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Back to the North Wood column: Harsh punishment doesn't always fit the crime

11:26 AM, Feb. 4, 2013  |  Comments
Rhonda Whetstone
Rhonda Whetstone
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Ah the good old days, when child abusers, people who tortured animals and drunken drivers got more than a slap on the wrist. Although I admit, at times, the punishment for the crime - way back when - did seem a bit harsh.

Case in point, August 1908, Richard Hazel, town of Rock, told the sheriff he wanted a couple arrested for stealing a blanket. It seems the young couple approached the Hazel home and asked for a night's lodging, giving their names as Mr. and Mrs. John Spaulding. They were given a blanket and told to sleep in the barn. They left in the early morning before Hazel woke and went to check on them.

Officer Michael Griffin located the couple and charged them with petty larceny.

The Marshfield Times reported that appearing before Judge Hahn, they admitted they stole the blanket and also that they were not married. The girl later gave her name as Lucy Selke and said she was 17. Spaulding was 20.

The judge sentenced them each to 30 days in the county jail at Grand Rapids. Seems a bit much for a blanket, but I am thinking it probably ended their "crime spree." Who knows?

The following summer, Otis and Rhoda Adams, who recently had married out east, were found camping with two other men on the outskirts of Marshfield. The four were taken to the police station on suspicion of being connected with the Lindsey shoe store robbery, but the store owner failed to identify them as the robbers, so the men were released.

The Marshfield Times said Adams and his wife were held, though, for peddling jewelry without a license. Judge Hahn sentenced them to a "honeymoon trip of six days" to the county jail at Grand Rapids.

Good to know peddling jewelry was not as serious as stealing a blanket.

I am sure if either of these couples had been to visit the jail beforehand however, they would have abandoned their lives of crime, as the jail displayed a sure crime deterrent right outside the premises.

Sheriff George Smith said the large pile of stone in back of the jail was the perfect "hoodoo" in his business, at least as far as tramps traveling though were concerned. He said one look at that pile of rocks, and they moved right on.

According to the Centralia Enterprise, Smith said it is a "city" stone pile, not a county one, and no one ever has pounded one rock in Wood County. He further stated, "The city fathers of Grand Rapids should take note that it is a mighty good investment to have a hundred dollars' worth of rock on hand in all seasons of the year."

Evidently, the city fathers have not continued to take note as I haven't seen any rocks behind the current Wood County Jail. Then again, I haven't seen any tramps, either.

Rhonda Whetstone is a columnist for News-Herald Media, Stevens Point Journal Media and Daily Tribune Media. Rhonda's Twitter ID is TribRendezvous if you wish to follow her musings there. You also can get previews of upcoming columns by clicking "Like" on Back to the North Wood on Facebook. If you have story ideas of a historical nature, email her at Rhonda.Whetstone@gmail.com.

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