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Today’s data is from “Wills 1839-1870 vol 3-5”. Check the first column of the table below for the image number. Type it into the box near the top of the page on FamilySearch (Image __ of 701) to find the desired image.
Suspect Taken by Police Believed Connected With Group From Toledo
The “fence” for a ring of automobile thieves operating in this section of the country is believed to have been uncovered here by police in the arrest of Stanley Smith, 23, who on March 16, 1932, was paroled from Ohio penitentiary after serving time for forgery.
Charges of receiving, concealing and selling stolen automobiles have been placed against Smith, who used a barn on Park street in which to conceal and dismantle his machines. Numerous accessories for automobiles have also been found there.
Smith, it is believed, has been connected with a theft ring operating out of Toledo. None of nine automobiles recovered following Smith’s arrest was stolen in Findlay. It is presumed that any cars stolen by the ring of thieves here were taken to some other “fence” and disposed of.
Learned at Pen, He Says
It was indicated by Chief Larkins yesterday that Smith would be returned to the penitentiary as a parole violator.
Smith, according to his statement to police, said that during his incarceration in the “big house” he got the low-down on the automobile stealing and dismantling racket from a “lifer” who was his cell mate. When paroled, he told police he had planned to take up bank robbing as an occupation but later decided to go in for a “more legitimate” business such as stealing and dismantling and selling cars.
J. P. Rockenfield, special agent for the Automobile Protective and Information bureau of Chicago, stopped here yesterday to make an investigation of the case. Chief Larkins said Rockenfield commended his department on its effective work. He suspected Smith of being connected with a big mid-west ring. The automobiles recovered here are thought to have been stolen in neighboring states.
Smith’s automobile dealing aroused the suspicions of certain individuals who notified police and they in turned launched an investigation. Going to the barn on Park street, Chief Larkins and Sergeant Homer Johnston found the body and chassis of a machine, and automobile parts strewn all over the inside of the building. It was while they were looking the ground over that Smith appeared nearby and observing the officers he made a hasty retreat.
The police proceeded in hot pursuit and finally corralled Smith in an alley between East Lima and East Lincoln streets. This was last Monday. Smith explained that he was running because he “thought it was somebody else chasing him.”
Reticent at first, Smith later admitted his part in the automobile racket, but he refused to implicate any others, although he admitted to disposing of the cars to men he claimed he didn’t know after lifting the motors and installing new engines.
“Didn’t Know Men”
According to Smith’s story to authorities, these men he didn’t know would bring an automobile to his barn at night. He, then, would dismantle it, lifting the motor and removing identification numbers.
Later the men would return and take away with them the engine. Smith said he would in turn purchase another motor and install it. This, he felt, eliminated any possibility of the original owner tracing his stolen machine, and enabled him to furnish a bill of sale.
Five of the nine stolen machines were recovered in Findlay, one in Bluffton, one in Arcadia, one in Bairdstown and one in Toledo. Seven are Ford coaches, one is a Ford coupe and one is a Chevrolet coach. Three or four additional cars are expected by police to turn up shortly.
One of the machines, a Ford coach, has been identified and returned to its owner, Lester Nelson, of Toledo.
Smith told Chief Larkins that he had been in this racket for four or five months.
“Youth Held Here is Seen ‘Fence’ In Car Theft Ring,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 11 Mar 1933, p 8 col 1.
You have seen photos of them in their old age. Now here are George Henry Smith and Mary Lucinda Rauch upon their marriage in August 1889.
Little would one suspect that Mary was already four months pregnant with their first daughter, Victoria Emelina Smith, known as Dora.
Little Dora would not live more than a few short months. She was born January 19, 1890, and died on the 9th of March. Her parents clearly adored her. According to their other children, they displayed a photo of Dora in a place of pride in their home for the rest of their lives.
Finding a job during the height of the Great Depression would have been challenging for any man, never mind an ex-convict. Many men in Hancock County at this time might have been able to return home to work on the family farm. This was not an option for Stanley. It is likely that, following his release from the Ohio State Penitentiary, he moved in with his in-laws.
