Author Topic: Need help reading some old writing  (Read 8024 times)

Offline wanderer

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Need help reading some old writing
« on: May 08, 2013, 09:30:54 PM »
I was doing some research at an old courthouse today and came across something I just can't figure out. I've had several people look and no one has any ideas. Figure the knowledge of the people here might be able to solve the puzzle. The document is an 1870's western jailer's log book of prisoners, and the crimes they are charged with.

The link below will take you to the URL where I have posted the documents. The picture on the left is a typical page with the date on the far left, prisoners name in the middle, and the crime on the right. Most of the crimes can be easily read. However, the picture on the right is the puzzle. I circled the "crime" in red. I didn't get all the pictures I wanted, but the names that would be to the left appear to be Chinese names. Maybe a dozen charged with that same crime.

So, does anyone have any ideas of what the text circled in red, in the right picture, might be??

Here is a link I put up on my website and it is safe: http://www.westernwoodartist.com/Sheriff.htm

Offline SunshineX

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Re: Need help reading some old writing
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2013, 09:48:43 PM »
Mafia?

Offline Chizzy

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Re: Need help reading some old writing
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2013, 09:57:06 PM »
Looks like mifsd. Which obviously means nothing.
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Offline wanderer

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Re: Need help reading some old writing
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2013, 10:02:58 PM »
Quote
Looks like mifsd. Which obviously means nothing.

Hence my problem.  ;) I agree the first letter looks like an "m" and the last appears to be a "d." No idea what the middle ones are I can't see an abbreviation that makes sense. All the other charges seem pretty clear, even the "murder" which isn't complete.

Offline Chizzy

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Re: Need help reading some old writing
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2013, 10:06:01 PM »
Hence my problem.  ;) I agree the first letter looks like an "m" and the last appears to be a "d." No idea what the middle ones are I can't see an abbreviation that makes sense. All the other charges seem pretty clear, even the "murder" which isn't complete.

Agreed. I can read everything else just fine. Just wish the person who'd written the left side picture had written the right.
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Offline Chizzy

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Re: Need help reading some old writing
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2013, 10:06:26 PM »
There's an f in there, tho. Right?
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Offline SunshineX

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Re: Need help reading some old writing
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2013, 10:10:39 PM »
"There's an f in there, tho. Right?"

Or a j.

Offline wanderer

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Re: Need help reading some old writing
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2013, 10:12:14 PM »
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There's an f in there, tho. Right?

Based on the other "f's" it doesn't look the same. It doesn't correlate with the "p's" elsewhere and I'm thinking it could maybe be a "j." However, nothing seems to make sense. One thing that confuses me also is there are a list of about 12 Chinese that are charged with the same crime. Almost like there was a raid or something?  :-\ :-\

Offline SunshineX

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Re: Need help reading some old writing
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2013, 10:14:35 PM »
I keep trying to make it migrant, but it dosen't work.

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Need help reading some old writing
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2013, 10:27:30 PM »
That is a real puzzle you set for us Wanderer.

Since I have a thing about handwriting, I couldn't resist looking over both pictures and could see there were at least 5 or 6 different hands writing on that page - some obviously had more schooling than others judging by their cursive writing - something that use to be seriously taught in schools. Others were readable, but without the flare that would show their education. But I'm sure you're well aware of that.

The bit circled in red shows very little education, judging by the poor handwriting. Which leads me to think that even if all the letters were clearly visible, would the letters actually spell anything, at least, correctly.

If you ever figure it out or someone else does, please let us know. I've tried several combinations of what I think the letters might be. Unfortunately, none of them seem to come within spitting distance of a word I'm familiar with.
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Offline SunshineX

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Re: Need help reading some old writing
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2013, 10:29:18 PM »
Lol. During the 1850's 'Mujra' was a kind of exotic asian courtesan dance, at least according to wikipedia. Maybe they were all really bad dancers.

Offline Chizzy

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Re: Need help reading some old writing
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2013, 10:29:37 PM »
Yep -- all good points, Alice.
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Offline Chizzy

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Re: Need help reading some old writing
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2013, 10:29:56 PM »
Lol. During the 1850's 'Mujra' was a kind of exotic asian courtesan dance, at least according to wikipedia. Maybe they were all really bad dancers.

I vote for this.
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Offline wanderer

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Re: Need help reading some old writing
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2013, 10:51:28 PM »
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The bit circled in red shows very little education, judging by the poor handwriting. Which leads me to think that even if all the letters were clearly visible, would the letters actually spell anything, at least, correctly.

That is a good point Alice. We are dealing with a wild mining camp in the 1870's and the level of education was generally low. There is no way of knowing if the person signing in the "guests" was the sheriff, deputy, etc. I will be going back again next week to copy the entire log and maybe then I might have a better idea of figuring it out. There were the dozen (?) apparently Chinese names in the middle column, but I didn't look to see if they were all booked on the same day. I will look next time though. That jail was one busy place and they only had 4 cells. The murders and violent criminals were put into the cells. The rest of the prisoners just walked about the jail grounds on the honor system. Try that today.  ;)

Never heard of the Mujra and maybe they were involved in some form of exotic dancing.  :o :o

The Chinese were considered lower than the animals in the camp, and generally their life was quite segregated. They were not allowed to have any mining claims, had a segregated cemetery area, and were not allowed into the other areas of the camp. I say all this because to have about a dozen arrested really stands out. Another part of the mystery.

Well, we all know what I will be dreaming about tonight.  ;)

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Re: Need help reading some old writing
« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2013, 01:35:18 AM »
I believe the word is murder . . . just misspelled from either weariness or maybe something as sloppy as alcohol. The way you can tell is in three ways:

The murder wording above it looks the same, but no where near as neat as the previous.

After the second attempt, dittos follow the rest. That's usually a clear sign of someone more than too exhausted, for various reasons, to spell it out each time.

The third clue is the initials and/or signature next to it. This happens when something is unclear and requires an annotation in case it's called into question during a trial as potential evidence. This is still common practice with legal documents that may be misconstrued or misinterpreted.

For example, if you sign a check, and there's an error on this document you need to cross-out or change, you need to either sign or, more likely, initial next to the lettering in question. As you can see in the ledger, this was done.

It's murder . . . just sloppy. And apparently a bad night for all involved given the number of them annotated . . . which probably explains the sudden weariness of the handwriting. Probably gang retaliation against another group over territory. Gang war. And probably the Tongs. In the Old West, they called themselves The Chinese Benevolent Associations.

It's also possible they served as the community's enforcers against white racists and were not above killing to make a point. During the 1800s, there were many anti-Chinese riots in those areas that later became 'Chinatowns' or similar wording. This is probably a log of the results. But, that's beyond what you asked.

Anyway, just my humble opinion.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2013, 02:27:46 AM by Wolfe »