A parade through historical newspapers taking a look at the wild and colorful history of one Charles H. Rowan, proprietor of a matrimonial agency in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the late 1890’s. He was accused, arrested, tried, found not-guilty, allegedly bribed government officials, retried… and the story doesn’t end there.

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Charles H. Rowan is in trouble, accused, arrested, tried.

Charles H. Rowan. Sedalia Weekly Democrat. Sedalia, Mississippi. 15 December, 1898

Charles H. Rowan. Sedalia Weekly Democrat. Sedalia Miss. 15 December, 1898

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And apparently that didn’t scare Mr. Rowan into behaving..

Charles Rowan bribes U.S. Officials. Oshkosh Daily Northwestern. 15 February 1899

Charles Rowan bribes U.S. Officials. Oshkosh Daily Northwestern. 15 February 1899

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Six months later, jury returned a verdict of acquittal.

Not ALL accused of unlawful use of US Mail were actually guilty. Acquitted in Milwaukee. Wiles-Barre Times 7 June, 1899.

Not ALL accused of unlawful use of US Mail were actually guilty. Acquitted in Milwaukee. Wiles-Barre Times 7 June, 1899.

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But just because a jury determined he wasn’t guilty (then) that didn’t mean he was free…

Rowan Not Guilty. Oshkosh Daily Northwestern. 7 June 1899

Rowan Not Guilty. Oshkosh Daily Northwestern. 7 June 1899

We live in a world that is built on promises constructed by liars.

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And having Rowan behind bars didn’t mean no one had trouble…

Charles Rowan. Widow in Trouble. Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk VA. 16 May 1899

Charles Rowan. Widow in Trouble. Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk VA. 16 May 1899

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In case you’re feeling sympathy for Mr. Rowan, I’ll share a snippet of an update on the trial as reported by the Logansport Pharos-Tribune newspaper on 28 May, 1899:

Several young women whose names were on the list of the agency were on the stand and testified they did not give their names to Rowan.”

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Lonely hearts near and far apparently had not heard of the probable crooked businessman’s doings and cancellation of the establishment…

Rowan Many Letters. After attempted bribery. Chicago Daily Tribune. 3 June 1899

Rowan Many Letters. After attempted bribery. Chicago Daily Tribune. 3 June 1899

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Or that the authorities were done taking a look…

Charles Rowan Matrimonial Agency in The InterOcean, Chicago, Illinois. 11 October 1899.

Charles Rowan Matrimonial Agency in The InterOcean, Chicago, Illinois. 11 October 1899.

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Now Mrs. Rowan appears to be “in business”, too… but not for brides. I wouldn’t trust her. Would you? And check out the latter half of this notice: apparently Mr. Charles Rowan believes he’ll never be found guilty…

Mrs. Rowan in business too. Mr. Rowan wagers he'll never be found guilty. The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois. 15 July, 1899.

Mrs. Rowan in business too. Mr. Rowan wagers he’ll never be found guilty. The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois. 15 July, 1899.

Notice in the above article, Mr. Rowan was reputed to have made $100,000.00 (in 1899 dollars) in his matrimonial business.

“$100,000 of 1899 dollars would be worth: $2,857,142.86 in 2015.” Source: Dave Manuel Inflation Calculator

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Rest assured previous witnesses were not done trying to do their civic duty…

Rowan. Another Trial. The Inter Ocean. Chicago Illinois. 15 November 1900

Rowan. Another Trial. The Inter Ocean. Chicago Illinois. 15 November 1900

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And then… Charles H. Rowan shows up as having been tried on multiple counts of mail-order fraud (this time for pills billed as curing deafness) in the 1880’s. And yeah, we’re talking about the same guy (despite the few abbreviations used) as the correct year and government official’s name that he’d allegedly bribed.

Fraud Order Against Rowan. Part 1. The Tennessean. Nashville, TN. 3 May, 1901. Page 4.

Fraud Order Against Rowan. Part 1. The Tennessean. Nashville, TN. 3 May, 1901. Page 4.

Fraud Order Against Rowan. Part 2. The Tennessean. Nashville, TN. 3 May, 1901. Page 4.

Fraud Order Against Rowan. Part 2. The Tennessean. Nashville, TN. 3 May, 1901. Page 4.

Fraud Order Against Rowan. Part 3. The Tennessean. Nashville, TN. 3 May, 1901. Page 4.

Fraud Order Against Rowan. Part 3. The Tennessean. Nashville, TN. 3 May, 1901. Page 4.

Evidently both Mr. AND Mrs. Rowan were able to wear more than one hat, present themselves to the unsuspecting public as the proprietor of a Miracle Cure, Cupid, the Matchmaker of all matchmakers…

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Apparently Rowan’s first time around with the jury yielded a guilty charge for attempt to bribe a government agent–but due to a technicality, he was granted a second trial.

Rowan's Jury Disagreed. The Minneapolis Journal. 16 November, 1901, page 13.

Rowan’s Jury Disagreed. The Minneapolis Journal. 16 November, 1901, page 13.

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What finally became of Charles H. Rowan? I couldn’t believe this! I would’ve had to have sat on the jury, myself (never would have happened for an adult woman at the turn of the century, though), heard and handled every bit of evidence… how on earth was Charles H. Rowan acquitted?

Rowan acquitted. The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois. 23 January, 1902.

Rowan acquitted. The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois. 23 January, 1902.

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Apparently Charles H. Rowan did just as he told a reporter he’d do– he went back into business as a matrimonial agent. Here’s an advertisement from February 1903, showing him as the agent:

Rowan Co. Ad. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 15 Feb 1903

Rowan Co. Ad. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 15 Feb 1903

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Simply studying about the havoc wrought by one Charles H. Rowan makes me cringe. My blood pressure’s up just thinking about his 2 decades (minimum) causing trouble through the mail, wringing money out of people who trusted him to be what he presented himself to be. If the man–and his wife–successfully defrauded so many selling “cures” and matrimonial introductions, what else did they successfully and fraudulently sell through the mail?

_Just because someone says something doesn't make it true._

I might be wrong. It’s possible this slice of Charles H. Rowan’s life has led me to believe the man guilty as sin. After all– just because someone said so doesn’t make it true.

What do you think of the case of Charles H. Rowan?

Do you see the bits and pieces of his timeline differently than I do? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please scroll down and leave a reply in the space provided.

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Up Next! (3-17-16) Victorian America Celebrates St. Patrick’s Day

And already posted: Nineteenth Century Mail-Order Bride SCAMS, Part 12: THE FINAL ARTICLE IN THE SERIES.


Matrimonial Fool and his Money (on Sweet Americana Sweethearts) Nineteenth Century Mail-Order Bride SCAMS, Part 1 Nineteenth Century Mail-Order Bride SCAMS, Part 2 Nineteenth Century Mail-Order Bride SCAMS, Part 3 Nineteenth Century Mail-Order Bride SCAMS, Part 4 Nineteenth Century Mail-Order Bride SCAMS, Part 5 Nineteenth Century Mail-Order Bride SCAMS, Part 6 Nineteenth Century Mail-Order Bride SCAMS, Part 7 Nineteenth Century Mail-Order Bride SCAMS, Part 8 Nineteenth Century Mail-Order Bride SCAMS, Part 9 Nineteenth Century Mail-Order Bride SCAMS, Part 10 Nineteenth Century Mail-Order Bride SCAMS, Part 12

Copyright © 2016 Kristin Holt LC