Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses...

You never know what crazy characters you'll turn up in her genealogical pursuits. Sometimes the fun stories come from your relatives' families, and not your direct ancestors themselves, which makes the stories no less interesting...

My second great-grandmother, Meta Ricklefs Haase, had five siblings growing up in East New York, Brooklyn at the turn of the century (last century, that is). All four of the girls - Meta and her sisters Sophie, Olga, and Margaretha - got married but neither of the brothers - not John nor Charles - ever did. Not in and of itself interesting, true...I have the boys in census records, I have them signing up for the draft for both World War I and World War II. For all I knew, they lived fun/peaceful bachelor lives...

My father relates that his father always told him that Nanny's family (my father's grandmother, my grandfather's mother-in-law) was a bunch of criminals. Nanny was Helen Meta Haase Stutzmann. My dad always assumed his father was talking about the Haases, but it appears now, thanks to newspaper articles I found on, my new favorite genealogy website, that he was actually talking about Nanny's mother's family. Nanny's mother was Meta Ricklefs. Apparently, there was a reason the Ricklefs boys (who were Nanny's uncles) never got married. And apparently things in East New York haven't changed much in the last 100 years. A few excerpts from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, courtesy Old Fulton NY Post Cards...:

On April 3, 1916, the headline read, "Says he got bullet while trying to rob: it is still in Ricklefs' chin, life term if he is committed." The story goes, "Still carrying in his chin a bullet, which police say he received while committing a burglary and which he says he acquired quite innocently, John Ricklefs, 28 years old, faced Justice Aspinall...Ricklefs is under indictment for burglary in the first degree and assault in the first degree as a second offender, and if the jury finds him guilty as indicted, Judge Aspinall has no choice but to send him back to Sing Sing for the rest of his life...He was released from Sing Sing last July, after doing a ten year term, less commutation, imposed by Judge Fawcett, for burglary. In 1907 Judge Dike sent him to Elmira for larceny."

Three days later, the headline read, "Not Guilty, Verdict; 'Guilty,' Says Judge. 'Don't Do It Again.'" The subheadline quotes Judge Aspinall as saying that the acquittal of Ricklefs was due to doctor's "stupidity." The doctor testified that he was called to tend to the wound caused by the bullet in John Ricklef's face at 2:15 in the morning, instead of 3:15, like he actually was. His mix-up of the timeline made it impossible to place Ricklefs at the scene of the crime, and the jury acquitted him, though Judge Aspinall told him, "You were there that morning. There is no doubt about that....This is the fourth crime you were mixed up in. The third one you got out of because your companions took the guilt upon themselves and one is in Sing Sing, the other in Elmira; that's how you got out of that. You are only 28 years old. I advise you to try and lead a better life. First thing you know, they will have it on you right and that will be the end of you." Apparently one of the men who took the blame for that other crime was John's younger brother, Charles.

On April 30, 1916, it was reported that Charles Ricklefs had been arrested by Detective Doherty and convicted.

In a 1918 issue of the New York Evening Telegram, a blurb reads, "To permit an attempt to identify him in connection with highway robbery in Manhattan, a charge of suspected burglary against Charles Ricklefs, No. 456 Glenmore Avenue, East New York, was dismissed in the New Jersey Avenue Court, Brooklyn, today. He was taken to the Fourth Branch Detective Bureau, Manhattan, to be questioned as to complicity in the theft of $2,700 from a bank messenger...three weeks ago."

SIDENOTE: According to an inflation conversion calculator I found online, $2,700 in 1918 is about equal to $38,500 in 2008. Just to give you an idea...

This quote from the April 3 story is my favorite, and I think sums up both Ricklefs brothers quite well and rather poetically: "Despite his youth, Ricklefs has been labeled by the police as a desperado."

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