Sunday, November 14, 2010

He was a Rascal...

He wasn't a Black Sheep. Not really. He didn't do anything “serious” like murder or armed robbery. He just lived a little bit outside the law sometimes. But he got caught. Frequently. And he was the grandfather that I never knew...

Charles Wilson Wiseman was born September 20, 1885 in Tippecanoe Township, Kosciusko County, Indiana. The oldest of four children born to Amanda Minerva Alexander and Samuel Bray Wiseman, Charlie (as he was most commonly known) likely lead the “normal” life of the son of a farmer. He attended the local one-room school, located a short distance from his home, with his siblings Smith, Goldie and Scott as well as his cousin Howard and other children in the township. (His little brother, Scott, who was not quite eight years old died on May 18, 1902 of diphtheria.)

It is not known when his “life of crime” began but the first hint we have is when Charlie was 19 years old - from a brief article in the May 3, 1905 edition of The Fort Wayne Sentinel (Allen County, Indiana):
Al Myers and Charles Wiseman are under arrest in Kosciusko county charged with perjury. They were witnesses in the case of a Kuhns Landing saloonkeeper charged with selling liquor on Sunday, and both testified that they did not obtain liquor of the accused liquor seller. Later the saloonkeeper pleaded guilty to the charge and launched his friendly witnesses into a bad hole.
A report in The Northern Indianian on Thursday March 1, 1906 tells us that “Charlie and Smith Wiseman, who have spent the winter in Wisconsin, returned home Friday.” That would have been Friday February 24th. Oddly enough, it was on March 1, 1906 that Charles Wiseman was married to Elsie Shuder, the daughter of the widowed neighbor lady, Nancy Jane (Lavering) Shuder. Nancy's husband (and Elsie's father), Isaac, had passed away on August 11, 1905 of “Cardiac Dropsy” at 59 years of age. Charlie and Elsie were both 20 years old. Five months after their marriage, Elsie would give birth to their first child, Perry Martin Comfort Wiseman.

For the next few years, if Charlie got into trouble with the law, it didn't make the papers (or else my cousin Caroline and I just haven't found it yet!).

On October 2, 1908 tragedy struck. Charlie was working at the Sandusky Portland Cement company in Syracuse (Kosciusko County), Indiana. An accident caused him to have to have his left arm amputated two inches below the elbow. As reported in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette on June 13, 1909 he sued the company for the loss of his arm and other injuries.
Warsaw, Ind., June 12. - Today in the circuit court Charles Wiseman filed suit against the Sandusky Portland Cement company for $30,000 damages. His counsel is five Goshen attorneys, including the firm of Dehl & Dehl. The accident which was the occasion of the action occurred October 2, 1908.

Wiseman is twenty-four years of age. His complaint says that he was engaged to shovel coal and clean and oil machinery, and that the coal was taken from cars that had to be dragged up to the factory on a siding, the device furnishing the fulcrum being known as a “nigger-head.” Wiseman had used this tackle once with a flexible rope, but when put at the work a second time the rope was stiff. He alleges that this was due to the negligence of the company, which should have known, or did know, of the danger it occasioned.

Wiseman says that his arm was caught in a coil of rope and pulled around a reel or core on which the rope was wound, and that he used his other arm to free himself, thus having both arms drawn into the machinery.

He was taken to his home following the accident, it is alleged, and his left arm was amputated from the elbow, his right arm being horribly crushed and bruised. He says that his legs were cut and that his eyesight has been impaired. Following the amputation, says the complaint, he grew ill and was taken to a hospital where he remained for three weeks.
I doubt that there was ever a settlement made in the case... The Sandusky Portland Cement company shut down in 1910.

Charlie's next run-in with the law was reported in the November 25, 1909 edition of The Northern Indianian:
Charles Wiseman, the one-armed man who was mixed up in the brawl at Kuhn's Landing a couple of weeks ago and who disappeared when the officers searched for him with a warrant, came to Warsaw voluntarily on Saturday and before Justice W. H Eiler, pleaded guilty to a charge of public intoxication and also to a charge of assault. Wiseman was assessed a fine of $1 and costs in each case and his total fine and costs amounted to $21.50 which he paid.

