Saturday, July 25, 2009

John Dillinger Gang's Fort Wayne, IN Connection

Homer Van Meter was born December 3, 1906 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Homer died in a storm of police gunshots in a St. Paul, MN alley, August 23, 1934. The newspaper reported that the parallels between John Dillinger and Homer Van Meters deaths were betrayal by women, and death by gun fire in alleys. “His straw hat rolled in the dust that blackened his white shoes, and blood flowed from more than two score wounds.” Homer Van Meter came back to Fort Wayne, Indiana to be buried in Lindenwood Cemetery, Saturday, August 25, 1934.
The newspaper headlines in Fort Wayne Saturday, August 25, 1934, read “Minimizing the Glamour.” With human consideration for the wishes of the innocent survivors of the late Homer Van Meter, slain when he resisted arrest by police officers in St. Paul, MN, and with the purpose of minimizing the glamour which excessive publicity so easily confers upon enemies of society, the News-Sentinel will not “play up” or sensationalize accounts of the dead bandit’s funeral services and burial nor will we make any attempt to procure photos of the same.
Carey and Mary (Miller) Van Meter had three children: Harry, Homer, and baby sister Helen. They lived in the middle class Bloomingdale neighborhood, where the children went to school. Carey worked for the railroad, and Mary stayed home to care for their three children. Both Cary and Mary were dead when Homer started getting in trouble with the “law.”
Homer’s first crime was for “disorderly conduct,” in Aurora, IL in 1923. Later that same year he was convicted of vehicle theft in IL, and sentenced to 1 to 10 years in the Southern IL State Penitentiary. In 1925 he and Con Livingston held up passengers for several hundred dollars and jewelry. Con Livingston was killed by the police in South Bend, IN, and Homer Van Meter fled to Chicago, IL where the police caught up with Homer and he was arrested. Homer served time at the Lake County Reformatory, but was transferred to the IN State Prison. May 18, 1933 the parole board recommendation was to free Van Meter, because they “believed that he would make good in the future.”
There were times and occasions when Homer Van Meter tried to “make good in the future.” Homer would disappear, and the police wouldn’t “hear” from Homer for months at a time. One time he was believed to be living in New Orleans, LA. After Homer was on parole from the Indiana State Prison, he refused to take part in Indiana bank robberies. He did however participate in the IL, OH, and MI Dillinger gang bank robberies.
John Dillinger was released from prison June 1933, and then he was back in jail in Lima, OH. September 1933 there was a raid on the Lima, OH jail, and Dillinger was freed, and Homer Van Meter rejoined the Dillinger gang.
Relatives said that Homer was handsome. He had a strange twitch in his leg that caused his friends to call him “Shake Leg.” He could be quite charming when he wanted to be, which is why John Dillinger used Homer as the advance man. Homer was often sent into the banks ahead of the gang to scope things out. His good looks and personality made it easy for him to enter the bank and put on the charm to find out inside information.
The Peru Indiana police remembered how Homer Van Meter posed as a detective magazine reporter. Homer told the Peru police that he was working on a story about an old Miami County robbery. The Peru police thought that Homer was like a “friend,” until he showed up a few days later with the Dillinger gang. The Dillinger gang along with Van Meter, seized $2,000 of the police arsenal.
The Dillinger gang often drove in stolen cars, and one time they were in a car with Michigan plates when a police car came upon them. John Dillinger was reported to have been ready for a shootout, when Homer stopped him, left the car, and went up to the police car. He told them that they were from Michigan, and they needed to know how to get back on the right road to Michigan. He then showed an interest in the squad car and their machine guns. Homer said, “It’s a wicked weapon and would end John Dillinger if you found him.” Homer cheerfully shouted, “Good Night.” As he went back to the stolen car and John Dillinger.
Homer didn’t write letters home, and his relatives said that they had nothing to do with him. One winter day his brother Harry went to his garage where his beat up old car was parked. When he entered the garage he saw a beautiful shiny new car with the keys and the title on the front seat. Harry had to go to court and prove that the car was a repayment for money that Homer owed Harry.
Information from The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne, IN newspaper microfilm August 24 & 25, 1934, ACPL, Fort Wayne, IN.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mickey's Monday Madness

