Monday, May 18, 2015

“It Was Born in Me,” But Who Was He?

Can we have more detail here?
When Henry Dorwart was arrested for sodomy in May 1889, the word “homosexual” was still three years away from being introduced into English. Yet, it seems that there were some people who were already getting the idea that sexuality was something innate. Even the (now outmoded) term “sexual invert” was only a few years old (and probably hadn’t come to the attention of those who were not in medicine), but still, Henry Dorwart was able to explain what he had done by saying “it was born in me.”

Dorwart was preceded in this by Joseph Carp of St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1883, Carp stated that his “excessive passions were unlike those of other men.” Unlike Dorwart, Carp was given the column inches to make this clear: “He loved his own sex with strong passions” (to quote the St. Paul Daily Globe). The Lancaster Daily Intelligencer didn’t give Dorwart more than the five words, so we don’t even know what happened (but given only one arrest mentioned, we can make a guess or two).

There seem to be only three references to Henry Dorwart in the Lancaster Daily Intelligencer, starting on May 18, 1889.
Henry Dorwart, an old man from Lancaster, was arrested last night by Officer Schill on the charge of sodomy. The crime was proved by the man’s own admissions who said that “it was born in me.” In default of $1,000 bail he was sent to jail for trial at court.
There were several men in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in about 1889 who would have answered to the name “Henry” (some of who sometimes clearly used “Harry”). None of them were particularly old in 1889. The oldest I can find would have been only 55 years old, which doesn’t quite strike me as “an old man.” Maybe he seemed older. The eldest Henry or Harry was a single man, but that doesn’t prove him or exclude the others. A middle initial would help, since then I could distinguish between Harry M., Harry P. (who is also clearly Henry P.), Harry T., and Henry B.

As it was, even with the confession, the didn’t seem to go anywhere. He was set for trial on August 19, but on August 20th, the Daily Intelligencer listed his sodomy case among “ignored bills,” which would seem to indicate that the grand jury declined to prosecute.

Henry P. was our oldest. He also died in 1891, less than two years after the sodomy arrest (if it were his) under mysterious circumstances, apparently murdered in Columbia, Pennsylvania. The New Holland Clarion reported that
The dead man was found lying on his back, with a deep gash cut on the top of his head from which the blood was still oozing when discovered. There were several bruises on the left hand and arm were lacerated, and a broken rib completed the man’s injuries.
Three men were arrested, but they were later acquitted, as the witness was “proven to be a perjurer.” Was the victim the same Henry Dorwart who had been nabbed for sodomy in 1889? The news is silent on this point.
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