In Search of Your Ancestors?
A column on genealogy by George Farris

February 25, 2010

23. A tale of the professor and the horse thief

Alone in a world of selfish greed,
Hypocracy and living lies,
The truth is what we all most need,
And the world most seldom buys.
-- Professor Charles Pratt Judd, Hoxie, Kansas, 1892

There were several people named Charles P. Judd over the years, but this is a story of two people by that name - both born in Illinois about 1840 - and both later living in Colorado and Kansas. One was excoriated as a scoundrel and horse thief; the other was respected as a labor and farmer organizer and prominent political activist, lecturer, and promoter of what became the Populist/People's Party of the late 1800s.

Charles P. Judd, the Thief

Charles Judd was born in Jacksonville, Morgan County, Illinois about 1840, according to his Civil War pension file. At age 21, in 1861, he enlisted in Company K of the 17th Illinois Infantry Regiment.

The 17th Illinois Infantry was active in Missouri in late 1861 and early 1862 and then moved to Pittsburg Landing in Southwest Tennessee at the beginning of April, 1862 - prior to the Battle of Shiloh. Shiloh was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War - and the 17th Illinois was in the midst of it. On April 7, 1862, Judd was seriously wounded by gunshots in the right hip and the left knee. He was captured by Confederate forces but was apparently left behind when they withdrew from the battle. During the period from then through August 31 he was reported on the muster rolls as "dangerously wounded" and in the hospital at Quincy, Illinois. On September 4, 1862 he was discharged at Quincy as disabled and unfit for further duty.

In his pension application, dated September 25, 1865, Judd stated that he returned to Mason City, Illinois after his discharge and later went to Council Bluffs, Iowa - where his occupation was listed as a peddler. He described his being wounded at Shiloh and stated that the wound to his right hip resulted in his right leg being materially shortened and that the wound to his left knee had shattered it - the results of these wounds thus disabling him from gaining his subsistence from manual labor. It was many years later that he was finally granted a disability pension by congressional action in 1882.

In about 1867, Judd was living near Topeka, Kansas, somewhere along the trail leading from Topeka to Fort Riley. A freighter hauling goods to Fort Riley from Topeka with a team and wagon before the railroad was built stopped for the night near where Judd lived. He turned his horses loose to graze overnight but, in the morning, found that they had wandered off. While the owner was searching for them, Judd came upon the loaded wagon, hitched his own horses to it, and started off with it. The owner, having retrieved his horses, followed the trail and caught up with Judd after about 14 miles. This event resulted in Judd spending the next three years in the Kansas State Penitentiary at Leavenworth - where he is listed as an inmate in the 1870 U.S. census.

After completing that prison sentence, Judd moved to Colorado, where his occupation was listed as carpenter. In Colorado he had several more brushes with the law and spent sentences of one year each in the Arapahoe County jail and the Colorado State Penitentiary for theft in the early 1870s. These escapades are described in a book published in 1897 entitled "Hands Up! or Thirty-five Years of Detective Life in the Mountains and on the Plains"; Reminiscences by General D. J. Cook, Chief of the Rocky Mountain Detective Association. Chapter 23 of this book is entitled "A Slick Scoundrel" and is devoted to Judd's brushes with the law. It focuses on the details of his theft of a horse and buggy that was hitched on the street in front of a store in Denver in 1883. Numerous people saw this theft and he was quickly apprehended and the property returned to the owner. While the papers were being prepared after his arrest for this theft, Judd simply walked out and disappeared. Two years later, in August, 1885, another event brought Judd to the attention of the law enforcement people. He was considered to be an incurable kleptomaniac - and the authorities agreed to drop the charges if he would leave Colorado and never return. That account ends with the author stating that Judd had gone back east and was later rumored to be involved with a gang of counterfeiters - but had not returned to Colorado.

Professor C. P. Judd, Alliance and League Lecturer

In the 1880 census in Leadville, Lake County, Colorado, a C.P. Judd is listed with his wife Mary A. and daughter Mary E. This C.P Judd was active in organizing mine workers in that area and became a political activist. In 1880 he was a Colorado delegate to the national Greenback Party convention in Chicago - and was the person who placed General James B. Weaver's name in nomination for President of the United States. Weaver was nominated and ran a popular campaign but was defeated by James A. Garfield. In 1884, Judd was a supporter of Grover Cleveland and, when Cleveland was elected, Judd was among President Cleveland's first political appointees - to a Labor Bureau statistician position for Colorado and the surrounding area.

In August, 1886, C.P. Judd was living in Boulder, Colorado, when his wife Mary Ann died there. He then moved to western Kansas - first to Phillips County where his sister and her family lived at the time. He remarried there in 1887 and subsequently lived in Rooks, Graham, and Sheridan Counties before ultimately moving to Topeka.

