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.