Sunday, March 02, 2008

Innocent Until Proven German

Old FBI files reveal the shocking truth about nefarious individuals like WWI-era farmer Albert Deitz.

Deitz, a German, had claimed to be from Pennsylvania when he purchased his farm. But he aroused suspicion by paying for the land in $100 bills from a Los Angeles bank. According to [FBI Agent Roy] McHenry's investigation, Dietz didn't fraternize with his neighbors and "discourages their attempts to be neighborly."

Furthermore, his neighbors believed his behavior indicated he wasn't really a farmer. He mowed only a small portion of his hay crop and didn't market his dairy products.

When McHenry went to the Dietz farm, he noted the "plowing was not the work of a good farmer." He described Deitz as probably about 55 years old, 5-foot-10, quite bald, weighing 150 pounds and having a strong German accent. His wife, about 44, was "not at all comely with a very sour expression." [Link]
This investigation occurred several years before the Patriot Act was passed, so Deitz could not be arrested for being a lousy farmer with a suspicious accent and an ugly wife.


Here's more of the story from the Footnote papers:

"They have 3 children, a boy of 6, a girl of 4, and a baby boy of 1 1/2 years. Dietz stated he was born in Germany and had taken out his first papers in Los Angeles, Cal. He has been in this country 20 years. He said he was a citizen of no country, but of the world and that he was a socialist, although his remarks sounded like those of an I.W.W. He said he never served in the German army. He said he had not been a farmer until last year and that he had been in the hotel business in Los Angeles. He gave 939-1/2 East 1st St., as his last address in Los Angeles.

He said he had no weapons nor wireless apparatus in his possession and we did not find any. There is a telephone in the house but except for that, the house is miserably furnished with old cast off furniture, without any carpets, and not at all clean. It reminds me of the way the poorest class of homesteaders live in the northwest.

He seemed to be an intelligent man, but deeply smitten with the wrong inflicted by capital, according to his talk. His wife speaks English but took no part in the conversation. He said that they came from Los Angeles by way of Philadelphia, a very roundabout route, and seeing the farm, decided to take it. He warmed up a little when we left and asked us to come again."

The 1910 census confirms he was keeping a hotel in Los Angeles at the exact address given in his discussion with feds. He was single at the time of the census. He apparently died soon after the 1917 interview with the feds as his widow is listed in the 1920 census with two of the children, and in the 1930 census with a third one.


Thanks, Doogles! I love that last line: "He warmed up a little when we left and asked us to come again."


Oh, I agree. "Please Come Again" would have been a nifty post title.

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