Law and order in Florence Township

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By Sandy Vasko

I suppose that when you think of excitement and crime, Florence Township does not spring to your mind. It’s true that it is quiet now, but set the “way back” machine to 1915, and we will see how exciting things can get.
For our first story, we go to the April 30, 1915, edition of the Wilmington Advocate:
“George Yanama, a farm hand, who had been in the employ of M. J. Clark, tenant on the J. L. Baskerville farm recently vacated by Walter Nichols, Sunday last terrorized the citizens of that township for several hours.
“Yanama, who was an Austrian and aged 24 years, had been working for Mr. Clark for a short time, but not being satisfactory Clark discharged him Friday last. The Austrian pleaded to remain but his employer refused his request. Seeing that he could not stay, he told Clark that he was going to Chicago. At this Clark hitched up a team and took him to Elwood. Instead of going to Chicago, he went to Joliet where he put up for the night. Saturday night at about 12 o’clock Mr. and Mrs. Clark heard a hoarse whisper. “I’ve come to kill you.” Said Yanama as he stood over their bed brandishing a 38-caliber revolver.
“Most of the night the maniac stood beside the bed threatening what he was going to do but did not have the courage to fulfill.
“At about daybreak he commanded the frightened couple to get up and go to the barn. He told them to feed the stock and then said, “Come right back so I can kill you before breakfast.
“The couple when out ran to a neighbor, S. J. Morey. Sheriff Scholl was telephoned for. By the time the sheriff got there over four hundred people from Florence and this city were on the ground, but at a distance.
“The sheriff and deputies upon arrival went up to the house but found the doors and windows barricaded. Several shots from the maniac put the officers to their heels. They returned a few shots but not being able to see their would-be prisoner they, with the crowd, stood guard.
“For several hours Yanama poured an intermittent stream of bullets flying toward the sheriff, deputies and onlookers, narrowly missing in killing several people.
“It is supposed that Yanama made up his mind that he would soon be caught and to foil this he set fire to the house over his head. With the fire raging about him the wild figure of the insane man appeared in the door way brandishing his revolver and firing a few parting shots at the deputies he turned the gun upon himself, the bullet piercing his brain and he fell back into the burning building. A minute later several present ran to the burning house and dragged the burning corpse from the flames. This ended the most exciting day Florence has ever had.”
I guess that was exciting enough for most folks. The strangest part of the story is the 400 people who showed up before the sheriff, how did they know?
Our second story takes place one month later and is about a guy who is on the side of the law, Thomas Hennebry, a genuine deputy United States Marshal. The story comes from the Chicago American:
“Down on Tom Hennebry’s farm, out Joliet way (he actually lived in Florence), everybody got up extra early Saturday morning. Farmer Hennebry took a lantern out to the barn, so he could see to milk the cows, and after breakfast he put on his Sunday clothes and the necktie he got for Christmas and started for Chicago. But just before he started he polished up a little ornament he sometimes wears under his left lapel.
“When he got into the big city Farmer Hennebry went to the McCormick building and walked upstairs to the office of an automobile accessory concern – a company which has made a business of selling automobile accessories directly to farmers.
“Be you M. J. Brock?” he demanded, suspiciously, of a dapper youth near the railing.
“What do you want of Mr. Brock?” countered the youth, sharply.
“Dunno’s I want anything – mebbe I want a contract or something, young man,” said Farmer Hennebry, and at once the manner of the youth changed. Hennebry is a prosperous looking farmer in his Sunday clothes.
“The farmer was led to the Stratford hotel, then up to the thirteenth floor, then to the suite occupied by Brock. Brock was glad to see him, offered him a chair and a cigar. What could Mr. Brock do for Mr. Hennebry? Everybody had heard of Mr. Hennebry’s farm – fine soil they have down in the neighborhood.
“Jest wanted to show you something,” said Farmer Hennebry, lifting the left lapel of his coat. And there in all its brightness was the star of a United States Deputy Marshal. Brock gasped, turned pale, then extended the cordial right hand of admiration.
“You’ve got ‘em all beat,” he said. “For four years I’ve dodged the best detectives in this country, the whole United States secret service. How do you manage to look and act so much like a farmer?”
“Mebbe because that’s what I am,” suggested Hennebry – and he took his prisoner to the county jail.
“Brock is accused of using the mails to defraud. He is said to have jumped a $1,500 bond in Jersey City, N. J., for years ago, and detectives have been searching for him ever since. Hennebry heard he was in the McCormick building and found him. And Hennebry really is a farmer.”

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