Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Mystery Surrounding Herman Huber's Death

Copyright: J. Rubio
Tucked away and forgotten in the old Masonic Cemetery adjacent to Sacramento's Historic City Cemetery, sits the small and humble grave of a young man known as Herman Huber. Not too many people know about Herman Huber or the story of his death, while at the Preston School of Industry. 

Contrary to many people's ideas, he was the only ward who was actually shot and killed in an escape attempt while still on the school's property. You see, most people assume that Sam Goins was shot at Preston, but he wasn't. They also think a lot of people were killed at Preston, not counting deaths by natural causes. There really wasn't that many, only a handful that I have uncovered.  Unlike the stories of Anna Corbin or Samuel Goins, Herman Huber's death has been pretty much ignored over the years. To my own knowledge, I was the first person to even mention his story, since the days the story made newspaper headlines.

Herman Huber was received at Preston on December 6, 1910. There is no sort of notation as to what sort of crime or conviction he may or may not have had.
The enormous antique register book at the State Archives only reflects the word "delinquent" next to Herman's name on the list. Other wards entries usually depicted the crime and conviction for the reason they were sent to Preston. In Herman's case, it just says "delinquent." This has been a mystery I still have yet to uncover, as to why he was sent there at all. I could never find any archives stating that he had committed any crimes. It seems apparent that whoever sent him to Preston, wanted him to stay for four years being that his release date was written for August of 1914.

Herman's grandfather was of high society in Sacramento. William Ladd Willis worked for 13 years in the editorial department of the Record-Union and authored "The History of Sacramento."- There is no mention of him in any records besides the Census records where it shows him as being Willis' grandson and residing with his grandfather.   
SF Call 

On the night of October 17, 1911, around the time when staff was ringing the dinner bell, Herman Huber and another friend, John Kirrane made their escape under the cover of darkness. According to school officials, the night watchman French*, noticed they were gone and went after them.

J.D. French claimed that he shot his gun to warn the Superintendent that an incident was occurring and accidentally shot and killed Huber. Another ward, Ernest Reed, who was paroled that very week, claimed that he witnessed French shoot Huber deliberately. He also came before Governor Hiram Johnson and claimed this and told of the harsh treatment wards were subjected to on a daily basis.

"The boys who would incur displeasure of the officials at the school, are confined to insanity quarters, flayed on their bare back with a heavy strap and given a bread and water diet, with more water than bread."--

In my book, Behind The Walls, I offer a look at the possibility that Herman Huber's attempt to escape was actually a farce. As I have previously documented in both my Dreaming Casually blog and my book, there was a point system at Preston and if you received all your points, or credits you could parole early. One of the ways to earn all your points at one time and parole was to snitch on someone escaping.  Of course technically the reports state that this "system" was not used until the beginning of 1912, given the fact this was late in the year of 1911 and the fact I have found so many inconsistencies in the Biennial Reports, it wouldn't surprise me if this "system" wasn't already being used there.
Copyright: J. Rubio

Either way, the guard was exonerated on all charges and it was noted that he was just "performing his duty" on the job. We will truly never know what happened that night that Herman Huber was shot and killed on the grounds of the Preston School of Industry.  His family is not buried next to him, leaving Herman forever alone and forgotten.  

To read more about Herman Huber and the rest of the Preston School of Industry's history, please keep reading my blog and check out a copy of my book, "Behind The Walls" today! 

(*some papers noted his name as J.D. French or R.W. French)

(© Copyright 2012-2015, J’aime Rubio, Originally published either on blog “Dreaming Casually” by J’aime Rubio, on my Facebook Page or in the book “Behind The Walls- A Historical Exposé of The Preston School of Industry” by author, J’aime Rubio.)

All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission by the author/publisher, J’aime Rubio. 

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