A charge of seditious remarks

As part of my “Montana in WWI” series, I like to take a look at Montana newspapers from time to time. From the Butte Daily Post on May 1, 1917, comes this interesting newspaper article . . .

The Butte daily post. (Butte, Mont.), 01 May 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053058/1917-05-01/ed-1/seq-1/>














The article is transcribed below:

Oscar Hendricksen, a miner, is in
the county jail on a charge of sedi-
tious utterance.  Hendricksen is em-
ployed at the Leonard mine and ac-
cording to information furnished, he
had made remarks to the effect that
he hoped Germany would beat the
United States.  He is said to have
made the remarks to fellow workers
underground and they communicated
with Undersheriff Jack Melia, who,
last evening arrested the man as he
was about to go on shift. Hendrick-
son is a Dane and has taken out his
first papers. Officer Melia took the
matter of prosecution up with the fed-
eral authorities today.  It is the in-
tention of the sheriff’s office to place
under arrest every man who is guilty
of making any slighting remarks about
the flag, the uniform of the country.

After reading the article, I wondered what law Mr. Hendricksen had broken. Being somewhat familiar with the sedition laws in existence during WWI, I assumed it must have been either a federal or state law.

However, this is what I found out . . .

  • The State of Montana Sedition Act wasn’t passed until February 22, 1918 – nearly 10 months after Mr. Hendrickson was arrested.
  • The federal Sedition Act of 1918 wasn’t enacted by Congress until May 16, 1918 – a year after Mr. Hendrickson was arrested.1

So what was going on? A little online searching turned up a few clues.

Although many Montanans were supportive of the decision to join in the war effort, Montana congresswoman Jeanette Rankin, supported by a size-able group of her constituents, voted against U.S. involvement in the war.

And in a state where a large number of people were recent immigrants – Irish immigrants who were anti-British and Finnish immigrants who were anti-Russian, and of course the German immigrants themselves, together with the ever-present labor issues surrounding the mining industry – tensions were high in Montana during this time. In particular, Butte had experienced increasing labor violence in the years leading up to the war.

In a move to deal with both antiwar sentiment and labor unrest, the Montana legislature ultimately voted to pass the Montana Sedition Act.

According to The Montana Sedition Project, 79 people in Montana alone were eventually convicted of sedition under Montana law.

The oldest was 74 and the youngest was 29. Collectively, the prisoners ended up serving more than 65 years in prison, an average of 19 months apiece.

Again, Mr. Hendrickson was arrested prior to both the state and federal sedition laws were in place, and I’ve been unable to determine his outcome.

Sources and links to web sites dealing with this complicated issue are as follows:

The Montana Sedition Project

This day in History, February 22, 1918: Montana Passes Law Against Sedition

Montana and the Great War

  1. The Sedition Act of 1918 was an extension of the Espionage Act, which was not passed until June 15, 1917 – several weeks after Mr. Hendrickson was arrested.

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“The remainder favors conscription.”

On this date 100 years ago . . . an interesting article from The Butte Daily Post.

The Butte daily post. (Butte, Mont.), 24 April 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053058/1917-04-24/ed-1/seq-1/>

A transcription of the article is as follows . . .

Organization That Has Lost 10
Per Cent of Its Members
Favors Conscription.
At a meeting of the Pan-Hellenic
club at noon today resolutions were
adopted favoring the government’s
plan for conscription and a telegram
sent at once to Congresswoman Jean-
ette[sic] Rankin as follows:
“Hon. Jeanette Rankin,
“Washington, D.C.
“Ten per cent of our membership
have already volunteered. The re-
mainder favors conscription. We
therefore respectfully urge your sup-
port of the government’s selective
conscription bill.
“Butte Pan-Hellenic Society,
“F.A. SILVER, Sec’y.”
During the discussion preceding the
action by the organization, the fact
was pointed out that to date vol-
enteers have consisted mostly of uni-
versity men, ranchers and workers.
Within the next week it is believed
that at least 10 more members of
Butte’s university club will enlist.

