Wednesday, October 31, 2012

No More Tricks for Halloween!

This was the goal of the Marshal of Kalamazoo, L.M. Gates, when he posted a notice in the Kalamazoo Telegraph on Oct. 29, 1888. In years past, numerous local youths had been “disarranging property” on Halloween night. [1] In a few of the preceding years “hundreds of young men and even some young women had joined the ranks doing great damage by actually destroying things.” [1] Gates called upon all citizens to be vigilant, even offering $20 to the first person to provide evidence to convict one of these hooligans. [1]

In 1882, serious injury from a Halloween “prank” was narrowly averted. Mr. Wm. Nye stepped out of his hack onto the horse block. It precipitately gave way throwing him underneath the hack and resulting in a few minor injuries as well as a sprained ankle. Had Mr. Nye stepped directly to the ground the lady he went to fetch, along with her baby, would undoubtedly have been hurt as soon as she stepped onto the horse block. An investigation determined that the supports had been sawed off, leaving the block apparently sound, but unable to support a person's weight. [2] It may have been a prank, but it certainly wasn't harmless.

Perhaps Marshall Gates' warning paid off because All Hallows' Eve 1888 was apparently quieter than in years past. [3] The Telegraph summed up the night saying “Halloween sports were extensively carried on although no damage was done to property.” There was still some minor mischief: “at the college, an ice-wagon was ejected into the lower building by peacemeal [sic]” and one man's wagons and carriages were drawn several blocks away from his house. [3] The high school also received a nocturnal visit. Prof. Richards entered his school room to discover tables topsy-turvy and books and ink bottles “piled unceremoniously” throughout the room. [3] “Ink was made to affiliate with mucilage” and the human skeleton used in physiology class dangled from the chandelier. [3] “The boys evidently had a good time.” [3]

One “prank” seemed more serious to me, but apparently not to the Telegraph staff. They described how the boys set the “college woods” ablaze. [3] The Telegraph blandly stated that “the west end was beautifully illuminated.” [3] Although attempts were made to chase those responsible, no one was apprehended. [3]

Although nothing serious occurred in Kalamazoo, South Haven was not so lucky. There, hoodlums ripped up sidewalks, “misplaced numerous articles of personal property” and also burned a small, unoccupied building. [3] It's no wonder that someone came up with the idea to give away candy on Halloween. If threats don't work entice the tricksters to a tamer pastime with sugar.

  1. Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph, 10-29-1888, P7, col4
  2. Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph, 11-2-1882, P3, col2
  3. Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph, 11-1-1888, P7, col3

Friday, October 26, 2012

Kalamazoo County Circuit Court Records

My recent trip to Kalamazoo was fun, productive and tiring. With so much to do I had very little down time, but that's the way it usually is when I go home. Genealogically speaking, I was able to cross a number of things off my list. One big thing was to look at the court records relating to the Christmas morning murder of my grandma's sister (Christmas Morning Murderer Gets Off Easy). I'll describe what I found later because I still haven't had time to read everything over and process it. For now I'll share a few tips for finding old circuit court records in Kalamazoo based on my recent experience.

The circuit court records I was looking for were criminal cases or chancery cases (divorces and other cases in which a judge had to determine what was fair in a dispute between two parties). If you want to examine records for either of these types of cases the first thing you will need to do is to find the docket and case number. Depending on the year in which the case was filed you will need to look in the clerk's office at the court house on Kalamazoo avenue or in the index at the WMU Archives. Here are the lessons I learned while tracking down records.

Always look in the index yourself. While at the court house I asked to examine the chancery index book to search for a few divorce cases. The clerk brought out one book, but not ones covering other years I was interested in. Instead, she asked me for the specific names I was looking for and came back to inform me she couldn't find them. I thought that was strange, but didn't press the issue as I was out of time. The following day at the WMU Archives, I was searching the chancery index on microfilm looking for any cases involving my people. I wanted to jump out of my chair when found two of the divorce cases the court clerk said she couldn't find. Though the microfilmed chancery records at WMU only go into 1934, and therefore I couldn't immediately satisfy my curiosity, the index goes through at least May 1941. The names I was looking for were clearly written so I can only conclude that the court clerk was in a hurry and overlooked them. As we genealogists are more used to searching for certain names (and can pick one out even when we aren't looking for it) always ask to look in the index yourself, rather than relying on someone who has nothing invested in the project.