Mickey Pickard Crites Irwin Clift Jenson.
Mickey Pickard (Crites Irwin Clifft) Jenson b. 26 Mar 1850 d. 19 Jan 1929.
Mickey has been a real puzzle. She was married four times, and out lived all four husbands. Her first husband Thomas Crites is buried in Tulip Cemetery, Greene County, IN. Her second husband Solomon Irwin (don't know where he is buried). Her third husband John Clifft is buried next to his first wife in Walnut Grove Cemetery, Greene County, IN. Her fourth husband John Jenson b. 24 Aug 1851 is buried by his first wife Margaret in Grandview Cemetery, Greene County, Indiana.
Is Mickey a nickname for Mary?
Where is Mickey buried?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth’s original name was Isabella, but, as she herself explained: “When I left the house of bondage I left everything behind. I wasn’t going to keep nothing of Egypt on me, an’ so I went to the Lord an’ asked Him to give me a new name. An’ the Lord game me Sojourner, because I was to travel up and down the land, showing the people their sins an’ being a sign unto them. Afterward I told the Lord I wanted another name, because everybody else had two names, an’ the Lord gave me Truth, because I was to declare the truth to the people.”

From the New York Evening Post, and published in the Cinncinnati Enquirer Newspaper, Saturday, December 8, 1883, Roll 86, page 10, Column 6, Allen County Public Library, microfilm newspaper collection, Fort Wayne, Indiana
“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?”
“Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.”
Two quotes from, "Ain't I a Woman?" Sojourner Truth speech at a women’s rights convention in Akron, Ohio, December 1851, from the webpage of Fordham:
Sojourner Truth's bust in Washington, DC
President Lincoln met Sojourner Truth, and this is her letter about their meeting.

Biography of Sojourner Truth

Saturday, July 4, 2009

One Daughter of the American Revolution's Story

Lucy MacLean was a daughter of an American Revolution Patriot, known as a belle and an authoress of some merit. This is her story as written in 1883.

While in New York the other day a gentleman of this place noticed a gray-haired woman begging at one of the Park Row entrances to the Post-Office. He was informed that the woman’s name was Lucy E. MacLean, and that she was a person of literary tendencies. Residents of this place recognize the name as that of a singular and unhappy woman well known here; whose strange actions have caused much comment here. Her mania for bustles was a predominating characteristic. In summer and winter alike she wore a dark calico dress, with a long full skirt and a waist of a style in vogue twenty or twenty-five years ago. She is tall, and in other days was doubtless graceful.
She is the daughter of Captain MacLean, who served in the Revolutionary War, and who afterward moved with his family to Ohio, and from there to Springville, Erie County, and this state. Lucy Maclean and her sister Sarah moved from there about twenty-five years ago to this place. When the two girls were young Lucy was a great belle, was pretty, talented and gay; and her admirers were many. She also wrote poetry of some merit, and many of her productions found their way to the pages of Graham’s Godey’s and the Knickerbockers. One of their best pieces was a satire on a schoolmaster who had unintentionally, as it appeared afterward, given her offense. This had a great run in the newspapers of that day. She had an extensive correspondence with the literary men of the day, and among others with Mr. Longfellow. While yet in the bloom of her youth she became acquainted with Salmon P. Chase, with whom, it is said, she corresponded. It was not long after the correspondence was terminated that her friends notices that her actions were strange. She manifested more and more crazy impulses until finally she became hopelessly insane. For twenty years she has roamed about aimlessly, dependent upon the charity of her sister.
Some of Lucy’s habits are singular. For years she haunted the banks of the city, continually inquiring for remittances that never came. Finally she gave this up, and took to borrowing or trying to borrow, small sums of money. Her usual way was to enter a store when the proprietor was busily engaged, apologize for her intrusion in a lady-like manner, and asked for the loan of from twenty-five cents to $2- never more that that and never less. A refusal had no effect, as she would return the next day with an apology and like request. She has frequently been to New York, and several years ago she went to Washington to certain members of Congress about a subsidy she claimed she was entitled to as an authoress. It is a mystery how she traveled, as she had no money. Some say she did not use any money at all, but trusted to the gallantry of the conductors not to put her off their trains between stations. And when she had gone as far on one train as possible to wait patiently for the next Some of her bazarites are shown by an incident that happened here five or six years ago. Theodore Tilton was to lecture one evening, and she took a stand at the foot of the stairs, awaiting his coming. When he approached with two gentlemen she went toward him, touched him on the shoulders and said: “Mr. Tilton, I want you to pay me the money you own me.” Tilton was so astonished that for some time he was unable to say anything, but as length he asked here for what he was indebted to her. “You have been using my lecture long enough,” she said,” and now I want you to pay me for it.”

Olean (N.Y.) Correspondence New York Tribune. Published in the Cinncinnati Enquirer Newspaper, Saturday, November 24, 1883, Roll 86, page 12, Column 7, Allen County Public Library, microfilm newspaper collection, Fort Wayne, Indiana