Posts Tagged ‘don jail’

Barry Philp, “[Parade of pickets carrying signs protesting capital punishments walked for four hours outside the Don jail in 22-degree cold. Mostly of university age; they dispersed; some crying; moments after the notices of the hangings were posted on the jail door. About 100 pickets took part in the demonstration.]” 

Toronto Star archives, 1962. Toronto Reference LibraryBaldwin Collection. Call Number: tspa_0119750f

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“Snow Captured in Father’s House.” Toronto World. September 9, 1908. Page 01.
And Now There are Only Six Prison Fugitives – Says That Escape Was Made in Three
The sevenfold escape from Toronto Jail July 17 last was not an instantaneous stunt, but was played in two sets and an oilo in the approved burlesque style.

This is the statement of Robert Snow, aged 16, re-captured early yesterday morning at his father’s house, where he has been hiding since that time.

His story, while it is denied by Governor Chambers, is corroborated by one of the prisoners who was in the corridor at the time, but who did not escape.

Some time ago Acting Detective Cronin was told that Snow was being hidden in his father’s house at 308 Farley-avenue.

At 8 o’clock, yesterday morning, Patrol Sergt. Umbach, Cronin and Constables Ward (198) and Dunn (277) went to the house.  The father spoke from an upper window, saying that his son was not there.  After an argument he came down and opened the door, still protesting that the lad had not been in the house since his escape.  The mother alternately wept and denounced the police, saying that her son was not in the house.

Going upstairs the lad’s trousers were found, with a revolver in a pocket.  Then under a bed in which two little children were sleeping the police found a set of harness, stolen a week ago from 31 Euclid-avenue.

It seemed that the bot was not in the house, but Cronin espied a hole in the ceiling, and, climbing thru this to the joists above, espied Snow lying over the ceiling of the adjoining house.

Finding that he was discovered, Snow cursed the officer and threatened to ‘fill him full of holes,’ and then threatened to shoot himself, but at last come down and went quietly to the Esther-street police station, where he was kept.

At 10 o’clock yesterday morning he was taken to police headquarters where he was questioned by Inspector of Detectives Duncan, to whom he told an interesting story of the escape.

He said that the police van arrived at the jail after 2 o’clock in the afternoon.  He was put into the corridor shortly before 4 o’clock.

Neither Rose, Churchill, Jones nor Clarke were in the corridor at that time.  A few moments later, the guard, who was pacing up and down before the door, asked him where Rose was.  Another prisoner answered, saying: ‘He went downstairs with another guard.’

Then Snow looked about and missed Copeland and Lee.  They were gone.

He walked down the corridor and noticed that the door to the execution chamber was open.  He went in and seeing the hole went out thru it.  Going to the wall at the gate to the east he lifted himself up by a peg which protruded and swinging to the top of the gate reached to the top of the wall and went over.

He never saw Rose, Churchill, Jones or Clarke in the jail, nor since.  He never spoke to Copeland or Lee.  This story is corroborated by another prisoner who was in the corridor at the time.  That prisoner says that the escape was spread over an hour and that the men went out in three detachments as described, tho his story was told before that of Snow.

Snow at first said he had been no further from the house where he was found than an adjoining lane.  Later he admitted that he had roamed further afield.  

Governor Chambers said last night that this story could not be correct, because at the investigation held by the inspector of prisons it appeared that Guard Elliott, who was on guard in front off the corridor, had seen Snow there at 3.45 o’clock.  He discovered the shortage shortly after four and went to ask Guard Lornigan how many prisoners there should be.  Then both went to the corridor and all seven prisoners were gone.  Then the escape was discovered.

To the governor, when asked how he had enjoyed his holiday, Snow admitted that he had made a mistake in escaping.

He was awaiting sentence for shop-breaking when he escaped, having been recaptured that day after having escaped from Mimico Industrial School.

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“No One To Blame In The Jail Escape,” Toronto World. August 19, 1908. Page 01.

“But Provincial Inspector’s Report Makes Recommendations – Is Death Chamber A Part of Institution?

Hon. W. J. Hanna, provincial secretary, handed out the report yesterday evening made by Inspector S. A. Armstrong on the escape of seven prisoners from Toronto Jail.  Mr. Hanna made no statement in regard to its contents, but the report will be fully considered and action taken later.

No willful neglect of duty on the part of any goal official is acribed by Mr. Armstrong, but he recommends these changes:

‘(1) The installation forthwith of a proper system for checking the prisoners when a change of guards is made.  When such a change takes place the prisoners should be carefully counted and a record made of the number transferred, the guard coming on duty signing a receipt for the number taken over.  In this way the responsibility for the custody of the prisoners is at once placed.

(2) That the execution room be closed by strong doors built flush with the inner wall of the corridor and so hung as to open inward on such a corridor and that such doors be secured with locks of the very latest and best design.

