Tag Archives: Robert E. Schermerhorn

The Man Without a Country


Thanks to Jill Seymour from Carp for sending this to me– this original letter will now be kept at  the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum. It was enclosed in a book belonging to the late Marjorie White of Carleton Place.



The man without a country stunned American Immigration officials with a neat trick which prevented his deportation, walked out of the county jail a free man. But in a sobering thought, he said:


“I have no nation. I’m a man without a country and it’s like having no face and no name.”


Robert E. Schermerhorn who was 25 at the time of the newspaper article in 1956 said he had been away from Carleton Place, his home, since the age of 12. In the last 13 years he had jumped borders illegally in Canada, Mexico and the United States. At that time all he had to do was tell immigration officials he had been born in Detroit or Texas and they would wave him on. My, how times have changed.



Bill had a wife and son in Mexico and had no idea how hard it would be to cross the border this last time. He had the sign of the notorious Pachuco gang on his right hand. The gang were a particular old school subculture of Chicanos and Mexican-Americans associated with zoot suits, street gangs, nightlife, and flamboyant public behaviour. Bill said he lived by his wits and luck since he had first fled home and had a long criminal record in all three countries. Immigration officials had tried to deport him back to Canada, but Bill figured out the only way they could deport him is if he was born there.


From his prison cell he fired off a letter to Canadian authorities asking for a form to renounce his native country forever. That stopped the deportation immediately. Bill was brought back to a Detroit Jail cell where John Muchaey Detroit director of immigration said there was nothing he could do as both Canada and Mexico refused him as a subject. However he was placed on a  lenient parole saying he could travel to the Mexican border and maybe make another stab at getting through. No one wanted him.


In September of 1955 he evaded immigration once again and visited his mother who now in Ottawa, but was later arrested by police. Bill said sometimes he crossed the border as much as seven times a day, and sometimes 20 times a month. He said the easiest was in Mexico as guys that belonged to the Pachuo gang ran lots of Mexicans over the border. In all honesty, he hated the United States and Canada, as he said everyone was about dollar signs.


So is the story of Robert E. Schermerhorn born in Carleton Place, Ontario  the man without a country, wanted by all three countries for running afoul of the law. He died in Florida in 1993.


With files from The Detroit Times- November 1, 1956.