Tuesday, April 10, 2018

On This Date in Minnesota History: April 10

April 10, 1905 – With her withered hand resting on her little grandson’s head, Mrs. Marie Balho, 80 years old, faced the police judge this afternoon to answer to the charge of larceny. The pair, the aged woman and the four-year-old boy, were accused of stealing a few pieces of coal from the railroad yards this morning.

Mrs. Balho and her grandson live in a small shanty on the upper flats in St. Paul, and are alone in the world. Almost daily the old woman has made her way to the railroad yards and by picking up coal that she sells for a small pittance she has been able to care for herself and the boy.

Children picking up coal in a railway yard1

Today the stock of provisions was almost exhausted and the woman set out for the yards. The boy begged to be allowed to go along and the request was granting. After filling a small basket with coal, picked up along the tracks, the couple were about to depart when suddenly a man stepped out from behind a boxcar, showed a star, and informed the pair that they were under arrest. In vain the old woman begged that her grandson might be spared, but the officer would not listen to her and both offenders were brought into the police court at the afternoon session.

The grandmother was unable to speak English, but the boy had picked up a few words and was able to understand what the judge said to him. In broken lisping English he told the story of the theft and arrest, and on concluding his story, innocently bade the judge goodbye.

“The old woman and her boy are discharged,” said Judge Hine. And hand in hand the pair left the courtroom.

The Saint Paul Globe; “Tot’s Simple Words Move Police Judge. Child Tells of Arrest and With Aged Grandmother Is Discharged”; April 11, 1905; p. 2.



Does anyone know if the railroad yards employed someone to pick up coal laying on the ground? If not, how could they charge anyone with stealing? it's not like they were stealing it from the train cars.


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