Friday, February 5, 2016

"And That's the Real McCoy"

Some wedding announcements may be more remarkable than others. In the case of the marriage of forty five year old John Syme Hogue and his seventeen year old bride, Lucille Epling, one couldn't help also notice—if one were familiar with the now twenty-five-year-long saga of John Hogue's history—his employment as a mining engineer at his new home in Mahan, West Virginia.

For those with patience to read the fine print at the back end of local newspapers, under such headings as "Notice of Judicial Sale," there is a way to reconstruct the twisted trail of purchases, leases assigned, re-sales and other hallmarks of high finance and real estate. But for those of us with less patience to learn about Mr. Hogue's employer—the Christian Colliery Coal Company—let me introduce the Reader's Digest version of the story.

However, I warn you: this detour comes with a high risk of rabbit trail sightings.

Found in a page four column entitled, "Our Neighbors," this snapshot of just what the history of the Christian Colliery Coal Company was had been provided by the June 19, 1940, Charleston Daily Mail—just months before the Epling-Hogue wedding.

The thumbnail sketch:
     The Imperial Colliery company opened Mahan's first mine in 1911 under Judge Lynch Christian and Quinn Morton. Nine years later the Steel and Tube Company of America took over and sold out in 1921 to the Youngstown Sheet and Tube which in turn sold to George Daniels about 1925 or '26.
     Named after Judge Christian of the supreme court of Virginia, the Christian Colliery company today is under the vice presidency and general managership of A. O. B. Hogue.

While even that streamlined description could leave me a person somewhat confused, it does point out a few pertinent details:
  • First, the place where John Hogue was employed as mining engineer was named after a judge of the Virginia state Supreme Court, and
  • Second, the general manager of that mining concern was none other than John's own brother, Andrew O'Beirne Hogue.

What I hadn't bargained for, in that brief tour of the real estate exchanges embedded in the coal mines of this neck o' West Virginia, was the very next sentence in the article.
Mahan's first settlers were the Hatfields and McCoys who followed the trail blazing Daniel Boone across White mountain from Virginia. It is still a much discussed topic that back up in the hills may be found Boone's marks on trees—crudely cut half moon designs with the outline of an axe cut over his initials.

Really? I wasn't sure how reliable it might be to glean my history lessons from the local newspaper, so I took a cursory glance at other resources about both Daniel Boone and the Hatfield-McCoy feud. While Daniel Boone was mostly remembered for his knowledge of land around Kentucky, he did, for a while, move to the region around Point Pleasant (now in West Virginia) and when nearby Kanawha County was first formed, he was appointed lieutenant colonel of its county militia.

That, however, pre-dates the famed Hatfield-McCoy feud by several decades. Yet it could be possible that the predecessors of those ill-fated families had actually been escorted into that then-unknown territory by Boone, himself.

The introduction to that Daily Mail article had quite the way of explaining the county's colorful heritage:
Tales about every phase of the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud are as prevalent on Paint Creek as ants at a picnickers' convention and it has been passed from generation to generation that the private family war had its birth in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia and over, of all things, an old razor-back hog.

Again, I'm not sure about taking one's history lesson from a newspaper article, but when the story continued with some verifiable details, I took the bait and hopped down that rabbit trail.
It is not every person who knows there is a graveyard on Paint creek at Sandy City in which are deposited the remains of three McCoys—once rugged mountain boys—no doubt.

The article included the name and inscription on one headstone—of "Samuel McCoy who died Sept. 16, 1846, aged 60 years, four months and four days"—so I took a look at Find A Grave. Sure enough, there was a photo of the headstone upon which could be seen those very words. See for yourself here.

The cemetery location provided another confirmation—in Kanawha County, West Virginia—as did the fact that not only Samuel but his brother James were among the McCoys listed in the cemetery's burials. (The third mention in the newspaper article described an unmarked grave which gave appearances of being for a child; the third McCoy listed in the Pratt Cemetery is someone who married a Huddleston.)

One more tidbit was shared in the Daily Mail article, a bit of hearsay providing local color:
It is told by Jim Williams, one of the creek's old timers at Mahan, that the time of the extension of the C. and O. line further up the creek (about 1910) several of the surviving McCoys sat with rifles on this small plot and made track surveyors go around the graveyard. The line originally had been right through the cemetery.

"And that's the real McCoy," the article's author concluded.

