Stanley Robert Smith: The Verdict Is In

On Monday, April 15, 1929, Stanley Smith, having failed to escape from the Hancock County jail, had his day in court 1 .  He would have been escorted from the jail, which was located on the northwest corner of the intersection of West Main Cross and Broadway 2 , situated diagonally across from the courthouse.

courthouse from prison location
view of Hancock County Courthouse from the former location of the county jail (source: Google maps)

That day, Stanley was represented by attorney William S. Snook.   The summer before, Snook had announced himself a candidate for the office of probate judge. 3   Unfortunately for him, he failed to gain the nomination, losing the primary election by a margin of only 17 votes. 4

Snook had previously served as city solicitor.

W. S. Snook’s office was located at 320 1/2 South Main Street, Findlay.  The drug store at which Stanley had passed his bad check was just across the street.

320 South Main Findlay
A view of 320 South Main, Findlay, with the red awning, the location of W. S. Snook’s office in 1929. Note placement of courthouse, visible in immediate background.

At this point in time, all of the solicitors in Findlay had offices located within about a block each way on this stretch of South Main, creating an easy walk to the Hancock County courthouse and jail.  Thirty lawyers were headquartered in ten buildings.  Mr. Snook shared his space with Charles E. Jordan and the offices of Capel & Hover. 5

The county prosecutor, Marcus C. Downing, was based out of a building at the other end of the block (337 South Main).  Six other lawyers worked here in 1929 (C. V. Bish, Walter H. Kinder, Aubrey R. Moul, George H Phelps, John E. Priddy and Ross J. Wetherald). 6

337 South Main relative location
Marcus Downing’s office was located in the Fifth Third building at right (337 South Main). The building with the green awning at left was the S&S Drugstore, where Stanley passed a bad check days prior to his arrest for forgery.

Judge William F. Duncan presided over the court that day.  His father, Thomas E. Duncan, had been a judge as well, serving the court of common pleas for Morrow, Richland and Ashland Counties. 7   He had also been elected to the Ohio House of Representatives. 8

Stanley’s case lasted only half the day.  His fate was decided by a jury.  There was likely not much deliberation.  A fellow inmate, Jessie H. Yates, who had already been convicted for his crime, was brought into court to testify against Stanley, but his testimony was not deemed necessary. 9   The case had been made.

Stanley was found guilty of forgery.  Based on his age (19) and the fact that he had not been previously convicted of a crime, he was sentenced to a term at the Ohio State Reformatory at Mansfield.

1 “Sentences Given Three By Court,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 16 Apr 1929, p. 3, col. 2.
2 R. L. Heminger, “Historical Highlights of Bygone Days,” Republican-Courier (Findlay, Ohio), 6 Sep 1969, p. 14, col. 3.
Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 14 Aug 1928, p. 5, col. 3.
4 “Board to Count Vote Here Today,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 16 Aug 1928, p. 10, col. 1.
5 R.L. Polk & Co., Findlay, Ohio, City Directory, 1929 (R.L. Polk and Co. Publishers, 1929), p. 454; imaged in “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” database with images, Ancestry (> Ohio > Findlay > 1929 Findlay, Ohio, City Directory 1929, image 230.
6 Ibid., p. 455.
7 Joseph P. Smith, ed., History of the Republican Party in Ohio , Vol. II. (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1898), p. 443-444.
8 Ibid., Vol. I, p. 320.
9 “Sentences Given Three By Court.”

The Family Photo Album: Dorothy Marple and the Armstrong Family


The photo seen above is of my paternal grandmother, Dorothy Claire Marple, taken near her 7th birthday.

It’s the front of a postcard that she sent to a family friend, Ella Armstrong.


Ella Armstrong, born Ella Phoebe Craft on 14 Sep 1855, lived near the Marples in Monessen.  Her daughter, Rhoda, was about the same age as Dorothy’s mother, Eula.  The two families seem to have spent a lot of time together.

