Marshfield, May 1899: The escape of Evariste John Marto
By Kris Leonhardt
As the young man stepped up to the ticket window, a momentary twinge of anxiety passed over him as the ticket agent inquired, “Where you headed?” The events of the day flooded his mind. He replied, “Chicago,” in a quiet but solid manner.
The usually jovial man was uneasy as he waited in anticipation for his request to be granted. Would he be spotted and arrested before the train left the station?
As the ticket agent handed him one ticket for the 1:22 train, he felt somewhat relieved. A short man of slim build in his late twenties, his dark complexion made him easily recognizable to those who would be searching for him.
Making his way to the train, the man turned for one last look at the city. He paused for a moment to take it in and vowed that he would never return.
French-born Evariste John Marto was in his late twenties when he came to Marshfield with an Antigo-based photo enlarging business. Mesmerized by the growing city and the opportunity it held, Marto decided he would stay.
After a short employment with the company of Kohl & Luddington, Marto struck out on his own, opening a painting and decorating shop on the back side of the Hotel Blodgett. His business, Marshfield Decorating Company, offered house, sign, fresco, and carriage painting as well as wallpaper hanging and decorating.
Viewed as merry and kind, Marto was seen as a trustworthy gentleman who enjoyed socializing.
In April of 1899, just 10 months after his arrival, Marto took in a business partner in John Lang. However, just four weeks later he was boarding the train.
That very morning a check was presented to the First National Bank by Marshfield businessman Len Wright that was purportedly signed by J.H. Himmel. The discovery that it had been forged began a windfall of claims of forgeries aimed at Marto.
By the time the arrest warrant was issued, Marto’s escape was already in action. In saying farewell to acquaintances who were unaware of his diversion from the law, he expressed his desire to return to France.
As he boarded the train, he left behind him a trail of unpaid bills and obligations to his partners as well as the eyes of the law.