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Capt. Armstrongs's Troubles at Fifth Ave. City Dock (1899)
  • Contributed by Alan Flood. (November 2004)
  • The following series are about the troubles of Captain Armstrong at the city dock located at the foot of Fifth Avenue in Bay City, MI. They give some insight into temperment of those times and, in particular, to that of Captain Armstrong.

    Bay City Daily Tribune - Thursday, April 25, 1889 (page 5)


    A Crisis in the Row Between Armstrong and Aldrich.

    Captain Armstrong, who has a faculty of getting into trouble with a portion of the world with which he comes in intimate contact, now has another difficulty on hand. The captain is somewhat combative and at times seems to enjoy rather than dislike a "shindig." The dispute that has been going on for some time between him and Wells Aldrich reached a climax yesterday and must now be disposed of in the courts.

    Aldrich is minus one arm, and this affliction may have had its weight with the council when it granted him permission, a month ago, to locate a small fruit stand on the city's dock at the foot of Fifth street. This concession brought forth a vigorous kick from Capt. Armstrong, who looked upon Aldrich's business enterprise as an unwarranted encroachment upon his preserves. He runs the Boy line of steamers, sell candies and fruits aboard, has the free use of the dock and contended that his sales would be interfered with through those made by Aldrich. The latter did not yield to threats or persuasion advanced to have him take up his little stand and move, but stood loyally by the ship. In this emergency the captain appealed to the common council, petitioning them to have Aldrich removed. The city fathers declined to take part in a private row and virtually told the combatants to fight their own battles. As Aldrich had the nine points, he stood pat and waited for Armstrong to open the campaign.

    This the latter did by notifying the candy and fruit merchant to move under the pains and penalty of having his place of business thrown bodily into the river.

    As Aldrich did not heed this unmistakable advice more heroic measures were resorted to. When he arrived at an early hour yesterday morning to pull down the blinds and angle as the early worm, he found his establishment missing. A search was rewarded by finding his store behind a gravel shed on Armstrong's property. This necessitated a prompt change of front.

    Aldrich, who claims that Armstrong's men acted under his instructions in cleaning out his establishment, promptly met the situation. He went to Judge Mangan, made an affidavit charging Armstrong with grand larceny, and secured a warrant under which the accused was arrested. The case comes up for hearing at 9 o'clock this morning.

    Bay City Daily Tribune - Thursday, April 25, 1889 (page 5)
    (Same edition and page as above.)


    A man flew out of Capt. Armstrong's marine office last night with war sticking out of both eyes. It was the stalwart captain. He grabbed a man who was insulting ladies standing on the dock and hauled him into the office. The man was drunk and the captain telephoned for an officer. Before one arrived a saloonist visited the office and spirited the drunken man away. Capt. Armstrong thinks the city should station an officer at the Fifth avenue dock.

    Bay City Daily Tribune - Friday, April 26, 1889


    The Captain Explains His Position Very Tersely.

    The case of Captain Armstrong for removing the fruit stand of Wells Aldrich from the Fifth avenue dock where he had located under color of authority from the common council, came up before Judge Mangan yesterday. The best legal opinion seems to be that the captain has the best of the controversy, the fact being that no one has a right to erect a fruit stand in the line of a public street in front of Captain Armstrong's place of business, especially if the trade be carried on in opposition to that done by the owner of the adjacent property. In a verbal controversy which the two men had, Captain Armstrong says that Aldrich declared that he had more money than the Captain, if the latter's debts were paid, and that he pays more taxes in Bay City than does the captain. In view of the prosperity thus suggested the captain says that Aldrich has no particular claim on anyone for special privileges such as those he contends for. The captain states further that throughout this affair, he has acted in accordance with the advice of competent counsel and that he appreciates the difficulty he encounters with certain classes because of his pronounced temperance principles, and his determination to to manage his boat business in the interest of temperance and decency. A further complaint is made by Capt. Armstrong because Chief Murphy, when he served the warrant upon him, would not grant him the courtesy of consulting personally with his lawyer before going into court. To this charge the chief says that he permitted the captain to talk with his lawyer by telephone.

    Bay City Daily Tribune - Sunday, April 29, 1889 (page 6)


    Wells Aldrich Recovers His Little Dwelling From Captain Armstrong.

    The Captain Offered to Do Anything in Reason,
    But the Offer Was Refused.

    The excitement regarding the Armstrong--Aldrich difficulty was resumed with still more vigor yesterday afternoon. About 1:30 o'clock Aldrich went to his stand in company with Constable Riley and Deputy Sheriff Coyle, unlocked the stand and took out the contents and had them appraised. A couple of the jars containing candy were broken and their contents scattered about the floor. Some one had also broken in a peep hole in the end of the building and helped themselves to some lemons in a box. After the contents had been taken therefrom he called on some men to help him remove it to its former place on the city dock. There were not enough volunteers, however, and the crowd awaited with expectation until the ferry Chas. B. Hull landed. Then part of her crew turned in, but the crowd stood idly by not caring to taking chances by lending aid.

    Captain Armstrong here forbid anyone assisting in moving the stand back on the dock, stating that he would use force to resist the action if necessary. At this, those who had offered to help desisted. When the Hull came over again, Mr. Aldrich called on his men to move the stand and a few responded. At this juncture Capt. Armstrong stepped on his property and forbid any one putting a foot thereon, or take the consequences of being prosecuted for trespass. None cared to disobey his injunction and the stand remained where it was.

    Mr. Armstrong offered to move the stand to any place within the bounds of reason for Mr. Aldrich but refused to allow it to go on the city dock. A parley of words arose between the contestants, but aside from this nothing of an exciting nature took place. By 3 o'clock in the afternoon the dock was crowded with people drawn there through the imagination that there was fun in store.