Just to the other side of this article and its accompanying photographs was another local history feature, "Paint Creek Highlights." In it, one short paragraph mentioned,
John S. Hogue, father of the present vice president and general manager of the Christian Colliery company there, was the civil engineer in charge of the location for the standard gauge railroad running up the creek to Kingston, about 23 miles from the mouth.

One wonders whether the railroad company the senior John Hogue represented in his surveying duties might have been the C. and O. I simply will have to polish up my West Virginia geography.

Above: McCoy family nemeses, the Hatfield Clan, shown in an unsourced photograph, circa 1897, courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Wedding Bells . . . Again

Even for someone like John Syme Hogue, with his checkered past, one must assume the possibility of settling down, eventually, to married life. Yes, I know he already had made that momentous "I do" promise back in Michigan before his many crimes caught up with him—and for the outcome of that commitment made back in 1915, I have no further information. One must presume that that bride had seen the handwriting on the wall and had done what she must do to preserve her own peace.

That was then. This is now 1940, and John Hogue has been back home in Charleston, presumably on his best behavior after all the trials he had endured. Likely, his family—what was left of them—made sure to encourage him to remain on the straight and narrow. Perhaps a parole officer stopped by to chime in on the chorus from time to time, although I doubt those Canadian and Michigan officials would be keen on keeping up such a long-distance relationship.

By this point, Hogue would have been gainfully employed, incorporated back into his community, and taking his place as a productive member of society. At least one would presume so, as such a staid lifestyle seldom elicits such blaring newspaper headlines as had followed him nearly twenty years prior. At least, there were no longer any eye-grabbing bulletins that I could find.

Still, although it would not seem out of the ordinary for someone in Hogue's shoes to decide to remarry, the little entry in the Boone County, West Virginia, marriage register caught me by surprise. Dated October 11, 1940, application was made for the forty five year old John S. Hogue of "Kan. Co."—presumably Kanawha County, where his home would have been located—to marry a nearby Boone County resident. The bride's name was Lucille, daughter of George and Ellen Epling of Ridgeview, West Virginia. At the time the license was issued, three days later on October 14, she was seventeen years of age.

After the fact, both The Charleston Gazette and The Charleston Daily Mail made similar note of the event in brief entries on their society pages. According to the Sunday, October 20, Daily Mail in an entry headlined, "Miss Epling and John Hogue Marry,"
     Miss Lucille Epling of Ridgeview, W. Va., and Mr. John S. Hogue of Mahan were married Saturday morning at the First Presbyterian church of Charleston. Rev. J. Blair Morton performed the ceremony.
     Mr. and Mrs. Hogue left for a trip to Washington and other eastern points and on their return in two weeks will make their home in Mahan. The bride wore a blue costume suit, matching accessories and a shoulder corsage of orchids.
     Mr. Hogue is employed as a mining engineer for the Christian Colliery Coal company.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Send No Flowers

It's hard enough for today's ex-convict to complete his prison term and return home as a rehabilitated member of society. As impossible as it might have been, at the time of John Hogue's 1917 trial for murder in Canada, to predict he would at some point see this day, his opportunity to return home came in the late 1920s.

If you are thinking in the historical context of a bigger picture, you are realizing just what type of economy those wings of freedom were escorting him into. Perhaps in the upheaval of the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing depression, life in Charleston, West Virginia, took on a very guarded shade of gray for everyone alike—no matter what role they assumed in the community.

Although no mention could be found concerning John Hogue's first years after returning to civilian life back home in Charleston, hopefully, he found a place to stay, a job and some means of re-integrating into the social fabric of his hometown. In later years, newspaper articles gave the occasional glimpse that John Hogue was still there, taking his place as part of the extended family, thanks to those long litanies of honorary pall bearers at funerals or guest lists for the gala celebrations of golden wedding anniversaries of his elders or exchanges of first vows of his siblings' children.

There was, however, one sad note capturing a moment in Hogue's life in the earlier years of his return home: the funeral notices of Susan Harvie Hogue, John's mother. As is often hoped by family historians, I found one of these notices—from The Charleston Daily Mail of Saturday evening, December 30, 1933—to confirm her relationships, along with some pertinent dates for this twice-married widow.
     Funeral services for Mrs. Susan Harvie Hogue, 79 years old, who died unexpectedly at her home in Brooks street Friday afternoon, will be held at the St. John's Episcopal church at 2:30 o'clock Sunday. Rev. John Gass will officiate, and burial will be in Spring Hill cemetery.
     Until a short time before her death at 5 o'clock Friday, Mrs. Hogue had been in her usual good health.
     Although she lived most of her life in Charleston, Mrs. Hogue was a native of Richmond, Va., where she was born in 1854. She was the daughter of Dr. Spicer Patrick and Mrs. Virginia Harvie Patrick.
     In 1872 she was married to Henry Poindexter, who died in 1879. In 1884 she was married to John Syme Hogue, who died in 1917.