Stanley’s wife, Bertha, had already spent a good portion of their married life living at her parents’ home at 842 Park Street in Findlay. From a strictly financial point of view, it made sense. Where else was the money going to come from? Stanley had been in prison more than he had been home with Bertha. Living with her parents also likely provided some much needed stability.
Stanley Robert Smith and Bertha Lucille Foreman had married on December 7, 1928, in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. The most likely reason for the choice of this distant venue was the ability to lie about their ages. On the day of their marriage, Stanley was 18. Bertha was a month shy of her 15th birthday.
What Bertha’s parents, Richard and Alta (Fenstermaker) Foreman, thought of this rash move on their daughter’s part seems fairly obvious. They clearly hadn’t given permission for Bertha to marry or the wedding could have taken place at home. Perhaps they were already well aware of Stanley’s wild streak. It was, after all, only three months after their marriage that Stanley was arrested and ultimately sent to the Ohio State Reformatory.
At such a young age, Bertha’s presence in the local newspapers was understandably somewhat limited. However, the year prior to their marriage, she was listed as having been elected vice-president of the Little Leaders class of St. Paul’s Evangelical church1 and hosting the business and social session of the Intermediate Christian Endeavor Society2.
Stanley, on the other hand, was a boxer who had dropped out of school in order to work. He was clearly taking full advantage of his youth, as later records describe him as having suffered from an STD in 1928.
The two seem to have been diametrically opposed, but perhaps Bertha was attracted to Stanley’s bad boy vibe.
Like Ships in the Night
Based on his birth date, the couple’s first child was likely to have been conceived during Stanley’s wild streak in February 1929 (butter theft, bad check, forgery). Bertha would have discovered her pregnancy while her husband was already in jail.
The baby, who would be named Robert Stanley Smith, after his father, was born on November 10, 1929. Little Bobby saw little of his father in the early years of his life. Stanley was released from the Reformatory when his son was 2 1/2 months old and arrested again two months later. It’s difficult to reconcile the idea of a new father with the picture of Stanley, out on a joyride with another ex-convict and his lady friend. What sort of father was Stanley? Am I being unfair for judging his parenting based on this one moment in time?
This time, Stanley would be gone for a year of baby Bobby’s life. Considering how young he was and how little time he had had to bond with his father, it is hard to imagine that Bobby missed his presence. Instead he had his mother, his grandparents, and other members of the Smith and Foreman families.
Now, however, Stanley was home again, reunited with his wife and child. Bertha was once again in the family way. It probably felt like a fresh start, another opportunity to get things right.
1 “Class Elects Officers,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 29 Jul 1927, p 6 col 6. 2 “Members Are Received,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 28 Feb 1927, p 10 col 4.
If you need help navigating to the Pennsylvania probate records on FamilySearch, click here for guidance.
Today’s data is from “Wills 1839-1870 vol 3-5”. Check the first column of the table below for the image number. Type it into the box near the top of the page on FamilySearch (Image __ of 701) to find the desired image
When a case is reviewed by an appellate court, no new evidence is heard. The panel of judges examines the transcript of the original case. The legal opinions of the lawyers on both sides may be taken from briefs submitted at the time of the appeal or the lawyers may be asked to present short oral arguments, at which time the judges may ask them questions.1
Williams’ conviction on the charge of highway robbery was upheld.2
Unsatisfied with this outcome, his lawyer, Francis W. Durbin of Lima, submitted a jurisdictional appeal to the Ohio State Supreme Court.
Making a Little Magic
Charles’s lawyer, Francis Durbin, was quite an interesting character.
