When Mrs. Bergeron received a mysterious letter from a strange "Lucille Oldhorn," of Los Angeles,, she made no inquiry into the circumstances that caused the letter to be written, but hurried immediately to Atlanta, to find in the Federal Prison the son whom she believed to have been killed in the War.
When she arrived at Atlanta and was admitted to the prison, she identified the man known there as Robert E. St. Clair, as her son, Urban John Bergeron. St. Clair was being detained at Atlanta after conviction for transporting a stolen automobile from one state to another. But this did not dampen Mrs. Bergeron's joy in finding that her son was alive. She showered him with gifts; family heirlooms were given to him for safekeeping, and every moment of the visiting hours at the prison was spent by his side. She declared she intended to stay with him until the remaining sixteen months of his eighteen-month sentence had expired.
In the meantime, Mr. Bergeron and their daughter, Mrs. Stella Emmerich, came from Menasha, Wisconsin, to greet the son and brother whom they had thought dead. Old Mr. Bergeron had no doubt as to the man's identity, but Mrs. Emmerich's eyes were younger, and she declared that St. Clair was not her brother. An investigation was started.
The prison officials, of course, asked the War Department to compare the finger prints of St. Clair with the Urban John Bergeron of Menasha, who had been reported killed. Shortly afterward word came from Washington that Bergeron's finger prints and St. Clair's did not coincide. That closed the official side of the inquiry. The prison officials knew immediately that St. Clair was a fake.
But the grieving mother refused to be convinced. All the arguments that the officials used were in vain. She protested that this new-fangled finger-print science was not nearly so truthful as the instincts of a loving mother. She vowed to stay in Atlanta until her son's term was up, and then, at his suggestion, she intended to sell out the family property in Menasha and go West with her husband and son.
But St. Clair, who had served in the World War himself, and who was also acquainted with the ways of the finger-print expert, knew that his game was up, signed a statement repudiating his claim that he was the son and heir of the Bergerons, and returned the gifts that the Bergerons had given him. He also said that the action was prompted by a desire for the love of a father and mother, since he had been an orphan. He had gained his knowledge of the Bergeron family through acquaintance with the dead son in France.
1. "Finger Prints Unmask Bogus Heir", Finger Print and Identification Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 8, February, 1925, page 4.