Tuesday, October 3, 2017

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 3

October 3, 1906 – A young boy, approximately 3-years old, today sits in the Minneapolis police station waiting for someone to claim him. Who is he? Has some motherless tot been abandoned on the street? Or has an innocent little chap wandered away, leaving a sick, helpless—perhaps dying—mother at home alone? Where is his home? What is his story?

The Little Mystery

Whom Nobody Seems to Want and Whose Identity Puzzles the Police

Mystery still surrounds the young boy picked up in an exhausted condition by the south side police Monday afternoon. Not an inquiry has been made by any person who might identify him.

His feet blistered, perhaps from walking many blocks, and exhausted from hunger, the little fellow sat down Monday afternoon on a curb near Cedar Ave. and Fifth St., where he scanned the passing crowd eagerly, hoping to see someone who would take him home. Finally a big policeman picked him up and in spite of his hunger and aching feet, the boy smiled and fell asleep before he reached the station.

It was expected that the telephone would soon bring inquiries to identify the little fellow, but when no word was received all day yesterday, he was taken to Central Station, where he was left in charge of Matron Sarah Schaeffer.
Without a complaint or a tear, he has made himself at home in the corridors of the big building, but notwithstanding the kindness that is shown him, he constantly looks for his mother.

Although he talks plainly, he is unable to tell his last name. He says his first name is Peter, but he cannot tell the name of his parents nor where they live.

Every hour that passes deepens the mystery for the police. Nearly a dozen lost children are picked up daily, but they are rarely held at the station five minutes before frantic mothers notify the police. More often the police are notified even before the lost child is picked up.

This is the strangest of its kind that the police have dealt with. Two whole days have elapsed and no one has inquired for him; not a single clue that would that would aid in returning the boy to his parents has been found. Happy as he is, the police station is not a home, and unless he is soon claimed, a home will be found for him.

The Minneapolis Journal; “Who Is the Baby of The Cell? Where Is This Waif’s Mother? Smiling Little Chap in Police Station, Unclaimed, for Two Days. Puzzle to Police; Can’t Tell Name. Not an Inquiry, Not a Clue to Identify of Boy Found on Streets.”; Oct. 3, 1906; p. 1.

The child of the cells, the pretty baby boy picked up by the police on Cedar Ave., has been claimed.

He is Fritz Harmon, son of Frank Harmon, and the father, identifying his son by the photo published in The Journal, went to police headquarters to claim him.

The evident neglect of the little fellow, and the failure of the parents to inquire for him, have made the police suspicious  and the father was refused custody of the child until after an investigation by the Humane Society, which now has charge of the boy.

Harmon said that a woman who lives in the neighborhood asked permission to take the boy to a candy store.

He allowed the boy to go and when he did not return, he thought the woman kept him overnight. On the second night, Harmon said, he began to wonder where the little fellow had gone. Then last night he saw the boy’s picture in the paper and went to the courthouse.

“We intended asking the police something about him if he didn’t come home last night,” the father said to Matron Schaeffer, who questioned him. “We didn’t know where the woman lived, and were going to ask the police to find her.”


How the little fellow could wander to Cedar Ave. is still a mystery to the police and to the parents of the child. He had to cross the railroad tracks, where there is constant switching, and almost every moment he was in danger of being run over by a train or wagon.

As soon as The Journal was delivered in the homes last night, Matron Schaeffer’s telephone began to ring. More than a dozen good families wanted to give little Fritz a home, and all begged for the first chance. All were told that the boy had been claimed, and the sincerity of their offers was shown by the disappointment. Every person who called up the police said he was anxious to adopt Fritz legally.

The investigation by the Humane Society will be completed tonight and if the results show that Fritz should go home, he will be turned over to his mother.

The Minneapolis Journal; “Father Claims Baby of Cells. Frank Harmon Sees Child’s Picture in The Journal. Mystery of the Little Wanderer Picked Up by the Police Is Partly Solved, but the Authorities Want to Know Why the Parents Did Not Search for Their Baby.”; Oct. 4, 1906; p. 6.

Little Fritz Harmon will probably not be returned to parents.

Agents of the Humane Society have been investigating the case and say they have learned of appalling conditions in the child’s home. They have also found the woman who took the boy away from his home.

This woman, they say, is a friend of the family, and has been convicted more than a dozen times in police court on charges of drunkenness. She took the boy with her Monday. She went directly to the Milwaukee Station, where she offered to give the child to the first person who would care for it. Whether the parents authorized the woman to do this cannot be learned, but they have admitted that they did not worry much about his disappearance.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Harmon have been in court for failing to take care of their children, and a new complaint has been filed against them for non-support. Application has also been made to the probate court to take little Fritz away from the parents and place him in one of the many good homes that have been offered him.

Since the police refused to allow the child’s father to take the boy home, Mr. and Mrs. Harmon, they say, have shown little interest in the outcome of the case. They have not been to see him and have not shown good reasons why the child should be returned.

The Humane Society has already had many offers of good homes for the boy, and if the court heeds the society’s request, the child will be placed in one of them. He is so happy in his new surroundings that he says he never wants to go home and he appears to have forgotten that there ever was such a place.

The Minneapolis Journal; “’Baby of the Cells’ May Never Go Home. Humane Society Investigates Parents’ Indifference. Woman Well Known at Workhouse the One Who Took Little Fritz Harmon from Home—Conditions Looked into and Effort Made to have Child Placed Elsewhere.”; Oct. 7, 1906; p. 6.

*The Minneapolis Journal, May 19, 1903; p. 12.


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