Idaho History June 3, 2018

James “The Stiff” Hogan

Pictured here from left to right are Alberta, Rebecca, and Zelma Daly; unidentified; Sheriff Joe Daly; James Hogan; and Deputy Andy Robinson.
(Courtesy of the Idaho State Historical Society.)

James Hogan “Jimmy, just plain Jimmy,” was the name that James Hogan begged a reporter to use when writing a story of his sentence for vagrancy and public drunkenness on August 30, 1904. Hogan never owned property, filed a homestead or mining claim, or ran for office.

In the 1880s, he gained notoriety in Boise because of his inability to stay out of jail. He was identified in the newspapers as “Hogan the Stiff,” a cruel reference to the alcoholism that had shaped his life. Hogan lived a cycle of drinking and sobriety, worked when he could, and relied on the kindness of his jailers and court officers to survive.

When he died in October 1907, members of the community who had known him for years chipped in to pay for flowers, a funeral service, and a plot in Morris Hill Cemetery.

source: Legendary Locals of Boise By Barbara Perry Bauer, Elizabeth Jacox (Google Books)
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“Hogan begged the Statesman reporters to call him Jimmy “just plain Jimmy”, but dignity wasn’t allowed the sick in those days. James Hogan died October 1, 1907 at St. Alphonsus Hospital after he was found near death in the rear of a flophouse on Idaho Street. He hadn’t eaten in eight days. It was guessed at the time that he was about 65. He was 73. …”

source: Bob Hartman
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James “the stiff” Hogan

The name James Hogan appeared often in the Idaho Daily Statesman. In the March 19, 1892, edition, it is clear the name was already somewhat infamous. “James Hogan, who has been an inmate of every jail within a radius of 100 miles of Boise, is again behind the bars. He stole a coat from Leuark’s Ninth street restaurant, and Justice Clark sent him up for twenty days.”

In 1896, the paper was saying that he was better known as “Hogan the stiff.” The Statesman was expressing outrage that some petitioners had gone to the county jail to collect signatures. They said of Hogan, “His residence is given as being at the court house and his occupation as that of a waiter. The fact is, Hogan’s residence is within the walls of the county jail, where he has spent the greater part of the last five years.”

In 1899, the newspaper noted that “James Hogan is again a guest of the city. He was arrested Sunday morning and lodged in jail to await trial on a charge of drunkenness.”

In January of 1900: “The police rounded up the familiar form of James Hogan yesterday morning, and he will have a chance to tell how it happened…”

In July of that year: “James Hogan, otherwise known as “the stiff,” is again in conflict with the city authorities. His usual state of hilarity has been so pronounced for the last few days that he was arrested yesterday and warned to leave town within 24 hours. If he does not comply he will be sent up as a common nuisance.”

Hogan did not leave town. A convention had been in Boise, and several conventioneers had disposed of their souvenir badges which proclaimed “Freedom of the City” on their face. Hogan pinned one on and began bustling about as if it meant something. When people would confront him about his drunken behavior, he would point to the button as if it were a license; his own Get Out of Jail Free card. The Statesman reported that “The climax came about 8 o’clock when ‘the stiff’ was making a nuisance of himself on Main Street. He was in the midst of a flowery peroration when the strong hand of the law grasped him by the coat collar and hustled him to the city jail. James didn’t understand and wanted to know why his badge wasn’t a safeguard…”

Hogan got 60 days that time.

For 30 years the Statesman reported all the miner brushes with the law that “Hogan the stiff” had. He made the paper more than most politicians. He made it one last time on October 2, 1907, when they ran his obituary. It had a tone that was missing in most of the previous stories. “He was a well known character and a friend to everybody in his humble way…” The obituary noted that “Many of those who have in the past given him money to buy food will make up a purse to defray funeral expenses, and a special fund is now being collected to use in buying flowers.”

I was pleased to see a photo of Hogan and a brief story about his tragic life in the book Legendary Locals of Boise, by Barbara Perry Bauer and Elizabeth Jacox. He was the town drunk at a time when that seemed normal. Would a James Hogan get the help he needed today? Alcoholism is still a major problem without one single solution that works for everyone. I think the community today would respond with more than a laugh.

The picture [below] is from Find a Grave. It is of James Hogan’s grave in Morris Hill Cemetery. The folder marks the spot for this shot, as no headstone does.

source: Speaking of Idaho history posts are copyright © 2018 by Rick Just. Sharing is encouraged.
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Jimmy the Stiff, Revisited

9/11/20202 by Rick Just

This all started for me when I saw a photo of James Hogan and a brief story about his tragic life in the book Legendary Locals of Boise, by Barbara Perry Bauer and Elizabeth Jacox. I decided to do a little research on the man. Sifting through old papers I found story after story, most numbingly familiar.

