Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hi-Ho the Dairy-O, the Gangster in the Dell

To the west, the land overlooked the wooded ravine where the Deep River flows. To the east, it sloped gently toward the Lake-Porter county line. By 1937 it had been forty-eight years in the hands of the Gruels, a large, hard-working family headed by a German immigrant. They had built up a prosperous farming operation known as Superior Farm, and indeed it was superior, the very model of a modern dairy farm. In the autumn of 1937, the Superior farm changed hands. The Germans sold it to an Italian who was likewise an immigrant, likewise prosperous in his own line of work. And so, with that purchase, Michael "Dago Mike" Carrozzo — Chicago labor-union czar, friend of Al Capone — became the gentleman farmer of Ainsworth.

His Brilliant Career

Michael Carrozzo
Image courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.

After Carrozzo's his death the press would say, "His rise to wealth and power was almost as quiet as it was fabulous and few could tell how he achieved them." Even today, information about him turns up as a few lines in biographies of more notorious men, or in histories of vice operations and labor racketeering in Chicago. And the details in those lines tend to vary from source to source. As one unfamiliar with the history of labor unions and organized crime in early-twentieth-century Chicago, I could only do my best to tease out, from all those varying sources, a sketch of Carrozzo's quiet and fabulous rise.

He was born in Montaguto, Italy, in 1895, and immigrated to the United States at about eleven years of age. By 1910 he had come to Chicago, settling in the Italian neighborhood and working as a street-corner shoeshine boy in Levee district of the First Ward.

At that time, the Levee was Chicago's capital of vice and corruption. There one could find the city's most spectacular brothels, alongside saloons and gambling dens. There reigned two of its most notoriously corrupt aldermen, "Bathhouse" John Coughlin and Michael "Hinky-Dink" Kenna. And there "Big Jim" Colosimo was beginning to build an empire.

Colosimo's genius seemed to lie in organization. He has been called a pioneer in the field of labor racketeering. He started out as a streetsweeper, a dirty job in those days before the auto replaced the horse. He began working to organize his fellow streetsweepers into a voting block, which he controlled. At the same time, he was involved in gambling operations. His career got another boost when he married Victoria Moresco, the madam of a whorehouse; she taught him the business of running a brothel. He would eventually own or control about 200 of them.

Colosimo noticed the young Carrozzo, decided the kid had potential and got him a job as a streetsweeper — a "white wing," as the sweepers were called in honor of their white uniforms. The young Carrozzo quickly won his mentor's good opinion by helping to organize and control the streetsweeper votes. Along with Tony D'Andrea, Carrozzo worked to consolidate Colosimo's control by organizing the Italian community into a voting block, and was rewarded with an appointment as a precinct captain.

Apparently Carrozzo became one of Big Jim's trusted assistants, although it isn't clear exactly what his role was outside of the labor-union organization. According to some sources, he was Colosimo's personal bodyguard. Another source depicts Carrozzo and the young newcomer, Al Capone, guarding the alley behind Colosimo's Café. Others describe him as a sort of personnel manager or talent scout for Colosimo's line of brothels.

Whatever he did, his boss was grateful, and rewarded him well. In 1919, Colosimo got Carrozzo appointed president of the streetsweepers' union. This position meant both power and profit, for the union leaders skimmed off as much as half the memberships' dues.

Left to right: "Big Jim" Colosimo; his father, Luigi; and his successor, Johnny Torrio.

In 1920 Prohibition went into effect and opened up a new field of enterprise for organized crime. Eager to enter that field was an ambitious assistant of Colosimo's — Johnny Torrio, a relative brought in from New York by Big Jim to do some of his dirty work. But Colosimo himself wasn't interested in bootlegging. He had become infatuated with a young singer in his nightclub; early in 1920 he divorced Victoria in order to marry the songstress, and his enthusiasm for his own business seemed to slacken. Torrio lost patience with his boss. In May of 1920, the newlywed Colosimo was assassinated in his own nightclub. Some 30 suspects were questioned — Al Capone among them — but the case was never solved.

Mike Carrozzo remained in Torrio's good favor.

Torrio split Colosimo's empire unevenly with Capone. While continuing their inherited vice operations and labor racketeering, they also developed an impressive bootlegging organization. In the mid-1920s, probably in fear of Capone's growing ambition, Torrio wisely retired to New York. By the end of the decade, Capone was the king of organized crime in the Chicago area.

Al Capone

Carrozzo retained Capone's good opinion. He also retained and expanded his own union control. When "Diamond Joe" Esposito died in 1928, Carrozzo inherited his presidency of the Hod Carriers' International Union and his seat on the executive board of the AFL. He now controlled at least 25 Chicago unions. He also controlled Chicago's public paving projects, taking a five percent cut of every paving contract.

Carrozzo's relationship with the unions was not solely to his benefit. For example, in 1925, after a week-long strike, he won pay increases for streetsweepers (up $.50 a day), street repair workers (up $1.00 a day), and garbage dump foremen (up $35 a month).

In 1931, Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years in prison. He appointed his own successor, and Frank "the Enforcer" Nitti became Carrozzo's new boss.

Frank "the Enforcer" Nitti

By the mid-1930s Carrozzo's life was going well. He was rich. He was married, with two young children. Out in the peaceful environs of Ainsworth, the Gruels' flourishing dairy business attracted his attention. It looked like a good investment. And Ainsworth looked like a nice place to spend some time.

The Country Squire's Estate

Carrozzo already owned an elegant second home in Long Beach, Indiana, called the "Villa C." His Ainsworth estate would be on a grander scale. His first purchase was just the Gruel family's land, but soon he bought up adjoining farms until his holdings comprised 900 acres and spilled over into Porter County.

(Click on image to enlarge)
The 1939 plat map above shows the extensive Carrozzo holdings. On this map, bought at auction on land that had once been Carrozzo's, someone has outlined in pencil the boundaries of his property, as well as noting some of the parcel numbers.

The farm's change of ownership happened quietly. The Vidette-Messenger carried just a few lines to the effect that the dairy was being bought as an investment, with not a word to suggest that "M. Carrozzo, of Chicago," was anyone out of the ordinary. The Superior farm continued to operate as usual; in fact, four of the Gruel brothers stayed on to manage it under its new ownership.

But as Carrozzo bought up more acres and spent impressive sums — reportedly $40,000 — to improve and beautify the property, the farm became a playground and began to attract local attention. A year after the sale, the Vidette-Messenger had a good deal more to say about the farm and its new owner — and about the overly dramatic reportage of the Chicago Tribune:

Farm In Hobart To Be New Haven For Al Capone?

Farmers in this small agricultural community … speculated today about the recent sale of a vast, normally equipped farm.

Squire of the huge estate is said to be Michael Carrozzo, head of the street laborers' union in Chicago. The telephone is listed in his name.

The Chicago Tribune said one report was that the farm would be a hangout for Al (Scarface) Capone when the one-time Chicago gangster chieftain completes a year's term in Cook county jail after his release from Alcatraz penitentiary next January.

Neighboring farmers could neither confirm nor deny the report. … All they knew, they said, was that operations were being conducted there as on any other farm — about 150 blooded milk cows were grazing in the pastures and their milk was being marketed.

The Tribune said that whenever Carrozzo goes on the huge estate "he is within sight of a number of hard faced, chunky little men" and that "neighbors have learned that each of the 'secretaries' carries a large bore pistol on his hip."