The “Nari and Francis” referenced in the postcard are Ella’s sister, Sarah Frances Craft, and her husband, Neri Armstrong.  Neri was also the brother of Ella’s deceased husband, Alfred Barclay Armstrong.  The couple lived in Carmichaels, where this postcard was addressed.

What I wonder is how Grandma got the card back when she had clearly mailed it to Ella.  Perhaps when Ella returned from her trip, she let Dorothy have the picture of herself back.  It sounds like something a child that age might like.

If anyone out there knows more about the Armstrong family, I would love to hear about it!  I have a single photograph of Rhoda, but have never seen the rest of the family.  It would be nice to know more about these people who meant so much to my grandmother and great-grandparents.


Stanley Robert Smith: A Time for Reflection/The Shiny Snitch

Stanley had plenty of opportunity to cool his heels.  More than a month passed from the time he was arrested until the day he was brought before the grand jury for indictment.

Another type of man might have whiled away the hours reading the newspapers that passed from hand to hand inside the jail or perhaps pausing for a bit of self-reflection.  Stanley, however, was a man of action.

Days after his appearance before the grand jury, the following article appeared in the Findlay Morning Republican 1 :

Jail Delivery Is Frustrated As Sheriff Discovers Plot

File Used to Sever Chain After Which Window Bars Were Attacked–Prisoners Admit Move to Obtain Freedom

An attempted county jail delivery was frustrated late yesterday by Sheriff O. E. Willford. Six of the 17 prisoners in the jail were involved and two, the sheriff said, confessed to being ring leaders in the plan which might have resulted in a successful break had their efforts not been thwarted for three or four more days.

Frank Wells, alias Frank Miller, who in October 1924 escaped from the city jail here, and Stanley Smith, alias Lester Smith, admitted leading roles in the plan to gain their freedom.

Others in Plot.

Those who watched the efforts of Wells and Smith and stood ready to escape when the job was completed were L. W. McClellan, Jess Yates, Clarence Woodruff and Charles Hall, alias Charles Heath.

A nail file, disinfectant spray can, pair of pinchers and a mirror were the implements employed in the attempt to sever chains and iron bars. The file and pinchers are believed to have been smuggled into the jail by Woodruff, who, as a trusty, had been engaged in work outside the jail Saturday.

Sheriff Willford yesterday discovered a mirror in a window opening off the east corridor of the jail. His investigation led to the discovery of a broken chain on a door which separated the prisoners from the bull pen and the corridor leading along by the outside windows. Three or four iron bars in the door had been partially melted.

Grilling of the prisoners was begun immediately and Wells and Smith are understood to have divulged their plans without hesitancy.

Watched Sheriff.

They admitted, Sheriff Willford said, melting the links of a chain by the use of the disinfectant spray can which was employed in the manner of a blow torch. To conceal the break from detection, the prisoners had bridged the break with chewing gum. The torch was also used to melt the bars.

By placing the mirror in the window at a certain angle, the prisoners could see the sheriff when he walked from the jail yard. As soon as he would leave the jail each day the prisoners said they would start their bar and chain melting process.

The nail file had also been used to weaken the bars and chain links and make the work easier for the blow torch.

The six prisoners, following their confessions, were placed in solitary confinement by the sheriff.

Had Broken Out Before.

Wells is in jail charged with forgery, Woodruff with burglary, Smith with forgery, Yates with forgery and McClellan with child stealing. Hall, alias Heath, is now under sentence to two and a half years in the penitentiary for automobile theft. He is to be taken to the state prison today. Judge Duncan had deferred sentence on Woodruff following a plea of guilty to robbing a gasoline filling station. The others had pleaded not guilty to indictments returned against them by the grand jury.

Wells only recently was brought to Findlay from the Michigan state penitentiary to answer to the charge of forgery for which he was being held in 1924 when he broke out of the city prison.

After breaking jail here he went to Michigan and was arrested and convicted on a forgery charge. He was given four to 14 years in the penitentiary. He was turned over to local authorities following the expiration of his term at Marquette.

