Chicago Child Sold to Highest Bidder?

I saw this story from 1922 while doom scrolling Twitter and thought I would try something different.

Some of you know that I’m obsessed with genealogy and have solved all sorts of family mysteries through my research. It’s not just for funzies either…if you would like me to help with your family tree, that is a service I provide for a reasonable price and I’ll include a bit of info at the bottom of this post. So I thought it would be interesting to see how things turned out for young Marie Baker.

While this story made national news, most outlets failed to publish the full story. I assume the truth of the matter sells fewer papers. Mrs. Kenney was the sister of Marie’s mother so the child was not sold. She was released to her aunt and uncle once her father’s negotiated debt was settled. This additional paragraph was found in under five minutes.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, July 28, 1922

The caption below this photograph is outrageously irresponsible, inaccurate, and culturally insensitive. Everyone responsible for it appearing in print deserved to be fired.

Buffalo Courier (Buffalo, NY), July 31, 1922

What do we know? Marie’s aunt married John Kenney from Rentville, Minnesota and Marie’s last name was Baker. Compared to some people I’ve researched, that’s a lot. I read all of the other newspaper reports on the story and found Marie’s father’s name was also John.

Unfortunately, there is no “Rentville” in Minnesota. The correct name is Renville. Here’s the aunt and uncle with their biological children on the 1920 Federal Census.

John T Kenney and Pearl (Duncan) Kenney moved around quite a bit but I was able to track them to Illinois and later to California. Pearl’s obituary said daughter Mrs. Mary Hood lived in Lake City, Arkansas.

The San Bernardino Daily Sun, December 24, 1963

The discrepancy between Mary and Marie is something I’ve seen many times and it’s maddening. To make sure I had the correct family, I looked into Pearl’s family. The 1900 Federal Census lists Pearl with her parents and siblings in Illinois.

Jeannie (Myrtle Jeannette) Duncan was Mary/Marie’s biological mother. I had a little trouble finding information about the father, who was listed in the newspaper as John Baker. His birth name was Tjarko Janssen Bakker and it was anglicized when he immigrated to the US. This was probably a good idea since he served in the German military prior to World War I. He worked as a waiter in a hotel restaurant when he arrived in the US.

St. Louis Star, July 14, 1913

Jeannie died of pneumonia in December of 1918. John Baker is listed as the husband and that matches the initial newspaper article.

This was obviously during the horrible flu epidemic and Mary/Marie’s older sister, Hilka, died just a few days before their mother.

Mary/Marie did not live with her father right after her sister and mother died. Instead, she stayed with her grandmother, Joanna Duncan at least until 1920. On the 1920 Federal Census, her name was listed as Mary Bakker. Her last name was changed to Kenney after being “sold” to her aunt and uncle. She later moved to Arkansas, where she married Ernest E Hood in 1947.

Their son, Ernest E Hood, Jr. was born in October of 1949. Ernest Jr. moved to Georgia and unfortunately, died very young at the age of 41.

The Atlanta Constitution, October 18, 1991

The eldest Ernest died in 1996 and Mary/Marie died in November of 2001. I didn’t bother digging deeper on John Baker. This is just what I was able to compile in an afternoon. The point of this exercise was to show that newspapers have been tricking readers with sensational headlines since the invention of the printing press. If a story provokes an intense emotional reaction, it’s probably misleading you.

Mary Bakker Kenney Hood had a complicated life with a great deal of tragedy but she had a very large family that appeared to love her very much. As always, there was more to the story of the girl who was “sold to the highest bidder.”

As mentioned above, I do genealogical and other research for hire so if you would like my help working on a project, please send me a message letting me know what you need. I can do an entire family tree or I can look for a specific document. Depending on the project, I will quote an hourly or per item/person rate.

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Happy Adoptaversary!

In September of 2009, I was living in a tiny Kansas town and minding my own business with my two Rottweilers, Rommel and Patton. There was a super obnoxious little puppy who lived across the street and she would run into my driveway to bark at me when I would pull my car into the garage. I had no idea what kind of dog she was; I just saw a brindle behavioral nightmare.

I just happened to notice one day that the neighbors across the street appeared to have moved away but their ill-behaved puppy was still there. I called the City Clerk (small town, right?) and she confirmed they were gone. What kind of monster just moves away and leaves their pet behind to fend for itself?

I immediately took food and water over to the little monster and noticed she was definitely malnourished. She was also covered in fleas. I was able to get close to her but it was obvious by her reactions that she hadn’t been treated well. Another neighbor and I took turns feeding her and she was just hiding underneath whatever she could find for shelter. I learned from some kids in the neighborhood her name was Lulu and they said her people left her because they didn’t want her to potty in the car.