A Gary newspaperman, on a visit to the farm today, said the men he saw "looked like farmers" and that he could not detect any gun toting. Some of the men, he said, were engaged in routine farm work and others were engaged in renovation.

The Tribune said Carrozzo appeared at the home of one farmer and bought a 320-acre tract with 145 $1,000 bills and subsequently purchased four adjoining farms, bringing his holdings to 900 acres.

The newspaperman said he learned the transaction was handled through a nearby Gary real estate firm, that payment was by check….

According to the Tribune, the gateway to the farm is blocked by heavy iron barriers. The Gary newsman said he found the gates open and visited the farm, finding scores of blooded cattle, large barns, a stable of horses and an exercise track. He said neighboring farmers believed the farm was being operated as such and that they were inclined to doubt the report that Capone eventually would make it his hangout.

Efforts to locate Carrozzo here or in Chicago for comment were fruitless.

Sources close to the old Capone gang in Chicago doubted the report. They believed Capone would go to his home at Miami, Fla.
The "stable of horses" contained prize-winning thoroughbreds; Carrozzo's wife, Julie, bred and trained them.

Despite the anonymous Gary newsman's debunking, the rumor that Carrozzo had paid cash for his new estate took root and was still being reported years later.

Above and below: House and outbuildings at the Superior farm. (Photos courtesy of the River Pointe Country Club.)


(Click on image to enlarge)
Aerial view (1939) of a small part of the Carrozzo land, north of Ainsworth Road and west of the county line (which is at the right border of the photo). The complex of buildings at the upper left included the house and the dairy outbuildings. The oval at the lower right may be the exercise track mentioned in the newspaper article quoted above.

In addition to the thoroughbreds, there were Hereford cattle and draft horses. Even the Carrozzo pigs won prizes.

The absence of the Carrozzo name from the social columns of the local papers — which reported such events as one family's dining at another's house, or an outing to an area park — suggests that the Carrozzos did not mix socially with the local people to any great extent, although they did contribute to the area economy by hiring numerous locals for farm and house work. Stories about them persisted in the neighborhood for years; a lifelong Ainsworth resident recalls hearing as a child about the Bantam Roadsters in which the Carrozzo children used to race around the farm, and about the machine-gun turrets atop the barns — the latter being, no doubt, tall tales the neighborhood kids told each other for thrills.

Life on the country estate seems to have been peaceful if not strictly virtuous. A Hobart woman once employed there reminisced to the Post-Tribune half a century later about her experiences chez Carrozzo. Sometimes there were heavy bouts of gambling; in their aftermath, she said, "I would shuffle the money in bushel baskets." She remembered once taking a phone call from Al Capone in prison. She added, "You weren't allowed to answer the door. You weren't allowed to give out information. But they were all perfect gentlemen to me."

Two Things in Life Are Inevitable

One day in May of 1939, three federal agents left the U.S. courthouse in the Chicago Loop, walked a block over to the First National Bank, and there seized Mike Carrozzo's bank vault. They were convinced he owed the government income tax — a whole lot of it. A lien of over $200,000 would follow, with the possibility of criminal charges still to come.

According to the Hobart Gazette, it was the purchase of those 900 acres of prime Indiana farmland that first made federal authorities curious about Carrozzo's true income. In 1937 and 1938, his declared income was about $12,000 — a respectable sum, but just upper-middle-class. And yet there was the sprawling Ainsworth estate, the lavish house, the barns full of first-class dairy cows, the stable full of thoroughbred horses, in addition to the elegant Long Beach home. And there was Carrozzo's "sumptuous" Chicago office, where a sign on the wall listed just some of the unions he controlled.

The feds were hoping to replay their success in the case of Al Capone: suspected of criminal acts up to and including murder, Capone always eluded conviction until at last a charge of tax evasion put him behind bars. Carrozzo likewise had been suspected of many things, including several murders — of "Mossy" Enright in 1920, of Dion O'Banion in 1924, and of "Big Tim" Murphy in 1928. But he was still a free man.

And so the feds concentrated on his lesser crimes. They spent the rest of 1939 and the first half of 1940 building their cases.

On June 24, 1940, a federal grand jury indicted Carrozzo and nine others on charges of labor racketeering, including violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act by conspiring to prevent the use of ready-mixed concrete in Chicago construction projects. A month later, an internal revenue collector slapped a $241,088 lien on Carrozzo's assets for alleged unpaid income taxes plus interest and penalties. Carrozzo went to the federal courthouse and posted $277,351 in bonds to lift the lien.

On July 27, Carrozzo, who suffered from kidney disease, became so ill that his family had him rushed to Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago. He underwent surgery on August 2. The next morning his doctor was pleased to find him recovering nicely, but later that day he suffered a relapse and by nightfall had lost consciousness.

On Sunday morning, August 4, 1940, Michael Carrozzo died in his hospital bed, peacefully, of natural causes.

The Aftermath

Carrozzo left behind his widow, Julie, and two children: eleven-year-old Michael George and eight-year-old Carole Ann. Julie was appointed administratrix of his estate and granted a $1,200 monthly fee to manage the Ainsworth farm.

At the time of his death Carrozzo was reported to be a millionaire. A few weeks later, reports had come down to an estimated half-million-dollar estate.

Out of the shadows of the past and into the light of the Cook County Circuit Court came Mary Carrozzo — the first Mrs. Carrozzo — demanding a share in that estate. She claimed that Mike had married her in 1911, then bigamously wed another woman in 1919; for that reason, as well as a technicality involving the service of process, her 1921 divorce from Mike had been invalid. Mary's contention was that Mike's marriage to Julie, which occurred after 1924, was bigamous and invalid, and that she, Mary, was legally his wife and the heir to the $500,000 estate.

But the estate, when the will was filed, was estimated at only $30,000 in personal property and $165,000 in real property.

Julie Carrozzo's legal counsel was the Chicago firm of Gottlieb & Schwartz. They administered the estate and successfully defended it against Mary Carrozzo's suit, as well as suits by three labor unions Carrozzo had run. They also negotiated a deal with the government whereby Carrozzo's disputed income was spread over six years instead of three, greatly reducing the delinquent amount. In April 1943 Gottlieb & Schwartz sued the estate for $57,000 worth of legal work and eventually settled for a payment of $20,000.

On May 11, 1943, Julie Carrozzo sold the Superior farm to Dr. Walter M. and Frieda Behn, of Gary, and those gently rolling acres rolled back into prosperous obscurity.


Friday, January 29, 2010

The First Ainsworth School

(Click on image to enlarge)
From the collection of R.F.

This photo of Ainsworth's old wooden schoolhouse was taken long after it had ceased to function as a school. As you can see by the legend over the door, the school was built in 1900, so it's probably the Ainsworth school mentioned by the Rev. T.H. Ball in his Northwest Indiana from 1800 to 1900. And apparently Kenneth Schoon errs in saying that Ainsworth had a two-story brick school by 1900 — elsewhere he gives a building date of 1912, and that may be correct for the brick school, which still stands today, occupied by a restaurant (Alex's Place).

The person who gave me these photos tells me that this school and its brick successor were both named the W.G. Haan School. The local newspapers disregarded this honorary moniker and always called it simply "the Ainsworth school." I haven't been able to find out who W.G. Haan was. Update on W.G. Haan.