The obituary went on to list Susan Harvie Hogue's six surviving children: a son and daughter from her first marriage, and three sons and an additional daughter from her second marriage, including her oldest, the recently-returned junior John Hogue. All were now living in Charleston at the time of her passing, in addition to two grandchildren and three brothers.

The funeral notice went on to conclude, "The family has requested that no flowers be sent," making me wonder whether to take the bait to read between the lines—shock of suddenness? Allergies?—or just be grateful for the written review confirming the family constellation as I presumed it would be.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Relatively Well Off

When Judge North of the Calhoun County, Michigan, Circuit Court sentenced John Hogue on the morning of April 22, 1926, that was the last that was heard in the newspapers of Hogue's fate for quite a while. Though he had been accused of committing the same crime in Madison, Wisconsin, as he had in Battle Creek, Michigan, try as I might, I could locate no further mention in newspapers archived from Madison for the next two years.

That said, do we presume Hogue was free to return home, once he completed his term at the Jackson Prison in Michigan? And if so, what was he to expect, once he materialized after a more than ten year hiatus while engaged in the kind of escapades that would reduce a mother to tears?

Granted, the Marshall Evening Chronicle, at the beginning of Hogue's court hearing in April, had included a parenthetical mention that his parents were "well to do." But just how well were they doing at this point? Back at the stage of the urgent pleading for his life when Hogue was facing the gallows in Windsor, Ontario, a West Virginian newspaper had noted on May 10, 1917,
Hogue's parents are poor but respected residents of Charleston.

Still, that same paper, The Fairmont West Virginian, had earlier put it that Hogue's parents "are well known and respected residents," a somehow different spin than "poor but respected."

That was how the paper put it on May 2. Two days later, the elder Hogues' financial standing was elevated to "one of the leading families of the Kanawha Valley" and
at one time owned considerable property in and about Charleston.

Perhaps the Hogue family fortunes fluctuated, depending on editorial slant—or who was on board to save John Hogue at the moment.

That was back in 1917, that frightful moment when Hogue was about to face the conclusion of the matter in the shooting of a Canadian immigration officer. Now, after serving at least ten months of a year's prison term in Michigan for prior crimes committed there over a decade before, one can presume he was simply released on parole and permitted to return to his home state of West Virginia. What was he about to find there?

It might be reasonable to assume that a homecoming might be an awkward proposition. One wonders what he might find after his embarrassing absence. Still, despite what he had done in those ten-plus years, his return was more likely to be after the manner of a prodigal than an outcast.

For one thing, remember that his younger brother had been the driving force behind his rescue from the gallows. Even in Michigan, a Marshall Evening Chronicle report provided the clue that Andrew Hogue was still very much involved in his wayward brother's well-being.
Andrew Hogue of Charleston, West Va., was here today to see his brother, John Hogue, at the jail. The latter is the man brot [sic] back from Windsor, after serving nine years for murder in Canada on a charge of robbery in Battle Creek.

The awkwardness of showing up on his doorstep, back in Charleston, would have been somewhat defused by the conciliatory gestures extended by his gracious brother, no doubt. But what about the rest of the family?

With the difficulty of obtaining issues online of the local newspaper in Charleston from that time period, it is hard to gauge the reception John Hogue might have received upon his arrival home.

One thing was certain, though: there was one member of his family he would never see again. If information given on Find A Grave is correct (and sometimes there are mistakes provided on some memorials), John's sixty seven year old father—the man for whom he had been named—made it just long enough to learn that his son's life had been spared, but not long enough for the wayward child to have returned home. John Syme Hogue senior apparently passed away in Charleston on September 16, 1917.

Perhaps the elder Hogue's demise partially explains those family descriptions as "poor but respected." It would be unbearable to think that his son's escapades had contributed to his relatively early death. Then again, about the only mentions of the Hogue family I could find—other than the news of the John Hogue court case—were often linked to sales of property on the steps of the county courthouse. These, likely, provide the back story to The Fairmont West Virginian's characterization of the family as "at one time" owning "considerable property" in the Charleston area. Though possible loss of his son likely weighed heavily on the elder John Hogue, it seems it may have come on the heels of bad news of an entirely different type.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Life on the Installment Plan

Just think of this as the story of one man's life sentence on the installment plan.

