Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Edwin Cruse the law clerk

The nineteenth-century newspaper collection has revealed an interesting story about Edwin Cruse from the Berkshire Cruse tree. Edwin Cruse was the son of George Cruse, a butler and gamekeeper, and Sarah Chivers. He was born in May 1849 in Boxford, Berkshire, and baptised on 1st July 1849 at St Andrew's Church, Boxford. Edwin went to work in London as a clerk in a solicitor's office and ended up in prison after being found guilty of forging two cheques. The story was reported in the Daily News on 26th February 1868.


Edwin Cruse, 18, a gentlemanly-looking youth, described as a law clerk, pleaded guilty to two indictments charging him with forging a cheque for 81l, and another for 50l.

Mr. Sleigh was instructed to prosecute. The prisoner was defended by Mr. Cooper.

In this case it appeared that the prisoner was in the service of Messrs. Lewis and Co., solicitors, Southampton-Street, as clerk, and he took advantage of the opportunity the position afforded him to obtain access to the cheque-book of his employers, and draw two cheques for the amounts mentioned upon Messrs. Coutts and Co., and obtained the money, the whole of which seemed to have been squandered away within a very short period.

Mr. Cooper addressed the court in mitigation of punishment, and said that the prisoner was very respectably connected, and he was one of eleven children, and his being placed in his present position had been the cause of the deepest distress to those with whom he was connected. He had gone into the situation he occupied fresh from the country, and had unhappily fallen into bad company, and this had led him to commit the act which he now most deeply deplored. On the grounds of the youth of the prisoner and his previous good character, he entreated the court to pass a lenient sentence.

The Recorder, after conferring with Alderman Causton, addressed the prisoner, and said he was unable to discover any ground for departing from the usual sentence in such cases. He was in a good position, and, being the clerk to a solicitor, he must have been perfectly well aware of the nature of the crime he was about to commit. He appeared, however, to have committed two distinct forgeries, and obtained 130l, by means of the forged instruments, and the whole of the money seemed to have been squandered away in the course of six weeks. He felt, therefore, bound to pass upon him the sentence of five years' penal servitude.

Edwin was in fact one of 12 children, though only eight of his siblings were still living at the time of his trial. Three of his brothers died in infancy within a few weeks of each other in August 1859, and they are all buried at St. Gregory's Church in Welford: John died at the age of eight and was buried on 6th August, George died at the age of just three weeks and was buried on 11th August, and Arthur died aged four and was buried on 31st August.

The 1871 census reveals that Edwin was sent to the Male Convict Prison in Gillingham, Kent. He was described on the census page as a law clerk aged 21. If Edwin served his full five-year term he would have been released from prison at the end of February 1873. He seems to have found himself a bride remarkably quickly as he married just one month later. His new bride was a 20-year-old girl from Devizes in Wiltshire by the name of Charlotte Rosanna Wild. They married on 31st March 1873 in Welford, Berkshire, where Edwin's parents were now living. After their wedding Edwin and Charlotte must have travelled immediately from Welford to Liverpool to catch the steamship the Hibernian to emigrate to America. The date of departure is not known but the passenger list for the Hibernian shows that the ship arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, on 23rd April 1873. Edwin and Charlotte both appear on the passenger list. Edwin is described as a clerk. Somewhat surprisingly they booked an intermediate passage rather than sailing in steerage.

We pick up their story again in the 1880 American census. Edwin and Charlotte are now living in the 8th Ward in Precinct 4 in Baltimore. Edwin, 31, is working as a book agent, and Charlotte, 25, is 'keeping house'. They have two children, George, 6, and Ernest, 4, who were both born in Maryland. Julia Wilson, 23, a seamstress, is also living in the household with the family.

Unfortunately most of the 1890 US census was destroyed in a fire and the census for Maryland has not survived. I have however been able to locate Edwin in some directories at around this time. In the 1890 Baltimore City Directory an Edwin Cruse is listed at 831 W Barre, Baltimore, Maryland, with a business called The Sun, which is possibly a reference to the Baltimore Sun newspaper. There is also an Edwin Cruse listed in the Washington DC Directory the same year. He appears as a clerk residing at 729 5th Northwest, Washington, DC. In the 1891 Washington DC City Directory Edwin Cruse was again listed as a clerk but he had now moved to 447 Florida Avenue Northwest.

The final sighting of Edwin is in the 1900 American census. Edwin, 51, is now working as a patent ally and living in Kenilworth Street, Washington, DC. Charlotte must have died because Edwin now has a new wife, Jennie, 42, who is from Connecticut. The census helpfully tells us that they had been married for 10 years. They have two children: Daisy B Cruse, born in October 1880 in Connecticut, and Catherine Cruse, born in June 1894 in Maryland. Daisy is probably Edwin's stepdaughter as the census indicates that her parents were both born in Connecticut, whereas Catherine's father was born in England and her mother was born in Connecticut. In the 1900 census Edwin's son George is working as a district lawyer in Manhattan, New York. He is married to Nellie, 26, and they have a six-month-old son called Donald. I have not been able to find any trace of Edwin's younger son Ernest Cruse in 1900.

After 1900 the trail goes cold and I have not been able to locate Edwin and his family in any of the later censuses, and I cannot find any record of his death in the available online records. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has further information about Edwin and his children.

No comments: