands. He found his first clew - - the rope which was on the cow when she was stolen and followed this clew to the end. Something about the end of the rope led him to find the wagon which conveyed the cow from the end of the rope to her destination. By a mysterious system of sleuthing Mr. O’Dowd learned that the wagon tracks led to Crider Brother’s Commission Company. The rest was easy; Crider Brothers easily identified the man who had sold them the cow, and the man was arrested, convicted and sent to the penitentiary for two years."
Just released from jail in 1915 XXX moves from cows to drug stores:
“A BARN THIEF PROGRESSIVE
First XXX YYYYY Stole a Cow;
Now He Robs a Drug Store.
XXX YYYYY, who gained considerable notoriety as the thief of Alvah H. O’Dowd’s cow when the latter was police commissioner, and who was released recently from a 2 years sentence for the theft, again was taken into custody last night in connection with the robbery of H. R. Davis’s drug store at Twenty-third Street and Indiana Avenue. Knives found in his possession by E. C. Kritier and S. B. Harrison, detectives, were identified as having been stolen from the store. A charge of burglary was (??cannot read??) against him by Michael O’Hern.”
From a 1918 newspaper, where our XXX seems to have sunk to new lows:
"XXX YYYYYY Fined $500 for Stealing Fifty Cents from “Poor” Box
XXX YYYYYY, 28 years old, received an unanimous vote in the South Side police court this morning for the “meanest man.” YYYYY was arrested yesterday while coming out of St. Vincent’s Catholic Church, Thirty-first Street and Flora Avenue, after he had broken into the box for contributions for the poor and taken about fifty cents in pennies and nickels. He has a long police record. Judge Joseph P. Kelrnan gave him the maximum fine, $500."
XXX was in trouble again in 1922, arrested once again:
"Police records here show that YYYYY included in his operations highway robbery, theft of a cow, robbery of a drug store, theft of a poor box in St. Vincent’s Catholic church and strong arm jobs. YYYYY, the records show, received a total of nine years in the state prison for his crimes here.”
Seems Judge Wofford was correct, a young man who goes to penitentiary comes out a crook. But can you imagine a 2 year incarceration for stealing a cow??
* We have records for 2 separate incarcerations and source data for the news articles.
** Cow's behind graphic thanks to Webweaver's Free Clip Art.