In Kansas, C. P. Judd continued his very active involvement in politics and farmer and labor organizations. In 1892 at Hoxie, Sheridan County, Kansas he published a 23 page document comprised of political songs, speeches, and poetry - plus an interesting treatise on irrigation in west Kansas. This document was published after the July, 1892 convention in Omaha of what had come to be known as the Populist Party/People's Party - resulting from an alliance of numerous farmer and labor organizations and the former Greenback Party.

C. P. Judd had been an activist in this political movement for many years and appears to have been well known within its ranks, having personally nominated James B. Weaver for President as the Greenback Party candidate in 1880. Weaver was also nominated as the Populist Party candidate at the 1892 convention. One of Judd's songs in his 1892 publication is followed by the comment that he had composed it in June, 1892 and had personally sung it at the convention in Omaha, Nebraska in July. In the 1892 presidential election James B. Weaver received over 8.5% of the popular vote and 22 electoral votes from 5 states. Former President Grover Cleveland defeated the incumbent, Benjamin Harrison, along with Weaver, and a number of minor candidates.

Judd was billed, at that time, as "Professor C.P. Judd, League and Alliance Lecturer." At the organizing meeting of the National Citizens Industrial Alliance in 1891, one of their acts had been to authorize a joint project with the Farmer's Alliance, the Knights of Labor and other similar organizations to form a "National Reform Lecture Bureau." C. P. Judd apparently became a part of that Lecture Bureau and traveled and spoke fairly widely as a result. He was a highly respected man by his contemporaries in those days - and seemed to enjoy the limelight.

While Professor Judd continued to be active in politics, the Populist or People's Party had begun to fade out by the mid 1990s. He continued to live in Topeka - but his wife got a divorce in 1901 and left for Oklahoma, leaving him with their three young sons. He remarried in 1906 - but died in Topeka in 1909.

In researching him, there were a few pieces of information regarding Professor Judd that raised some questions. In 1894, he was listed in the GAR chapter in Hoxie, Kansas, and he is buried in the GAR section of the Rochester Cemetery in North Topeka. Both the GAR listing and the inscription on his tombstone list him with Company K of the 17th Illinois Infantry. Also, the pension file for the other Charles Judd, the "scoundrel," listed his first wife as Mary A. Judd - who died in Boulder Colorado in August 1886. There appeared to be some confusion of data regarding these two Charles P. Judd's.

The answer to this confusion was actually in the book referenced previously. It was the interest of a Denver Times reporter in the appointment by President Cleveland of C.P. Judd to that federal government position in Colorado that resulted in reminding law enforcement people about the Charles Judd who was still wanted for theft. C.P. Judd, the political appointee, when asked about this stated that there were two C.P. Judds in Colorado - the other one being a thief - and the confusion of the two had caused him many difficulties in the past. The Secretary of Labor asked the local Denver people to try to resolve any confusion between the two Judds. When a local sheriff met the new appointee upon his return to Colorado from Washington, D.C., he recognized C.P. Judd from previous encounters as the same person still wanted for the 1883 theft. This resulted in Charles P. Judd signing a statement in August, 1885 to the effect that he and the other Judd were, in fact, the same person.

Two distinct personalities - but the same person. Charles Pratt Judd (1840-1909) was a "scoundrel" and thief in his younger days - but a respected and prominent (and law abiding) citizen in his later days in Kansas.

So, what's the genealogy research point of this story? I've seen people write glowing descriptions based on what they have learned about one aspect of an ancestor - and I've also seen people sweep "Uncle Charlie" under the rug as the black sheep of the family - based on one aspect of that ancestor's life. But, as this true story illustrates, "Uncle Charlie" may also be the same person as "Professor Judd." It's best to not try to characterize an ancestor based on limited data. People are complex. We may not be able to accurately characterize someone we know well - let alone someone who died a century ago.

Previous Columns in this series

1. Beginning your search
1. Beginning your search
2. "Source Data"
3. More About Data Sources
4. Additional Data Sources
5. LDS and Data From Other Countries
6. Census Records
7. Military Records
8. Land Records
9. More About Land Records
10. Land Records as a Source of Family Information
11. Wills and Probate Records as Sources of Family Information
12. Biographies, Obituaries, Old Newspapers, and Family Lore
13. Sharing Family History Research
14. Some Genealogy Web Sites to Use With Caution
15. Genealogy & Local History
16. Tracking One Specific Ancestor
17. What Next?
18. Tracking One Specific Ancestor - 2
19. Importance of Family Groups in Tracking Ancestors
20. Two new on-line genealogy research tools
21. Some books for family history researchers
22. Census time again

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