Clarence Goes To Court

On October 30, 1931 Clarence John was driving home from a long day at work at his bowling alley in Oconto. It was 11:30ish at night and pouring rain.

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This is the road Clarence was driving on, Hwy 22 going west.

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Here is a photograph of the damage done to Clarence’s 1929 Roosevelt Coupe (the photos were in the court case file).

The driver of the motorcycle was Harvey, a 20-year-old, who was accompanied by a friend. Harvey lost a leg due to the severity of his injury. His father, acting as his guardian, sued Clarence for damages and the case was brought to Brown County Court in March of 1932, however there was a request to change the venue to Oconto County, which was consented to.

There were no witnesses to the accident other than the three people involved. The only testimony in the case is from Clarence. Below is a scan of the first page from the testimony.

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According to his testimony, he had half interest in a bowling alley in Oconto, at the armory, which he ran all by himself. He was living in Gillett with his wife, Myrtle, and his parents. They had no children at that time.

Clarence answered the suit against him with a definite ‘not my fault’, stating that the driver of the motorcycle was driving too fast for the conditions and lost control. Harvey’s lawyers and guardian denied the fault was his.

The damage that is visible on Clarence’s car does look like the other driver hit him, not the other way around. But in the end, we only have Clarence’s testimony, none from Harvey.

And, of course, no matter what we conclude seeing the evidence and reading the testimony, the jury’s opinion is the only one that matters. They found Clarence at fault, and ruled in favor of him paying damages of around $5100 for personal injuries sustained by the plaintiff. (If payment was for reparation for the loss of Harvey’s leg, it seems a bit cheap to me.)

In 1948, 15 years later, we find the case continued, because Clarence had yet to pay the $5100 he owed to the plaintiff.

The record, which consists of sworn affidavits of attorneys and the defendant, and the statements of counsel made in the record on this application, raises a serious question as to the truth of the allegations of the defendant in his affidavit. The plaintiff’s attorney at the time of the trial…swears that after the rendition of the judgment and for about nine years thereafter he industriously attempted to ascertain the financial condition of the defendant in Oconto and Forest Counties and that his investigation disclosed to his satisfaction that the defendant during that period was judgment-proof.*

From 1942-1948 no action or activity appeared to be going on regarding the collection of the debt. Until Harvey got impatient, and in 1948 started pushing for his money. Here is an excerpt from a letter from one lawyer to another regarding the matter, dated October 21, 1948:

I have checked with Findorff and they tell me that John terminated his employment with them sometime during the spring of this year. However, the motor vehicle dept. informs me that he has an automobile registered in his name – – -1936 Plymouth coach…residence being Crandon, Wisconsin.

Under the circumstances , there is no point in my filing the certified copy of the judgment, inasmuch as there is absolutely no chance of my garnisheeing his salary or having execution issued. In the event he is traced to Madison again, I will be happy to grab him by his pants. There may be a chance for you to have his car picked up if he has returned to Crandon.

This process continued until July of 1953. At this time Clarence was finally found in Wausau, and served, Harvey had made action to start the process of suing him, he was worried because the judgment would lapse in August of that year.

Clarence refused to show up in court, instead sending his attorney to file one paper which stated that since the judgment, he and his family had resided in Wisconsin all that time. They never received papers regarding the execution of the judgment, or even an attempt at communication, and that such in-action in all this time negates the ‘good cause’ requirements of the judgment. Basically, making it null and void.

But the lawyers for the plaintiff had this to say:

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It looks like Clarence really didn’t want to pay this debt. But he never asked for an appeal to the judgment, which kind of makes his excuse a bit thin.

In the end all this work that Harvey put into getting his money came to nothing. My grandfather, Clarence, died in February of the next year, (1954). On his father’s birthday.

*Wikipedia definition of judgment-proof: In the context of debt collection and civil litigation, the term judgment proof is commonly used to refer to defendants  who are financially insolvent, or whose income and assets cannot be obtained in satisfaction of a judgment.
     Being “judgment proof” is not a defense to a lawsuit. If sued, the defendant cannot claim being “judgment proof” as an affirmative defense. The term “judgment proof” instead refers to the inability of the judgment holder to obtain satisfaction of the judgment.
     If a plaintiff were to secure a legal judgment against an insolvent defendant, the defendant’s lack of funds would make the satisfaction of that judgment difficult, if not impossible, to secure.


