Naughty

Before Jerry Springer, there was the newspaper . . .

celebration christmas cup dogs Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Last week you heard about Patrick Nolan’s (Mike’s great grandfather) death from falling into the Black River in Port Huron, Michigan. The initial article¹ had many other details, not necessarily connected to his death. Let’s back up a bit, first.

Patrick married Alice Needham 4 November 1879, in Kenockee, St. Clair, Michigan. When we saw his 1880 Agricultural Schedule (On the Farm), they were newlyweds. Twenty five years later, they are the parents of ten children (“ages 10 to 25” according to the article—though the youngest was actually only 4, and the oldest born 18 October 1880, so only 24), one already having died (William, age 2). Some time in the 1990s, while interviewing my mother-in-law and her sisters, they mentioned their mother (Elizabeth) said her mother (Alice) “was a saint” as far as what she put up with from her husband. They didn’t elaborate, and I don’t know if it was a case of them not knowing details, or being reluctant to share them with me.

In Where There’s a Will I briefly mentioned looking at Patrick’s probate record. Among the bills submitted to settle up the estate was one from a lawyer, for the paperwork for a divorce filing. Oops. There was trouble in paradise. Or at least Smiths Creek. Ancestry has a “Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952” database, which has images from the county registers. I found an entry dated 17 August 1904 for the two of them, but lined out. Alice had filed, charging cruelty, but apparently changed her mind.

So, back to the article¹ about Patrick’s unfortunate untimely death. We discover that my in-laws probably weren’t exaggerating about him. The subtitle of the article was “Made Round of Saloons Sunday Night and Fell Into Black River While Drunk.” Oh, my! We are also told he’d been in the city for 2 or 3 days, and had been busy on Sunday:

  • he’d been at Dan Conway’s Atlantic house at Quay and Michigan for most of the day, leaving there Sunday night
  • he’s somewhere after that, finally ending up at Pat Cahill’s saloon at 405 Quay Street around 11 pm.
  • he leaves Cahill’s alone (time unspecified), intoxicated, looking for a man named Woods
  • the presumption is he “became muddled and walked off the dock.”¹

I love how the saloons get free advertising, with the address and all! The next paragraph adds other juicy details:

There had been trouble for some time between Nolan and his wife, and not long ago it culminated in their separation. Mrs. Nolan went to live with her mother and it was at that time she would ask the courts for a divorce. About a week ago their differences were patched up and the two started living together again. It is thought that this attempt at reconciliation was not successful, however, as Nolan has been spending most of his time in Port Huron.

That corroborates the probate packet and the register. We get a general description of him that becomes not very flattering:

The place [his farm] was run down, however, as Nolan, in his love for drink, neglected everything.

This whole thing is going from bad to worse! The former justice of the peace (Mr. Frink) was apparently interviewed and painted the following picture:

Nolan’s love for drink, which was his worst fault, and which caused his death, often resulted in his being brought before Mr. Frink. After every drunk Nolan would take a solemn oath not to touch a drop of liquor for six months. At the expiration of that time Nolan would become intoxicated again and then go through the same pledge procedure. Mr. Frink says that Nolan kept this up for several years, always steadfast in his oath, but unable, nevertheless, to break himself altogether of the habit.

I then found a newspaper article (“The Mean Man”²) printed when Alice filed for divorce, containing even more details:

Whenever she left home to purchase supplies, Mrs. Nolan alleges, she would be accused by her husband of having left for the purpose of meeting other men. His insane and jealous disposition, she avers, has deprived her of society and has required her to confine her visits to her mother and brother. Unable to put up with this alleged domestic torture Mrs. Nolan left home on August 7 last. She charges her husband with

  • having lighted a fire in the kitchen stove and removing the lids, causing the smoke therefrom to be carried to the room occupied by herself and children.
  • It is also claimed that he removed articles from the various room in the house and piled them in a heap on the floor.
  • He also removed eatables from the house,
  • dismantled the stove so it could not be used to procure meals,
  • and to cap the climax he overturned a churn she was working at, allowing its contents to spill all over the floor.

I don’t know about you, but I think I’d put attempted asphyxiation above the spilled churn! Hopefully the children went with her when she left—neither article mentions anything about that. While the 3 oldest were out of the house by the 1900 census, 6 were still home in 1904.

Nor do I know if the details above list all of her charges against him. But with the divorce suit withdrawn, would the original paperwork have been destroyed? Maybe I need to check on that. I’m also struggling to figure out why Alice decided to move back home.