Surely this did not bode well for his upcoming trial.

Next Time:  The Verdict Is In

1 “Jail Delivery Is Frustrated As Sheriff Discovers Plot,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 9 Apr 1929, p. 7, col. 4.

Chance Finds: You’re Gonna Need a Permit For That

Chance Finds is a new series.  Frequently, when I’m researching my family, I happen across other (completely unrelated) little tidbits that are just too interesting not to share.  Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes shocking, but I just can’t resist collecting them!

From the Dorset County Chronicle and Somersetshire Gazette, 22 Aug 1833, p. 3, col. 3:

In the Market-place, Bath, on Wednesday, a man named Stradling offered his wife for sale to the highest bidder. The lady, it appeared, had been sold for half-a-crown on Monday at Lansdown fair, but the bargain was not considered legal–first because the sale was not held in a public market-place, and secondly because the purchaser had a wife already. The lady was dashingly attired and had a halter, covered with silk, round her neck. The biddings amounted at last to five shillings, at which sum it was understood she was bought in. It happened, however, very unluckily for the husband of the fair one, that the police had an eye to this little transaction, for just as the affair had concluded he was apprehended for having created a public disturbance, and was politely handed to a temporary lodging in the Bath Gaol. The above disgraceful exhibition collected, as may be easily imagined, an immense concourse of spectators.

The Hancock County Jail

The Hancock County jail, built in 1879, stood at the northwest corner of West Main Cross and Broadway.

hancock county jail
The Hancock County jail and sheriff’s residence. (Findlay-Hancock County Public Library Digital Collection,

It was the third prison owned by the county.

The first was built in 1830, just two years after the formation of the county itself.  It was a wooden structure, constructed at a cost of $250, which stood on the grounds of the existing county courthouse on South Main Street.  Sometime prior to 1837, this jail burned down.  The prisoners themselves were blamed for the blaze.

First Hancock County Jail, built 1830. (Findlay-Hancock County Public Library Digital Collection,

A replacement was not constructed until 1852.

second hancock county jail
Second Hancock County Jail, built 1852. (Findlay-Hancock County Public Library Digital Collection,

Its location on Broadway had previously been occupied by a cigar factory.  Far more money was invested in building the second jail, just twenty years after the first.  The building cost a total of $4,743.

The third Hancock County jail, at which Stanley was imprisoned, was torn down in December 1989 at 110 years old.  Carved into the cornerstone of the building were the names of the county commissioners who were involved in the building of the prison in 1879: John Edgington, Ross W. Moore, and Louis Luneack.

We are related to two of the three.

louis luneack relationshipross w moore relationship

The Family Photo Album: Lucia Arras, 6th Grade Class Photo


This photo of my grandmother’s sixth grade class was taken at Lincoln school in Findlay, Hancock County, Ohio, in the spring of 1935.  The original school building was located (and still stands!) at 200 W. Lincoln Street, a mere two or three blocks from the Arras family’s home at 519 W. Lincoln.

Grandma, Lucia (Arras) Benington, would probably not thank me for pointing her out in this particular photograph.  She is, after all, the one person who blinked at the exact moment the picture was taken!

Lucia Arras 1934-35
Lucia Arras

I would just skip posting this photo, out of all the class photos in her collection, but there is something special about this one.  This is the only picture on the reverse of which she named every individual!  Thanks to her thoughtfulness, I can now (hopefully) identify most of the people in all the rest of the photos, with a little detective work.

