Saturday, August 13, 2016

Back in the Bad Old Days: Bradford J St Charles

Police corruption in 1930s LA included
taking protection from the brothels
The parents of Sarah Edna Owens -  David Owens and Sarah Holler's story is here. Her daughter Elsie married Arthur V Shippey, a prominent citizen in Villa Grove, Saguache, Colorado after a brief first, failed marriage. Shippey served in the Colorado Statehouse. The daughter she had from that first union, Edna Elizabeth, went by her father's last name for legal purposes, but by Shippey for things like the census. The sperm-donor disappeared into the ether.

After the Shippey family left for California, they settled at 601 South Berendo in Los Angeles in the Wilshire Center neighborhood. They took on a boarder, a young policeman, divorced, whose father, Kean St Charles, had been a prominent politician in Arizona. Bradford J St Charles had been a policeman for a few years and eventually, Edna and Bradford married.  They had two children in short order: Betty Jo 1933 and Edward D., who was born after the trouble their dad would next find himself in.

In 1930s Los Angeles, the police department was still fairly corrupt, though the chiefs appointed in the 1930s made a lot of headway to clean things up. This corruption included taking protection money, turning a blind eye, and other less-than-lawful behavior on the part of those hired to serve and protect without added inducement.

In PRIVILEGED SON: OTIS CHANDLER AND THE RISE AND FALL OF THE LA TIMES DYNASTY by Dennis McDougal, Bradford merited a mention as one of those who got nabbed doing wrong but did not pay a price...yet:
"Like to Visit a Whorehouse?" LAPD Commander Bradford J St Charles sprang the
Bradford St Charles, 1935

surprise question on a reporter and a photographer employed by the Times late in a routine squad car ride along one evening in 1934, leaving the pair giddy and a little embarrassed, but certainly interested. St Charles parked in front of a two-story building in a non-descript Hollywood neighborhood and guided the Timesmen up the outside stairwell to a side porch where he rang the bell. While the journalist poised his pencil and the photographer got ready to snap a candid shot, the madam greeted the dapper cop with the Clark Gable mustache as if he were a relentless bill collector: 
"Officer St Charles!" she snarled, "I paid you last week."
After she slammed the door, St Charles turned, shrugged, and smiled guiltily. The mortified cop drove the Timesmen back to the precinct and the reporter raced off in his own car to the Times. But if he thought he was going to get a bonus for writing up this astonishing and incriminating incident, he was mistaken. Times editor LD Hotchkiss stopped him as he rolled paper into his typewriter and told him the Times would print no such story. A prostitute's payoff to a cop was routine stuff.
"Inconsequential," sniffed Hotchkiss.
LA in the mid-1930s was a bit more sophisticated than it had been in the 1920, but it was just as much a haven for whores, pimps, con men, and gamblers. Only the police/city hall middleman role had grown more refined, intimate, and low-key. The city still played host to such renowned madams as Lee Francis, who had served champagne and caviar to visiting vice officers throughout the Roaring Twenties, and Ann Forrester, aka "The Black Widow," who took her nickname from her incriminating address book. Forrester's little black book contained the names and private home numbers of many of the city's business elite as well as the LAPD brass, Commander St Charles among them.
But St Charles name would never see print in the LA Times just because he took protection money from prostitutes. The Times finally printed St Charles' name after he stepped so far over the legal line that even LD Hotchkiss could not ignore him. A few months after Hotchkiss killed the brothel payoff story, Asa Keyes' successor, District Attorney Burton Fitts, indicted Commander St Charles as chief informant for a gang of bank robbers; only then did the Times dutifully report that St Charles would spend the next fifteen years in San Quentin."
What would come next is St Charles was charged and convicted of robbery of the Securities-First National Bank, for being the "brains" behind the fairly bungled bank robbery.  According to his co-conspirators, he provided the gun, auto, and served as lookout. No one on the LAPD was willing to look the other way, and everyone moved full steam ahead to try him. The two actual robbers were caught immediately after an alarm was sent. They both testified against St Charles, who received a 15 year sentence (or two year sentence depending on report) but did not serve it at San Quentin, but instead served his time at McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary in Washington.

His 1935 appeal to the high court failed, as they refused to hear the case. St Charles always said it was a "frameup" but that was unlikely based on the careless manner he flaunted his corruption in front of the press. It appears as though he got out sometime before April 1943, as he enlisted in the US Army at that time. Edna divorced him along the way, marrying twice more. The whereabouts of her children are unknown, but Bradford died in New York State in 1971.

A point of quibble is that in the LA Times book, Bradford is referred to as a "Commander" but in other reports he was a "radio car patrol officer." That latter scenario is probably correct given his age and the description of his activities where he was visiting illegal businesses in his radio district.

Bradford's troubles didn't end in 1935, but we'll save that for another story.

The Prolific David Owens: Daughter Sarah Edna Owens Clark

Villa Grove, Saguache, Colorado
(photo unattributed)
David Owens, my 3rd great grandfather, married my 3rd great grandmother, Sarah Holler and they had a passle of kids. You can read their early story here.