Circuit court records are not always on site. Old records (prior to 1980) still in possession of the Kalamazoo county circuit court are located “six hours north” of Kalamazoo. So, if you want to look at them you need to plan ahead. Armed with the docket and case number from the index you can request that the records be retrieved from wherever in the upper peninsula they are stored. I guess in the case of a nuclear holocaust they will be safe. You should request the documents about a week in advance and keep in mind that deliveries are received on Tuesdays. Even at the WMU archives, old court records that have not been microfilmed are located off site so you should ask that records be pulled in advance of your visit.

Not all chancery cases were microfilmed by the LDS. A year ago I found out the hard way that the LDS church did not microfilm all chancery cases. You can imagine my surprise when I scrolled through the microfilmed records at the WMU Archives only to discover that the case number I was seeking was notably absent. It seems that the LDS selected divorce cases or those in which the names of the parties involved were different for microfilming. I had two cases in which a mother sued her kids (it turns out they were mooching or stealing from her). The records were available, but had to be retrieved from storage. Unfortunately, I was at the end of my visit. I waited in suspense for my mother to return to the Archives to peruse the documents and call me to tell me what the cases were about.

Be prepared to take a lot of notes or bring a lot of cash. The court house does not allow cameras. I don't know if mobile scanners are permitted. This is unfortunate as copy charges at the court house are pretty steep at $1 per page. After quickly flipping through the files I requested I carefully flagged items for copying and handed the stack of records to one of the clerks. Much to my dismay she informed me that copying of the court stenographer's record was all or nothing. I could not cherry pick pages for copying. As I was pressed for time, had found many things I wanted to examine more closely and I had already waited a whole year to see the records and could not come to the courthouse whenever I had a spare moment, I pulled some more money from my wallet.  I would also recommend that you count the number of pages you wish to have copied so you know exactly how much it should cost.  And be sure to inform the clerk that you do NOT want certified copies because that costs more.

Now that I'm back home I hope to find the time, eventually, to thoroughly read over everything. I hope to find some useful information in the pages of the stenographer's record that I had not initially intended to copy. At least now I can pore over it at my leisure.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Searchable Civil War Letters

I was taking a look at the new and improved website of the WMU Archives (which I'll describe in a later post) when I came upon their Civil War Letters collection ( For anyone who wants to better understand the everyday life of the Civil War soldiers in their tree and even to read first-hand accounts of battles this is a great resource. There are eight diaries and twenty-nine letters in the collection, all held by the WMU Archives. Five of the men served in Michigan units, two in Ohio, one in Illinois and one worked for the U.S. Quartermaster Department. One was a musician and two were POWs.

Even better than merely having online access to these records, all of these diaries and letters have been transcribed and are searchable. The entries have also been categorized by topic as follows: battles, military units and maritime vessels, people, places, african americans, clothing, death and casualties, desertion, food, health and medicine, leisure, money, music, religion and transportation.

A brief biography of each man is also included. Briefly, they are:
Alonzo C. Ide (diary): 2nd MI Inf, Co C, also briefly served in 17th MI Inf, Co D
Augustas L. Yenner: 121st OH Inf, Co B, diary
Cyrus Thomas (diary): 49th OH Inf, Co E
Eli H. Page (diary): worked for the Quartermaster Department during the war (responsible for supplying the army)
Eugene R. Sly (diary): 100th IL Inf, Co C
George Harrington (diary): 6th MI Cavalry, Co L
Isaac S. Knapp (diary): 28th MI Inf, Co I
Milton Sawyer (diary): 27th MI Inf, Co G, musician
Samuel Hodgman (letters): 7th MI Inf, Co I

If anyone out there has a relative who served in company I of the 7th Michigan, you may want to do a search on the appropriate surname. In November of 1862 Hodgman provided an account (usually a sentence) describing where each soldier was according to his information.

I examined items in the collection using WMU's system, though it is also available through the University of Michigan. The document viewer is very similar to that now in use at Seeking Michigan. When viewing a particular page scroll down under the “description” heading to read the transcription of the page. At the top of the page is the page number. Use the slider to the right of the image to navigate to a different page in the diary/letter. The current page is highlighted.

This collection is a great asset for anyone wishing to better understand the lives of the Civil War soldiers in their tree. Journals and letters home, even if they aren't your ancestors' words can still provide context whether or not your soldier is mentioned by name.

For those who want to read more, I would recommend the book “For Country, Cause and Leader: The Civil War Journal of Charles B. Haydon,” by Stephen W. Sears. Haydon served in Company I of the 2nd Michigan Infantry and wrote in his journal almost daily for the first year of the war. He was also an officer so his experience was likely a little different in some respects from that of the typical enlisted man. To see my review of “For Country, Cause and Leader” go to:  Life in the Second Michigan Infantry.