The wooden school building survived for seventy-plus years, used as a storage shed by the owners of the property where it stood. It was demolished sometime in the 1970s.

(Click on image to enlarge)
From the collection of R.F.

Above is the same schoolhouse in 1909, with its students and teachers. The two teachers, at the very back, are Nellie M. Meyer on the right, Silas E. Zuvers on the left.

Below is a souvenir program from the 1908-09 school year, listing all the students.

Ainsworth school 1908-1909 school year souvenir program by AinsworthIN

Courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.

Too bad I can't match any of the names to the faces, because some of these young people are acquaintances. We've already spoken briefly of Louis and Edward Nolte. Daisy and Lesta Raschka would be the daughters of William and Carrie Raschka. We've just barely mentioned the Gruel family, of Superior Farms fame; they deserve to be discussed at greater length someday when I get around to researching them more. And the two Foreman children were on their own family's land when they attended this school.

The Trustee, Calvin C. Shearer, owned a business in Ainsworth. Below is a photo of him from the Hobart High School Aurora yearbook of 1923, when he was president of the Board of Education:

(Click on image to enlarge)

♦ Ball, T.H. Northwest Indiana from 1800 to 1900. Chicago: Donohue & Henneberry, 1900.
♦ Schoon, Kenneth J. Calumet Beginnings: Ancient Shorelines and Settlements at the South End of Lake Michigan. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.

And here, for search-engine purposes, are all the names in text: Nellie M. Meyer, Silas E. Zuvers, Laura M. Houk, Calvin C. Shearer, Frank F. Heighway, Winston Dorman, Lena Newman, Eddie Wollenberg, John Gernenz, Clare Chadoine, Anna Smithers, Ralph Bodamer, Walter Newman, Edward Nolte, Antoine Chadowine, Evelyn Fredrick, Willard Dorman, Elsie Seivert, Otto Foreman, Martin Gernenz, Clifford Blatchly, Harry Bodamer, Willie Wollenberg, Agnes Smithers, Edger Byers, Willie Gruel, Elsie Gruel, Willie James, Hettie Gruel, Elsie Wojahn, Lawrence Smithers, Daisy Raschka, Harold Dorman, Bessie Ols, Willie Gernenz, Louie Nolte, Edward Gruel, Clarence Maybaum, Harold Maybaum, Pearl Ols, Ruth Miller, Annie Foreman, Lesta Raschka, Myrtle Wollenberg, Frank Yagmis.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ainsworth Depot 1910

1-28-2010 Grand Trunk RR Ainsworth depot ca. 1910
(Click on image to enlarge)
From the collection of R.F.

Here at last is the Ainsworth depot on the Grand Trunk Railroad, circa 1910. The person who gave me this photo told me that after this building was demolished, the railroad still maintained a shed in its place, where tools and such were stored. Nothing of either building remains, except possibly the foundation of that signal tower in front of the station — you can still find a concrete block out there by the tracks, with a bit of rusty metal pipe embedded in it.

That's a nice station, more impressive than I thought it would be.

Now I can update my Grand Trunk Western Historical Images map with the most important station of all!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Ross Township High School Commencement

Ross Township 1935

Above is the program for the commencement ceremony of the Ross Township High School class of 1935 — all 24 seniors. When I bought this program at auction last summer, none of the names meant anything to me. Now I've encountered several of these surnames, on plat books and census reports, in local newspapers, and in Chester Cemetery. They might all come to mean something to me if I keep on with this obsessive historical research.

I wonder if the violin-playing John Saylor of this program is related to the Paul Saylor who broke his wrist falling off "the Forman boy's new pony" in August 1938 ("Ainsworth News," Index-Commonwealth (Hobart, Ind.), 11 Aug. 1938).

ETA: It occurs to me that I should list these seniors in case any genealogists out there are looking for news of them via search engine: Francis M. Stowell; Ruth Marie Troxel; Raymond A. Mitsch; Vernon L. Piske; Marion Lee Davis; Edward W. Roberts; Dorothy L. Meyer; N. June Fowler; Edward F. Spitz; Edith Louise Sievert; Edith W. Struebig; John M. Brewer; William A. Snyder; Mary E. Crisman; Alma J. Saxton; Jean Ellen Bolt; Evelyn Ruth LaCroix; Alma Louise Hopp; Edward W. Fraikin; Laura H. Dziurdzy; Delmer W. Nelson; Gladys W. Shonkwiler; Donald E. Niksch; and Milton H. Shults.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ainsworth Tower Gets Some New Equipment

New equipment
(Click on image to enlarge)

I think they had a winch on a truck on the ground pulling the cable to hoist that thing up onto the tower.

All I can say is I'm glad that wasn't me up there.

And then they used the winch on the truck to pull the other truck out of the snow.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Sad State of State Road 51

This isn't State Road 51, but it gives you an idea of its condition in the 1920s.
(Image courtesy of the Iowa Department of Transportation.)

Consider, for a moment, the smoothly paved, heavily traveled artery that is State Road 51, and how important it is to getting around the Hobart/Ainsworth area.

In 1927, it was known as Ainsworth Road. Even then it was an important, heavily traveled road, but it was in bad shape. It was unpaved. The Hobart News lamented that it "is gradually going to pieces from heavy traffic and heavy trucks. … [I]n many places the road is worn completely through."

The problem was especially severe in the springtime, with melting snow and rains; at such times, the newspaper complained, "[I]t is necessary to haul brickbats and anything available to keep traffic from stalling and having to haul machines out of the mud. … In places the bottoms seems to have sunk out of sight where there is quicksand…."

In February the Hobart News announced that during the summer the road would receive a coating of "Tuf Tread" from Tenth Street to the Lincoln Highway. Exactly what Tuf Tread was, I don't know — perhaps just a proprietary name for crushed stone or gravel. It was more than dirt but less than concrete.

In late June Ainsworth Road was closed for two weeks to allow for the application of Tuf Tread. Traffic would have been re-routed via the Gruel Road (the road that goes past present-day River Pointe Country Club).

When the work was done and the road re-opened, the Hobart News said the Tuf Tread would "tide over until a concrete road can be built."

♦ "Ainsworth Road Thrown Open to Public Saturday." Hobart News 9 July 1927.
♦ "Ainsworth Road to Have Tuf Tread This Summer." Hobart News 10 Feb. 1927.
♦ "Co. Commissioners Look Over Several Roads Last Tues." Hobart News 5 May 1927.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Garbage Dumps of Ainsworth: Made in Norway and Dry Ice

Not far from the House in the Woods, you can find evidence of long-ago chemical activity.

Whatever used to be in this barrel, it was made in Norway, according to the second line stamped on the barrel. I can't read the first line — maybe it's in Norwegian?

Barrel of Norwegian Fun
(Click on image to enlarge)

Who would need this much dry ice, and for what?


Per the plat books I've found so far, this land was owned by Henry Chester, then Charles Chester, then Roland and Gladys Schmitt, then Chester Wasy. I don't know which of them we can blame for leaving this mess. Now it's public land, so this mess, or these historical artifacts, belong to all of us and to posterity.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Distant Tragedy

(Click on image to enlarge)

This postcard was addressed to Mrs. Frank (Bertha) Henning, who lived across the county line in Union Township, Porter County. When the Vidette-Messenger took notice of the Hennings' social activities, it did so under the heading of "Sedley News," in spite of their address on Hobart's rural delivery route.