Wiseman then went to the circuit court and before Judge F.E. Bowser, entered a plea of guilty to the charge of drawing a dangerous weapon, an affadavit against him having been filed for that offense several days ago. Judge Bowser fined Wiseman $1 and costs, amounting in all to $10.90 which he paid. Harry Gilliam, who, with Wiseman, caused the trouble at Kuhn's Landing, came to Warsaw several days ago and paid a fine and costs amounting to $13.45.
So far, poor Charlie's been in trouble for lying, purchasing liquor on a Sunday (at the age of 19), brawling, public intoxication, and drawing a dangerous weapon. Now we can add fishing with a net to the list... a most serious crime, indeed. (Warsaw Daily Times, February 21, 1913)
Wiseman found Guilty. The case against Charles Wiseman for having a fish net in his possession, was tried in Justice Henry Bennett's court on Thursday afternoon. Wiseman was found guilty and was fined $49 and costs, he appealed to the circuit court. Immediately after the appeal he was arrested on a charge of assault and battery. Wiseman is out on parole from circuit court. He was arrested by Deputy Fish Commissioner John Rigney for violation of game laws.
And now, assault and battery... (Warsaw Daily Times, March 1, 1913)
After being out for about five hours the jury disagreed in the case of the state against Charles Wiseman, for assault and battery. The prosecuting witness in the case was Bert Himes living in the vicinity of Barbee Lake. Laughter was in order among those present when in evidence one of the witnesses said that Wiseman picked up the ax handle with one hand and struck Himes with the other; it happens that Wiseman has only one arm. The defendant was represented by Attorney Merl Gochenour.
And fishing with a net – again... (Warsaw Daily Times, September 30, 1913)
Charles Wiseman of Kuhn's Landing, who was arraigned in the Kosciusko circuit court on Monday on a charge of fishing with a gillnet, was found guilty by the jury on Monday evening and assessed a fine of $5 and costs. The case went to the jury shortly after 6:00 o'clock and a verdict was returned before 8 p.m.

Wiseman had a net on Barbee Lake and had it set beneath the ice. A fisherman happened to fish with a hook and line through the hole in the ice where Wiseman had set his net and a fish which he had caught on the line became fastened in the net. He had to take the fish out of the net in order to get it off his line and Wiseman then accused him of taking fish out of his net.

Wiseman was found guilty of the same offense in a justice court, but took an appeal. He will now be compelled to pay the costs of both cases, which makes a total fine and costs of $78.58.
He was still at it 2 1/2 years later... (Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, June 25, 1916)
Charles Wiseman and Frank Hughes of Kuhn's Landing were caught yesterday fishing with a net and were arrested and taken to Warsaw, where they were fined $72.75, which they paid. Fishing comes a little high around here. Wiseman is an old offender and his fine was placed very high.
I'm thinking that “illegal fishing” must have netted (pun intended) the state of Indiana pretty good income for a few years... at least Charlie didn't use dynamite... (The Game Warden's Report in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette of August 8, 1916)
James N. Johnson of Churubusco was fined $260 and sentenced to the penal farm for six months for dynamiting fish in the lakes of Porter county. This is the highest fine and the heaviest sentence ever imposed on an illegal fisherman in Indiana.

Kosciusko County. Frank Hughes, attempting to catch fish with net, $26.15; Charles Wiseman, attempting to catch fish with net, $26.15; George Reiff, fish trap in possession, $21.15; Dan Moon, fish trap in possession, $21.15; Carl Nipp, no license, $18.60; Joseph Van Slusser, netting fish, $18.50; Lloyd Engle, netting fish, $26.50. Arrests by Rigney, Wartha and Walker.
True, fishing with a net isn't a serious offense. But he does it more than once, and with no apparent regard for the law.

On February 3, 1926 tragedy once again struck the Wiseman family. Elsie, Charlie's wife and the mother of his eight children (seven living) was horrendously burned when fire destroyed their home. Elsie had gotten up early, as she normally did, to start a fire in the stove. Charlie and the children, ranging from age 19 to 2 years old, were asleep upstairs when the kerosene oil can (filled with gasoline instead of kerosene) exploded. Somehow, they all miraculously got safely out of the house. All except Elsie. She died three hours later.

I've often wondered how the fire and the death of Elsie affected Charlie and the children. I can only imagine how horrible it would have been. The oldest son, Perry, was 19; the fire occurred the day before Eva Leah's 18th birthday; Dick was 15; Jessie was 11; Fern was 10; Emery was 3 1/2; and Jack (my Dad) was 2 years old. A daughter, Bessie was born on February 28, 1913 and died March 2, 1913.