In September of 1880, the Idaho World, which was published in Idaho City, said that “James Hogan, better known as Hogan the Gambler, was brought before a probate judge on a charge of stealing four hundred cigars. The judge fined Hogan $100 and gave him twenty-five days in jail for silent meditation on the fact that “Honesty is the best policy.”

Then, in March of, 1883, the same newspaper quoted Hogan as saying, “When I’ve money, I’m Hogan the Gambler; but when I’m broke I’m Hogan the shtiff!”

The Statesman first mentioned Hogan in January 1888. The article read, “Hogan the stiff;” as the city marshal calls him, has been locked up in the city jail for the past three or four days. He was drunk and disorderly at various times and places and hence locked up until he became sobered.”

In 1889, Jimmy made the paper twice. Both stories were in a faux formal style. In October, the report was that “Friday evening, Officer Haas invited Mr. Hogan of this city, to pass the night in the city lodging house on Eighth Street. The invitation was accepted in the spirit in which it was tendered.” The “lodging house” on Eighth was the city jail.

Then, just a month later there appeared the following: “A celebrity known here as Hogan has been the guest of the city and entertained for several weeks past at the city lodging house on Eighth street, left the city on the Idaho Central passenger train Wednesday evening for Nampa, where he took the west bound train of the Oregon Short Line for Tilamock Head and points further west. Mr. Hogan had intimated to the City Marshal that he needed a change of scene and diet, when “Old Nick” very courteously and kindly escorted him to the railroad depot on the other side of the river, where both took the train for Nampa. At Nampa, the parting scene took place, Mr. Hogan promising the marshal that he would write to him and to all his friends in Boise as soon as he reached his destination. “

Hogan stayed out of trouble, or perhaps, stayed out of Boise for about a year. A thorough search of other newspapers might locate him. In October, 1891 the Statesman reported simply that “Hogan the Stiff got drunk again yesterday and was taken in by Marshall Nicholson.’

In 1892, he got four mentions in the paper. He paid a $9 fine, served 20 days in jail for stealing a coat from a restaurant, was called by the Statesman “Boise’s boss boozer,’ and shipped out as the cook for the Idaho National Guard, which had been dispatched to Wallace to quell the union troubles in the mines up there. It was the fond hope of some in Boise that the guard would forget to bring him back home when they returned. The boys liked his cooking. They took up a collection to get him a new suit of clothes, and when they returned to Boise, James Hogan came back with them.

1894 was a banner year for James Hogan. A blurb said, “It is only a matter of time until Hogan the stiff will become a permanent county charge. He was only recently discharged from the county jail after serving a lengthy sentence for vagrancy, and yesterday Judge Clark sent him up for 70 days on the same charge.

A little later the Statesman reported that “Hogan, Boise’s veteran “bummer,” has been sent to the poor farm. Hogan said the only objection he had to going to the farm was because there were too many bums there. He didn’t like to associate with them.

A 90-day sentence. A 70-day sentence. The math was daunting for Jimmy in 1894. He would sometimes be out less than a day before being arrested again that year. Then there were the stolen shoes. Another inmate escaped with Hogan’s shoes. Jimmy commented that that’s what one gets for associating with a depraved set of men.

His big year was topped off when the Caldwell Tribune reported that “While Hogan the Stiff was delivering a speech against the Republican party on Main Street at a late hour Wednesday night he was shot at and barely missed, the bullet striking within a few feet of him.” The report came out on Christmas Day, so 1894 was about over.

James Hogan was usually listed as a cook, and sometimes as a waiter. He apparently also worked for a time at the Idaho statehouse, possibly as a janitor.

Hogan was political, in a ranting-at-the-Republicans sort of way. He was one of many prisoners who signed a petition for a breakaway group of Democrats while in jail. In 1896 Hogan expressed his regrets from jail that he would not be able to help Democratic electors. One wonders if that feeling was mutual.

In 1897 Hogan was in the paper as the victim of crime, not as a low-level perpetrator. One John Murphy was arrested for robbing Hogan. The paper couldn’t resist a dig, saying “No one would suppose that Hogan would have money for anyone to steal, but it is said he has been working and recently came into town with considerable cash.” Later that year, he was back in jail for being a common drunkard. He caused some mirth in the courtroom speaking in his own defense when he accused witnesses of being “worse drunkards nor he had been.”

Over the next ten years, Hogan was arrested at least 41 times, and the Statesman duly reported each instance.