Sources:

  1. Auto-Motorcycle Collide Friday Eve. on H’y 22, The Gillett Times, Gillet, Wisconsin, Thursday, November 5, 1931; No. 11, page 1, column 2. 
  2. Harvey Andrianssen vs. Clarence John, Circuit Court case #12741, Oconto Series 36, Green Bay ARC, UW Green Bay, Green Bay, WI. (Photographs from the accident taken from case file.)   If interested in case just ask me for a copy.
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A case of slander…

3274299875_615a879761_oThe following newspaper clippings tell me the story of a court case that never really came to be. And, if it wasn’t for the local reporting on the matter, I never would have known about it at all. (From what I have seen it appears that Joseph Pinkerton might have been the go-to carpenter in Gillett.)

1878-1-26, Saturday, Oconto County Reporter vol. 7, issue 13, page 3, col. 2:
It is reported that Jos. Pinkerton has instituted proceedings against Wm. Johns of Gillett for slander, laying his damages at $8,000.

1878-11-02 Saturday, Oconto County Reporter vol. 8, issue 1, page 3, col. 2:
The slander libel suit pending between Joseph Pinkerton and F. W. Johns has been amicably settled, and dropped from the court calendar. It would be better if more law suits could be disposed of in the same way.

1878-11-16, Saturday, Oconto County Reporter vol. 8, issue 3; page ? col 2:
Court Proceedings.
The following is a summary of the court business disposed of since our last report:
J. Pinkerton vs F. W. John, Settled

So it appears that hot tempers cooled and better natures prevailed. Good thing for William, otherwise that would have been an expensive bit of slander if he had lost the case.

 

Bastardy…

I swear I don’t go looking for this stuff.

I just wanted to know if the Isserstedt’s had a court case in Sheboygan County, because I remember a letter from George Hamm to his in-laws where he had asked if there was anything he could do regarding somesuch, and his father-in-law, Friederich, said to paraphrase ‘No. It’s all cool. They had everything in hand’.

Thankfully, Sheboygan County recently gave the Wisconsin Historical Society their court case microfilms. Yay! (Otherwise I would have to travel to Sheboygan to do research, and I didn’t wanna.) With a little digging, I was able to find that there was indeed a court case with Fred Isserstedt and, bonus, there was also a case that sort of mentions a George Hamm/en.

So, in a nutshell, it appears that both George Hamm and his brother-in-law Friederick Isserstedt, jr., (aka Fritz), were in court for bastardy. Meaning both men were accused of being the father of a young woman’s child. To be clear though, these are two different women and two different cases.

The case against George was in November and December of 1874. A woman by the name of Auguste Harp accused George of being the father of her child, which she had conceived in June of that year. The case against Fritz was in 1881, and appears to have continued to 1883. The accuser in Fritz’s case was Amelia Hecker.

About the time that George’s case was going on he was preparing to get married my great great grandmother Amelia Isserstedt, (which they did on 22 December 1874). Fritz had just married Phoebe Coon when his case was brought to court, (22 May 1881).

I can only imagine the stress and confusion of my great great Grandmother, and her sister-in-law at the time these cases came to court. Fritz Issersted in the pic below:

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The above two pictures are George Hamm and Auguste Harp (I found her picture on an Ancestry.com family tree site. )

The Harps moved to Iowa shortly after the case was brought to trial and concluded. And it is there that Auguste probably had her child. It is possible that Frederika Wilhelmine Harp Ludloff raised her for a short time, after which she was raised by Auguste’s parents, as a Minnie Ludloff is listed as a ward of the family, age 5, in the 1880 Iowa census, the age Auguste’s child would be in this census.

It is unclear in the case file if George was determined to be the father. Of course only DNA could prove it one way or another now. It is quite possible, and wouldn’t be at all surprising if George was. Although it would make for a refreshing change in the Hamm family sagas to know that he wasn’t, and couldn’t possibly be the father because a Hamm would never…nah.

In Fritz’s case we know the child was born 19 May 1881, but I have been unable to find anything more, not even if it survived. Amelia Hecker married Henry Sampse in 1883. And, again, we do not know if indeed Fritz was believed to be the father. It appears that the final conclusion of the jury was ‘Not Guilty’.

 

Bert and Flo partners in crime…

708338When I first started researching my father’s family history, (many, many moons ago), I wrote to a relative (I forget who) asking what they knew about the family. The response I received contained what little information they had to share, along with a mention of memories of my great grandmother Gert not speaking to one of her sisters. Something to do with politics. Now I am wondering if maybe it was something else entirely.

Carrie Rosa and John Cain had, along with several daughters, six sons (in order of birth):
William b1879
George b1882
Albert (Bert) b1887
James b1889
Henry (Harry) b1892
Milton b1894

While doing research in Oconto County newspapers, I ran into several articles in which Bert Cain was the subject, and not in a good way. In fact a few of the Cain brothers were showing up in the newspaper regarding some crime or other they had committed.