1934-35 back


I imagine it might be a little difficult to read the writing from your computer screen, so here’s a transcription:

1st row–left to right: Jack Krout, Tommy Marshall, Glen Houes, Robert Brewer, Dick Cramar [Cramer]

2nd row–left to right: Betty Weitz, Dorthy [Dorothy] McCall, Marian Saller, Lucia Arras, Jean Taylor, Jane Bish, Virginia Rose, Maxine Sink, Ruth Cliner

3rd row–left to right: Donald Marvin, Betty Ex, Jeanne Anne Athey, Wayne Brewer, Tom Vosslor [Vossler], Mildred Saller, Arlene Strouse, Helena Oman, Rosalyn Rabkin

4th row–left to right: Robert Galnta, John Tabb, Mary Lou McFarland, Shirley Ann Quis, Mary Katherine Varner, Martha and Egen [Eugene] Cuningham [Cunningham], Bob Deyers, James Quinlan

Mrs Driesback





Stanley Robert Smith: Frequent Flier Miles

The police were probably getting pretty sick of seeing Stanley’s face by now.  After somehow escaping prosecution twice over, he was back in the city jail for the third time in two weeks.

After stealing butter from the Findlay Dairy Company, Stanley had gone around town to various grocers, trying to sell on his ill-begotten goods.  On one such outing, he visited Jacob Frank, a man in his early seventies, at his shop on West Front Street.

Frank refused to purchase Stanley’s purloined products and, either in a fit of pique or unable to resist an opportunity,  Stanley stole one of Mr. Frank’s checks while the man was not looking.

All in the Family

Surprisingly, Jacob Frank was also a relative. 

Stanley’s sister, Clara Viola Smith, my great-grandmother, was married to Oliver Martin Arras. 

Oliver’s mother, Johanna, was born a Crates. 

Her father, Gottlieb, was the son of Johann Michael and Sibylla (Zehnder) Kroetz. 

Gottlieb’s younger sister, Caroline, married Johann Jakob Frank in their hometown of Oberurbach on August 28, 1859, a year after Gottlieb had left for America. 

Caroline and Johann Jakob’s son, Jacob Frank, emigrated to Findlay around twenty years later and established his grocery store.

If that all made about as much sense as trying to nail Jell-O to a tree, check out the chart below to clarify:relationship to jacob frank

All of this means that Jacob Frank, the victim of Stanley’s theft, was his sister’s husband’s first cousin, one time removed. 

While it is possible that Oliver and Clara were unaware of Oliver’s relationship to Jacob Frank, it is rather unlikely.  At least two of Oliver’s Crates uncles, Charley and Monroe, remained in contact with the family in Oberurbach.  After World War I, when Germany was suffering so heavily, they sent money to keep their German relations afloat.  With letters going back and forth so long after Gottlieb and Caroline had left their homeland, it seems unlikely that their children and grandchildren would be oblivious of one another’s lives in the same city.

With Obvious Regret

On February 20th–Yes, you read that right.  The same day Stanley must have been released from jail after his arrest on the bad check charges.  So much for remorse!–Stanley, the old charmer, wrote out a check in the amount of $19.10 to be cashed by “Lester Smith”.  He forged Jacob Frank’s signature and took the check to a bank to be cashed.

It all could have ended there, as the bank refused to cash the questionable check.  Instead, “Lester” handed the check over to a friend, who had it cashed at Bazley Market.

Bazley Market

bazley market location
The location of Bazley Market, now occupied by the Bistro on Main (seen here in October 2015)

Bazley Market, located at 407 South Main Street in Findlay, opened in mid-October 1928.  It was one of a chain of meat markets across the Midwest, owned and operated by Bazley Markets of Chicago, Illinois.  Given their ability to purchase meat in large quantities, the chain was able to keep prices low.  As a result, the Bazley Market in Findlay was open until at least 1969.

A delightful array of products available for purchase on 22 Jan 1929 (Findlay Morning Republican)


Stanley was arrested the 27th of February, accused of the crime of forgery.  This time he would not escape the swiftly turning wheels of justice.  The following day he was bound over to the grand jury by Mayor Groves.

Esba Lincoln Groves, who served six terms as mayor of Findlay, Ohio, between 1909 and 1932 (Photo from:

Unable to pay his bond of $1,000–an unimaginable amount of money for the man who couldn’t drum up $3 at the drugstore–he was transferred to the Hancock County jail.

Next Time:  The Hancock County Jail