Obviously I don’t know exactly what was going on with him or between him and Alice—or how long it had been a problem. Presumably they had good years together, too. It’s all rather sad, though.

Lest you think Patrick and Alice were particularly unusual, not so. I noticed other couples with similar laundry being aired in public. With no TV or social media, the newspaper was the best source of local gossip.

But yeah, based on the descriptions found in the newspaper, it seems Patrick qualifies as naughty.

#52Ancestors

__________________________________________

¹”Paddy Nolan was Drowned,” 14 November 1904, Last Edition, Newspapers.com: accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4-5, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

²”The Mean Man,” 24 August 1904, Last Edition, Newspapers.com: accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

Winter

“Now is the winter of our discontent.” —William Shakespeare

 

Black River, Port Huron, Michigan, 1905. Image posted by u/michaelconfoy on the Reddit site in 2015. Likely not a winter image, but gives a sense of the area.

My husband’s great-grandfather, Patrick Nolan (you met him in On the Farm), died in the winter. Well, not technically winter, but almost. He died 13 November 1904, in Port Huron, St. Clair, Michigan. Born on or before 4 May 1851, he was 53 years old at his death.

Winter doesn’t arrive until 21 December. Even if you go with “meteorological winter,” that doesn’t start until 1 December. However, Port Huron is an hour north of Detroit, so by mid-November, it can start to feel pretty wintry! I’m giving myself little leeway.

Patrick’s death record¹ states his cause of death is “shock by falling in river.” Specifically, it was the Black River, which was listed at the top of the certificate as the place of death. The article in the Port Huron Daily Herald the next day (14 November 1904)² provided more details:

The body . . . was found shortly after seven o’clock this morning floating in Black River in the rear of the Port Huron Light & Power Co’s plant . . . The coroner believes that Nolan’s death by drowning was accidental and the facts of the case all point that way.

The end of the article notes other details from the coroner:

Coroner Falk and Dr. Patrick held a Postmortem over the remains . . . Serious heart trouble was found and Dr. Patrick gave it as his opinion that the man died from the shock of falling into the water as he was dead before the drowning took place. There were no signs whatever of foul play.

The family, however, wasn’t satisfied with that conclusion. In his dealings selling cattle, Patrick frequently carried large amounts of cash with him. His wife, Alice, thought perhaps he’d had cash on him at the time, and had been attacked, robbed, and pushed into the river. According to the 19 November 1904³ paper:

. . . the family has demanded an inquest. This morning Sheriff Davidson, Coroner Falk and Dr. O. H. Patrick went to Smith’s Creek to exhume the body and make an examination.

The results were reported two days later, on 21 November 1904.4 No change to the verdict was made. The three officials mentioned above were

met by Dr. Brock, two sons of the deceased and about 25 friends and neighbors . . . The body was placed on top of the box . . .

Dr. Brock, the local doctor, didn’t want to examine the body, but told them his charges would be $20. The coroner couldn’t authorize an additional expense for the county, so the two sons covered the cost.

Dr. Brock then cut into the scalp and rolled back the flesh, but was unable to find that the bruise on the side of head amounted to anything. He announced himself satisfied without further examination.

WOW! I can’t imagine doing this, in the cemetery, with over two dozen gawkers (not to mention two children of the deceased) watching. The newspaper then gives a detailed description of the entire proceeding! It was a pretty exciting Saturday.

I’m not really sure why the family was so concerned about the cause of death. Was there an insurance policy that would be impacted by those findings? Did they believe law enforcement should investigate and try to recover the cash they felt was stolen? The initial article² reporting his death mentioned he’d been in

. . . Pat Cahill’s saloon at 405 Quay Street. The bartender gave him 30 cents worth of drinks. Nolan had no money but as he was a good customer of the place nothing was said about pay.

When Nolan left Cahill’s he was intoxicated. He went away alone and said that he was looking for a man named Woods.

While he had no money at the bar, if he was transacting business with “Woods,” perhaps money was exchanged then? There are many question that probably will never have satisfactory answers. The person who knew best what happened was the unfortunate victim. 

There is more to Patrick’s story, but that will have to wait until next week . . .

#52Ancestors


¹http://seekingmichigan.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p129401coll7/id/554434/rec/95; accessed 8 December 2018.

²”Paddy Nolan was Drowned,” 14 November 1904, Last Edition, Newspapers.com: accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4-5, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

³”Exhume Body,” 19 November 1904, Newspapers.com: accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 5, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

4“Only a Farce,” 21 November 1904, Monday Edition, Newspapers.com: accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 6, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).