My great great grandfather John Cain moved to Wisconsin when he was a young boy. He lived with his mother’s parents Winifred and Denis Conely in Chilton for a few years, but, by the time he was about 17 years old he was on his own, employed with a logging mill in Oconto.
He spent most of his life working as a river driver, also known as a “river pig,” one of the men who worked the cut logs down the river.
Then one day, while going about his job something unexpected happened.
Another recent scouring of Oconto newspapers brought this interesting tidbit to my attention just in time for mid-term elections:
So what was the Hayes and Wheeler Club and why was gramps John Cain a member?
From what little I have been able to find about this club, it looks like it was patriotic in nature and organized in many states across the country, for the purpose of “securing re-nomination and re- election of President Rutherford B. Hayes.”
John appears to have been republican in beliefs, and was enthusiastic enough for Hayes to be elected that he joined the club to help rouse the populace to vote for his favorite ticket.
Here is a small bit of biography on Hayes from his Wikipedia entry:
Hayes was a lawyer and staunch abolitionist who defended refugee slaves in court proceedings in the antebellum years.
He was nominated as the Republican candidate for the presidency in 1876 and elected through the Compromise of 1877 that officially ended the Reconstruction Era by leaving the South to govern itself. In office he withdrew military troops from the South, ending Army support for Republican state governments in the South and the efforts of African-American freedmen to establish their families as free citizens. He promoted civil service reform, and attempted to reconcile the divisions left over from the Civil War and Reconstruction.
John did not enlist in the Civil War. Having been born in 1852, he was too young to have enlisted. (I am very thankful he was too young, because he might have died and I wouldn’t be here now talking about him.) Even though he was not in the war, he was a peripheral part of it, and was affected by the aftermath, as was the whole nation. His support for Hayes gives me a sense of his political leanings and beliefs, something he left no clue about to his descendants, until this article was found.
I’ll end this post with a friendly reminder. VOTE!
Sources: Oconto County Reporter, 1876-07-22; v5issue38p3col4 Oconto County Reporter, 1876-08-19; v5issue42p3col4 Oconto County Reporter, 1876-09-02; v5issue44
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.
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.
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:
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.
Auto-Motorcycle Collide Friday Eve. on H’y 22, The Gillett Times, Gillet, Wisconsin, Thursday, November 5, 1931; No. 11, page 1, column 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.
I found another article regarding the fire that burned down Bert and Flo Cain’s tavern, it has a few more details and does confirm that the young lady living with them was Flo’s daughter from a previous relationship.
The 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.
When 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):
Albert (Bert) b1887
Henry (Harry) b1892
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
Thankfully, for my readers, I recently came across the information in the following post just in time for this Memorial Day. Although Milton did not die during a war, he did serve and was wounded, so I am telling his story in that respect.
Milton Cain was one of two of the youngest children of John Cain and Carrie Rosa, as he was a twin, along with his sister Mildred. Both were born in Oconto, Oconto County, Wisconsin in November of 1894.
When the United States officially joined with Europe in efforts to defeat the Kaiser during WWI, Milton had already been in the Wisconsin State Guard for a year and a half. He was 22 years old when he was assigned to Company B, 150th Machine Gun Battalion, 42nd Division. Otherwise known as the ‘Rainbow Division’2, (because it consisted of National Guard units from 26 different states, along with the District of Columbia).
Milton, and his fellow soldiers, were all shipped to Camp Mills in Mineola, Long Island on September 3rd of 1917, where they waited for orders to sail to Europe. And on October 18 they boarded the Covington in Hoboken, New Jersey to begin their trip to France.
The local papers in Oconto County did their best to keep their readers informed about the goings on during the war, as in this article which started the efforts to track the boys route during the war.
The 42nd went overseas to the Western Front of Belgium and France in November 1917, one of the first divisions of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) to do so. The AEF was commanded by GeneralJohn Joseph Pershing. Upon arrival there the 42nd Division began intensive training with the British and French armies in learning the basics of trench warfare which had, for the past three years, dominated strategy on the Western Front, with neither side advancing much further than they had in 1914. The following year, the division took part in four major operations: the Champagne-Marne, the Aisne-Marne, the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. In total, it saw 264 days of combat. While in France, the division was placed under French control for a time. [from Wikipedia entry for Rainbow Division.]
