When researching the history of a man prone to changing his alias as many times as he slips across state borders, it becomes necessary to have other devices to help keep track of his whereabouts. Tracking John Hogue through the years of 1916 and 1917 from his birthplace in West Virginia to his alleged residence in Cincinnati to his various escapades in the midwestern United States and Canada seemed convoluted enough, but when newspaper reports failed to point the way, I often searched under his aliases. Sometimes, though, even they lost me.
Though the search for John Hogue's whereabouts started out as a genealogical pursuit, it certainly turned out to be much more than I bargained for. Still, I've found it helpful to take my cue from internationally-respected genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills and her research tip to consider the "FAN Club" of the target person being researched. While that "FAN" originally referred to "family, associates and neighbors," with John Hogue essentially leaving his family behind in Charleston, I've taken to substituting that "Family" with "Friends."
Well, perhaps "friends" is too liberal an application. It might be more apropos to Hogue's situation to consider these people I've been tracing as associates. No matter which way they are classified, they help me reconstitute his story through the technique of cluster research, a concept well described by attorney and genealogy blogger James Tanner. (While his example demonstrates an application to geographical instances, my pursuit is more of a sociological exploration.)
As the newspapers of the various locales concerned with the disposition of Hogue's case in 1917 kept churning out headlines and (sometimes erroneous) narratives, I've been on a seemingly never-ending quest to catch up with all the reportage. I ran across a blurb, dated shortly after the commutation of John Hogue's sentence that May, revealing a glimpse of just what he might still have been doing, had he not been detained for that fateful deportation after serving the three month term in Winnipeg.
Recall that John Hogue, in Winnipeg, had been arrested and tried as one William Anderson, along with his accomplice, said to be named "Sheeney" Holmes. Together, they had been in the process of blowing open a safe at the Robinson and Company departmental store in town. That was back in October, 1916.
By June, 1917, while Hogue—a.k.a. William Anderson in Winnipeg—was being transported to the Kingston Penitentiary in Ontario to serve a life sentence, his buddy Holmes was apparently still hard at work, back in Manitoba. This time, the scene of the crime was Portage la Prairie—nowadays, a mere one hour's drive west on the Trans-Canada Highway from Winnipeg. The June 11, 1917, Winnipeg Free Press carried the story under the tag line, "Suspected Yeggmen Arrested."
Of course, we've already learned what "yeggmen" are. But it was interesting to note what local journalists had not yet learned about what to call one of Holmes' other associates.
Among the three men arrested as yeggmen at Portage la Prairie Wednesday is "Sheeney" Holmes, according to an announcement made on Saturday by the Pinkerton's agency of Winnipeg. Holmes was a pal of William Anderson, now serving a life term for the murder of Detective Marshall Jackson. Both men served a jail term in Winnipeg, and were deported.
Well, perhaps "Anderson" was deported. Evidently, Holmes had still been left at large to do more damage. Not surprisingly, John Hogue's associate had learned one of the basics of his trade: always travel with an alias. The newspaper article noted Holmes' reinvented self:
Holmes gave his name at Portage as J. C. Little.
One had to wonder: if John Hogue had not been deported, what would he have been up to, at that point? Likely, moving on down the road to the next likely target.
As to the other players in John Hogue's universe of friends, associates and family, it was often difficult to trace this with certainty. Even when a story seemed to provide a solid clue, often the name proved a false lead, as we'll see tomorrow with another part of this episode in the Hogue saga.