Monday, January 16, 2012

A Deportation, A Demented Young Man & The Governor Of Hamtramck

Do you know who the first person ever deported from Ontario, Canada back to the United States via Detroit was? If you answered Chester Jones then you're right. If you have no clue who Chester Jones is then let me recap the article for you. He was a Detroiter who went to Toronto in September of 1906 and went insane. So Canadian officials deported him back to Michigan in the care of Red Cross hospital in lieu of his admittance to Eloise.

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Sometimes an Eloise story is a few declarative sentences, a name and an incident and then both the subject and the deed forever wash into the background of historical permanence, only to be retread by curiosity seekers such as you and me. Such is the case of William Fraley who was a committed charge of Eloise in October of 1903. He was confined to a padded cell at "Emergency hospital" for five days and then never heard from again via the written press. That last fact mostly being a boon to both him and the public at large.

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Martin Schrammel was a German immigrant who lived in Hamtramck around the turn of the 20th century. He spoke very little English, was a rabble-rouser of sorts, a pro se justice seeker and... the self-pronounced "Governor" of his city. He had a tax deed to prove it. He also owned the sub-division that he resided in, had the authority to run wandering cattle from the confines of his property and the city itself and declared that the Grand Trunk railway which passed nearby by his homestead was in violation of his property rights and thus he sometimes fiddled with the switch as was his right!

His first documented brush with the law was in 1902 when he was arrested for malicious threats made against one William Osten. Having threatened to poison Olsten's cows and children he was found guilty in a bench trial and fined $10 plus court costs (total $14). Unhappy with the decision he appealed the case and eventually won. When his fine and court costs weren't returned he sued the county demanding back his money and eventually won in the summer of 1904.

His legal troubles returned just a few years later when squabbles with neighbors and constant pestering of Judge Binder of Wayne County induced a request by the affronted parties to have him declared insane. He caused a stir at the courthouse in 1907 when he ran through the corridors wildly waving his arms before interrupting three courtrooms by approaching each bench and staring at the sitting judges. His chest was covered in various cheaply made brass and tin medals which were proudly displayed and boasted. He was taken into custody by the sheriff but when sent to Eloise he was quickly returned by Dr. Marker who insisted that the man was not insane.

His next showdown was with neighbor Alice Budenshark in 1908. A dispute between wandering farm animals induced the argument and Schrammel unleashed a barrage of profanity at the woman and was arrested soon thereafter. The Judge and concerned neighbors sought to have him committed once again. At the behest of Judge Binder he went to see the sheriff to once again settle the territorial disputes but was jailed instead in an arranged arrest plot by the judge to determine Schrammel's mental stability. At the trial to determine his sanity, Judge Durfree declared the German to be ugly but not insane despite much testimony to the contrary by his peers. Although Schrammel was free to go home it was agreed that the next serious incident would be punishable by time served at the House of Corrections.

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