The Selective Service Act of 1917, allowing the federal government to raise a national army through compulsory enlistment, was enacted several weeks later on May 18, 1917.

Jeannette Rankin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I have been unable to determine whether Ms. Rankin – the first woman elected to Congress – voted for or against The Selective Service Act. As a committed pacifist, however, she voted against the war resolution on April 5th, along with 49 other members of the House. Twenty-four years later, she was the only member of the House to vote against the war resolution following the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.

Many years later, she led the Jeannette Rankin Brigade in a protest march on Washington in January of 1968 in order to protest the Viet Nam War. At the time of her death in 1973, she was considering another House campaign in order to protest the war. She was 93 years old at the time.


History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, “RANKIN, Jeannette,”http://history.house.gov/People/Detail/20147 (April 24, 2017).

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100th Anniversary of America’s Entry into World War I – and a surprising family history find!

In commemoration of America’s Entry into World War I on April 6, 1917, the National Archives has launched a World War I Research Portal “with the goal of creating a central space for all National Archives resources and content related to World War I for use by researchers, students and educators, and those curious about the War.”

So that of course got me to thinking about my Montana ancestors. I did a search at chroniclingamerica.com and located this front page from a Butte newspaper on that date . . .

The Butte daily post. (Butte, Mont.), 06 April 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053058/1917-04-06/ed-1/seq-1/>

And then I wondered what might come up if I searched the word “Montana” inside the WWI images at the National Archives. Here are a few interesting photos that came up .  .  .

Citizens in Great Falls pledge money for Liberty Bonds – $1,282,000 in 30 minutes!


Montana Troops taking part in Helena parade. This particular group is Company E.

And then there was this wonderful surprise – a photograph of a board erected by the Helena Commercial Club containing the names of persons serving in the military from Lewis and Clark County.

I immediately downloaded the image and found that it contained the name of my maternal grandfather JOHN D. BLACKER, my paternal grandfather CID H. DALIN, and my paternal grandfather’s uncle, ERICK DALIN.

Board erected by Helena Commercial Club, circa 1918, honoring Lewis and Clerk residents serving in WWI

It appears the board was mounted on the outside of a building, just below the painted images, and a quote that reads . . .

And to this we pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

In the coming days, I’ll share several photos from our family collections that relate to World War I.

But in the meantime, this was another exciting find!

  1. Photograph No.45493463 [electronic record]; “Liberty Bonds – Public Gatherings – Great Falls, Montana. War Activities,” [undated]; American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, 1917-1918; Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, 1860-1952, Record Group 165; National Archives and Records Administration.
  2. Photograph No. 23923459 [electronic record]; “Montana troops take part in war activities parades. Co. E on parade, Helena, Mont,” [undated]; American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, 1917-1918; Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, 1860-1952, Record Group 165; National Archives and Records Administration.
  3. Photograph No. 31480828 [electronic record]; “Honor roll. Board erected by Helena, Montana Club, giving the names of persons in the service of the United States. Helena, Montana,” [undated]; American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, 1917-1918; Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, 1860-1952, Record Group 165; National Archives and Records Administration.

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I love Google – again!!

I’ve been having fun lately using the Google Earth overlay feature to map where my ancestors lived in various townlands in Ireland during the 19th century. By referencing Griffith’s Valuation records, it’s possible to determine with a great deal of accuracy where they lived and what land they were leasing.

While doing U.S. research last weekend on my great great grandparents Lewis Blacker and Margaret Rebecca (Loury/Lower) Blacker, I wondered if it might be possible to map where they lived in 1850.

Here is the family in the census record – Lewis and Margaret living with their two daughters Elizabeth and her husband Nathan Pierce and Sarah and her husband Alonzo Ford – living in Ward 1, City of Dayton, Miami County, Ohio.

