Wednesday, February 15, 2017

James J. Barry, Pugilist

Louis Edgar Rogers, aka
Jim Barry, was born in
St. Vincent, Minnesota.

Jim Barry was a pugilist...and a mystery. His real name was Louis Edgar Rogers.  He seems to have left the US in December 1912 and returned in 1915. One document that was found - an application for a passport - showed he was in England at the time. Did he go to England to get treatment for his drug and alcohol problems? Then, a record showed he fought his old nemesis Sam Langford in Australia, most likely as part of a hopeful comeback? Or, was it an exhibition fight?  He has some more fights later but he lost them all. While in Panama, he was murdered at the age of 32. A short life of a promising young boxer - he was considered a capable, durable fighter in his prime - that took a wrong turn, that led to a sad end.

Barry lists St. Vincent, Minnesota 

as where he was born, on this 1915 
emergency passport application...
Louis was born on August 12, 1886 in St. Vincent, Minnesota.  In the 1900 US Census, Louis is listed as age 15 and going by Lue Rogers. Lue is a variant of the name Louis (English and French), and on the same census, Mary is listed as his mother, age 55 and widowed.  His father had been from Ireland, but his mother was French-Canadian.1 Very likely she would have called him Lue for short - or it could have been a simplified version of how Louis is pronounced in French.  

Barry's 1915 passport photo
According to the same census, Lue could neither read nor write. Nor could his mother.  It was not unusual for that time, but just like today, it limited job opportunities for a lifetime.  Lue was also listed as a 'Day Laborer', but that wouldn't last for long. Sometime during the next few years, probably sooner, Lue learned the art of boxing, left Drayton for the wider world, and became Jim Barry.

Sam Langford
Jim's start up the ranks of boxing are not known, but he eventually made a modest name for himself. He was characterized as a "hard-hitting white cowboy" ... who did not mind fighting the top black heavyweights of the Chitlin' Circuit. Although he did not beat Sam Langford--only to a draw, in their many fights--Barry did deck the Boston fighter on two occasions.

According to his May 1915 passport application, Barry was born in 1886 in St. Vincent, Minnesota, and called Drayton, North Dakota, his place of residence. He listed his occupations as "engineer and boxer" - what kind of engineer, we do not know, but if true, it was as a vocation between 'day laborer' and 'boxer'.

After returning from London, Barry went into treatment for cocaine addiction.  He was released from a New York hospital after taking the "Coke Cure" in July 2015.  The government was starting to crack down on cocaine and other drugs that had previously been unregulated. I think Barry had to get straight or risk losing chances to fight, or even get arrested.  So he was trying to straighten up. 

An article in the Pembina Pioneer Express for March 30, 1917, has this notation:
James Barry, whose right name was Rogers, is reported killed down in the Panama zone. Barry was raised in Drayton this county, and has relatives there. He had some repute as a heavyweight pugilist... 
To quote coverage in the Panama Star & Herald, 12 March 1917:
Jim Barry was shot and killed in the Lobby Hotel in Colon. His slayer was C. Jerrett, usually known as 'Tex Martin.' Martin accosted Barry in the Lobby Hotel bar and Barry pushed him back, saying that he didn't want anything to do with him. (There had been an altercation between them in Panama City the previous day, stemming from a disagreement over a gambling debt.) Martin then pulled a Colt 44 and shot Barry three times. Barry staggered out of the bar and fell dead. Martin was quickly arrested after the shooting and later stood trial for murder. Apparently it was found that Martin had been threatened by Barry, was acting in self-defense, and was released. He was later reported to have been killed in San Antonio, Texas.
"There was a story that when he died Barry was in possession of a gold and silver belt entrusted to him by none other than John L. Sullivan. The belt was never recovered."  December 10, 1912 Tacoma Times article. [Source: BoxRec]

Source:  The Little Book of Boxing

 A narrow escape:  Barry was carrying a fight purse when he
almost lost it - a serious financial loss averted by pure luck.

"On this date..." - Jimmy Barry, real name Louis
Edgar Rogers, born in St. Vincent, Minnesota!

1 - While Mary was listed as 'Canadian/French' in the 1900 U.S. Census (now living in Drayton, ND), in the Minnesota Territorial Census for 1885 (while living in St. Vincent, and later that year giving birth to Louis), Louis' mother is listed - out of the five choices given - as 'Mulatto' (one definition of that word meant half white, half Indian). In the 1910 census she was listed as simply 'Indian'. It can be confusing to the researcher what to make of such various ways of describing people's ethnicities and racial makeups, but it's fairly simple in this case. Mary was either born in Canada, or her parents were. She was probably a mixture of a First Nation mother and a French Canadian father. Louis' father was listed as Irish.