It only took a couple days for me to decide the little ragamuffin was coming home with me. But first, flea and tick prevention! I dosed her with Frontline Plus and continued feeding and getting to know her for a week before I brought her across the street to her new home. She heard the deep bass of my Rotties barking and was terrified but we got through the flea bath and she quickly learned her new brothers would tolerate all manner of unkind behavior from her.

Honey Lulu is no fan of costumes or parades. She loves people but generally has no use for other dogs. She is extremely reactive and to this day will flee the area if she sees a flyswatter. Her noise phobia is worsening with age and she requires Trazodone for severe panic attacks.

She regularly smacks me in the face with her bear claws and goes in for the hard boop without warning.

On the other hand, she loves her brother and will go into Sherman’s bedroom in the middle of the night so he can accompany her to the backyard for potties and a perimeter check. Before my bare foot found its way inside an angry pitbull’s mouth, she ran a 5K with me nearly every day.

She travels well and has assured me she is ready for our move to Mexico.

Today, I celebrate 10 years with the ultimate hall monitor. She’s a pushy broad but I love her.

Pregnant and on Probation in 1922: Part III

Parts I and II of this series can be found here and here.

The probation officer in Wichita who signed the Final Order For Dependent And Neglected Child which removed my grandfather from his mother’s custody appears to have been a man named Treadwell Cooper Coffman. In addition to being a probation officer, he was appointed Superintendent of the Christian Service League covering Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas effective August 1, 1922. Coffman continued his role as a probation officer while working for CSL and successfully petitioned the court to remove my grandfather from his mother’s custody just four months later. CSL then assumed responsibility for finding a suitable home for my grandfather, who was two months old at the time.

Coffman’s background was in education and law. He was admitted to the Kansas State Bar in 1892 and a large chunk of his career was spent in Southwest Kansas, which was my backyard. He was Superintendent of Public Schools in Garden City at one point and then held the same position for Clay County, Kansas public schools. He was also elected Haskell County Attorney at one point but resigned that position to return to education. After moving to Wichita, he was appointed Juvenile Officer in December of 1920.

Coffman apparently took his job quite seriously quite quickly because the January 23, 1921 edition of the Wichita Beacon reported he was “keeping four delinquent boys at his own home for want of a better place to send them.” Coffman then began aggressively advocating for an approximately 50-acre farm on which boys could become rehabilitated. In February of 1921, Sedgwick County Commissioners formally approved his home to be used indefinitely to house delinquent boys and I found several newspaper records of he and his wife being compensated for their efforts. This was all while Coffman was actively employed as a probation officer.

Am I the only one seeing a conflict of interests? Remember he was also appointed Superintendent of the CSL in August of 1922. So by that point, he was a probation officer operating his own home for delinquents AND he oversaw an adoption agency. Maybe nothing untoward was occurring but the League of Women Voters took issue with the arrangement and organized a letter writing campaign to encourage his resignation from at least one post.

In the November 16, 1922 edition of the Wichita Daily Eagle, Frances Graves of the League of Women Voters accused Coffman of the following misconduct: “He placed a young girl, ward of the Christian Service League in the detention home for delinquent boys. He placed three boys, wards of the Christian Service League in the detention home for delinquent boys. These three boys had not been adjudged delinquent by the juvenile court and indeed had not at any time been accused of delinquency.” Coffman was quoted in the same story as stating he “was ready and willing to resign his position as superintendent of the Christian Service League. He declared he was holding the job against his own wishes.” Wait, what? The guy was only three months into the job. I did more searching and found he had actually tendered his resignation from that position back in October of 1922 and then told CSL he really meant it in January of 1923, at which time a new superintendent was appointed.

Coffman was still listed as a probation officer in June of 1923 but that is the last mention of him in Wichita newspapers after a couple years of him being quoted on a very regular basis. The Emporia Weekly Gazette reported on March 11, 1926 that he had continued his work as a probation officer and housed delinquent boys in his home until his death the prior month. Cooper died February 26, 1926 at age 57.

I found no other mention of a young girl being temporarily placed in the home for delinquent boys so it is unclear whether that allegation had merit. I am also unclear about how my great-grandmother came to meet Mr. Coffman. I have located no newspaper accounts of her being arrested. Due to his multiple levels of involvement with law enforcement and the adoption agency, I’m not even sure if he was her probation officer. That certainly makes me wonder why the paperwork listed that occupation if he was not acting in that capacity in this instance. Every answer I find raises a dozen more questions.

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