The Story of Detective Eva Jane Bacher, Part 2

Her story is a screenwriter’s dream, I think.  If you think that complicated lives are new, then you are sadly mistaken.  Working your way up the ladder of success the hard way, then getting zapped by politics isn’t new either.  Having the necessary skill set and the determination to navigate through them successfully is still rare.

She was born Eva Jane Todd in Vinton, Iowa, on August 4, 1876, [from her tombstone] to Reuben Marshall and Mary Kinser Todd.  She had one sister and three brothers.  Addie S. Todd was eleven years older, John V. Todd a year older, Henry P. Todd who was three years younger, and Charles C. Todd was seven years younger, if the census records for 1890 are correct.

Evidently, she married an Irishman by the name of Dennis John Quirk, listed as a white male, 25 years of age, from East Dubuque, Illinois.  Things get a little fuzzy here.  The marriage records list her as 23 years of age on her next birthday.  If my math is right, she wouldn’t be 17 until August 4, 1893.

The marriage was June 7, 1893. in Waterloo, Blackhawk County, Iowa, which is about 40 miles north of Vinton and 90 miles west of the Dubuque cities. All travel back then was by foot, horse, and rail.  One wonders where they met and if she ran away to get married.

However, in 1893 society was a lot different.  Quirk listed his job as a “brakeman”.  The railroad was a good job.  The Dubuque city directory listed him as a timekeeper for the I.C.R, R. [Illinois Central Railroad?].  It was common for young girls to marry a man that was older and had a good job.  A man wanted a substantially younger wife to care for him in his old age, assuming she lived through childbirth and all the other hazards.

On January 30, 1905, Dennis Quirk was convicted of “Making An Escape” by a jury in Judge Hickey’s court in Niagara, New York, and was sent to Auburn Prison for 2 to 4 years. His occupation was listed as a switchman.

By 1910 he was out. Quirk is listed as divorced and working as grocery   clerk in the 1910 census, living with his sister, Josephine, who’s staying at the home of her brother-in-law in Dunlieth Township, just south of East Dubuque, Illinois.

He died of syphilis in 1928 in Ayrshire, Palo Alto County, Iowa, unmarried and still living with his sister.  He’s buried at the Calvary Cemetery there.

Since his records show that he was divorced, one must make the basic assumption that records of that divorce exist somewhere.  I’ve not taken the time and effort to dig them up.

One wonders if Eva’s connection to the railroad played a part 20 years later in her involvement in the Pulman robberies.

Eva’s passport application was made in Houston on May 31, 1924, issued June 5, 1924, and states: “I was married to Pete Bacher Feb.9-1902 and divorced from him on Oct,3-1913, as per enclosed certified copy of decree.  I was born at Vinton in the State of Iowa on or about the 4th day of Aug 1879 – that my former husband Pete Bacher was born in Belleville, Illinois, and is now residing at Houston, Texas” ……….

So, I wonder about the birth date issue.  Assuming the earlier date, she could have been as young as 13- just shy of 14- when she married that first time.  Assuming the divorce from Quirk was final before she married Bacher, her first marriage lasted less than 10 years.  One wonders just how long it took her to figure Quirk out.  The facts imply “not long”.  She was remarried three years before Quirk went to the pen.  Still, she could have succumbed to vanity, and lied about her age on the passport application …. or maybe the clerk wrote it wrong? Who knows?  Who cares?

There is no indication that there were any children from her first marriage.

On May 25, 1904, Robert Marshall Bacher was born to Eva and Peter.  He went on to serve a long career as a U. S. Army commissioned officer, married but had no children, and retired with his wife to San Antonio.  Eva was living with them when she died in 1961.

In 1911 it appears that while Peter was a barber, Eva ran their boarding house at 1715 Preston.  Peter’s dad, Felix, had rooms at 2312 Texas.

After the divorce, Peter lived with Felix, who was a flagman for the Houston Belt and Terminal Railroad – another railroad connection – at 1215 Welch Street for a long while.  Peter remarried a woman named “Anna” and they had a daughter.  He died from a stroke in Hempstead in 1938.

Sometime between 1911 and September of 1917, Eva went to work for the Houston Police Department in some capacity.  There are 144 PDF pages of her detailed weekly reports to the Chief regarding street activities from September 2, 1917, to early April 1918.  It’s during this 17-month period that she developed an intimate knowledge of the streets and the primary players in the underworld of vice that permeated Houston – a major port city next to a large U. S. Army base – during WWI.   At the same time there was the build up to the Camp Logan riot of 1918.  She survived all that and was able to make it another eleven years.

More to follow in Part 3.