Another place to find Civil War era letters is at Seeking Michigan in their Civil War Manuscripts collection.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No Stranger to the Law: Henry Harrigan

You may recall in an early post about using newspapers I described how Henry Harrigan was arrested in New York City in 1889 for fatally injuring a man. To refresh your memory, Henry had been touring New York on the horse racing circuit. One night, after leaving a bar, Henry scuffled with a man he claimed he didn't know, despite rumors to the contrary. [1,2,3,4] Henry whacked Patrick Reedy over the head with his silver-headed cane, fracturing his skull. [2,5] Days later after refusing a trepanning procedure to relieve the swelling of his brain, Reedy died. [5] Meanwhile, Henry, after being released on bail for the assault, lost the then huge sum of $6000 on a single horse race. [2,4,5] According to the rumors, Harrigan and Reedy were acquainted and “the fatal blow was struck during a quarrel,” contrary to Henry's testimony that he was the victim of a robbery attempt. If I had to guess I would speculate their argument had to do with money and horse racing. [3] Apparently, Reedy's father worked as a hostler (a man who tended the horses) at the Saratoga race track, a place Henry certainly would have been to bet on the races. [2] Coincidence? Luckily for Henry, the coroner's jury quickly exonerated “the tall, muscular, well dressed young man” with the “blonde mustache and keen blue eyes.” [2,6]

You may also remember reading about Henry in connection with the violent death of his father, John Harrigan, ostensibly of suicide. I posted a photograph of Henry's flowing signature written just hours after John's death. Even if Henry had nothing to do with his father's death, his perfect signature at the inquest indicates to me that he didn't appeared at all bothered by his father's death (Who Done It?).

What I now refer to as “the Reedy incident,” however, was not Henry's first brush with the law. In May of 1876, less than a year after his father's death, Henry (then eighteen) was in serious trouble. The Kalamazoo Telegraph reported “Henry Harrigan was arraigned before Justice Davis today for assault and battery, he having been a prominent actor in forcibly entering a woman's house, to get a ball that had been knocked through the window. The woman was treated with violence, during the act of recovering the ball. Harrigan was sent up to Detroit for ninety days.” [7] Henry was presumably honing his baseball skills, a pastime he took up shortly before his father's death, when the above assault occurred.

Also in 1876, Henry was involved in a criminal case that I can find no record of other than a single line in the Kalamazoo Gazette. The committee on claims of witnesses in criminal cases submitted their report. In the case of Roland C. Maley, People vs. H.D. Harrigan, claims were made in the amount of $217 and were recommended to be allowed. [8] A search of criminal court cases in Kalamazoo county during this period turned up nothing and I can find no other newspaper references to Roland Maley so I am left to wonder if it related to the May 1876 assault or something entirely different.

A couple of years later, Henry actually hopped a train in a vain attempt to evade arrest. When he heard he was to be arrested for larceny, Henry caught a train leaving Kalamazoo. The pursuing officer, Travis, discovered him in the baggage car. “Harrigan jumped off and Travis after him, the train all the time flying south. As the hind car came along Harrigan again got on and Travis after him. Finally Travis caught hold of H. just as the latter's coat was pretty well shattered; he surrendered. By this time the train was over the Portage, but it stopped, and Travis came back with his prisoner.” [9]

In 1883, Henry discovered what it was like to be on the other end of things when Henry Giddings attempted to shoot him after the two “had some words.” [10] Giddings was sent to Ionia for ninety days. [11] I have found nothing to indicate what this argument was about and as in the 1876 case, no court records were found. I wouldn't be shocked to learn it involved money.

Three years later, another incident came before the courts and again Henry was in the middle of it. A prominent physician, Eugene Southard, charged Henry and three others with “winning money of him at a game of chance in violation of” the gambling acts. [12] Southard claimed that he had lost about $400 “and that faro is the seductive game of chance by which he lost it.” [12] The case was eventually discontinued. [13] According to Henry's account it was only a coincidence that he was closing up his gambling house in Kalamazoo in search of “green pastures and longer grass” mere days after the Southard case was over. [14] The actual reason he was moving on, he claimed, was that he felt bad for the families of the “poor devils” who earned but $1-2 per day and gambled away $12-15 at a time, leaving their wives and children without sufficient food for the week. [14] “Gentleman Hank” alleged “it's many a dollar I have given back after having fairly won it – when I knew the loser to be a worthless, improvident cuss.” [14]

Henry asserted that he had been in the gambling business for about fifteen years and been “tolerably successful.” [14] He said “probably if I had devoted as much attention and study to some other profession as I have to gambling I would be respected a good deal more and be just as well off. I was drawn into it, however, and will probably always stay at it.” [14] He ended his little speech by saying “There is no one who holds his word more sacred than a gambler and no one in whose promise one can put more implicit trust.” [14] I suspect that “gentleman Hank” could have had a successful career in politics.