Elmer was Frank and Bertha's son, Florence their daughter-in-law, Harold their grandson.

"Little Carol" was two-year-old Carol Piske. On August 20 she had drowned in a water trough on her parents' farm near Oxford, Michigan. I expect that this Piske family was related to the Ross Township Piskes (of which there were at least two households) and perhaps even lived in this area before moving to Michigan. I can't find Carol's parents' given names.

♦ 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2002. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls.
♦ "Drowns in Horse Trough." Evening Chronicle (Marshall, Mich.), 21 Aug. 1937 (Access Newspaper Archive).
♦ "Sedley News." Vidette-Messenger (Valparaiso, Ind.), 18 June 1937 (Access Newspaper Archive).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Well, I Wish It Would Hurry Up! (Artsy-Fartsy Fotos)

(Click on image to enlarge)
The world is ending. Source: Graffiti in the tunnel under the Grand Trunk tracks, Deep River County Park.

Seed pod.

Wildflower and shadow.

Maya is thirsty. Note to self: clean your camera lens.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Horace Marble Gets Tetchy

(Click on image to enlarge)

I was delighted to find this little note in the margin of the 1891 Plat Book for Appraisers of Real Estate. This particular map shows Section 21, Township 35 North, Range 7 West, and the northeast quarter Horace mentioned is the town of Deep River. I expect the northeast-quarter land, shown on the plat map as all belonging to George Wood, was divided into smaller lots along both sides of 73rd Street, and the failure to show those smaller lots and their owners is what Horace was complaining about.

I knew Horace only from the research I did on Chester Cemetery. His first wife, Mary, is buried there, as well as his father and two stepmothers.

Horace was born in Vermont around 1839 to Simeon and Louisa Marble. After Louisa's death and when Horace was about nine years old, the family emigrated to Lake County, Indiana, settling on a farm west of Deep River. There Horace grew to young manhood. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Horace enlisted in the infantry. He rose to the rank of captain and was honorably discharged in 1865.

In 1866 he married Mary E. Booth (who may have been a relation of his stepmother, Elizabeth Booth Marble) and the young couple had two children, Kate and Bernice. In 1872 Mary died. The following year Horace married Martha Skinner, who bore him two children, Henry and Ruth.

Horace was elected sheriff of Lake County in 1880; he was re-elected for a second term and served until 1885. Then he was elected Lake County auditor, a position he held until 1893.

During these years he had been buying up land in Jasper County, and upon leaving office as auditor he moved to Wheatfield Township, Jasper County. In addition to overseeing the farming of his land, he managed the Bank of Wheatfield. He was also active in the Freemasons.

A Jasper County historian described him as "a man of intellectual gifts, with excellent business judgment and foresight, and of the strictest integrity. …[H]is genial, courteous manner drew all to him."

Horace died June 15, 1910, and is buried in Wheatfield Cemetery.

♦ Ball, the Rev. Timothy Horton. Encyclopedia of Genealogy and Biography of Lake County, Indiana, with a Compendium of History 1834-1904. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1904.
♦ Goodspeed, Weston Arthur. Counties of Porter and Lake, Indiana: Historical and biographical. Chicago: F.A. Battey & Co., 1882.
♦ Hamilton, Louis H., and William Darroch, eds. A Standard History of Jasper and Newton Counties, Indiana. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1916.
♦ Northwest Indiana Genealogical Society. 1891 Plat Book for Appraisers of Real Estate, Lake County, Indiana. Valparaiso: Northwest Indiana Genealogical Society, 2007.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Awkward Family Reunions, Do You Think?

Another thing I've found out scanning the 1927 newspapers is that, while John Chester was selling booze out of his lunch stand, two of his sisters, Carrie Raschka and Lovisa Nelson, were very active in the Hobart chapter of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. For example, the Hobart News of August 18, 1927, reported that Carrie and Lovisa had gone to Winona Lake for a week, part of which would be spent participating in the W.C.T.U. assembly. An earlier story (that I didn't bother to record the date of) said that Carrie Raschka was the Treasurer of the local W.C.T.U. chapter.

I imagine certain topics of conversation were carefully avoided when the Chester siblings got together.

♦    ♦    ♦

On a recent outing to Deep River County Park, I found Frosty the Snowman having difficulties — either he's about to puke, or he dropped his contact lens.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Nah — probably he's just dizzy. I think his head is buzzing.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Klan Picnic

I will be spending two hours every Saturday morning for a long, long, long time to come in front of the microfilm machine at the Hobart Historical Society museum. I have begun reading the Hobart newspapers. They are not searchable, in the database sense. You have to put the microfilm in the machine and just start reading page after page.

I started with the 1927 newspapers because I wanted to find out whatever I could about Chester's Camp. I think it's a wild goose chase. The business at Chester's Camp came from passing tourists, so the Chesters probably never advertised in local papers. And John's 1927 arrest didn't make the Hobart paper. We'll see. Chester's Camp had about eight more years of operation, and at the rate I'm going, it will take about eight years to read all those newspapers. We'll see what they say when we get to 1933 and that shooting.

All of this to explain that in my reading I'm stumbling across random bits and pieces of information that I may post here, in the disjointed and irrelevant way I'm so good at.

For instance, what do you suppose happened in Hobart on Labor Day of 1927? That's right, the Ku Klux Klan had its usual picnic. We've already seen them trying to intimidate an Ainsworth shopkeeper in 1924. Now we can see them at play.

The picnic was held in "Klan park," wherever that might be. There were speeches, games and races, and then a "class" of about 50 people went over to the Masonic Hall on Center Street, where something called the "K-duo degree" was awarded.

And then the usual parade, with members wearing "regulation regalia." Some wore their "visors" up, some down.

Ku Klux Klan
Members of the Ku Klux Klan parading down Third Street in Hobart in the early 1920s. Image courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.

Source: "Ku Klux Klan Holds Usual Labor Day Picnic." The Hobart News 8 Sept. 1927.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Two Lives for Five Dollars (Conclusion)

(Continued from Part 7)

Governor McNutt granted a new reprieve, less dramatic but longer, giving Richard 54 more days to raise funds and gather evidence for an appeal to the state supreme court.

The county refused him any more funds. Sam Schorr had always been working pro bono; now Wilton Sherman had to do the same or be paid out of private funds. And private funds were in short supply. Some friends and family members had already given money but couldn't or wouldn't give more.

In July a court reporter named Francis Karn offered to prepare the trial transcript needed for the appeal for free. The transcript would be lengthy, so this was a substantial offer. Karn called it a "humanitarian act." In August, the Prairie Farmer, an agricultural magazine that owned Chicago radio station WLS, offered money and lawyers to help with the appeal.

I am always grateful to receive an education, and I have received one in reading about this trial. I had thought of the 1930s as a harsher time with harsher attitudes. I did not expect the death penalty to be a sticking point for so many prospective jurors at the original trial. I was surprised by the sympathy shown to Richard by strangers like Mr. Karn. I was astonished that the Prairie Farmer would help the killer of a farmer. The few reports we have of Richard's behavior don't show him as very prepossessing: when he wasn't committing crimes, he was aimless, indifferent, uncooperative or flippant. Perhaps it was mainly his youth that made people feel sorry for him. Newspaper reports stated that he was at the time the youngest person ever sentenced to death in Indiana.

