Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Huckleberry Queen and her Legend

While digging through the files from my days compiling "The Way We Were," (see previous post), I came across this article from the September 23, 1902 Elkhart Truth, by way of the La Porte (IN) Argus-Bulletin, headlined, "Once Famous Huckleberry Queen Is Dying:"

"The 'Huckleberry Queen,' a woman once famous throughout this section of the country, whose reckless will reigned supreme over a motley horde of criminals, is dying in a hut near Valparaiso.
"There is not a resident of northern Indiana who does not remember the existence of the strange aggregation of criminals that constituted a unique and terrible colony which was accustomed to assemble for three months of each year as regularly as the summer season rolled around in the center of the stretch of wild marsh country near the town of Walkerton, which forms the huckleberry regions of that section of Indiana. Who they were, whence they came, what they did during the remaining nine months of the year--these things the outside world has never learned. It was not safe for outsiders to venture into the marshes during the months 'Huckleberry Queen' held her court. The temporary colony was a band of reckless, daring criminals. They held the law in mockery and placed no higher value on an officer's life than the brass on his buttons. Hardly a crime existed but what was of daily occurrences within the swampy domains of the 'Huckleberry Queen.' The law was laughed at and openly defied."

I did a Google search on the Huckleberry Queen and found this site from the Starke county Historical Society. (Scroll down until you get to the Huckleberry Queen link.) She doesn't appear to be the head of a criminal gang, but a strong-minded woman who didn't hide her sexuality. She could be violent when drunk. There appears to be no record of her killing anyone.

But in the late nineteenth century she must have been shocking. By 1902 she was proclaimed the head of a ruthless criminal gang. Both the legend and the real woman would make great characters in a novel or movie.


Peter said...

Both the legend and the real woman would make great characters in a novel or movie.

Both, and juxtaposed! What a fun movie! We'd learn more about Northern Indiana, of course, than about her.

Anonymous said...

my name is tracy and you have contacted my aunt in colorado regarding the huckleberry queen-i am curious and would like to find out more about this famous woman

steve on the slow train said...

Tracy--Thank you for your inquiry. I wasn't the one who contacted your aunt--at least I don't think so. The link I have in the post isn't as direct as it used to be. Try this:

If that doesn't work, use the link in my post, click on local history, and scroll down to Huckleberry Queen. There's a new reference about a Huckleberry Queen theater production in Plymouth, IN. Just Google Huckleberry Queen, and it will come up, along with the Starke County Historical Society info.

Anonymous said...

Tracy, at least two people have contacted your Aunt regarding a tentative connection with the Huckleberry Queen. There is no evidence that the woman who wore the title of Huckleberry Queen in Tyner in 1879 is the same as the woman supposedly dying in Valparaiso. That 1902 news item ran everywhere but Valparaiso. A search of the Porter county death records and obituaries did not reveal any woman matching the queen's description dying for a year after that news item appeared all over Indiana. As near as we can tell, she moved on to Fort Wayne and Jake Falconbury divorced her about 1889, a few days later she married again to a man from Huntington. She died in 1923. It is possible that more than one woman wore the title, but only one had a biography written in 1879. Tracy, Jake Falconbury's second wife was Nancy Brown, she had a daughter that may or may not have been his-the censuses are confusing on the issue. A few people are hoping that Jake's family hung on to pictures of him and the Huckleberry Queen.