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100 years ago in Grant County: German farmer convicted of espionage for pro-German sentiments

Frank Hinkhouse, a “wealthy German farmer” from Wheeler, in Grant County, was convicted of two counts of violating the espionage act for speaking pro-German sentiments during wartime, reported The Spokesman-Review on Feb. 27, 1919. (The Spokesman-Review Archives)
Frank Hinkhouse, a “wealthy German farmer” from Wheeler, in Grant County, was convicted of two counts of violating the espionage act for speaking pro-German sentiments during wartime, reported The Spokesman-Review on Feb. 27, 1919. (The Spokesman-Review Archives)

Frank Hinkhouse, a “wealthy German farmer” from Wheeler, in Grant County, was convicted of two counts of violating the espionage act.

This did not mean he was a German spy – it meant, under the broad interpretation of the act, that he uttered pro-German sentiments in wartime.

Hinkhouse denied even that.

“I suppose I talked war the same as any other man, but I told them a man of German blood must support the government the same as native Americans,” he told the court.

Several witnesses refuted that and said he claimed his loyalty was to Germany. One witness said Hinkhouse confronted her on the streets of Ruff, Washington, when she was lecturing two German women about German atrocities. She said Hinkhouse “interrupted” her. He claimed he was merely trying to “hold down this mob feeling.”

He was also accused of trying to convince one fellow Russian-German to give up his citizenship papers to avoid the draft.

When asked if he had bought Liberty bonds (war bonds) he said he had bought $500 of the third issue, but none of the first, second or fourth issue, nor had he subscribed to the Red Cross.

A sentence had not been pronounced, but the maximum penalty was $10,000 and 20 years in a federal prison.

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