With the Prairie Farmer's help, Richard's legal team now enlisted state-of-the-art expertise. In August, Wilton Sherman told the press that the Northwestern University bureau of criminology would make a complete investigation of the crime. He sounded confident that this investigation would turn up new evidence. If it did, such evidence was never reported in the press and never used in any appeal. That is probably because there simply was no new evidence to find. Here I should mention that, having observed the Illinois Death-Row scandals of the 1990s, which culminated in 2000 with the Illinois supreme court reversing half the state's death-penalty cases, I have learned to be wary of making assumptions about Death-Row inmates. Innocent people have been condemned to death. But I don't think Richard was one of them. He himself never claimed to be entirely innocent. The story notably absent from his repertoire was the one in which he gave up waiting for Henry after a few hours, hitchhiked back to Mary Anker's farm, and never knew anything about any murder until the police showed up at his door. By his own account he was always either the killer or the killer's accessory.

As the end of Richard's latest reprieve drew near, his attorneys persuaded the supreme court to intervene. The court stayed the execution until October 18, giving the attorneys a deadline of October 14 to file the briefs for the appeal.

Early in October, the Prairie Farmer attorneys got Richard to take a lie-detector test. The result was not helpful to his case.

The same attorneys submitted a new petition to Governor McNutt, asking for clemency on the grounds that Richard had never had proper training or a proper opportunity in life. The newspapers don't give the particulars, so I don't know exactly what the petition alleged. We can gather that the Chapman family was unstable, and it may have been traumatic to Richard to be turned over to foster parents at the age of five. The Dunhams seem to have been a stable, law-abiding couple, he a storeroom keeper in a steel mill, she a homemaker (the usual occupation of middle-class wives at the time); Louis Dunham's collapse in court on hearing the verdict suggests that he felt a father's love for his foster son. Nowhere in all the reports on this case have I found the slightest hint that Richard was ever abused in childhood by anyone, and in light of his willingness to denounce other people, I would not expect him to be reticent on that point.

Governor McNutt told the press that he would take no action on the petition pending the supreme court appeal. Ultimately, the petition would not be granted.

October 14 came and went with no brief being filed. The appeal was automatically dismissed. No newspaper account gives any further detail or any statement from the attorneys explaining their failure to file.

October 18 brought no word any further reprieve.

Nothing in Richard's life, it seems, became him like the leaving of it. Back on the night of May 24, expecting to die soon, he had recanted his wronged-sweetheart story, absolved Henry Nolte of any wrongdoing and taken full blame for the crime. The evening of October 18 he took the time to write letters to Wilton Sherman and Sam Schorr. He had been a difficult client: indifferent and unhelpful, often deceitful and sometimes abusive. So they may have been surprised to receive, at last, words of gratitude.

Just a few lines to let you know I am trying to express my thanks for what you have done for me. Even though you have failed to give me life, I know you have done the best you can on what little you had to work on.

I am sending you my best wishes and sincerest hope you have better luck in the future. Wish you all the luck in the world and success and happiness. I shall close as the hours are few and I must write other letters. Will close and wish you a fond goodbye.

           Richard Chapman

Just after midnight, Richard Chapman was executed.

♦    ♦    ♦

These days, whenever I hear a train coming on the Grand Trunk tracks, I think of Henry Nolte. He was born, lived and died within earshot of the railroad, and the whistle of passing trains must have been woven into his consciousness from his first hours on earth.

I suppose it's inevitable in studying a case of murder that you get to know the living killer better than the dead victim. Through the newspaper stories, I've seen Richard in court and in a prison cell, I've heard him telling tales and cracking wise; I've heard his life story and gotten some insight into his character and personality. But I know almost nothing about Henry.

I try to imagine him from the spare description on his World War I draft card: slender build, medium height, blue eyes, dark hair. What else? Well, his neighbors liked him. He had friends in Miller. He worked hard and made a success of his dairy farm. He lived with the family he was born with. He never married.

Was he happy living here in Ainsworth? His property was bounded on the east by the Deep River; I suppose sometimes on a humid summer evening, when mosquitoes swarmed up from the river valley and the manure piles stank, he wanted to catch a train out of here forever. But sometimes on a spring morning, when red-winged blackbirds trilled from the fences and the wildflowers dotted the woods, Henry paused in his chores and looked around him and was glad to be alive, right then and right there.

Grandfather Henry Nolte is buried in Woodvale Cemetery, a little island of serenity; tall trees surround it, and below it the Deep River winds through the woods. Ainsworth Cemetery, where the other Noltes lie, seems exposed and windswept in comparison, and sitting beside the heavily traveled State Road 51 it can hardly be called serene.

They seem to have taken their gravestones seriously, these Noltes. Even the infant William has a solid block of stone, still clearly legible 122 years after his brief life, though in the summer you have to push aside the lilac leaves to find it. The parents, Henry and Mary, share a massive block inscribed on top with the family name in bold, raised letters, flanked by two small stones inscribed Mother and Father. The two adolescent girls, Louisa and Alvena, share a graceful marker: a column supports an open book draped with cloth so delicately carved that you almost expect the next breeze to carry it off. Edward's low, slanted block of granite has Brother engraved in Gothic letters over his name. Henry must have liked that stone — thirteen years later, he chose the same for Louis. It is a lasting marker. The inscription telling us that Louis lived and died and was someone's brother is as crisp as if it had been carved into the granite only yesterday.

Henry's grave is unmarked.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Two Lives for Five Dollars (Part 7)

(Continued from Part 6)

That's right — a Last-Minute Reprieve. If this were fiction, you'd be rolling your eyes at the cliché. But sometimes reality is cliché and vice versa, and Governor McNutt really did decide, just before midnight, to grant Richard another 30 days to come up with new evidence.

Given his recantation of the wronged-sweetheart story, it was of course abandoned. Richard's latest story involved two other men and a 14-year-old boy — Ed Davis, the hired hand. The reports do not tell us exactly what role Richard assigned to young Ed, but he was kind enough not to suggest that the boy had pulled the trigger.

This time the triggerman was Leon Baldwin, a 32-year-old pipefitter and former Hobart resident now living in Miller. Richard said he'd been afraid to name him before because Baldwin had threatened to kill him if he did. The other man was Baldwin's brother-in-law, Eldon "Bud" Boursier. The motive? As usual, a woman's honor.

According to Richard, Baldwin's story was that he, his wife Ramona and her brother Bud had attended a party at Henry Nolte's house.* As the party went on, Henry began making amorous advances to Mrs. Baldwin. She was offended; so was her husband; so was Henry, in turn, and he ignominiously kicked them out of his house. Baldwin wanted revenge. He and Boursier, accompanied by Richard and Ed, went to Henry's house the afternoon of December 30. They waited into the night. When they heard the car pull into the yard around 1 a.m., Baldwin picked up Henry's shotgun and went outside. Richard heard two shots ring out, then Baldwin walked back into the house, put the gun down and said, "Well, I've got him."

Richard's attorneys filed a motion for a new trial based on this story. The motion was set for hearing on June 18 before Judge William Murray.