Sarah Edna Owens was the daughter of David Owens and his first wife, Sarah Holler born in Poyner Township, Black Hawk County, Iowa on 30 Jul 1858. She married James Riley Clark on 09 Oct 1874 in Raymond, Black Hawk County. James Riley (he went by Riley for the most part) had a brother Emory, who married another Owens child, Emily.

The best way to tell Sarah's story is to reference her obituary:

Mrs JR Clark, the beloved proprietor of the Clark Hotel, of Villa Grove, Colorado, passed away Wednesday morning, March 5th, at 4:00 am at the Rio Grand Hospital, Salida, Colorado.
Her maiden name was Sarah E Owens, and she was born at Raymond Iowa, July 30th, 1858; and was married to James Riley Clark of Raymond, Iowa, Oct 9, 1874. They started west and stopped in Clay Center, Kansas, remaining there about five years and came to Colorado 37 years ago, locating at the Orient Mine. Mrs Clark was in charge of the boarding house and Mr Clark was interested in commercial enterprise..
Later, Mr Clark became engaged in business in Villa Grove, and they moved there, where Mrs Clark has been in the hotel business for the past 35 years, up to the time of her death. Had Mrs Clark lived until October 9th, she and Mr Clark would have celebrated their Golden Wedding.
To this union was born five children: Frank A., Ida May, Fred W., Elsie and Dorothea.
Mrs Clark is survived by her husband, James Riley Clark, and two daughters, Ida May Johns of Denver and Elsie C Shippey, wife of Representative Arthur V Shippey of Villa Grove, who were at her bedside, and her son Fred W Clark, who resides at San Jose, Calif.
She is also survived by a sister, Mrs Hattie Reynolds of Braddville, Iowa, who was with Mrs Clark at the end, and two other sisters, Mrs Margaret Brunson, living in Newburg, NY and Mrs Lucy Miller, of Vinton, Iowa and her two brothers, George Owens of Rushville, Nebr and David Owens of Burlington, Mo. Three grandchildren survive her: Mrs Thelma Wills, Betty Shippey and Tedbert Clark.
Funeral services were held at Villa Grove on Friday afternoon. Rev WH Miller of Saguache, officiating. He read the appropriate poem, "The House by the Side of the Road." Vocal selections were given by Dr OP Shippey, Mrs Eugene Williams, Mrs Carl Marold, Mrs Perry Campbell, Miss Johnson, and Tom Reese. Mrs HB Means accompanied them.
The following friends of the family were pall bearers: Jacob Barsch, Earl Wilson, Charles Gillespie, Robert Ellis, Eugene Williams and James C Freedle. Many lovely floral pieces were sent in loving memory of Mrs Clark. Interment was made at the family plot in Villa Grove, where her little Dorothea was interred.
Saguache Crescent, Colorado, 13 Mar 1924
The Clark Hotel was renamed The Cottage Hotel after the Clark's died. Their daughter, Mrs Ida May Johns took over management. How long that lasted, I haven't discovered.

I'm still working on the kids of Sarah and Riley, but was able to work a bit with the daughter, Elsie Clark who married first Carl C Hoffman and divorced, and then married Arthur Venters Shippey, the brother of the town doctor. They moved to Los Angeles with Elsie's daughter Edna Elizabeth (she went by both Hoffman and Shippey), where a boarder they took in would change their lives.

The Prolific David Owens: Son Emery Ellsworth Owens

A bit of ridiculous in the career of Emery Owens,
Police Chief, Mitchell, SD
Mitchell Evening Republican April 26, 1921
David Owens, my 3rd great grandfather, married my 3rd great grandmother, Sarah Holler  and had a passle of kids. He went on to have a passle more with his third wife, Anna. You can read their early story here.

I've spent the last little bit digging into the families of those children, with some frustration, some fascination and some questions, as I always seem to have.

Emery Ellsworth Owens of David Owens and his third wife, Anna Eliza Barker in Jan 1869 in Black Hawk County, Iowa. They David Owens clan eventually settled in Davison County, South Dakota, along with their children. Emery was quite a character, it seems. In the late 1910s, he served as Sheriff of Davison County. The papers are full of the crimes of the day, such daring bank robberies with blown safes and other nefarious crimes. In 1920, apparently with great reservation, the new mayor, Dr.  E. V. Bobb, appointed Emery Owens as Chief of Police of Mitchell, South Dakota, at a monthly salary of $175 per month. I say, with great reservation due to this transcribed article:

