Wednesday, August 28, 2013

“Geauga News, Reviewed: Part Two”

c. 2013 Rod Ice
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As I have written here before, one fascinating thing about researching newspaper archives for Geauga County is that the stories from yonder days were very much like our own. Themes of political intrigue and a struggle to preserve the rule of law sound very familiar in a modern context.
In those days, professional writers had far fewer tools at their disposal to cover such events. The speed at which stories developed was slower in pace, often taking months to evolve. Yet their zeal to report happenings of the day can be felt, even across the vast distance of time:

NO WITNESS TALKS IN BRIBERY INVESTIGATION - Spokane Daily Chronicle, January 20, 1898

“Columbus, Ohio – The investigation into the charge of bribery in connection with the recent senatorial election reached a crisis tonight. No matter what may be the final result of the investigation, there will likely be several witnesses arrested for contempt. They had several witnesses subpoenaed for tonight, but they were not all examined, because none of them would testify... A. D. Hollenbeck of Chardon, auditor of Geauga County and a member of the Republican state executive committee, was among the witnesses called. Hollenbeck was asked repeatedly if his son was not in the employment of Senator Hanna and if his son did not carry funds from Columbus to Cincinnati. Representative Otis lives in Cincinnati and made the charges under which the investigation was instituted. He (Hollenbeck) invariably refused to answer these questions, doing so, he said, upon the advice of his attorneys.”   

Not surprisingly, reporters of yesteryear documented that Geauga County as they knew it was a place where social mores and the rule of law was well respected, especially in comparison to neighbor counties in the state:

GEAUGA MODEL COUNTY – The Champaign Democrat, November 28, 1911

“Columbus, O – Crime statistics gathered by Secretary H. H. Shirer of the state board of charities, and which will be made a part of the board’s annual report, show that Geauga County is more nearly law abiding than any other county in the state. In one year there were only three persons in the jail. One was a woman. The county is also one of the few which sent no persons to state penal institutions. Others are Fayette, Henry, Holmes, Mercer, Monroe, Morgan, Pike, Preble and Union. Mercer and Henry are the two wet counties in the honor list. Those who had no convicts to send to the penitentiary are Adams, Carroll, Crawford, Highland, Logan, Miami, Putnam, Wayne and Wyandot. Cuyahoga leads all others in number sent to penal institutions. Her record is 162 to the penitentiary and 147 to the reformatory. Others are: Hamilton, penitentiary 68, reformatory 50; Lucas, penitentiary 70, reformatory 63; Franklin, penitentiary 82, reformatory 11. There have been 16,012 males and 978 females confined in county jails.”

But even Geauga was sometimes touched by the stain of criminal activity. Infamous gambling institutions located here made headlines for a generation and more, in the early to middle 20th Century:

FOUR OPERATORS BROUGHT TO JUSTICE - The Miami News, August 13, 1929

“Cleveland, Ohio – Two officials and two contribution ticket sellers at Bainbridge race track in Geauga County, near here, were arrested on warrants charging operation of gambling devices yesterday, and today it was undecided whether the present horse race schedule at the track will be continued. Tommy McGinty and Homer J. Klein were the officials arrested. They pleaded not guilty before Justice of the Peace Arthur M. Ladd, at Claridon, and were released on $200 bond pending trial Aug. 28. Matt Brock and George Lynchburg, the ticket sellers, met a like fate. The arrests were made by Sheriff Ben Hotchkiss and 10 deputies. Sheriff Hotchkiss said he had not decided what action he will take if the contribution betting is continued at the track pending the trial. While the arrests were being made, just at the close of the fifth race, the contribution and refund windows at the track were closed, but when the officers left with the prisoners the windows were reopened and racing continued.”

And at least one story from these bygone days revealed that in our county, lawless men acted with a naked and careless disregard for the law:

HANGED BUT NOT DEAD – Paterson Daily Press, November 21, 1877

“Cincinnati – A special dispatch states that the man who was taken from the constable of Middlefield, Geauga County, Ohio, on Tuesday night and lynched, was taken down and resuscitated. His name is Luther Scott. It is supposed that the object of the lynchers was to prevent Scott from revealing to authorities the doings of a gang of desperadoes, of which he was a member.”

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