Asked by the press to comment, police were skeptical. The investigation of the crime scene had convinced them there was only one killer, and they had not found a shred of evidence implicating Baldwin or Boursier. The notion that little Ed Davis was in on it must have seemed laughable. Prosecutor Fred Egan was confident the motion would be denied.

On June 18 Richard was brought from Michigan City to Crown Point for the hearing. He was pale of face and impassive of demeanor, and the hair on his head where it had been shaved for the electrodes had not fully grown back in.

Prosecutor Egan came to court not exactly compassed about with a cloud of witnesses, for he had not thought it necessary to bring anyone in for live testimony; but he rode down an avalanche of affidavits that crushed the defense. Leon Baldwin could not have met with Richard at Henry's house the afternoon of December 30: he had worked that day from 7 a.m. until 4:04 p.m. at the Carbide and Carbon Chemicals plant in Whiting, and he had a manager's affidavit to prove it. That night, and up until the time of the murder, he had been playing bridge with his wife and eight other people; they all signed affidavits saying so. As for Boursier, several affiants placed him, from early evening until 1:00 a.m., working in the checkroom at the Knights of Columbus building in Gary.

Judge Murray chided Richard for impugning the character of innocent men, advised him to make peace with his Maker, and denied the motion for a new trial. Richard was sent back to Michigan City.

*As near as I can figure, that is; Richard's story was either garbled in the telling or poorly reported.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Two Lives for Five Dollars (Part 6)

(Continued from Part 5)

Shortly after his 21st birthday, Richard got word that Governor McNutt would hear his clemency petition on May 21, three days before the scheduled execution.

After weighing what little evidence he could turn up, attorney Sherman decided to stick with the story that Richard had acted out of vengeance coupled with mental instability. There was nothing substantive to back the co-conspirators story, and while the vengeance story had no greater factual support (since Richard still refused to name the wronged woman), Sherman seemed to think that common sense made it plausible. Richard had embroidered it with convincing details, such as Henry's callous response when confronted about the young woman's plight ("She's your girl, not mine. Why should I worry about her?") Furthermore, it had support from a surprising source — Henry's cousin and neighbor, Herman Harms, who wrote a letter for Sherman to present to the Governor in which he declared his belief that Richard had acted from a greater motive than robbery.

This little piece of cousinly back-stabbing surprised me at first. Henry's other neighbors had liked and respected him; did Herman really know him better? — for the obvious implication of the greater-motive theory is that Richard genuinely believed Henry had done someone wrong. And yet, in a way, I can understand why Herman might have found some comfort in that notion: though it blackened the murdered man's name, it also saved his death from utter senselessness. That is the most charitable interpretation I can put on Herman's letter.

Sherman would supplement the vengeance/insanity angle with a more general appeal to Governor McNutt's mercy. He had a petition for clemency signed by the twelve jurors who had convicted Richard, and another signed by Nellie.

When Sherman arrived at Governor McNutt's office for the May 21 hearing, he found his credibility badly wounded by friendly fire. Nellie had got the jump on him; she and several friends were already in conference with McNutt and had warned him not to believe anything Sherman said. Nellie insisted that her son was both sane and innocent, that another man was the real killer (although it doesn't appear from the reports that she had come up with the culprit's name). Sherman had to do some persuading just to get McNutt to hear him, and even then he was in the awkward position of contradicting the prisoner's mother.

Ultimately, the Governor was unsympathetic. Nothing presented to him that day rose to the level of new evidence. He believed the doctors' report finding Richard sane. He dismissed the jurors' petition as "passing the buck." His only concession was a promise to grant a reprieve if, in the next three days, someone could show him actual evidence of any other person's involvement in the crime. Otherwise, Richard would be executed as scheduled. (The usual practice was for execution to be carried out a few minutes after midnight; thus, an execution scheduled for the 24th would technically take place on the 25th.)

The next day two ministers from Gary visited Richard on Death Row. They said he appeared calm. To guards, he seemed impatient to get it all over with.

On the day set for the execution, Sherman's persistence bought him another audience with Governor McNutt and again he used all his powers of persuasion, and all the slender evidence he could muster, to try to change the Governor's mind. The warden and deputy warden of the state prison also spoke with McNutt on Richard's behalf.

In the evening, the Governor granted Nellie another interview. As late as 11 p.m. she was still in his office pleading for her son's life.

In the face of imminent death, Richard finally recanted the vengeance story, calling it "a pack of lies." Henry Nolte had done nothing wrong, he now said; his motive had been robbery, pure and simple, and he had acted alone. As midnight drew near, his nerves were on edge. Under the guard's eye he rocked back and forth silently, then burst out: "When in hell are they going to get about it?"

Far down the corridor, the guard heard the slam of a door and the sound of approaching footsteps.

Can you guess what happened next?

(To be continued)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Two Lives for Five Dollars (Part 5)

(Continued from Part 4)

Richard's defense team had grown by the trial's opening day, Sherman having been joined by attorneys Sam Schorr and Ray Hedman of Gary, who offered their services for free.* The defendant entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Richard had by this time added a little romance to his story about the murder by claiming he wanted to get money so he could marry the Valparaiso woman he'd been courting. Since he refused to name her, however, and since such a motive was irrelevant to the defense, this new angle was no more than spice for newspaper stories.

Jury selection took up the first day of trial. So many prospective jurors were dismissed, either because they had already formed an opinion about the case or because they were opposed to the death penalty, that Judge Murray had to order the sheriff to go out in the street and round up passers-by to be questioned as prospective jurors. By the middle of the second day the jury had been seated, and the trial proper could begin.

Although the defendant's plea technically admitted that he had done the crime, the prosecutor still called various witnesses to establish the facts connecting Richard with the murder. Among the law enforcement officials testifying were the Reynolds town marshal who found Henry's abandoned car, and the White County sheriff who joined in arresting Richard and heard his first confession. The night attendants at the Lincolnway Garage in Valparaiso also testified about Richard's bringing the Ford in shortly after the murder to get the headlights fixed.

The newspapers accounts don't always make clear which side called which witnesses, and reports of testimony are sometimes cryptic.

Nellie Chapman Fishback testified regarding Richard's "peculiar behavior during childhood." She had probably been called by the defense to help establish his insanity.

A "cronie" of Richard's by the name of Leonard Bowman was called for reasons unknown. The press found the salient point of his testimony in his claim that years ago Richard had said he'd sooner "pull the trigger" than "go hungry."

In remarks stricken from the record as hearsay, one witness said that Richard's biological father was currently in San Quentin serving a life sentence. The defense may have been trying to establish hereditary insanity.

Louis Dunham, Richard's foster father, testified concerning the boy's early tendencies toward crime.

The prosecution called Frank Johnson, parole clerk at the reformatory in Plainfield, Indiana, where Richard had served three terms while in his teens. Johnson testified that Richard had scored 118 on an IQ test administered at the reformatory, which was 18 points above average.

The three doctors appointed by the court to determine Richard's mental condition all concurred: Richard was sane.

Throughout the trial, Richard seemed indifferent. He showed no emotion during his mother's testimony, or his foster father's. During recesses, he made wisecracks to Bailiff Ralph Pierce. "If they let me out, I'll do the same damned thing again," he told Pierce. Later, he said about his attorneys: "Those three fools out there are spending three days trying to prove me crazy, and they're crazier than I am." He offered to bet Pierce a beer that he'd "get the electric chair."

On Monday, February 4, after half-an-hour's deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of guilty.

