(By the way, the man in the above picture is NOT the thief...it's just a representative photo.)

Michigan's Meanest Thief committed his crime way back in 1888.
He didn't break into a house.
He didn't rob a bank.
He didn't hold anyone up at gunpoint.
He didn't even get into an argument with anyone, let alone act grouchy or crabby.

So why is James Hughes listed as “The Meanest Thief in Michigan”?

According to a small newspaper article in the Ann Arbor Argus of February 10, 1888, the incident took place on Tuesday morning, February 8 (however, that may be a misprint as Tuesday was actually on the 7th). A carpenter by the name of Watson Sherman was working on a new 'bridge slip' in St. Ignace when he was instantly killed (the newspaper did not say how he was killed, so I guess we must assume he fell to his death).

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Sherman's body was taken to the Mallet & Walker funeral home where he was dressed and laid out in the parlor. The undertaker went another step and placed a 50-cent piece over one of Sherman's eyes.

Now here's where the thievery comes in.
The thief in question was James Hughes, a local lumberman who entered the funeral home in the pretense of paying his last respects. He loitered around the body for an unusual amount of time, possibly waiting for others to clear out of the room. Finally, when he thought nobody was looking, Hughes grabbed the half-dollar from Sherman's eye and replaced it with a penny.  But evidently, someone must have seen his deed, for Hughes was instantly arrested. He pled guilty and was held for an unknown period of time.

So this man is considered Michigan's Meanest Thief? The most unfeeling or unsympathetic possibly, but meanest? Granted, there have been meaner people in our state but until someone can one-up this story with a meaner thief (sorry, no crime other than thievery can compete), I guess James Hughes will retain his crown.

The undeserving victim in all this, Watson Sherman, was only 27 years old when he died. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Traverse City.

Michigan's Meanest Thief


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