His father, W. W. Durbin, of Kenton, Ohio, was president of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and was considered to be the best amateur magician in the United States. He operated the “American Egyptian Hall” in Kenton. In 1928, the theater was said to hold more magic equipment than was owned by any other one man.3
By the age of 7, “Master Francis”4 was taking part in his father’s magical acts. Capable of escaping from “knotted ropes and strong wooden boxes,” he was the youngest magician on record.5
Politics was another passion inherited from his father. The elder Durbin was elected state Democratic chairman in 1896 at the age of just 29. Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, for whom Durbin stumped at the national convention, was a visitor at the Durbin home in Kenton when Francis was just five years of age.6
At the age of 17, he attended his first national Democratic convention, held in Denver that year. From that point forth, he would be present at every national convention held during his lifetime.7
Having graduated from Notre Dame law school in 1913, Durbin was admitted to the bar just ten days later.8
In 1928, he gained national recognition after securing the release of “whiskey czar” George Remus from the State Hospital for the Criminal Insane at Lima. Remus had been sent to the facility after he was acquitted of the crime of first degree murder by reason of insanity.9 This decision set the precedent by which Durbin successfully freed a large number of others from such institutions over the next twenty years.10
Perhaps this was the reason Charles Williams had selected Mr. Durbin to represent him.
Waiting for News
Would Stanley have been notified of the progress on his accomplice’s appeal efforts?
I have requested copies of Stanley’s records from the Ohio State Penitentiary. (If you’re interested in knowing how to request these records yourself, I will detail the process in an upcoming post.)
Perhaps records of his mail and visitors will reveal whether lawyers stayed in contact with him during this time.
One way or another, Stanley was probably over the moon the day he read the following in the paper, nine months after he arrived at the state prison:
Neglecting to Pay for Gasoline is Not Robbery Case
Supreme Court Sets Aside Conviction in Hancock County
COLUMBUS, O., Feb. 17–(AP)–Charles Williams, Hancock County, was freed by the Ohio supreme court today, of a 10-years penitentiary sentence for failing to pay for eight gallons of gasoline valued at $1.28. He had been convicted of robbery.
The supreme tribunal reversed the lower courts and set Williams free because there was no showing that Williams had used force in obtaining the gasoline from the filling station attendant. The Ohio robbery statute requires that force be used in taking property of another before an indictment for robbery can be sustained.
. . .
Attorneys for Williams contended that the only possible charge that might have been brought against him was petty larceny.11
Hey, Good Thinking!
Perhaps Prosecutor Marcus C. Downing was inspired by Williams’ lawyers’ commentary about what crime he should have been charged with. Following the supreme court’s decision to free Charles, he filed a brief requesting a rehearing of the Williams-Smith case:
The prosecutor sets forth that it is the universal custom to place the gasoline in the tank of a car before collecting the money but that Richards had never relinquished his claim on the gasoline as evidenced by the fact that he jumped on the running board when the car started and endeavored to stay with it and collect for the gasoline and that under the court’s ruling the gasoline technically speaking, is still at law at the filling station whereas in fact it was stolen, taken away forcibly by Williams when Richards was ejected from the running board.
It is cited that a robbery is the taking of another’s property “by fear, force or violence” and it is contented that force was used. However, the prosecutor points out further that regardless whether or not force was used Williams got the gasoline, did not pay for it, had admitted in court that he did not intend to pay for it, and that therefore he was at least guilty of some lesser offense which it is contended is within the power of the court to designate.12
What an emotional roller-coaster ride this entire experience had been for Charles, Stanley and their families!
The prosecutor’s filing served only to delay Williams’ release by about a month. The supreme court overruled Downing’s request and on Saturday, March 12, 1932, Charles Williams was released from the Hancock County Jail, where he had been held nearly a year. The same day, Francis Durbin applied to Governor White for a pardon for Stanley13, which he wasted no time in granting:
GIVEN FREEDOM AT STATE PRISON
Stanley Smith Released as Result of Court’s Finding in Case
Stanley Smith, of this county, who was serving a sentence of seven to 25 years in the state penitentiary on a robbery charge which the Ohio supreme court has held was not robbery, was pardoned yesterday by Governor George White.14
How did the Smith family feel about the return of the prodigal son? Did they welcome him with open arms or were they more wary, afraid that they would again be burned by his impetuosity?
One thing is certain: Stanley and his young wife, Bertha, must have been pleased to see one another. By the end of April, she was carrying their second child.15 Perhaps this time, he would be around to help raise it.