Henry S. Freeman to Clara Landsberg, October 24, 1912

Annex "A" Hospital
Watertown, Ill.
Oct 24" 1912

My Dear Miss [Landsberg]:

Am very thankful for your prompt reply to my inquiry addressed to Miss Addams and am answering again that you may know more thoroughly.

I was sent here either to let a Mr. Clyde Roper of Dixon, Ill. set himself square with his father for paying me for extra and Sunday work, after he had been instructed to make the Engineer of the factory pay for it or to get me out of the way to avoid the firm's having to pay for a finger, split by a circular [page 2] saw while employed at the Roper Furniture Co. mill at Dixon, Ill., a year ago last May.

I can't believe that Mr. Roper (Senior) has done the latter, for I never asked him to pay for it although it was through Clyde Roper ordering a new man to "start on that machine at once or quit" while my inspection flag was on the machine to warn the man not to set it in motion.

Clyde Roper had no authority to pay me except out of his own pocket. He gets pretty "full" of whiskey and [carouses] a good deal in consequence is unable, or does not, to report for work every day. [page 3]

The result is that some one has to do his extra work such as repairing -- moving machinery and belts from place to place.

Also to inspect fire barrels and see that they are kept full of water, also shut windows at night.

Now the Engineer comes in. He is supposed to bring in his own coal & wipe his own engine.

Clyde told me to do that work and that he would see that I was paid.

The Engineer does his own firing. It is a big job, some go heavy wood working machine and a dynamo (lights).

I done the work for 5 months & over and got paid for about 3 weeks and then had to "kick" kick kick [page 4] until one day the Boss heard about it and demanded that I look to Clyde Roper and the Engineer for my pay.

I waited two weeks and neither of them paid nor did the firm. The Boss told me then to stop it and to keep away from the engine room -- to attend to the inspection -- oiling of all the shafting line pulleys & machines twice a day and then work the joiner machine or band saw -- in emergencies to work any machine the foreman put me at.

The Engineer & I got after Clyde for my money and he finally gave me a check for it.

I had to quit first, before the [page 5] Engineer, Emory Kinkaid would speak for me and make Clyde Roper keep his word.

I was told to come back the next day. I went back but no "Clyde" showed up. He got full the night before and [stayed] pretty full for over 10 days.

The Boss went away the same day so there was no one to put me back except another son & Kinkaid (Engineer) said wait.

I waited 10 days and then left for another job (with the Whitehouse Underwear Mills).

Burr Oak, Michigan as a night watchman.

Imagine my surprise when in [page 6] about five weeks a sheriff came after me for that check I could not imagine what I had forged.

It seems that the Engineer was shot or killed within a week after I left Dixon. Well he was my only witness to Clyde making out & signing the check and giving it to me. The total was $[24.90] which included the physician's bill for my finger dressing, stitching and time lost by going to the Doctor's office which was deducted at the time.

The boss had evidently came home before expectation and when he saw the check he got sore and demanded to know [page 7] who issued it. (Both sons write the same hand about)

Harry Roper knew nothing of it, the bookkeeper did not and Clyde said he did not remember did not remember his having paid me. The Doctor had cashed it and he caused me to be arrested.

In the engineer's death I lost my witness & Clyde was keen enough to see that he could clear himself by laying it on to me.

Well, the judge & officials believed me, I think so anyway, I got some fellow employees to speak up a good word for me also some merchants. [page 8] My attorneys told me that as I now had no witness, I stood a pretty good chance to go to Joliet.

The Judge sent them to confer with me and offered to "see that I was paroled after a year,["] -- within a year I refused (see [postscript]) Then they offered to send me to Chester (insanity). That I turned down flat.

The senior counsel, said to me, "you are sick and the Judge wishes to send you to the hospital for a spell." I asked Chester?

He says No! No!! you will not be confined. Plenty of good food and recreation on grass under the trees & sky. No walls. [page 9] Well again, Miss Landsberg that was what I needed. I was broken down (kidneys) from 5 months confinement in a damp jail & have been sick for 4 years, more or less sick but not mentally.

I realize the good intention of the officials, they had to go according to evidence.