Judge Murray asked Richard whether he wished to say anything before the sentence was pronounced. Richard's response: "I have nothing to say." As required by law, Judge Murray sentenced him to death, setting May 25 as the date of execution. In the audience, Nellie wept quietly, while Louis Dunham collapsed in a dead faint.

After he was taken from the court, Richard said to Bailiff Pierce, "That ought to be worth two beers, don't you think?"

The fight was by no means over. Richard's removal to the state prison at Michigan City was postponed 14 days, a standard delay to allow his attorneys to file a motion requesting a new trial; Sherman got to work preparing the motion, although he had little hope of its being granted. There was also a possibility of an appeal to the state supreme court, if money could be found to finance it; Nellie set about contacting friends in Chicago to try to raise funds. Richard could also appeal directly to Indiana Governor Paul V. McNutt for a commutation of his sentence from death to life.

♦    ♦    ♦

Richard found a way to pass the time as he waited in the Lake County jail — he came up with a new twist on his story. The motive now became not robbery but revenge. Henry Nolte had wronged Richard's sweetheart (said Richard), and he had sought only to avenge her honor.

His attorneys seized on the wronged sweetheart as a shipwrecked sailor might clutch at a floating plank. There was the explanation, they said, for what had puzzled them about Richard's confession — why would anyone lie in wait for almost 11 hours just to rob a man? There had to be a stronger motive, and here it was. This new evidence was their best hope for winning Richard a new trial.

Richard refused to name the young woman who was allegedly carrying Henry Nolte's child — and she apparently did not wish to come forward, though her sweetheart's life was at stake. Sherman filed the motion for a new trial, relying on the story of revenge and hoping Richard would come around in time to produce the woman in question at the hearing, which was set for March 14. But when Sherman pressured his client for the woman's name, Richard responded only with abusive letters.

On March 14, the mystery woman was still a mystery. The motion for a new trial was denied.

Richard was transferred to Michigan City. Nellie went to visit him there, and came back with yet another story, which she recited to his attorneys and to the press. She claimed her son had told her that he did not commit the crime alone: there were two other men and a woman involved. As usual, nobody had a name. Sherman told the press that he would investigate the story, and "if it sounds reasonable and can be proved," he would use it in Richard's petition to the Governor for clemency.

Weeks went by as Sherman worked to prepare the petition, trying to get evidence to back up either of Richard's concurrent stories, while Nellie engaged in fund-raising and publicity efforts.

On May 11, Richard celebrated his 21st birthday.

*Schorr would continue to work with Sherman on Richard's case for many months, but we hear no more of Ray Hedman after the initial trial.

(To be continued)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cotton-Candy Snow (Intermission)

The snow that fell overnight was so light, and the air it fell through so calm, that it settled in clouds on even the smallest twigs, like cotton candy spun by some celestial carney.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Intermission is over. Let us return to more sordid subjects.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Two Lives for Five Dollars (Part 4)

(Continued from Part 3)

The Hobart Index-Commonwealth reprinted the entire text of Richard Chapman's second story — his written confession:

I had been staying at the Anker home near Reynolds, Ind. for about a week, and on Sunday, December 30, I hitch-hiked to Wanatah on Route 43, then to Valpo, on No. 30. I loafed around Valpo for a while and then hitch-hiked to Ainsworth on the Lincoln highway. I walked across the fields to Chas. Chester's farm and helped Chester fix the wind mill and stayed there for dinner. I left Chester's place about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and walked to Nolte's place. I saw a small boy there and asked him if Henry was home, he said no. I then asked him if he was the Harms boy, and he said yes. The boy soon left, and I went to the rear of the house and raised a window and got into the house. I searched the rooms looking for money and jewelry but could only find a watch and chain. I then found a suitcase and filled it full of clothes such as sox, shirts, underclothes, neckties, and a pair of new shoes. I dressed up in a grey suit and overcoat and waited for Nolte to come home so I could rob him, and get his car. While I was waiting, I played the radio and got something to eat.

About 1 o'clock Nolte came home, there was another car with him, but that car turned around and went back. Nolte put his car in the garage, then went into the milkhouse, and then into the basement and fixed the fire, I had his shotgun loaded and was waiting for him to come in the house, as soon as he opened the door, I shot him, he staggered and fell and I loaded the gun again and shot him in the head. I then searched him and took his pocketbook containing about five or six dollars, then I took him by the feet and dragged him into the cellar way. I then went into the house and got the suitcase and a 22 rifle and put them in the car and drove to Hobart. I pulled off the metal plate containing the identification cards and threw it away at Dorman's bridge. I then drove to the Nickle Plate garage at Hobart and tried to get the lights fixed, but they could not fix them, so I drove to Valpo, and had them repaired at the Lincolnway garage, then I drove to Wanatah and took route 43 back to Reynolds.

On the way back I threw away some of the clothes and also took off the license plates and threw them away. I then changed back into my old clothes, drove the car into a side road a couple of miles away from where I stay and walked home.
From Hobart, Richard was transferred to the county jail at Crown Point. All the evidence developed by authorities in Hobart and Lake County, Valparaiso and Porter County, Reynolds and White County, was assembled by the newly elected Lake County prosecutor, Fred Egan, now presiding over his first grand jury. On January 10, the grand jury returned an indictment charging first-degree murder. Because the murder occurred in the course of robbery, the death penalty would be mandatory if Richard were found guilty.

Trial was set to begin on January 22. Richard had no money to hire an attorney; the court appointed the "county poor attorney," Wilton J. Sherman, to represent him. Sherman would spend the next nine months working to save Richard's life in the face of considerable difficulties, some of which were created by his uncooperative client, others by his client's long-lost birth mother.

For Nellie Chapman had now resurfaced after an absence of fifteen years. She was living in Irondale, Ohio, married to a man by the name of Fishback. Her story was sad indeed. She had relinquished custody of Richard when he was about five, she said, because Richard's father had deserted the family, leaving her alone with eight children to support. She explained her failure to get in touch with Richard before the crime brought him into public view by saying that she had believed him dead for the past fifteen years, although none of the newspaper accounts explained how she arrived at that belief. She recounted to Wilton Sherman a horrifying incident during her pregnancy with Richard, when she had seen one of her small daughters burned to death. It had affected her mind, she said.

Sherman surmised that it may have affected Richard's mind, too. His plans for Richard's defense began to focus on the theory of insanity. His investigation into Richard's background turned up evidence of what Sherman called "unmistakable signs of insanity in boyhood." After a hearing on January 22 which resulted in a continuance of the trial until January 30, the newspapers reported some of Sherman's findings: "Chapman stole jewelry from his mother and hid it in a rain barrel. At another time he stole a watch and hung it under a gutter spout." It isn't clear from the news reports whether the mother in question was the birth mother or the foster mother.

Sherman asked the court to appoint a Chicago psychiatrist, Dr. H. Hulbert, to examine Richard to determine his sanity or insanity. Judge William J. Murray agreed to the examination, but appointed three local doctors to conduct it: Dr. E.S. Jones of Hammond, Dr. J.A. Teegarden of East Chicago, and Dr. Theodore V. Templin of Gary.

Trial opened on January 30.

(To be continued)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Two Lives for Five Dollars (Part 3)

(Continued from Part 2)

Henry Nolte was already acquainted with death when it came for him on that final day of 1934. It had visited his family time and again.

