It’s always the quiet ones part two…

Emil Hamm, youngest son of George and Amelia Hamm

On the 14th of January, 1910, Emil G. Hamm plead guilty to the crime of abusing a female child under the age of sixteen. On January 26th he was brought before the Grand Jury in Duluth and convicted by Judge Hughes. He was sentenced to the St. Cloud Reformatory for 1-7 years.

Emil’s case file indicates he left home at the age of 19 to better himself. According to his own account he went to Harvard, North Dakota for about 4 weeks and then came back home. Next he taught at the school in Whittlesey, Wisconsin for about a year and by the late spring of 1907 he had moved to Duluth, Minnesota. Other accounts in the record indicate he was actually employed at at least one other town in Minnesota before he appears in Duluth.

He was living at 213 1/2 Third Ave. in a boarding house run by Mary E. Chisholm. Also living in the boarding house was a young girl by the name of Martha Tohantele, she had been fostered by Mrs. Chisholm.

It was in December of 1909 that Martha was found to be pregnant, at the age of 14. Emil was the father.

He was arrested and thrown into the hoosegow. At the hearing his lawyer put forth the following argument:

“Your Honor, this appears to me to be a very unfortunate case for this man, and he has expressed to me a desire to plead guilty and throw himself on the mercy of the Court. He has stated that he had no opportunity to communicate with the girl and the complaining witness in this case; that he desire to do the manly thing if it is possible to do so. He has stated to me that he was willing to take care of this child and to marry the girl if possible, and, if possible, before he would serve any sentence that might be passed upon him. It seems to me this man’s record is dry clear; that it is a case where it wold be very proper for the Court to exercise mercy and give the man a chance to redeem the wrong which he has done. I believe he would like to state his intentions to the Court in the matter in his own words. I have nothing more to say at this time.”

The prosecuting attorney’s statement:

“ As counsel has said, this is a very unfortunate case; it is unfortunate both for the defendant and for his victim. He is a rather prepossessing young man and evidently must have some good qualities about him or he would not be engaged in a mercantile establishment like Marshall-Wells.
    He was rooming up here at a place where this young girl stops. The people there had sort of taken her, adopted her or taken her in. I don’t know as they had ever legally adopted her but they had taken her into their home, Mrs. Chisholm, a widow lady, who lives there with her son.
    This girl is only 14 years and 6 months old and is not of the highest order of intelligence. This young man roomed there and I understand that for about four months he has been having illicit intercourse with her, which resulted in pregnancy, and unless something happens to her, she will, in the due course of time, give birth to a child. I think that is her condition. I think it was her condition that first enabled the people to discover the situation.
    He is 22 years old age; old enough to have known better, and under those circumstances it does not appeal very strongly to me for the court to apply any great degree of leniency to this man. I think the girl and the woman ought to be respected and if people do not know enough and have not got control enough over their passions to keep them within proper and reasonable limits, that the law out to set them an example so that those things will note recurr too frequently.
    As to his marrying her and making such degree of reparations as is within his power, that is something, with which, of course, I have nothing to do. I do not know what is best but I do not think that the Court ought to allow any desire or inclination upon the part of the defendant to interfere with swift and remedial justice.”

Emil’s attorney asked for probation as he had no previous record. The judge asked Emil if he had anything to say before sentence:

“I wish to say that if I had a chance I would marry the girl and save her from disgrace and save the child from disgrace and give it a name. If not now, I wish to say that I will do the same thing after I serve my sentence; I will marry the child in any case; whether before or after. I would like to have a chance to do it before so as to save the girl and save the child.”

The pleas of Emil and his attorney didn’t sway the Judge:

“Under the statute for the offense to which you have entered a plea of guilty you could be punished by prisonment into the penitentiary for the period of seven years. There is not very much in this case to warrant the court in exercising leniency with you. You see[m] to be a young man that has had opportunities; you have had a high school course and was graduated there from; you have taught school and held positions on the fire department and have been with the Marshall-Wells Hardware Company. You cannot plead ignorance as an excuse for your offense. You had such an upbringing that you ought to and undoubtedly did know better.
    The court possibly ought to give you a penitentiary sentence. it appears, however, that this is your first offense so I will not do so. You understand, of course, that after you serve the sentence imposed upon you, that if you again transfers that there is nothing for you but the penitentiary. Possibly you should have that now.
    Your offer to make amends comes a little too late. If you wanted to marry the girl you had an opportunity of waiting until she arrived at that legal age where you could. This is one of the crimes that merits punishment and the one who commits it should be punished.”

St. Cloud Reformatory, Minnesota

During Emil’s stay at St. Cloud, the Superintendant was writing to various acquaintances and previous employers of Emil’s to gather evidence for his parole hearing. In these papers was a letter to the Catholic School in Graceville, Minnesota, a town Emil was working in before he settled in Duluth. Apparently he had been found to be in correspondence with a young lady of 17 by the name of Alice Keefie, he was promising to marry her, telling her he loved her, she was writing back the same. It was recommended that the correspondence be stopped, and it appears that it was, as there are no more letters related to the matter. Which begs the question of just how ‘innocent’ was he?

The majority of replies to his character appeared to be positive, although his last place of employment wasn’t satisfied with his work and was going to be firing him before he was incarcerated. Otherwise he was an all around good guy. Except for his unfortunate affinity for young girls.

Letter from George Hamm to the Superintendant regarding  his son’s character:

Mrs. Chisholm also had her chance to vent her feelings on the matter, (this letter is typed exactly as seen):

“Duluth MN April 9, 1910

Dear Sir in reply to yours of the 4 all i can say is he cirtenely ronged my little girl she will be 15 year the 2 of July she was a little girl i tuck out of the home to be a mother to her but he runed her he was a snake in the grass to think he lived rite in my house and ceped this up for i dont no how long i tuck him for a gentel man but he is a very bad man or he never would have runed that child now poor little girl tha tuck her a way from me and now i cant hear from her to no if ? or good to the poor child if she had a father he would shote him you think what you would do if it was youre daughter he never would tell truth i don’t think and he was very good at ?? to have other yong men drink with him and his associates i can’t tell you nothing but only he had 4 or 5 girls and told them all he loved them and wanted to marri them”

As to Martha, a group of women in the area raised about $100 dollars to send her to an orphanage, which then sent her to the Maternity Hospital in Winnipeg, Canada. A facility run by nuns. I have been unable, as yet, to find out what happened to Martha and the child, which was due in June of 1910.

While in prison he was evaluated by a doctor several times over the course of his stay. The overall consensus was he was mild mannered, general character good, although his morals had declined in the last year or two, his only vices being he smoked tobacco and he had an unfortunate penchant for brothels. His mother would have been proud.

He was released on parole December 17 of the same year and by July 6, 1911 he was discharge or released from his sentence. Part of his parole agreement was he had to go live with his mother. I am not sure if he actually did that, as his monthly report to his parole office showed him working at the Merchant Hotel in St. Paul checking meals in the kitchen and then working as a night watchman.

He was sending $5.00 a month for support to Martha. He indicated in the records that he wished to find Martha and marry her and take care of the child. At this time do not no if any of that occurred. I can find no evidence that Martha ever existed in any official records, most likely because of her age.

The Maternity Hospital where she was sent is still in operation, under a different mandate and name, but I am hoping that they will still have records of her.

By 1913 or 1914 Emil was married to Rebecca Perusse and living in Duluth. He had three children with her.

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