James and William* were caught using dynamite to catch fish in the Oconto River in 1915. I don’t know how, or if, William was punished, as there was no judgment found with his name on it, but James was charged $5.00 and spent 30 days in jail. (This was the only time William showed up in court.) James, however, was convicted in 1922 of being in possession of privately manufactured liquor. This time he paid a $200 fine and spent 90 days in jail. Ouch! Milton, the youngest, was always trying to get into saloons when he was underage and was fined twice for his attempts, once in 1912 ($2.00) and again in 1915 ($1.00).

Now to Bert.

Before I dove into the rabbit hole of my latest newspaper research I didn’t know much about Bert. I knew his wife’s name was Florence ____; they never had any children together, that I am aware of; and in 1955 he committed suicide with a shotgun blast to the head. I can say with certainty that I now know a lot more.

Bert and Flo owned/ran a drinking establishment called Swamp Saloon in the Town of Little River, in Oconto County for many years.

The first time he shows up in trouble in the newspaper was in 1920. He was on trial for manslaughter.

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All told he paid a fine of $750 for killing someone.

The next time Bert shows up in court is in 1921. He was arrested and charged with selling liquor in violation of the National Prohibition Act, which had been passed in 1919.

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Another arrest occurred in 1925. Again for selling liquor. On the face of things this seems pretty innocuous, just another violator of prohibition. (The prohibition act, while enacted basically good intentions, was a farce that didn’t really address the problem of alcoholism and domestic violence, which was the actual intent. It merely made scummy mobsters rich.) The saloon was most likely closed during the trial, along with others.

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In reading over the case file I wasn’t really expecting much of interest to show up, after all it was just another case of illegal liquor sales, but boy was I surprised.

It appears that Bert and Flo, while never being charged as such, were also ‘procurers’ or pimps. They conveniently provided prostitutes for interested ‘clients’, and took a part of the ladies’ profits, renting the rooms in their ‘hotel’ for the use of the couples. Below are clips from the court case regarding their prostitution related offenses:

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There was no judgment in this case as it was the preliminary hearing to decide whether or not to proceed to trial. Bert and Flo probably pled guilty and paid the fine. They didn’t serve any time in jail as far as I can tell.

In 1931 Bert was again in court for the same reason, as seen in this amusing newspaper article:

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I could find no case specific to this time period for Bert. Again, it doesn’t appear that he actually went to jail for any of these offenses, and probably paid another fine.

Bert and Flo continued to operate their saloon until 1933 when an unfortunate and terrifying event occurred:newspaper_cainbert_ODNW1933_03_16p1

The article mentions a daughter Leona [age 17], this would be Florence’s daughter from a previous marriage. This incident didn’t stop Bert and Flo though, they continued to operate drinking and eating establishments as shown in this Billboard magazine news clip from 1941:

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As to their prostitution related activities, the length of time of their involvement is not clear. I can find no record of either Bert or Flo being brought to court for them, at least in Oconto County.

We don’t know how much of this activity Gertrude was aware of. But my guess is that it is this brother and sister-in-law whom she didn’t much associate with.

  • This is a link to the court hearing for James and William, with testimony. Makes for some interesting reading.

Asa’s great heist…

Asa Newell Lyon, the only surviving child of Newell and his wife Arrietta, was born in 1848 in Burlington, Vermont. When I was researching his background, in an effort to find out more about Esther, I found that he was living in St. Louis, Missouri by 1870 working in an advertising agency, at the age of 21, and in later years he was working in a tailor shop, always as a clerk. He spent the rest of his life in St. Louis eventually marrying and dying there.

I was curious about why he might have moved all that way from home, when I ran into an article in the New York Herald from September of 1874.

Court of General Sessions.
Larcenies.

Asa N. Lyon, who was indicted for stealing, on the 10th of July, four coats, worth $80, the property of the Wilde Brothers, No. 452 Broadway, pleaded guilty to an attempt at grand larceny. In consequence of the previous good character and the respectable connections of the prisoner His Honor sent him to the Penitentiary for six months instead of to the State Prison.

Asa, grandson of Asa Lyon, a former representative of Vermont, found out that having well known and ‘rich’ relatives sure helps grease the wheels of justice in your favor. HIs father had died in 1868, and his mother remarried to Ardin Styles. I am sure that his incarceration was an embarrassment for him, and the family, as he high-tailed it back to a far away city, where no one knew his family or his “respectable connections.”

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New York Herald, September 30, 1874 vol.XXXIX, Issue 273, page 5.