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:

Thursday, February 02, 2017

StVHS Sports: 1927/28

Vintage St. Vincent High School pennant from 1920s

[Guest article by Michael Rustad, originally from nearby Humboldt, MN]

In the summer of 1999, my daughter Erica and I visited the town of St. Vincent.

There is no longer a bridge connecting the central business districts of Pembina, North Dakota and St. Vincent. The old bridge connecting the towns that I remember as a child has long been dismantled. The places that I remember in St. Vincent have long since closed. Short's Cafe, Sylvester's Store, the Curling Rink, St. Ann's Catholic Church, and the St. Vincent Fairgrounds. The curling rink is now neglected and in state of decay. The Church is a private residence. The St. Vincent School, too, is in a state of benign neglect. The school is in disrepair and the fire escape slide detached.

It was difficult for me to explain to my daughter that St. Vincent was once a bustling community. We attended catechism each summer in the basement of St. Ann's Catholic Church. We had a large number of ball games in the yard outside the church which is now overgrown and marred by abandoned cars. When my sister and I visited the Kittson County Museum in Lake Bronson, I was amazed to find some high school yearbooks [called Borderlines] from St. Vincent High School. St. Vincent High School closed in the late 1930s and never reopened. Instead, it eventually consolidated its school district with Humboldt from 1957 to 1991.
[Note from Trish:  In-between StVHS closing and St. Vincent consolidating with Humboldt, students had the choice of attending Pembina High School, or other schools in Kittson County like Hallock...]
It was an unexpected joy to find yearbooks from the St. Vincent High School from the 1920s. This was a yearbook from a small town in NW Minnesota prior to the Depression. High school life in St. Vincent was marked by lots of school spirit judging from the many activities. St. Vincent fielded a football team, basketball team, hockey team, track team and baseball team in [school year] 1927/28.

"If you could walk or run, you were in the starting line-up."