I started by searching Google for an historic map related to that location and time period but the closest I could find was this 1875 map from historicmapworks.com.

Looking again at the 1850 U.S. Census record, I was hoping to find some reference to an address, or at least a street name – but was quickly disappointed when I realized there were none. The only reference is the “dwelling house” number (column 1) and a number indicating the order in which each family was visited (column 2).

Never one to give up easily, however, I wondered if maybe, just maybe, there might be some other notation or reference to a landmark that might give me a clue. So I decided to go through the record, page by page.

Luckily, I didn’t have to go far. The very first listing on page 1 was for a group of people who lived in a hotel. A rather large group of people – 27, to be exact. That could be good, right? A rather large hotel possibly owned by the first person listed – a “hotel keeper” by the name of Francis Ohmer.

Next, I searched Google for Mr. Ohmer’s name, plus a few additional identifiers like “Ohio” and “1850” – and soon came across the American Antiquarian Society web site, with a reference to the Richard P. Morgan Indexes. Included there is a searchable database of the “Ohio Name Index, 1796-1900”, which includes “Odell’s Dayton Directory and Business Advertiser, 1850”. And Mr. Ohmer is in that database.

It appeared at first that the directory was a listing of business people so I began by searching the database for other individuals listed in the 1850 census that looked like they might have owned a business . . . a distiller, a moulder, a grocer, and a cooper. By mapping the addresses of those businessmen, I might be able to ascertain the direction in which the census taker was moving, which would ultimately help me determine where the Blackers lived.

And my idea seemed to be working. And then, quite by accident, I realized there were some “laborers” listed in the directory.

Since Lewis Blacker was listed as a “laborer” in the census, I searched his first and last name in the database but nothing came up. Remembering that “Blacker” is often misspelled, I tried searching on his first name alone – and I got lucky. There was only 20 names in the result, one for a “Lewis Blicker“. A laborer who lived at “Third North Side East of Old Canal, Dayton, Ohio”. And since “Blicker” is an alternate spelling that comes up over and over again (which will be the subject of a blog post in the near future), I believe this is my guy!

I was unable to find a digital image of the directory online but did discover several locations where I could order a reproduction, at a very reasonable price. So I placed an order – and it came in the mail yesterday. Hooray!

Here’s an image of the page where Lewis Blicker appears.

And so now I know he lived on the “north side of Third east of old canal.” Well, at least that’s where he lived according to the Dayton directory.

As a double-check, I decided to continue mapping some of the other folks referenced in and around the Blacker family in the census and it actually appears they lived in a different location at the time the census was taken in October of that year. If my calculations are correct, they lived on First Street between Madison and Sears – just a few blocks north of the Third Street location – at the time of the census.

I still believe the “Lewis Blacker” in the census record (October 1850) and the “Lewis Blicker” in the Dayton directory (published in August 1850) are likely the same individual, as it seems entirely plausible that the family might have lived in two different locations in the same year.

Shown below are the two different locations on the historical Dayton map . . .

And here are those same two locations shown on a current Google map . . .

Obviously, none of this information answers my ultimate brick wall question, which is . . .

Where in Germany were Lewis and Margaret born??

But while driving in my virtual car up and down Third Street, I noticed a church in the block just on the other side of Madison St. I zoomed in on the church sign and saw that the name was St. John’s United Church of Christ. I then located the church website and learned the following:

  • St. John’s was established by a group of German Evangelical Protestants in 1840 as the “German Evangelical Congregation”
  • The original meeting location was in the old courthouse located at 3rd Street and Main
  • The East 3rd Street site was built in 1865
  • That building was destroyed by fire in 1899 and construction on the new church was completed in 1901

So that’s some good information. The church was not in that location in 1850 when the Blacker family lived down the street, but it was in existence at another location. So that’s definitely worth further investigation for possible records.

And once again, you never know what you’ll find on Google!!

Featured Image attribution: By Google Inc. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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