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.



  1. Perhaps the legal bills added up (and/or the bribes to government officials?)


    1. I imagine those legal bills would be a problem. One thing I didn't delve into, at least in the detail it merited, was the impact of the stock market crash of 1929 on the land holdings of the Hogue family, back in West Virginia. Even before the dire circumstances precipitated by the 1929 crash, the Hogue family was apparently underneath the strain of financial problems linked to their properties.


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