I’ll just tell you about a couple. In 1900 a convention came to town. Conventioneers were each given a little badge that said Freedom of the City. About the time the convention broke up, Jimmy had been released from jail and told to leave town within 24 hours. But he found one of those Freedom of the City badges, pinned it on, and proceeded to act like it meant something. He said it was now “without the power of man to arrest him or otherwise deprive him of his liberty.” Jimmy was prone to make windy speeches about politics when he was well-lubricated, and this day he stationed himself on Main street and began to pontificate. To his surprise he felt the strong hand of the law on his collar and was whisked away to jail, protesting about the injustice all the way because, after all, he was wearing that pin. He got another 60 days for that one.

In 1903, the Statesman ran an unusually lengthy article about Hogan, pointing out that he had spent seven months of the past year in jail on long sentences, and that didn’t count the several short stints when he was there to just sleep it off.

In 1907 Hogan threw a brick at a phonograph in a tobacco store on Main Street, destroying it. He said the voices coming from the machine were calling him names.

That same year, in September, the headline was “Happy J. Hogan Leaves County Jail.” After serving his “forty-eleventh term in jail” Hogan had packed up his grip but left it with the deputy to take care of, saying he might as well keep it at the jail since he spent more time there than anywhere else.

Upon his departure deputies were watching him walk down the street. He turned and said, “Goodbye to ye, byes; don’t cry for me departure. Hogan the stiff will never desar-rt year. I’ll be back soon; never fear.”

The article ended with the line, “And he is expected.”

But he did not come back. The October 2, 1907 issue of the Statesman had a story about Hogan with a different tone. Hogan had passed away. No more Hogan the stiff, in this story. It read, “The deceased was about 65 years of age and resided in and around Boise for at least 30 years. He was a well-known character and friend to everybody in his humble way, while all who knew him were his friends. In late years it was through friendship that Hogan lived. Many gave him money and he was seldom found without some change in his pockets.”

The paper went on to say that many who had given him money to buy food would make up a purse to defray funeral expenses, and a special fund was being collected to buy flowers.

A crude concrete headstone marked his grave for 111 years. You’d have to get down on your hands and knees to read it.

I included a picture of his gravesite from the Find a Grave website when I first wrote about Jimmy in 2018. The photographer had tossed a red file folder over the little headstone to mark his grave for the photo. When people saw that, someone suggest that we get him a nice grave marker.

I did a little Go Fund Me campaign and in three or four days we had enough for an engraved stone marker, thanks to the generosity of Boise Valley Monument.

I’ll end this by explaining why the marker says what it does. You’d expect the dates of birth and death, of course. The epitaph is because of yet another Statesman article about Jimmy. The headline said “Just Plain Jimmy.” They quoted him saying to a reporter “Whin ye go up there to the Statesman office and write this up, please it jist plain Jimmy, and not Hogan the Stiff.

So, 111 years later, Jimmy got his wish. A toast to Just Plain Jimmy, 2018.

source: Speaking of Idaho history posts are copyright © 2020 by Rick Just. Sharing is encouraged.
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James Hogan

(click to see original)
no marker visible, folder marks the grave
Added by: Fireguy on 6 Apr 2012

Birth: 1838
Death: 1908 (aged 69–70)
Burial: Morris Hill Cemetery Boise, Ada County, Idaho

“I am pretty sure that the James Hogan you have at Morris Hill Cemetery (Boise, ID) in Section C 87 1 is “Hogan the Stiff” who died 1 Oct 1907 at St. Alphonsus Hospital. The Statesman carried his obituary on the following da)y and indicated that he was “about 65 years of age”, although, if I have found the correct James Hogan in the 1900 Boise Census, he was recorded as having been born in Ireland in Mar 1834.

“The Statesman carried a number of stories and news articles about Hogan over the 20-some years he lived in the Boise area. In his obituary it was said that “Almost countless times he was arrested for drunkenness and spent much of his time in the county jail.” The Statesman on 7 Sep 1907 reported that, “James Hogan (Hogan-the-stiff) yesterday finished serving his “forty-eleventh” term in the county jail for being drunk.” He was a well-known character of Boise, and the newspaper regularly reported stories about him.”

John Mutch

source: Find a Grave
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courtesy Rick Just

Note: Rick Just and friends raised the funds to have this beautiful headstone made for Mr. Hogan’s final resting place.
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Update June 10, 2018

‘Jimmy the Stiff,’ Boise’s infamous town drunk, gets a proper toast a century later

by Katherine Jones Idaho Statesman June 8, 2018

James Hogan was laid to rest back in 1907 — the aughts of 100 years ago — without fanfare, although he was accompanied by flowers. He might have been buried in a pauper’s grave, and without flowers, but for some kind-hearted (or perhaps guilty-feeling) citizens who rose to the occasion and passed the hat.

Now, 110 years later, a different set of kind-hearted Boiseans pitched in again for Hogan. Perhaps with a bit of an apology toward how society has treated alcoholics in the past, they have done the contemporary form of passing the hat and crowdfunded a proper headstone to honor his passing.