(3) That the present method of opening windows for ventilation by ropes hanging in the corridors be discontinued, and that a more improved method of opening and closing windows be installed.’

Story of the Escape
The report, which is addressed to the provincial secretary under date of yesterday, is as follows:

‘Guard James Elliott was on duty from 2 to 4 o’clock.  He states positively in his evidence that Churchill, Rose, Clarke, Jones and Lee were all present in the corridor at 4 o’clock.  Elliott was relieved a few minutes after 4 o’clcok by Christopher Reid, and it was Elliott’s duty, immediately after the change in guard, to secure the necessary number of buckets for use in the cells at night.  He states that upon returning to the corridor he asked Guard Reid how many buckets were required for No. 3, and when told that 14 were needed, he looked into the corridor and found that there were not that number of prisoners.  This was the first intimation they had an escape.

Can’t Fix Responsibility.
‘Guard Reid was unable to state how many prisoners he took over when he came on duty. He is quite positive that the escaped prisoners were not in the corridor when he came on.  I may say here that there does not appear to be any system of taking the census of the prisoners when the change in guard taknes place, and for this reason it was difficult to fix responsibility upon any guard for the number of prisoners in his charge.

‘From the statements made by the prisoners it would appear that one of the doors leading into the execution – room had been opened on the day before the escape and that one of the escaped prisoners had been seen to enter the room: it would appear that the escaped prisoners had been seen to enter the room: it would also appear that the escaped prisoners kept to themselves and so guarded the entrance into that room as to prevent the other prisoner ascertaining what was going on.  At 12 o’clock on the day of the escape the cells and all parts of corridor 3, including the locks and doors, were examined by Guard Lonnergan, who states that he found everything in perfect order and the doors into the execution-room locked.

‘The structural condition of this corridor affforded the prisoners every opportunity to carry out their plans, and as the prisoners are continually walking up and down in twos and threes the difficulty of counting or noticing the absence of one is greatly increased.

‘While the lock in question is considered an excellent one, it is one which, it is said, can be opened by the use of six broom straws carefully manipulated, and no doubt it was in this manner that it was opened by the prisoners.  It appears that Jones, who had been an inmate of another corridor, demonstrated to the prisoners his ability to open a lock of similar design in the manner mentioned.

Death Chambed is Avoided.
‘Rule 21 provides that the jailer ‘shall pass thru every part of the jail and see every part of the jail and see every prisoner at least once a day; and once at least in each week he shall go thru the jail at certain hours of the night.  In jails located in cities having a population of 40,000 or over, it shall be sufficient for the jailer to be assured that these duties are performed by the chief turnkey and his assistants.’

‘The sheriff, the jailer and the chief turnkey state that they never at any time considered the execution-room a portion of the jail wiithin the meaning of the regulations above referred to.  The jailer further stated that he had only been in the room once since January last, when he entered it with the property committee of the City of Toronto.

‘I AM UNABLE TO FIND FROM THE EVIDENCE TAKEN ANY WILLFUL NEGLECT OF THE PART OF ANY OF THE JAIL OFFICIALS. Should the execution-room, however, be deemed a part of the jail within the meaning of the rules and regulations, then such case there has been a violation of the rules quoted above.’”

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“Jail Breaker A Murderer,” Toronto World. July 24, 1908. Page 10.

“NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y., July 23. – The Niagara Falls, N.Y. police have identified the man that shot and killed Police Patrolman McCormick and maimed Patrolman Magner, as Ed. Lee, the Toronto jail braker [sic]. It was thru the photo that Chief Grasett sent Niagara Falls, Ont., police that he was recognized as the murderer of McCormick, and in their notice of reward of $500 using his photo and name as the man wanted.”

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“Sheriff Exonerates – Won’t Happen Again,” Toronto World. July 21, 1908. Page 07.

“Precautions to Be Taken to Prevent Another Jail Break – Fugitives Still Free.

‘If it were not so serious a matter the escape might be considered a good thing in that it points out several features that may be remedied,’ said Governor Chambers last night, speaking of added precautions to be taken at the jail since the flight of seven Friday last.

‘It is a bit like locking the stable after the steed has flown,’ he continued.  ‘All prisoners have been taken out of corridor No. 3 from which the escape was made, and the doorways leading into the built-on chamber used for execution will be bricked in even with the corridor walls on all three floors where they are at present open.  This brickwork will be taken out should it be necessary to use the chambers, but executions are so infrequent that this plan has been decided upon.

‘In the present condition, the doors, which are thin, being made of iron, are on the outside of the wall thickness, so that men might stand in the indentation and work on the lock unobserved unless the guard actually enters the corridor and walked to a point opposite the doorways of which there are two in each of the three corridors.’

Sheriff Mowat was in the city yesterday, coming down from Huntsville, where is spending his holidays.  He made an examination of the corridor, from which the men escaped, and it was after consultation with him that Governor Chambers decided upon the changes to be made.