    Mr. Aldrich, after receiving orders not to step on the captain's property, started up town with the intention of getting out a writ of replevin.

    In the morning he commenced a civil suit for damages in Justice Perrott's court against Mr. Armstrong in the sum of $100. The papers were served on the captain about noon.

    Mr. Aldrich on his disappearance from the scene of action, hurried to a court and had replevin papers issued, and armed with them Constable Riley proceeded to Captain Armstrong's office served them and then called on men to assist him. The crowd was backward in coming forward, but soon a sufficient number was obtained, and the stand picked up and moved out on the street. Mr. Armstrong warned the men not to take it on the dock, but they heeded him not but marched onward. As the building approached the dock the captain stepped in front of it and attempted to impede the progress, but he was shoved out of the way and the stand placed nearly on the spot it formerly occupied.

    "Give me some peanuts," said someone.

    Mr. Aldrich opened the doors, got to the inside and sold about a dollar's worth of goods before he had time to turn around.

    Here the matter rests for the present, but how long it will continue so is hard to tell.

    Bay City Daily Tribune - Tuesday, April 30, 1889 (page 6)


    Captain Armstrong Tells Exactly Where He Stands in the Controversy.

    If Legal Opinions Are Against Him
    He Will Apologize--If Not He Will Remain Steadfast.

    "Do you propose to let Aldrich's stand remain where it is?" asked a reporter of Capt. Armstrong this morning.

    "I am utterly tired of this whole business. In the desire to maintain my rights against the legal encroachments of city authority, I am made to appear to fight a poor, one armed man and a mob of men, who not understanding the legal aspect of the case, as a matter of course, sympathize with him.

    "According to my understanding of the matter, the city has no more right to give him permission to locate there than they have in front of my home or on my porch or in my parlor. If the council has authority to let one man there, then why not more, and if more, why not a row on each side. I never knew Aldrich until he came to locate on the dock by city authority. I have no controversy with him only as he represents the city, and will say sign here, and will write and right the same, that if any competent legal authority shall say that he has any right to maintain a stand on that dock without my permission and against my will, then I will plead guilty in every action brought against me, including grand larceny, and moreover I will pay him $10 for every day his store remained removed. Further, I will make apology to him. But, after I had removed him as I claim I had a right to do, I appealed to the chief of police to prevent further trespass and the police have utterly, and as I believe, willfully, failed to protect me in the rights in which they are bound to protect every citizen. If there is no action taken by the council to night looking to my relief, I shall keep on as heretofore, acting on the advice of my attorneys and try to abate the nuisance in any way I can, except that in the final "round up" the city will be holding me for all damage to my reputation and my business in regard to this struggle to maintain rights that it is the duty of the city to protect every man in the enjoyment thereof."

    Bay City Daily Tribune - Tuesday, June 10, 1889 (page 5)


    It Was the Scene of Another Controversy Yesterday.

    The Fifth avenue city dock controversy was renewed yesterday afternoon. Capt. Armstrong and Charles Scheurmann were the central figures. The latter had received permission from D. M. Pierce, who has rented the dock from the city, to pile cedar posts upon it. The posts were brought in from Drummond's Island on the schooner Mary D., Capt. Dan Dutcher in command. The craft was run into the slip on the south side of the dock and the work of unloading commenced. Presently Capt. Armstrong discovered what was going on and ordered the captain to stop and to get out of the slip as that was his property. Capt. Dutcher didn't see fit to follow the instructions, and consequently Harbor Master Murphy was called up by telephone to adjust the difficulty. Mr. Scheurmann argued with that official that the boat had a perfect right to lie alongside the city dock, but as the latter was familiar with the ownership of property thereabouts on account of previous disputes, he ordered the craft out of the slip and around to the front of the dock. Capt. Armstrong's tug, the James Hay, was lying there, and Mr. Scheurmann requested that it be removed so that the Mary D. could land, but the captain refused to change its location. After some parleying the harbor-master commanded him to move his tug, and receiving no satisfaction, ordered it done himself. There were hot words used all around, and Capt. Armstrong said he was just making a test of the matter, and subsequently visited the office of Shepard & Lyon, his legal advisors.

    Related Note & Pages

    Fire Tug Geyser
    Capt. Richard Armstrong:
    -- Capt. Armstrong owned a fleet of vessels that included fire tugs and passenger steam ships. The captain was born in 1839, in Canada. He has extensive career in sailing the lakes and sea prior to his coming to Bay City the late 1870s. The captain married Harriet Scott, at St. Clair in 1865, shortly after his service in the Civial War. They had three sons and a grandson that became quite prominent.
    -- William the eldest son, was a member of the second Cook expedition to Mt. McKinley.
    -- Pual the next son, became a prominent playwright in New York.
    -- Rolf the youngest son, became an a well known artist.
    -- Robert, a grandson, became a Hollywood actor.
    -- Biographies for each are available from the Captain's history page.
    Related Pages:
    Aldrich, Wells
    Armstrong, Richard
    People Referenced
    Aldridge, Wells
    Armstrong, (Capt.)
    Coyle, (Deputy Sheriff)
    Dutcher, Dan (Capt.)
    Mangan, (Judge)
    Murphy, (Chief)
    Pierce, D.M>
    Riley, (Constable)
    Scheurmann, Charles
    Places Referenced
    Bay City, MI
    Boy steamers
    Chas. B. Hull (ferry)
    City dock
    Common council
    Drumman Island
    Fifth Ave.
    James Hay (tug)
    Marine office
    Mary D. (schooner)
    Shepard & Lyon (attorney's)
    Stalwart captain
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.