Owens Assumes Office
Former Sheriff of Davison County Gets Appointment - Council Approval Unanimous
Emery Owens, former sheriff of Davison County, was appointed chief of police of Mitchell for the coming year by Mayor EV Bobb at the opening session of the city council under the new administration. The appointment was unanimously approved by the council. An ordinance to raise the salaries of police officers was placed on its first reading at this meeting.
Mr Owens assumes office today. In making the appointment Mayor Bob made a straightforward talk to the council: "The police proposition has been a bone of contention in Mitchell as long as I can remember," he declared, "I had an idea that I was the smooth guy who wouldn't have any trouble, but I have found out different."
"I consulted many business men as to who would be best to appoint and found there were three or four good men, whom there appeared to be nothing against. Then a story was published in The Republican speaking of Mr Owens as a possible appointee, and it appeared that the city at large took it for granted that he was appointed."
"The next morning, however, an avalanche of protest poured in upon me and I found that friends who had backed me up in the campaign for election were bitterly opposed to this appointment. Charges were made against Owens which almost made me think by Friday evening that he was as bad as a horse thief. I have investigated these charges, however, and find that they are unfounded."
"Many of my friends warned me that I would get into a peck of trouble if I appointed Owens to this position, but if I refused to appoint him, it would appear that I believe the charges made against him were true. Besides, I feel that Owens is the best man that can be found for the position and I am going to appoint him to head the police department."
"I know that lack of harmony between the council an the mayor is on of the worst things that can happen and I regret that this kind of fight has been made against Owens. I am going to respectfully ask that you back me up, although I do not tell you to do so."
"Some of the charges made against Owens," Mayor Bobb continued, "have been made from personal enmity, some are from person who have heard them and believed them without complete proof, while some are from prejudice. Those who object to him because of hearsay or because of prejudice, will forget their objections if he makes good during the first two months, although the others will remember. I believe that he will make a good, substantial officer with the proper backing."...(other city business)...The ordinance dealing with the raising of the salaries of the policemen, provides that the chief be paid $175 per month and the patrolmen $110 per month.
Mitchell Evening Republican May 4, 1920
What the basis was for the innuendo, gossip, and discussion was not made clear in any of the articles - that might tread into libel territory. 

But, Chief Owens began his term, having successes including hauling in thousands of quarts of alcohol, many having come from over the border of Canada, during the early years of The Volstead Act (Prohibition). He also took a firm stand on jaywalkers.

Whatever caused the issues before he was appointed, may have lingered, because in 1922, the council wanted to be rid of him, but the Mayor refused to fire Owens and Owens refused to resign. The council put a special ordinance on the ballot in early 1923 which would reduce the Chief's wages to $1 per year, to force Owens out. The ordinance was passed by the town of Mitchell by a majority of 92 votes. Owens stayed. Bobb dug in.

Finally, in May of 1923, Owens resigned. A new chief was appointed. Owens sued the city in 1925 for back wages, saying the ordinance itself was illegal. No reference to the outcome of that suit was published that I can locate, so we could speculate it was settled quietly.

Emery was married to the English Rose, Alice Taylor in 1893 - but they divorced. They had two children, Mabel Gladys Owens Soost, who farmed with her husband Fred. She died in 1981; and Nellie Elma Owens Larson whose husband Robert Henry Larson was a salesman out of Brookings. She died in 1973 and left three children.

Monday, August 8, 2016

MYSTERY SOLVED: Hattie Stella Miller, A Little Bit of Unconventional

The Mystery of Hattie Miller SOLVED
Ira Smith Miller & Lucy Owens > Hattie Stella Miller m. (1) Charles Henry Babcock m. (2) LeRoy "Roy" William Bushnell

Hattie was the second youngest of nine children of Ira Miller and Lucy Owens. She waited some time to marry (an elderly 22), however, and married a rather unconventional choice in husband on 09 May 1916 - a widower and father of two grown daughters, Charles Henry Babcock, a farmer in Harrison, Benton County, Iowa. Charles was 60 at the time of his marriage to the young Hattie. How they met and got together I don't know. I bet it put his daughters into a tizz.

They had one daughter, Susie Josephine Babcock, before Charles died in 1930 at age 77. She married (1) Ralph Theodore Smith and (2) Earl W Amos.

Tracking Hattie after this became very difficult. The 1930 Census was the last sight of her in easily located records via The only thing I could imagine is that she married again, because she was a rather young woman when widowed.

After fully tracking her daughter through her two marriages, the answer was found not in records, but in the newspaper. A brief article mentioning her daughter, Mrs Earl Amos, as a survivor was the key. This was Hattie's obit! She had, it turned out, spent from at least 1940 until 1957 the sweetheart/mistress/ shack-up honey of Roy Bushnell. Roy, too, had been married before and that union ended in divorce prior to 1940.

Finally, something compelled Roy to marry Hattie, who was eight years older than him, on New Year's Eve, 1957. They lived in Vinton until Hattie died in 1963. Roy, who apparently liked the long-term dating model, then took up with Mrs Vera Talmadge, who he squired about from about 1965 into the 1970s. He died at 87 in 1987.

A string of children litter this story - the children of Charles, the children of Roy, the children of Earl, Susie's second husband, their children, and the children of Susie - only a couple of whom were raised by both of their parents.

Another mystery solved by putting the pieces together backwards.