  1. New York Times, 8-31-1889
  2. New York Herald, 9-6-1889
  3. New York Times, 9-6-1889
  4. Kalamazoo Gazette, 9-7-1889
  5. New York World, 9-6-1889, P2, col7
  6. Kalamazoo Gazette, 9-10-1889
  7. Kalamazoo Telegraph, 5-4-1876, P4, col3
  8. Kalamazoo Gazette, 10-28-1876
  9. Kalamazoo Telegraph, 6-10-1878, P4, col3
  10. Kalamazoo Gazette, 4-20-1883
  11. Kalamazoo Gazette, 4-27-1883
  12. Kalamazoo Gazette, 5-15-1886
  13. Kalamazoo Gazette, 5-21-1886, P4
  14. Kalamazoo Gazette, 5-23-1886

Thursday, October 11, 2012

More 1894 MI Census Online

For those of you who saw my post about Seeking Michigan uploading images of the Michigan 1894 census, I have good news.  There are now images for at least 22 counties available.  They are as follows:  Barry, Bay, Hillsdale, Ingham, Iosco, Jackson, Lapeer, Lenawee, Kalamazoo, Kent, Keweenaw, Menomenee, Midland, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Ottawa, Roscommon, Sanilac, St. Clair, St. Joseph and Wayne.

It is possible that other counties are also searchable.  To determine which county's images had been uploaded I searched for the surnames Smith and Brown, hoping that there was at least one person in each county with one of these all too common names.  If you are searching for someone in a sparsely populated Upper Peninsula county, for example, it may be worth checking in case no one there bears the Smith or Brown moniker.

Images for Washtenaw county were briefly available, but were hopelessly blurred such that they were completely unreadable.  Washtenaw county no longer appears in the search results so I hope that means the problem was detected and is being addressed. 

You can start your search on the 1884-1894 Census page to see the images that are available.

Update:  April 2013.  Seeking Michigan is currently adding census images between 1827 and 1874.  To see what records we can look forward to see my post.  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kalamazoo Census Facts

Several months ago I was introduced to the Historical Census Browser while reading the May/June issue of Family Tree Magazine. Provided by the University of Virginia, this is a source of all sorts of information gleaned from census records from 1790 through 1960. What you find runs the gamut from total population to ethnicity, agriculture, literacy and manufacturing. Results can be narrowed down to the state and the county level.

To give you an idea of what you can learn at this site I played around with it to obtain some statistics for Kalamazoo county.

Year    Total # of Farms      Cash Value of Farm      Improved Farm Land (acres)      Value Farm Machin.
1850        1,098                        $2,056,860                        73,200                                  $141,614
1860        2,159                        $8,137,368                      153,923                                  $265,160
1870        2,938                      $17,255,839                      204,689                                  $665,800
1880        3,226                       not included                       263,249                                  $612,640

I thought it was interesting to see the number of farms in the county double from 1850 to 1860. This makes sense as the total population in the county also nearly doubled during this time (see below). Actually, the number of farms increased at about the same rate as the population from 1850 through 1880 with an average of 1 farm per eleven persons during the entire period. In 1880 the average size of a farm in Kalamazoo county was 106 acres. The estimated value of all farm products produced in the county in 1879 was a staggering $3,392,037.

I also looked at the ethnic composition of Kalamazoo county.

Year      Tot. Pop.      Foreign born      Born Ireland      Born Germany       Born Netherlands
1850      13,179             1,025                N/A                      N/A                        N/A
1860      24,626             3,374                N/A                      N/A                        N/A
1870      32,054             4,648                927                       663                         993
1880      34,342             4,910                812                       817                      1,301
1890      39,273             6,629                723                    1,059                      2,742
1900      44,310             6,536                553                       962                      3,123

To round out the major places of foreign birth in 1870 here are the numbers: British America, 859; England & Wales, 893; Scotland, 168; Sweden & Norway, 9; Switzerland, 34. There were no people included who listed their place of birth as Africa, Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Russia or Spain. I'm not sure of the birthplace of the remaining 102 foreign-born people. “Colored” persons made up only a tiny fraction of the population in 1870, numbering only 525 (1.6%).

Literacy was quite high among those in Kalamazoo county in 1870. Among whites over age 21, only 313 could not read (0.1% of the white population) and among colored persons over age 21, only 33 could not read (6% of the colored population).

These statistics just scratch the surface of what you can discover at this very informative site. To see what more you can find go to their website.