John Hogue, the convicted murderer in Ontario whose life was spared in an eleventh-hour reprieve by the Canadian government, may have seen his life sentence in Canada eventually reduced to a mere ten years, but that wasn't the end of his debt to society. Apparently, there were more charges to face.

Battle Creek, Michigan, for instance, wasn't about to give up on seeing justice served in the March, 1916, safe-cracking case at the Arthur B. Mitchell Billiard Hall—although authorities even ten years later still insisted that the crook's real name was James Gordon. That little event had netted John Hogue a cool $422 on his way to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Back in 1916, it was Battle Creek's detective G. W. Colby who, in vain, had chased the suspect all the way to Toledo, Ohio, only to find he had just been released after questioning by authorities there. Now, on April 1, 1926, it was Sheriff G. W. Colby, accompanied by Calhoun County prosecutor Cortwright, who finally got his man when he traveled to Detroit to meet up with the Ontario provincial police escorting Hogue across the border. A lot had happened back in Michigan since Hogue last blew through town.

Marshall, the county seat of Calhoun County, in which Battle Creek was situated, was the scene of the trial in circuit court the morning of April 22. Since officials at the Kingston penitentiary where Hogue had been incarcerated in Canada had reported that he had been "a model prisoner," perhaps he had shown some signs of reform. In his own mind, apparently, he believed himself to be a much different man than the one who had last darkened the doors of Battle Creek, for in this case, he had "hoped for release on probation."

Authorities in Calhoun County saw otherwise for, according to that day's Marshall Evening Chronicle, Hogue was duly reminded that
the crime for which he stood charged in Calhoun County is a serious one.

Somehow, the incongruity of all that had transpired in the past ten years of Hogue's life suddenly slapped me in the face. Here, after narrowly escaping the death sentence for murder, the man has been retrieved to stand trial for a theft of less than five hundred dollars—admittedly of much more worth then than it is today, but still of no comparison to the value of a life lost—and the court chooses to remind him that the crime "is a serious one."

In the end, the judge turned out to be quite lenient, even in this "serious" case. He chose to give the minimum sentence—one year—and then was quoted in the newspaper as commenting,
With your good time you'll have to serve only about ten months. Furthermore I am going to recommend that when you are released on parole that you may live outside the state.

That, essentially, provided the green light, after serving his sentence, for Hogue to return home to live near his parents in West Virginia, "who are well to do."

What a fortunate turn of events and best-hoped-for outcome for Hogue—except for one thing. According to The Escanaba Daily Press—that spot as far away from Battle Creek as one could get and still be in Michigan—their April 1, 1926 report mentioned one other point of business:
A message today was received from Sheriff Thomas Shaugancy [sic] of Madison, Wis., indicating Stewart or Hogue is wanted there for blowing two safes in February, 1916.

If Michigan never forgets the wrongs committed against them, why would Wisconsin?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Time to Face the Music

Time for an intermission from John Hogue's miserable saga. If I don't take this moment to take care of some bi-monthly statistics, I'll run out of month. It's today or never for January, 2016.

This certainly has been a whirlwind month for me, going from the wrap-up of winter holidays to that stellar opportunity to attend the week-long genealogical institute at Salt Lake City, to coordinating our local genealogical society's annual dinner meeting, to starting up another semester of teaching beginning genealogy classes.

Interwoven into that schedule has been a relentless pursuit of John Hogue's tattered trail of newspaper articles and other documentation, in the quest to put together a cogent story of just who this man was and what he made of his life. After having to lay his narrative aside during holiday interruptions in December, I was loathe to do so again this month, and put off all my accountability checks until the last moment.

Well, the last moment is here, and I'll have to face the music: I didn't get much done on the genetic genealogy side of the equation—ironic, as that was the very topic I went to SLIG to take. Considering I even put off the usual report for an additional week, the numbers seem sluggish on my side—although on the DNA testing side, the tsunami of test kits ordered during the Christmas rush is starting to hit the results side of the equation, as you'll notice from the uptick in DNA matches I've received.

Regarding work completed on our family trees, the two paternal sides—mine and my husband's—lacked in any further progress. I did manage to add three additional names to the Stevens side, bringing the count in that tree to 933. But my paternal side—with that elusive Polish tendency to hide one's true identity—is still flatlined at 180 names, as it has been for over half a year.

