While reading and researching, every once in awhile something crosses my eye that makes me put aside any real genealogical interest and follow an odd fact or piece of information.
The Diocese of Toledo has digitized many of its older records, and those of particular interest to me are the ones from St. Anthony’s and St. Stanislaus parishes as well as the Calvary Cemetery burial registry. I find it oddly interesting when I read the Calvary Cemetery burial registry because my ex-husband’s grandmother (Florence) was the cemetery’s caretaker for quite a number of years, and it’s somehow even quieting for me to see a number of names listed in the registry written in her son’s (John’s) handwriting.
Odd, but yes, it does bring back some memories. I grew up less than a three-minute walk from the cemetery–we lived on Coventry Street. If you walked three blocks straight up Coventry to Dorr Street, you got to one of the gates to the cemetery. There was a large house facing the intersection of Dorr and Parkside Boulevard–that is where Florence lived. John talked of playing baseball in the cemetery growing up. Florence and John both have since passed away but each were kind enough through the years to discuss and explain the history of the cemetery and share some stories with me about it.
While in high school, I often volunteered for stage crew for the fall play and spring musical at St. Francis de Sales High School. Calvary Cemetery is bounded by Gesu Church and St. Francis along Bancroft. I would walk home through the cemetery after stage crew. As I became an adult, I lived off of Bancroft on Wyndhurst for a few years. Our two oldest daughters would go for walks with us through the cemetery, and we’d walk to visit family on the other side of the cemetery.
Nothing creepy to me about any of this. Besides knowing quite a large number of the inhabitants of the cemetery (I’m probably related to many of them!), it’s a beautiful piece of property with some interesting history. Bishops are buried there, a major league baseball player is buried there, there’s a peaceful area where the nuns from the Visitation Monastery are buried, Mike LaSalle–former mayor of Toledo and former governor of Ohio is buried there. You get the picture. Most cemeteries have someone at least semi-famous. So I guess I was a bit naive. I never thought about where the infamous were buried.
However, reading the burial logs while trying to find a family member, I stumbled on the name of Stanley Hoppe. The cause of death was listed as Legal Electrocution. My eyes popped. The date of his burial was in 1928, but that still piqued my curiosity. I had to look this guy up, even if it was just an internet search. I had to find out if this guy got the death penalty, and if he did, why.
Sure enough, I found that he indeed was executed via the electric chair (the link takes you to the ODC website listing all executions–see Stanley Hope) and was a resident of the Kuschwantz neighborhood. There are a number of stories in archived newspapers about Stanley Hoppe–and as in the press in the 21st century–it’s more than a bit difficult to ascertain what’s really true and what isn’t true.
In the mid 1920s, there was a murder spree in Toledo. The murderer, dubbed the “Toledo Clubber” in the press, apparently liked to beat women with a bat or a club until they were bludgeoned to death. The Sarasota Herald reported that Stanley confessed to being the clubber before his execution. The Sarasota Herald and another paper, the Prescott Evening Courier, reported that Hoppe murdered a 7-year-old girl named Dorothy Sielagowski. (The Evening Courier and the New York Times each published his name as Charles, not Stanley.) The LA Times even reported on December 1, 1928 that Stanley was hanged and not electrocuted. A number of other newspapers had either changed his last name, first name, or some other element of the story. I cannot locate a single archived Toledo Blade article about the “Toledo Clubber” or about Stanley Hoppe.
Even the Ohio Department of Corrections lists him as Stanley Hope. I would suspect that part of the name changes are due to privacy issues for the family. It seems as if this was a rather notorious story. Still, makes me wonder why the Toledo Blade didn’t touch it.
Hoppe was a taxicab driver who confessed to the brutal beating of Dorothy during a drunken spree. I can’t speak to Stanley’s guilt or innocence on either the murder of the girl or being the Toledo Clubber–little to no evidence outside discussions of Stanley’s confessions were discussed in the media. My gut instincts tell me that his confession to being the Toledo Clubber very possibly was due to either a pressured confession or was false information published in the press because another man was also accused of the same crimes. During this time, it was a reasonably accepted practice to use “alienists” during trials–physicians or psychiatrists accepted by a court of law as an expert on mental competence or forensic psychology. Today, we’d probably refer to that person as some type of psychiatrist.
The case seemed rather sensational and full of either misinformation or just really bad journalism.
A large crowd assembled near the Toledo Police jail where Hoppe was held before trial, and the trial itself was heavily guarded. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Hoppe entered a not guilty plea. The trial lasted three weeks, and nearing the end of the trial, Hoppe decided to plead guilty–about the time the hearings focused on his sanity and an alienist introduced an alleged confession he made.
The Pittsburgh Press reported that he confessed to one killing attributed to the Toledo Clubber, that of a young schoolteacher name Lily Croy. According to the Pittsburg Press, Hoppe then pleaded insanity, confessed to the murder of Lily Croy, and threw himself on the mercy of the court.
Hoppe was married and had a one-year-old child at the time of Dorothy Siegalowski’s brutal murder. He was quoted as saying he was “full of bootleg whiskey and my recollection of the killing is vague.” He was convicted on July 17, 1928 and was executed November 30, 1928.
Stanley was given a Catholic burial through St. Stanislaus parish and buried quietly in Calvary Cemetery.
The Toledo Clubber mysteries were never fully solved as there up to seven female victims. The New York Times at one point claimed the city of Toledo was “rounding up morons” as suspects and that Mayor Bernard Brough received a letter from the clubber. Another man, James Coyner, serving a sentence in a Michigan City, Indiana prison for grave robbery, was questioned and investigated by Chicago police in connection to the Toledo Clubber as well based on evidence of letters he had smuggled out of the prison to his sister in Chicago. In his letters to his sister, Coyner mentioned a “trunk” that may have had objects stolen from grave robberies and also mentioned that there was other evidence in the trunk that, if discovered, would make him “through forever.” Some of the bodies of the women clubbed to death were reportedly found without skulls, and authorities were on the lookout for these skulls as evidence.
The Chicago police became tipped off and notified the Toledo police when Coyner made statements that he was in the Toledo area when six of the clubbings took place. This further inflammed the press because Coyner was a large black man, over six feet tall. Makes me wonder how this case would have turned out with 21st century technology and DNA evidence. Also makes me wonder just how badly the media can influence a case.