Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Arrests of My "One-Armed" Uncle

James Baker, c. 1915
James Baker, the brother of my 2nd-great grandmother, seems to have struggled during his lifetime. It appears that he had problems with anger or alcohol, or both. James appears in several newspaper articles about fights, arrests, and marital problems.

James was born in Canada and moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with his parents around 1866 at the age of 5. He married Carrie Betler when he was 22 and had two children: Clara and Harry James.

His death certificate indicates that his right arm was amputated due to an accident four decades before his death, but I haven't found any information about this incident. But newspapers provide many other sad details about his life, such as:

  • 1884 - "Jacob Betler was badly beaten by his son-in-law, James Baker, the other night, and has been laid up ever since. Betler keeps a saloon on Picnic street, South Side. No arrests were made. The trouble was about a domestic misunderstanding." (Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, 24 Jul 1884)
  • 1900 - "James Baker, a one-armed man, was picked up by the police at the corner of Carson and South Twenty-fifth street, last evening, under the influence of liquor. After he was taken to the police station it was found that he was suffering from a compound fracture of the right ankle..." (The Pittsburg Press, 30 Jan 1900)
  • 1905 - "Baker's wife alleges he came home drunk Monday night and set fire to the feather bed in which she was sleeping. Failing to burn her alive, she says he demolished all the furniture in the house and threatened to murder her and their two children. On a former occasion she says he threw oil over her for the purpose of setting fire to her clothes, and also threatened to burn her mother's house." (The Pittsburgh Gazette, 25 Oct 1905)
  • 1907 - "The master's report in the divorce case of Carrie Baker against James Baker was filed in common pleas court No. 3 and a decree recommended. Desertion was charged." (The Pittsburgh Post, 1 Nov 1907)
  • 1915 - "James Baker has but one arm and while drunk last night used it in a most effective manner. He deemed it his province to be the sole occupant of the sidewalk and those who disputed his right he promptly landed on them with his fist. Naturally James landed in the bastile and he was sentenced to pay a fine of $2 or serve five days in the county jail." (The Pittsburg Press, 10 Feb 1915)
  • 1925 - "James Baker, aged 60, was dubbed 'the one-armed terror' by police of the Allegheny station yesterday as a result of an altercation he had with two prisoners placed in the same cell with him. One of them...was taken to the Presbyterian Hospital with a severe cut in his cheek, and the other...suffered facial and body bruises. Baker, who has only one arm, was placed in a solitary cell after the fight. The three were originally arrested on charges of drunkenness." (Pittsburgh Gazette Times, 27 Feb 1925)

James Baker died in 1944 at the age of 82 and was buried in Pittsburgh's Oakland Cemetery. (Oakland Cemetery was moved after the land was purchased by the University of Pittsburgh. The graves are now in the Oakland Section of Mount Royal Cemetery in Glenshaw, a suburb of Pittsburgh.)

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1 comment:

  1. Wow. That's some story! I find it interesting that he was "sentenced to pay a fine of $2 or serve five days in the county jail" in the 1915 case.


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