I was in a slight panic when I saw this prompt. I couldn’t think of a single thief on my tree. Despite growing up in the Chicago suburbs, I’m unaware of any connection to gangsters or organized crime. Well, maybe one, but he moved west. Capone eating at the restaurant where my grandmother was the cook didn’t count. Even he had to eat, right? No cowboys settled out west, so no horse thieves, cattle rustlers, or claim jumpers lurked in the tree. We apparently were a fairly law-abiding family. Dang!
Fortunately, early in November I was searching Newspapers.com for my great grandmother, Dorothea Schweiger, and stumbled upon an article mentioning her husband, Ignatz:
John Thomas Is Arrested
John Thomas of Cleveland, O., is locked up in the village jail at Glencoe on a charge of robbing the cash drawer of the Hotel Hony, where he had worked for his dinner. Ignatz Schweiger, the butcher, was in the room, and says he saw the robbery committed. He ran to tell Mr. Hony, but when the latter arrived Thomas was going down the street toward the railroad. He was joined by three other men. Hony gave the alarm to Marshal Upfield, who overhauled the man. No resistance was made. The prisoner said he worked on the steamer Philip Minch and left the boat in Chicago to go into Wisconsin in search of work.“John Thomas Is Arrested,” 5 December 1897, Newspapers.com: accessed 29 November 2019, record number: not given; citing original p. 3, column 4, news article 4, Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).
Ignatz wasn’t a thief, but he helped catch one. He was 38 years old at the time—not exactly a young man, but certainly not old. I’m sure it was an exciting event for him.
Ignatz was referred to as “the butcher” (not “restaurant owner”), but more about that, later. Presumably the information in the Tribune was obtained from a police report. I searched Newspapers.com to see if there were any articles following up on the case. Unfortunately “John Thomas” is a horrible search string. I narrowed the date to December 1897 thru early 1898, but found nothing. It’s also possible the man pled guilty, so there was no further “news” to report. A local paper might have reported the sentencing, but I didn’t find one online.
I also searched using the name of the hotel/hotel owner. Again, I didn’t find further mention of this event. Curiously, I found 2 classified ads from 1904 about “Hony’s Hotel” in Galena, Illinois, being up for sale. The owner was ready to retire. For those of you not from Illinois, Galena is on the opposite side of the state from Glencoe. It’s a delightful little town, just shy of the Mississippi River, the home of Ulysses S. Grant (post Civil War, pre-presidency), chocked full of quaint tea rooms and antique shops.
It’s also 166 miles from Glencoe, and a 2 hour 45 minute drive today. In the early 1900s, it probably took 3-5 days with a horse-drawn wagon/carriage—the estimates I found on the internet varied. The point is, the Mr. Hony who was robbed wouldn’t have been running 2 hotels so far apart. It’s an odd coincidence, because the name isn’t that common. There are 7 years between the robbery and the Galena hotel sale, so Mr. Hony could have sold the Glencoe hotel and moved west to run another hotel, finally retiring in 1904 or later. I just don’t know.
Why do I suddenly care about this stranger? I never knew about him until I found that newspaper article. I don’t know if or how Mr. Hony connects to Ignatz. My great grandfather started out with the butcher shop at 375 Park. It morphed into a restaurant along the way. The family sold 375 to the Eklund family (whose daughter, Sally, later donated it to the Glencoe Historical Society) and moved a couple doors down to 367 Park.
The trouble is, documentation I have (which isn’t at my fingertips) placed the move to 367 in 1891—six years before this robbery. Was Ignatz still running a butcher shop out of the new address? Or are the other dates I have, inaccurate? I need to comb through my documents, dotting “i’s” and crossing “t’s” to nail down the specifics to clear this up.
Other questions pop into my head:
- Is the police report still available? There may be more information than what was reported in the paper.
- Where was Hotel Hony located?
- Why was Ignatz at the hotel’s restaurant in the middle of the afternoon?
- Were he and Mr. Hony friends or in a club or committee, together?
- Was he scoping out the competition?
It’s amazing how such an inconsequential news article can raise so many questions about what I thought I already knew!