“Hogan’s story is equal parts sad and funny,” writes Rick Just, who researched Hogan for his daily blog called “Speaking of Idaho.”

“He was in the paper more than local politicians,” he jokes. Hogan was familiarly, if not condescendingly, known as “the Stiff.”

“He was kind of a ne’er do well. … He always wanted a quarter from you …

“They would make fun of him. They would talk about, oh, Hogan the Stiff is in jail again for stealing a jacket from someplace because it was cold. I don’t think he was that kind of a guy who would normally steal stuff.”

In the 1890s, during the violent confrontations between labor union miners and mine owners in North Idaho, Hogan, who was a cook, was sent to Wallace with the National Guard. The subplot was a hope that Hogan might forget to return, says Just.

“But the guys liked him and they brought him back.”

One time, Just wrote, Hogan rode the coattails of a convention in Boise. The attendees sported souvenir badges that read “Freedom of the City.” Hogan found one in a trash can and thought that gave him huge license to, well, be free.

“The climax came about 8 o’clock when ‘the stiff’ was making a nuisance of himself on Main Street. He was in the midst of a flowery pejorative when the strong hand of the law grasped him by the coat collar and hustled him to the city jail.” — Idaho Statesman, July 21, 1900

“Funny guy, I guess, in some ways,” says Just. Hogan got 60 days for his, um, liberties.

‘A friend to everybody’

“James Hogan, an odd character around Boise, known as ‘Hogan, the Stiff,’ is dead. The end came about 10:30 yesterday morning at St. Alphonsus Hospital, where he was taken Monday, after being found near to death in the rear of a rooming house on Idaho Street. He said he had had nothing to eat in eight days.” — Idaho Statesman, Oct. 2, 1907.

When Hogan died, the Statesman wrote an obituary. “Which is long before obituaries were a thing,” says Just, so the warmness toward Hogan was striking.

“… A friend to everybody in his humble way, while all who knew him were his friends. In late years, it was through this friendship that Hogan lived …”

“They did a 180-on him, kind of,” says Just. “And (wrote about) how a bunch of people had gotten together and got enough money to buy him a plot at Morris Hill Cemetery.

“I thought that was a pretty good story by itself,” wrote Just — who calls himself a storyteller rather than a historian.

The only photo he could find at the time was of Hogan’s grave, which is to say the grassy spot where he is buried, through Find A Grave website. To mark the spot, someone had tossed a red file folder on the ground. “The folder marks the spot for this shot, as no headstone does,” Just wrote.

“I thought, you know, I’m going to post that, but I know what’s going to happen,” Just says. It took just about an hour before someone suggested buying a headstone, and two days to fund the project. The rest, as they say, is history.

Since then, two photos of Hogan have surfaced from the Idaho State Archives, both of which give him equal measure of sadness and mirth.

(click for original)
The Idaho State Legislature posed for their annual photo on the steps of the Old Capitol Building (date unknown). Guess who also showed up? James Hogan is far left, front row.
Idaho State Historical Society, no. 80-100-4

Just hopes those old photos, modern social media and a new headstone will help Hogan’s story live on, complicated and messy as it might be.

“… Locking people up, that’s all they did at one time. I imagine the insane asylum, as they called it, was full of people who were alcoholics at one time,” says Just.

“Would a James Hogan get the help he needed today?” wrote Just. “Alcoholism is still a major problem without one single solution that works for everyone. I think the community today would respond with more than a laugh.”

‘Just Plain Jimmy,’ please

In a newspaper style that is not used these days, Idaho Statesman reporters would call Hogan “Jimmy the Stiff” as they wrote slightly snarky stories about his frequent arrests and jail time for public drunkenness or petty theft.

The name clearly stung.

“He once asked a reporter to ‘Call me Jimmy. Just plain Jimmy,’” says Just. “I found that really sad.” So Just had the stone inscribed with Hogan’s birth and death dates, and the words: “A final toast to just plain Jimmy, 2018.”

“I’d like to think we do a better job with alcoholics today, though our responses are imperfect,” says Just. “I have alcoholics in my family, and they’re treated much better today.”

Just hopes that cemetery visitors will wonder at the 111-year discrepancy between Hogan’s death and the toast, and his story will live on.

“It’s worth remembering Jimmy for the complicated life he led. Thus, the belated headstone,” says Just. “It’s important for people who — well, they’re not important people, necessarily, but they had a life that’s important to recognize.”

Honor “just plain Jimmy”

Elizabeth Jacox and Rick Just will talk about James Hogan from 12 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, June 20 in the Greenbelt Room on the third floor of Boise City Hall.

source: Idaho Statesman June 8, 2018

Updated September 11, 2020