Unpaid Fines, Alcohol Sales, and the County Jail

There are more entries in the Warsaw, Illinois, newspapers for the name of Trautvetter than I will ever be able to read through.

Fortunately this is one that I did not miss.

January of 1900 apparently found John M. Trautvetter in the Hancock County, Illinois, jail for failing to pay nearly $300 in fines related to illegal sale of alcohol. These fines may have stemmed from a criminal case discovered for him in the late 1890s. The newspaper article does not indicated when the original sale of alcohol took place.

I need to take a more detailed look at the local newspapers during the time period in question. The Warsaw, Illinois, newspapers are available online in searchable format, but the images in some cases are hard to read and it is very possible that the OCR process used to index the images has missed references to this last name.

It is also possible that one of the county seat newspapers (in Carthage) make a reference to this case as well. Those newspapers are unindexed and not available digitally. A search of those newspapers will wait until the court materials have been more thoroughly searched and newspaper searches can focus on dates of various court actions. A manual search of the Warsaw newspapers will wait as well. While I’m interested in the case, I’m not certain I am interested enough to read through three years of newspapers to learn more about it.

Newspaper references may give details or opinions that do not appear as a part of the court record. That’s always the upside in finding newspaper references to court actions. The drawback is that newspapers are not always unbiased and Trautvetter could be viewed as another German who liked his beer.

The Warsaw Bulletin indicated that Trautvetter’s time in the county lockup might prevent sales of alcohol to minors and drunkards. I’m not certain if that was a reference to the Trautvetter incident or a separate one. Newspapers don’t always make some things as clear as we would like.

And I’m going to have to look at the county court records in late 1899 to see what reference there is to Trautvetter failing to pay his fines.

Now I’m wondering if he was really home when the census enumerator came around to answer questions in the spring of 1900.




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