'THE GIRLS' - 1900

In a residence in Oklahoma city owned by the 'notorious' Big Annie Wynn in 1900, were listed a group of women who informed the census taker their profession was 'prostitute'. Scattered among them were some men who were such things as musician or barber.  Living space may have been at a premium in 1900. Listed in Block 37 (near Walker Streeet, all after Wynn were labeled as "roomers." 

Residence 402 or 422 (writing is hard to read)
Annie Wynn, 34,   b. July 1865, Il
Girtie Anderson, 21, b. Jan 1889, Il
Lulu Little, 18, b. March 1882
Gracie Maxwell, 23, May 1887, Il
Dana Goodwin, 22, b. Dec 1877, Ill
Mattie Probo, 33, b. Feb 1867, Ky
Gertie Hodge, 18, b. Feb 1882, Ky
Effie Fisher, 27 b. March 1873, IL
Harry Anderson, 22, b. Oct. 1877, KS "musician"
Ed Roberts, 30, b. April 1870, "Machinist"

Residence 406:
Susie Fields, 28 b. March 1873, KY
Fannie Richards, 27, March 1873 . NM
Laura Evans, 28, March 1872, KS
Girtie Sawyer, 20, Jan 1880, IL
Harry Brown, 32, b. Aug 1867, KS "Barber"
Mrytle Moore, 27, April 1873, TX
Bessie Moore, 25, 1875, TX

There is more than a good chance these names are all false.  It was common for women in such work to create a persona and a history to suit their needs, cover their tracks, or keep them self hidden from those who might be looking for them.  Papers around 1910 will note methods employed to get and keep workers for the sex trade.  Some entered the business willingly, some because of being wronged by some man, but some were tricked into it through a method recorded in London in the 1700's.  Young girls, travelers or runaways, were met at the local depot by a kindly person offering them help, shelter, or a ride to their destination.  Instead, they were taken to a house of ill repute, drugged, seduced, and kept a prisoner until they too joined the "stable."


At the turn of the century - the 20th century - sprawling communities were connected through trolley systems and small rail lines that connected to larger lines and the world.

For newly a century these lines moved people swiftly, easily, and cheaply.  A woman told me that as a young woman in about 1920 she had ridden the train from Enid, Oklahoma to Blackwell, Oklahoma for pocket change.

Our love or lust over the automobile, eventually led to the demise of this means of transportation.  Yet, fuel costs, environmental concerns, and parking issues are causing many to look at the older system and see if it can be updated to meet modern needs.  

In an age when health concerns encourage getting exercise, when parking can be impossible in some urban locations and work is seldom close to where anyone lives, the idea looks pretty good.  To be able to drive to one parking lot, park and step aboard a network of fuel efficient or alternatively powered light rails to take us around the traffic clogged highways makes a lot of sense.  

The mystery will be - who will be the ones to call out "All Aboard!!"

For a great coverage of Oklahoma City trolleys check out the rich coverage of OKC History at Doug Dawgz Blog.


A Family Slaughtered

SLAUGHTERED A WHOLE FAMILY.: John Hoy, with His Wife and Two Children, Hacked to Pieces in Their Cabin. Washington Post (May 30 1893),1.  

A New Haven, CT family of John Hoy, living in a cabin on the Youghiogheny River,  were found dead in their kitchen by fellow minors on their way to work.  Hoy, his wife and several children were dead.  Police theorized that he had committed the killings and then slit his own throat.  A mystery remained due to the presence of blood splatter throughout the house and the impression of a hatchet behind the ear of the daughter.

This is especially interesting due to the fact that in the early 1900 a number of families would be killed by person or persons unknown practically from coast to coast.  Notable were the murders in San Antonio, Colorado, Kansas and Iowa (Villasca).  No mention is made of an ax being found, although a razor and knife was found by the bodies.

Like all serial killers - the person who killed the later families - had to have begun somewhere.  Could it have been the Hoy family were early victims?  


For The Other Victims by William Slack

One of the rare delights of research is encountering interesting people whose passion for uncovering the truth of historical mysteries is also tempered by an empathy to all involved in the more tragic episodes.   This was the case recently as a person with families ties to the noted Katie James Murder of 1905 made contact.   William Slack, our guest columnist,  has doggedly searched out the story from his family tree but with still many questions unanswered sought out the rest of the storyM.A.H.

Although most of the excitement surrounding the murder of Katie James in 1905 involved the search for Katie and the woman suspected of killing her, there were other victims of which almost nothing is told; these victims were the children of Katie and Fannie Norton; Lulu Blanche James and Roy, Leta & Elsie Ham.

Lulu Blanche was only 18 months old when her mother was murdered. A newspaper article from  The Weatherford Democrat, Thursday, January 23, 1913 says the following:
Blanche James Dead

Another chapter in one of the saddest tragedies in connection with Weatherford's early history ended recently with the death of Little Blanche James. A letter received by the Cheyenne Marble Works of this place Monday from Mr. DeWitt at Knowles states that he had just got a letter form his sister, Mrs. Shinsteffer who had been notified of the death of the little girl on Jan. 2nd. So little can be known of the fact except that the girl had been visiting her father and took sick with spinal meningitis from which she died. The letter from Mr. DeWitt closed with the cry of the old man's broken heart, "I think they might have might have let me know. I would like to have been with her.

Many of our readers will remember the gruesome story. Seven years ago Mrs. James, having had trouble with her husband on account of his cruelty, had come to Weatherford to her father, Mr. DeWitt. At Clinton she met with Mrs. Ham who offered to drive her through the country. Some place on that lonely drive she was murdered. The body was afterwards found hidden in the bushes near Deer Creek. A little boy related that a woman driving the wagon called hi and asked him to hold the baby as the horses were fractious, then drove furiously away leaving the little child in his arms. Two years ago a trace of the murderer was found in Colorado but she was wanted for stealing horses in New Mexico, so she could not be brought back here for trial until her sentence expires.

But many have asked, what became of the little babe deprived of its mothers care and left to strangers? The father came and took the child, never letting Mr. DeWitt have anything to do with her or to see her. Mr. James married again, but through the years the child was guarded from any knowledge of her grandfather. Mrs. Shinsteffer, the sister of Mr. DeWitt, lived in the same county, Dewey county, and through neighbors kept track of the child and informed Mr. DeWitt. The old gentleman in the course of time amassed considerable property. Mrs. James was his only child and he has no heir. It was the wish of his heart to have and to help little Blanche. Although he was not allowed to see her he could not resist sending her pretty clothes. These were sent through his sister and without letting them know where they came from. Mr. James always told his daughter that her mother still lived and that the clothes were sent by her. And so the story ends with the death of little Blanche."

The Ham children spent their last days together as a family traveling to Guthrie Oklahoma. On July 11, 1905 they were placed for adoption by their Mother Mary Francis Norton, who then left for Shawnee where she eventually committed suicide. Roy, the older brother was 13, his two sisters Elsie and Leta only eleven and seven.

The records that survive show the children placed with families in August 1905; sadly they were not kept together. The entries state:
*  Roy Ham-  With farmer, good people man and wife of Quaker faith.
*  Elsie Ham-With intelligent family, who will give the child a good home. Methodist faith.
* Leta Ham-With Dr. B. and his wife, no children, fine people. The child will have good advantages. Presbyterian and Methodist Churches preferred.

Roy and his sisters had little contact with one another. All letters between the siblings were sent via the Children’s Home. While the records are incomplete they do show that at least in the beginning the children tried to maintain contact with one another. Transcripts of the few remaining letters show the children adapted well to their new lives. Only Roy seems to make any mention of their mother, and even that is only a short sentence to say he is sorry to hear she is dead.

I haven’t been able to track down anything about the family Roy Ham was placed with. He kind of disappears until October 1918 when dies of pneumonia. Roy’s obit in the Kansas City Star of October 20, 1918 reads:
"Ham-Roy L Ham, 26 years old, died Friday at the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Gilmer, 5948 Brooklyn Avenue, of pneumonia. He made his home at that address. His father, Taylor Ham, lives in Turlington, Tex. Two sisters also survive him."   Roy’s sisters never knew what happened to their brother.

Elsie Ham married in October 1913. She and her husband had three children, a boy and two girls. Her son died during World War II; I don’t know what ever became of her daughters or if she ever shared with them the sad story of their grandmother’s life and death.

Leta was perhaps the luckiest of the three Ham children. She was placed with a doctor who eventually adopted her. She wrote to her brother of her little pony and of the four dolls she had. Leta too went on to marry, raise children and live her life.

For more on the story see these Mystorical entrires:




In late March 1911 a most foul deed was done in San Antonio, Texas.   It would enter the story of  a horrific time in American history, a time when a murderer, or murderers, traveled the land targeting families and individuals for death by ax.

The Louis Casaway family was particularly tragic given the personal struggles of the family slaughtered.  

Louis Casaway was the local school janitor and an industrious individual well known as a man of honor and dignity. He had been involved in local politics.  His wife Elizabeth  had survived a disastrous first marriage and had started a new life with Louis.  At the time of their deaths there were born three children: Josephine S., Ruby B., and an infant.

What made this union unique in its time was the fact that, despite Texas laws forbidding such a union, Louis was a Black man and his wife a White woman.  Elizabeth Castalow had been married to a man named Layne some 20 years earlier. They divorced and she married Casaway. 

The are probably listed on the  1910 census of Bexar County, Texas in San Antonio's 6th Ward.  There, an Alfred L. Casaway (listed as a white male, 30 years old born in Louisiana) is listed. A wife name Elizabeth, white female, born Texas, aged around 36.  Her parents had both been born in Georgia.  They had gone to Mexico to be married (since it was against the law in Texas and most of the South) and been married twenty years.  Two children were listed: Josephine S. 7 years old, white, born Texas; Ruby B. 2 years old born Texas.

On the 1900 Census they are listed in San Antonio, Bexar Co., TX (election precinct 9).   He is "A.L. Cassaway" and she is "Lizzie".  They are listed as living at 109 Nesbit and are identified as Black.  He is shown as age 40 (1860) she is 35 (1865) and both say they were born in Texas.

One of the theories of their awful death was they were victims of the strange death cult accused of killing other families in Louisiana and Texas. All were families of mixed racial profiles, what was called "Mulatto".  Law officers did quickly surmise the killer, or killers, used the rail lines to enter a community and leave undetected. 

Did the unfortunate Casaway family become targets because they had gone against segregated social structures?  Was a bizarre cult really killing mixed race families in some strange attempt to purify the community? Was a mass killer traveling the rails of the south, hopping off to slaughter before slinking back into the darkness of the long bloody night?  

Most authorities did look at the concept of a white killer but soon ruled that out due to the location of many of the crimes.   A white man would have been seen noted, and remembered.

The truth may never be known.  What is known is that a family was slaughtered, "in a crime, absolutely inhuman in its conception and atrocious in its execution" in the dark of an early spring night. (Chicago Defender, April 8, 1911).  We remember Louis, Elizabeth and their three innocent children - may they rest in peace.

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