#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Thankful

This year, I give genealogical thanks once again for my mother and her memories that have helped me to make good progress on the family tree. I’m also grateful for the growing number of online resources that allow me to find new documents almost any time I have a few minutes to sit down at the computer.

Recently, I employed my subscription to Newspapers.com to search for something, I don’t even remember what, and I found an article about my Pap-pa, Hoyt Cook.

I knew that he had shot and injured a man, but I never saw any concrete evidence of what happened. Here it was in black and white, published in the Pensacola newspaper on Saturday, September 17, 1949.

Published 17 September 1949

The article says Earnest Schofield and his friend Marvin Jordan tried to break into the curb market run by my grandparents. Pap-pa’s dog started barking, and Pap-pa grabbed a gun and went to see what was happening. The article says “Schofield started for him and Cook fired, the slugs striking Schofield in the leg.”

The way I heard the story growing up, Pap-pa could see someone in the shadows outside the curb market. He could tell the person was moving towards him. He told the person to stop, but the person kept coming and he fired.

I knew there was more to the story than the newspaper reported on that September Saturday. Schofield lost his leg because of the shooting. Pap-pa never intended to permanently injure him, and I’m not sure why the leg couldn’t be saved.

Growing up, I was told that Schofield still came to see my grandfather. The way I heard it, he told Pap-pa that losing his leg caused him to change his ways and probably kept him from committing worse crimes.

After learning the date of the incident, I started a more focused search on Newspapers, and I found a follow-up article from November. This time, his first name is spelled Ernest. The update describes the loss of his leg and says he’d been offered the chance to attend a training program provided by the “crippled children’s commission.”

I never remember hearing about another boy being involved in this incident, so I decided to look up Marvin Jordan. An article published in February 1950 covered his sentencing for the burglary. The judge placed him on 10 years probation. The paper reports the judge also reprimanded the boy’s father, John Jordan, for setting a poor example.

In December 1950, the same judge sentenced Jordan to two years in county jail for violating his probation. The article doesn’t say what he did to violate the terms.

In October 1953, the Pensacola paper reported that 19-year-old John Marvin Jordan Junior pleaded guilty to auto theft, with sentence to be withheld if he stayed out of trouble.

Apparently he didn’t meet the conditions, because in June 1956, 22-year-old John Marvin Jordan was recaptured after walking away from the Escambia County Jail while serving a year for auto theft. The paper reported he was facing new charges of car theft and escape.

In 1960, I found a series of articles about criminal charges against 25-year-old John Marvin Jordan, Jr. He was charged with two counts of car theft and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault.

Jordan was sentenced again in May 1964 for possession of burglary tools. By August 1965, he was out of prison and facing new charges of stealing a truck, tires, and cash from a service station. He later filed a lawsuit insisting that he was arrested following illegal search and seizure.

That’s where I left off searching the newspaper archives. Perhaps Ernest Schofield kept tabs on his former accomplice over the years, and that’s why he would tell my grandfather that losing his leg may have saved his life.

I have searched my grandfather’s name many times on Newspapers.com, but it was only recently that I found the first article related to this incident. The discovery underscores the need to search archives regularly and with a combination of names and terms in order to gain new insight on old family stories.

About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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