In the 1930 census (Tippecanoe Township, Kosciusko County, Indiana page 6b) the five younger children were living on the farm with their grandparents Sam and Amanda Wiseman. It is my understanding that the children stayed mostly with their Wiseman grandparents as they were growing up. Dad never talked about his childhood or his father - at least, not to me.

With the onset of prohibition, Charlie had entered the bootlegging arena in the late 1920s and in 1930 he was incarcerated in the Indiana State Penal Farm near Putnamville in Putnum County. An article in the Warsaw Daily Union on February 11, 1930 provides the details:
Deliberating less than an hour, a jury in circuit court late Monday in the case of Charles Wiseman, of Kuhn's Landing, charged with selling intoxicating liquor to Loren Cutler on January 24th found him guilty and his fine was assessed at $100 and a prison sentence of six months was added.
Judge L.W. Royse immediately entered judgement. In sentencing Wiseman the court said, "I had sympathy for you once, but you went right on. These bottles show you were doing business out there. I don't see how the jury could do otherwise. Another time and it will land you in the penitentiary. People will not submit to open and flagrant violations of the law."

Reference by Judge Royce to the bottles was the display in the court of a bushel basket full which Harry Phillips testified he had taken to the Wiseman house. An interesting fact brought out, not at the trial, but later was that prosecuting attorney George Bowser had expressed his willingness to accept a plea of guilty and accept a fine of $100 and a 60 day penal farm sentence. This it is said that Wiseman refused and as a result he gets a term which was four months longer than if he had entered a plea of guilty.

Judge Royse charged the jurors to stand by their verdict and not apologize, as was done by a jury about a year ago, in a similar case. "Say to these," said the judge, "My verdict is right until the heavens fall."
Charlies biggest “crime” was probably lack of good judgment influenced by a bad temper. I haven't yet looked for the court record but the Logansport Press (Logansport, Indiana) reported on June 27, 1936 that Charlie was doing time again:
Warsaw, Ind. June 26 (AP) – Accused of beating his brother-in-law Clarence Quinn, with his artificial arm, Charles Wiseman, one-armed farmer, received a 90-day penal farm sentence in court here.
Charlie passed away on January 28, 1943 as a result of a cerebral embolism with the contributory cause being diabetes mellitus.

In some ways, Charlie could be considered the Black Sheep of the family. He certainly didn't fit the pattern of the fine upstanding citizen as other family members were. Who can say why Charlie did what he did? Perhaps if he had not lost his arm he would have been able to find steady work. Perhaps if his wife Elsie had not died in the house fire she might have been able to influence him in a good way. Then again, maybe not. We'll never know.

Sadly, most of what I do know about my grandfather is what I've read in the newspapers. Over the years, as my cousin and I shared these tidbits found in the newspapers, we'd shake our head in disbelief, sometimes chuckle at how the incidents were reported, and just wonder, why? The reports don't leave a very good impression, but I'd like to think that Charlie wasn't really a bad person. After all, my parents named their first child after him...

Written for the 100th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy... "There's one in every family!"

8 comments:

  1. Great post!! I believe every family has one, or more.

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  2. We've a few, as well, but none with as good an excuse for some of his behavior as your grandfather. A one armed farmer and fisherman would have a tough time of it. Fishing with a net seems like the only way he'd be able to manage. A tough life. Lovely job sketching what you know of him.

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  3. I really enjoyed reading this, and I agree with NR - sounds like he had some tough luck as well. There were definitely a lot of my Brinlee ancestors who got in trouble with the law, but I think it was just bad tempers.

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  4. Oh what a pleasure it is to read your article, Becky! How I've missed you - the genealogy you that is. I've truly enjoyed all your travels but it's nice to read about your family history again. Thank you, friend, for being a part of the COG. You've made my day!

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  5. Rascal certainly is an apt description. I wonder if his life would have been different if he hadn't lost his arm.

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  6. I loved reading about your grandfather - and I can't imagine why net fishing was such a bad thing!

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  7. What an interesting character Charlie was, Becky. How ironic, though, that his shady activities end up being the reason you've been able to learn so much about him!

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  8. A rascal indeed! What a great story. It makes me wonder if his accident and amputation had never occurred how his life might have been different.

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