Thankfully, despite all the activity elsewhere this month, each of our maternal trees saw some improvement in the last three weeks. The Flowers line in Ohio increased by 190 to a total of 2,860. The Davis line fared almost as well, with an addition of 119 documented additions, bringing the total on that line to 7,171. That line, however, is the one benefiting from my matrilineal-line goal of determining the nexus with my mystery cousin, the adoptee with the exact match on our mtDNA tests. Some day, I keep promising myself, some day....

On the genetic genealogy side of the equation, it was interesting to see signs of burgeoning matches, thanks to the huge number of people deciding that DNA test kits would make the perfect Christmas gift. My husband's matches swelled by twenty one—a bit more than usual—to bring his total DNA matches to 591. Even more so than his, my count jumped by twenty eight to give me a total of 1,008 DNA matches to date—all of which, other than the twenty two that are specific to my paternal side, connecting me to one of the many colonial roots on my maternal side.

In addition to that number—all, by the way, from tests we had taken at Family Tree DNA a couple years ago—both of us had just tested at AncestryDNA as well. Results for these tests have begun arriving, creating another category for me to keep track of. Ancestry provides a count for a category labeled "fourth cousins or closer," which in comparison with our FTDNA matches, puts me in the challenging spot of having to (sort of) compare apples to oranges, since FTDNA provides match counts for those up to the level of sixth cousin or beyond ("remote").

Still, my husband has garnered eighty six of those AncestryDNA matches at the level of fourth cousin or closer. And mine has leaped to a mind boggling 223 matches.

Of course, it would help if I actually would take time to tend my growing garden of DNA matches. But with this whirlwind month, I haven't been as diligent on this account as I would like. Looks like I owe a number of people an introductory greeting, at the least!

With tomorrow's post, we'll continue with John Hogue's story. However, behind the scenes in the next two weeks, I need to put my primary focus on sorting out all these new matches on our two respective DNA accounts. Hopefully, those results will lead to some new discoveries—or at least bolster some suspected family links I wasn't quite certain about before.

Above: "Boulevard Saint-Denis, Argenteuil, in Winter," 1875 oil on canvas by French Impressionist painter Claude Monet; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.  

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Still Stewart in Their Book

James Stewart, alias James Gordon, alias James Andrews, alias John Hogue, safe blower of a decade ago and convicted murderer...

So went the opener of yet another newspaper article on the still-unfolding saga of John Hogue—this one from the Escanaba Daily Press of April 1, 1926. Though Escanaba is about as far away from Battle Creek as you can get and still be in Michigan, its interest in the Hogue case—or the Stewart case, as they still presumed—revealed just how intent the people of Michigan were in seeing that the man, whoever he was, pay his debt to society for crimes committed in Battle Creek a full ten years beforehand.

If you thought Hogue was still sitting in a cell at the Kingston Penitentiary in Ontario, you and I both missed something. Embedded within the lead to another Michigan newspaper's coverage of the 1926 chapter of the unfolding Hogue story—this time, from the Marshall Evening Chronicle on April 22—was this surprise:
John Hogue, who stood in the shadow of the gallows, and who at the last moment secured a commutation of sentence to life and later to ten years....

Somehow, I missed that last detail. To ten years? How did that happen?
Knowing that I could find all the Essex area newspapers from that time period in Ontario online, I tried in vain to locate any mention of that latest change in sentence.

Lest you assume this Hogue fellow lived a charmed life, think again. Apparently, not even he knew about the surprise in store for him upon his release from prison that year. Back in Manitoba—a place full of people who also had a vested interest in watching Hogue's every move—the Brandon Daily Sun noted on April 8, complete with the usual litany of aliases,
John Hogue, alias James Steward, alias James Gordon, pardoned murderer from Kingston, Ont., penitentiary, professed complete astonishment when turned over to Battle Creek police by Ontario officers. The transfer was made on a Detroit-bound car ferry from Windsor. Hogue declared his rearrest an unexpected and unpleasant development.

Of course, if he had been reading the Escanaba Daily Press, it wouldn't have been such a surprise to him, since back on April 1, the headline there had announced the plans, "Paroler will be arrested."

The Marshall Evening Chronicle provided the explanation for this abrupt change in plans: Hogue was charged with burglarizing a Battle Creek pool hall ten years prior. Being the county seat of Calhoun County in which Battle Creek was located, Marshall, Michigan, would be the location of the newspaper of record for that county's proceedings, and was likely keen to get the scoop on any reports concerning the long-awaited suspect Stewart, er, Gordon, er, Hogue. Once again, John Hogue would be getting his day in court—whether he wanted it or not.


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