According to published accounts of the 42nd, the 150th specifically was involved in the following battles:
Luneville sector, Lorraine, France, 21 February-23 March, 1918
Baccarat sector, Lorraine, France, 31 March-21 June, 1918
Esperance-Souain sector, Champagne, France, 4 July-14 July, 1918
Champagne-Marne defensive, France, 15 July-17 July, 1918
Aisne-Marne offensive, France, 25 July-3 August, 1918
St. Mihiel offensive, France, 12 September-16 September, 1918
Essey and Pannes sector, Woevre, France, 17 September-30 September 1918
Meuse-Argonne offensive, France, 12 October-31 October, 1918.
Meuse-Argonne offensive, France, 5 November-10 November, 1918
When Milton was seriously injured on July 29, 1918, it is possible this happened during the Aisne-Marne offensive. But his injury did not keep him from continuing on with his company. The last battle that the 150th was involved in was the one most known to me, and probably others, that is the Battle of the Argonne Forest. It was the first part of the final offensive of the Allied forces along the Western Front. This battle lasted 47 days and ended with Armistice on November 11, 1918.3
Milton came home in 1919, unlike many of his fellow comrades in arms. He married and even became Mayor of Oconto, twice, in the 1950s. He died November 8, 1972 still living in Oconto.
Ex-Mayor Cain Died At Age 78 Former Mayor Milton J. Cain of Oconto died Wednesday at Oconto Memorial hospital following an extensive illness. Mr. Cain, a popular votegetter in both Oconto and Oconto county, served as mayor for two separate terms, from 1952-1954 and from 1958-1960.
He also was an alderman (city councilman) and a supervisor on the Oconto County Board.
He was a tavern owner for many years and a member of the VFW.
Mr. Cain was born November 24, 1894 in Oconto, the son of Mr. and Mrs. John P. Cain, He attended Oconto schools and was a lifelong resident of Oconto. He married the former Eva Bitters on October 18, 1927. A veteran of World War I, he served with the 42nd Rainbow Division.
Survivors include his wife; one daughter, Mrs. Jan (Helen) Hansen of Appleton; one son, William of Oconto; one brother, Harry of Waukesha, 7 grandsons and one great-grandchild. Three brothers and three sisters preceeded him in death.
In memory of those who gave their lives while serving their country.
The Farmer Herald, vol. 21, Issue 12 1918-08-23 page 1. Milton Cain image regarding WWI soldiers. “Milton Cain, a son of Mrs. Carrie Cain with the Rainbow Division was severely wounded July 29th.” 
Birthday Party A surprise party was tendered Mrs. John Cain Thursday evening in honor of her birthday anniversary [67 years old]. Bunco was played, the prize going to Mrs. Surprise and Mrs. William Trepanier.1
Carried probably had a very good time at her party, as long as there was music playing, because she loved to dance.
1 Oconto County Reporter Enterprise-Enquirer; v54issue28, 1925-04-23
This was such a sad and touching story that I had to share it.
George Dennis Cain born in Oconto, Wisconsin in 1882, was the fourth child born to John and Carrie Cain. His middle name appears to be in honor of his great grandfather Dennis Connelly. Like the rest of his siblings he grew up in the City of Oconto. And when he was old enough he married a young women by the name of Estella ___ . Sometime about 1900 he moved his family to Forest County, Wisconsin (Leona / Soperton). Estella and George had at least three children together: Milton, Marion (Mae) and Pat, (This was apparently not Estella’s first marriage though, as she had an 8 year old son Thaddeus who lived with them in 1920.)
Unfortunately for George he inherited that CAIN family bad luck, which appeared when he developed stomach cancer in 1925 and by the end of the year it killed him. He was only 42 when he died, another young death for the CAIN line.
His daughter Mae took his death very hard:
NOTE: I don’t know if the above article has the surviving child incorrect, or if it his obituary that is wrong, but something is amiss regarding the matter. In the 1920 census a child Thaddeus is listed as a stepson and Milton is the only child listed as George and Stella’s, so Marion and Pat must have been infants, 4-1 years of age, in 1925. I don’t know who George, jr. is.
I recently found this wonderful newspaper article about my great grandparents wedding day on August 28, 1897. It would have been even better if they had provided a picture, but no such luck. And as my great grandfather was a railroad station agent and postmaster, the venue was quite appropriate to the occasion.