We can trace the Noltes from 1880, when they first appeared in Ross Township from Illinois — a tiny household; only the widowed 62-year-old Henry (grandfather of the murdered man) and his namesake son, 26. The younger Henry was married in 1885 to Mary Harms, who, like him, was from Illinois and the child of German immigrants. The elder Henry never remarried.

The little household began to grow. A daughter, Louisa, was born in 1885. In 1887, Henry and Mary's second child, William, was born and died on the same day. But many more children were to come.

More than a decade of happiness followed, or so it would seem. The census of 1900 records a Nolte household comprising three generations; nine family members plus a hired hand filled the farmhouse. In addition to Henry and Mary, and the elder Henry, there were three daughters: Louisa, 15, Alvena, 12, and Bertha, 8; and three sons: Henry, 10, Louis, 2, and the infant Edward. Looking at that census schedule, I imagine the house noisy and busy; the children delighting in the vast playground that was rural Ross Township; Henry, Sr., proud of his grandchildren, and Henry and Mary happy, if tired — all in all, a charming family portrait.

Just as the twentieth century dawned, Grandfather Henry died. This was not so much a tragedy as the ordinary course of nature: he was laid to rest in the fullness of his years, leaving children and grandchildren to remember him.

Then death came back for the young women. Louisa died in 1902, 17 years old, unmarried. The next year Alvena died at 15.

Henry and Mary would bury no more children: she died in 1908, he in 1913.

In 1912 Bertha left home to marry Claude Campbell.

Early in 1920, death took the youngest child, Edward. He was 20 years old and unmarried.

The 1920 census records a sadly reduced family. Bertha and Claude Campbell farmed in southern Ross Township next to her in-laws. The two remaining Noltes, Henry and Louis, lived together, both of them bachelors, and a 74-year-old woman kept house for them.

Ten years later, the elderly housekeeper was gone, and so were Bertha and Claude; I cannot trace them beyond 1920. Henry and Louis, the bachelor brothers, lived and farmed together: a tiny household, like the one that had come into Indiana 50 years earlier.

I said that the years between 1887 and 1902 seemed to be years of happiness, but I have nothing to look at beyond a census schedule, and it is opaque. It doesn't hint at anything lying beneath the list of names and ages. From the crowded and seemingly vibrant family of 1900, I would have expected every one of the young folks who survived into adulthood to marry and recreate the crowded, vibrant home they had grown up in. But that didn't happen. Neither Louis nor Henry — healthy, in the prime of life and moderately prosperous — ever married. One newspaper would describe Henry as a "recluse." It's a puzzle, and I could engage in my usual rampant speculation, but in this case I just don't have the heart.

In the winter of 1933, Louis came down with a bad cold, and from there his health deteriorated. He developed kidney problems, and after two weeks in the hospital he died. It was March of 1933.

The newspaper report of Louis' death does not mention Bertha Nolte Campbell, nor do any of the reports of Henry's murder. She might have died before then, or become estranged; or perhaps the omission of her name was just an oversight.

Henry returned from Louis' burial to an empty house. For almost two more years he would live there alone.

♦    ♦    ♦

On Tuesday, January 1, 1935, near the small town of Reynolds, in White County, Indiana — about 80 miles south-southeast of Ainsworth — the town marshal, Carl Westphal, came across a car abandoned in a ditch along State Road 53. The car was a Ford, but beyond that, Marshal Westphal couldn't identify it. The license plates had been removed. Westphal found the engine number, wrote it down and returned to his office to phone the information in to the state bureau of motor vehicles. The state would be able to look the number up in their files and get back to Westphal with the owner's name.

On Wednesday, a citizen dutifully turned in to Porter County authorities a wallet he had found somewhere southeast of Valparaiso. Porter County and Valparaiso authorities, aware of the murder, speculated to reporters that the wallet had been Henry Nolte's. They may have been in communication with Hobart and Lake County officers and thus aware that Richard Chapman was a suspect, but if so, they did not mention him to the press. But Valparaiso police chief Freeman Lane was looking into Richard's background. He learned that the young man had formerly roomed in Valparaiso for several months and had been "keeping company" with a young Valparaiso woman.

Meanwhile, someone from the state got back to Marshal Westphal and told him that the Ford he'd found was registered to a Lake County resident named Henry Nolte. Westphal phoned the Lake County authorities with that information. He may have been surprised by the reaction on the other end of the line.

On the morning of Thursday, January 3, two Lake County deputies went to Reynolds to examine the car for evidence, Hobart police being temporarily occupied with other matters.

That afternoon, funeral services for Henry Nolte took place in Hobart at Reese's mortuary and the Methodist church. He was buried among his family in Ainsworth Cemetery.

In speaking to the press in the days after the murder, law enforcement officials were guarded, insisting that they had evidence that might lead to the killer, but refusing to specify what that evidence was. They did not name Richard Chapman.

Someone else named him to authorities, however — the night man at the Lincolnway Garage in Valparaiso told police that he recognized the young man who'd stopped at his garage very early on the morning of December 31, wanting to get the headlights on a car fixed.

Chief Rose's inquiries as to Richard's whereabouts finally yielded the information that he was currently employed as a hired hand by a 60-year-old widow, Mary Anker, on her farm a few miles from Reynolds. That news, added to what he already knew, must have removed any doubt from Chief Rose's mind. Perhaps a quick phone call from Chief Rose sent Marshal Westphal and White County Sheriff Will Hayes to the Anker farm on Thursday night.

There they arrested Richard, and — probably to their surprise — he sang like a bird.

He readily admitted that he'd gone to Henry's house intending to rob him. But he had not, he insisted, fired the gun that killed him. The killer was an ex-convict named James Allen, about 30 years old, who had joined Richard in concocting the robbery scheme. The two had met as Richard was hitch-hiking toward Hobart to visit his foster father. They fell into conversation, both complaining about being broke. The idea of robbery came up. Richard mentioned Henry Nolte, who supposedly had money. So they went to Henry's house in the early hours of December 30. No one was home; they entered by a window at the back. They waited all day and into the night. After midnight, when they heard Henry's car pull into the yard, Richard moved to the front door, armed with a rifle, while James Allen took the shotgun and waited at the back door. From across the house, Richard heard the back door open and two shots ring out. By the time he ran through the house to the back, it was all over. Allen ordered him to get the car from the barn. When he drove it out into the yard, Allen came out of the house, took the wheel, gave Richard a five dollars — half of their takings — and drove south toward Reynolds. He dropped Richard off near the Anker farm and drove off into the dark. That was the last Richard had seen or heard of him.

Police immediately set in motion a manhunt for the murderous ex-convict, James Allen.

On Friday morning, Chief Rose, along with Frank Traeger and Lake County sheriff's deputies, drove down to Reynolds to retrieve the prisoner. They brought him to the Hobart jail pending transfer to Crown Point.

By Friday night, Richard had changed his story. It isn't clear why — the Logansport Pharos Tribune seemed to imply that the retracing of the route he'd driven on the night of the murder had stirred something in Richard's conscience, while the Hobart Commonwealth credited the interrogation by Hobart police. For whatever reason, Richard took back his first story involving the ex-convict. Now he said he had acted alone. He was the triggerman. And this time, he put the story in writing and signed his name to it.

(To be continued)