Sunday, February 19, 2017

Amos Went To The Big House

As previously mentioned in this blog, my great-grandfather, William Amos Troutman (aka Ricker) was a bit of a hoodlum.  He was arrested at least once that I know of, which most likely doesn't constitute his entire criminal career.  There were probably other crimes he committed where he was either caught or caught and released.

Amos is listed among the population records of Western State Penitentiary.  This prison, nicknamed "Western Pen" was built in 1882 along the banks of the Ohio River in Pittsburgh.  As Amos' family lived southeast of Pittsburgh, Amos literally went "up the river" to prison on October 2, 1897.  The distance from Somerset to Pittsburgh is about 70 miles, but to his family at the time, Amos must have seemed far, far away.

He served 1 year and 6 months for his role in stealing $1,300 from Phineas Werner, a Greenville township farmer.  His partners in crime were his younger half-brother, Harvey Deal, who was sentenced to the Huntington Reformatory because of his age, and Charles Bloom, an experienced convict who apparently talked the two younger men into joining him in the robbery and then split the money with his accomplices, keeping most of it for himself since neither Amos nor Harvey could count money.

My hope is that the one stint in the brink was enough for Amos.  There's no other prison record in western Pennsylvania for him following this time, and not certain if he served the entire time or was let out early.  But hopefully it set him straight and he moved on.

But aside from all that, is the information provided by the prison record.  It lists a complete physical description of Amos that I didn't have, until now.  It's like seeing him in color for the first time.

At the age of 24, Amos was 5'11", 175 lbs.  His body type is listed as "stout" which would suggest he had somewhat of a muscular build.  He had light chestnut brown hair and a sandy red beard.  His eye color suggests green or hazel, based on the way the description is written.  He had a high forehead, a medium/fair complexion, and a long, prominent nose.  His body was riddled with scars and marks, most likely from being a laborer and farmer his entire life (up to the age of 24 at least).

His occupation was listed as farmer, and he got a check next to the category of "occasionally intoxicated".  He was a Lutheran who was 16 when he left public school.  He could read and write "imperfectly" as evidenced by his signature on the prison ledger:


He signed it as Amos Ricker; Ricker being his mother's maiden name.  My guess is he didn't prefer using the name of Troutman since he was illegitimate.  At the age of 24, he could be using Troutman since he had a choice in the matter.  But it seems he preferred his mother's family name.