The trial was over, the jury still deliberating. Then I was again urged to let the attorneys & Judge send me here.

I gave in and told the Judge to go ahead. They called the jury in and said something to them and they returned to their [page 10] room. Again in 2 or 3 minutes they came back with this verdict. --

"Guilty but insane at the time and we do not believe him entirely cured as yet." That is all I knew until the Saturday <news>paper came to jail. There I read that "Freeman to Watertown" in large headlines and Wednesday I came here.

I want my liberty. The promise was one year and maybe 2 weeks to 3 months. I am no more insane than did I knowingly pass a false check. I appeal to your [page 11] [cooperation] because I know you are fighting the hateful factory system wherein such things can happen.

You understand that I am reasonably sure that <the> Ropers know I would have sued for damages following our quarrel over extra time pay and that Clyde Roper saw his way clear to clear himself from his father's wrath over paying me from the firm's pocket.

I knew the Boss's order but supposed Clyde had talked it over & that the Boss gave in.

The boss is president and the [page 12] two sons are vice prest and secty-treasurer.

Harry Roper generally signs the checks, I supposed Clyde Roper had the authority.

The Boss signs them when he is there but he is away (prest of 1" Nat. Bank Mishawaka Indiana). The factory moved to Dixon a year ago last August and the Boss now lives in Dixon (Nachusa Hotel).

Let me add this --

The Mishawaka factory had a bad reputation. They had the "pay in cash every week" sign But the envelopes were always (about 1/3 of them each week) short in the currency. The sons [page 13] were sporty and gamblers & suspicion turned toward them for stealing it.

So the Boss commenced holding back currency -- that is to say, paid the even dollars Thus $[9.10] coming -- the man is paid $[9.00] only & the 10 cents credited each week until it amounted to one dollar, then it was paid. This made the hands sore again & Roper could not keep a steady man as a rule. The firm came to Dixon (Dixon made offer of Building & site free if business proved running in 20 years) & the whole thing run riot. [page 14] There were on average of 4 hands crushed or mangled (hands, eye or legs) every week, generally a hand or 2 fingers cut off.

We came with 57 men from the old factory and today I have a letter stating that only 5 old men (hands) are there, all the rest went back to home.

They don't use safety appliance at all nor won't allow them. Speak for them & you get fired by making it so warn for you that you quit soon.

Roper is close on money matters & the boys are "loose["] sports though I know Harry [page 15] has quit it since he became the treasurer.

The boys and the Boss and the hands (Mishawaka factory) knew that I came to Ropers in 1904 after serving 7 years in Joliet. I broke down the first winter & some old Presbyterian friends looked after me until I got a relative to send for me.

I know [it's] against me that I served time, but I tell you I have kept good since 1904 & tried to have done right.

In fact the Judge at this trial could not overlook it. [page 16] Testimony was offered unsupported, that I had been a "regular" convict but as no dates etc. could be given the Court threw it out.

No one knows me to have served except Joliet and I don't know it myself.

I have done some pretty hard work in my life as a mill hand & I am totally deaf. But my brain is clear & I can earn and do earn my living. Will you pardon the length of this letter. I tried to be frank. Will you answer, soon, if only a line.

Most [Respectfully]

Henry S Freeman

Annex "A" Watertown, Ill. [page 17]

Present Case

State Ills.
vs.                     Lee Co. (Dixon Ill.)
H. S. Freeman
Sent to Watertown Hospital
Oct 20" 1911.

#5873 Cook Co.

Don't know Judge -- Deneen <pros.> atty

Got into fight with Deputy Hall at Joliet & he locked me up for 72 days in [Solitary] within [90] days thus 30, 12, & 30 days. I lost my hearing & health from the bread & water diet.

over [page 18]

This was for "con" game,

I got 10 yrs (1 to 10) in 1898 & [released] 1904.

It was politics & I was to blame. The forces were pushing me [too] hard and I talked too much

My folks went back on me for getting in Joliet and yet they are doing the same thing every day for fire-insurance [conning?]

Shall I say more?

H. S. Freeman

See W Dix Webster of Rollo & Webster & he will tell you of my escapade or an idea. I don't know that he knows all about it but does some for we worked together in Magill's office (fire insurance)