Sheriff Mowat declared that he placed no blame upon any jail official for the escape, charging it to the defective nature of the building.  He returned to Huntsville last night, leaving the placard on his office door in the city hall, ‘Closed after 1 o’clock thru July and August.’

A steady stream of reports has been pouring in to the city and county police, and to the governor of the jail, from persons who declare with varied degrees of certainty that they have seen one or more of the fugitives. 

Provincial Detective Greer wired from Barrie yesterday that the three men arrested in a box car there Sunday were not of the party.”

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“Jailbirds Still Free, 3 Suspects Caught,” Toronto World. July 20, 1908. Page 07.

“Barrie Trio Not a Good Probability – Bunch Got Away Before 3 p.m. Friday.

The jail officials will this morning try to identify three men stealing a ride on a Grand Trunk freight train who were arrested at Barrie at 5.20 yesterday afternoon and detained by Chief of Police R. King lest they prove part of the crowd who broke out of Toronto jail Friday.  The chief is not enthusiastic about the possibilities.  The trio gave their names as John Brown, Nathan Brown and Pat. McCann, and claimed to be from Galt.

The train was made up at Allandale, as she was pulling out Conductor Armstrong noticed them jump into an empty box-car.  He notified the police immediately upon reaching Barrie. 

McCann is said to greatly resemble the pictures of Rose, while John Brown has a scar on the top of his nose which leads the Barrie folk to think he may be Copeland, whose photograph is unobtainable.  He is a stout, rough-looking fellow, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, has a swarthy complexion and blue eyes and appears to be 28 years old.

All three are attired in blue jeans that had seen considerable usage, and they all have silver watches.  The younger Brown had two watches.  He is about 18 years old.  They were sullen and would say very little.  None of them were armed.

Chief King telegraphed to Detective Newton, Toronto; but the city detective department decline the responsibility of chasing up rumors for the mere purposes of identification, so Sergt. Verney sent the word on to Governor Chambers, who will detail two of the jail guards to Barrie this morning.

It looks as tho Mr. Chambers is going to be kept busy chasing up empty clews.  Several times yesterday and Saturday, people who called up the detective department with tales of suspicious looking characters having been seen in different parts of the country, were told to tell their troubles to the governor. 

It has been definitely learned that Rose and Churchill had supper at Don P O., eight miles north of the city, at 6 p.m. Friday.  The police were informed Saturday that Rose had boarded a train at Mount Albert, forty-one miles away, Saturday morning, but no trace of him has been seen since.

The prisoners, it is now definitely known, escaped about 2.50 on Friday afternoon, and so had about an hour and a quarter’s start before they were discovered.  They were noticed climbing the jail wall by a lady in the vicinity, but being in civilian clothes her suspicions were disarmed.  She says the crowd ran east to Broadsview-avenue and disappeared.

But when did they prepare for the flitting?  That some of the guards are enthusiastic Orangemen is known, and because they took part in the ‘Twelfth,’ parade, a theory was evolved that the jail was undermanned on the Saturday of the parade, giving the prisoners a good opportunity to prepare for the first favorable opportunity to bolt.

Governor Chambers, however, gives an emphatic denial to this.

‘There was a full quota of guards on duty all day,’ he said. ‘And, in addition, either myself, or the deputy was on duty in the office all day.  The men arranged it so that those who were off had substitutes from the night relief.’“

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“Seven Prisoners Make Bold Escape – Led By Notorious Rose, Facing Life Sentence – Pick Lock, Dig Hole Thru Jail Wall,” Toronto World. July 18, 1908. Page 01 & 07. 

“Biggest ‘Delivery’ in Local Police Records Occurs Some Time During the Afternoon – Time and Method Chosen With Great Cleverness – Prisoners Awaiting Trial or Disposition and in Plain Clothes – Sevens Others Stay Behind.

By the door thru which John Boyd, the colored murderer, went to death in January last, seven prisoners awaiting sentence and on remand at Toronto jail went to liberty between noon and 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, effecting the biggest jail delivery in the history of the prison.  None have been recaptured.

Those who are escaped are:

ALEX. ROSE, awaiting examination as to sanity, and facing perhaps a life sentence for assault and robbery.

H. CHURCHILL, a pickpocket of U.S. experience.

WM. JONES and J.C. CLARK, awaiting extradition to Newcastle, Pa., where they had broken jail.

J. COPELAND and ED. LEE, awaiting trial for theft from local tailors.

ROBERT SWOW, a boy burglar, who was arrested only yesterday after escaping from the Victoria Industrial School.

The men were all on remand or awaiting sentence and were, therefore, dressed in their ordinary clothes, even with their hats, and not in the jail garments.

They took advantage of yesterday’s heavy rain, when the surrounding parks and nearby streets and thorofares were deserted.  They evidently made a straight course up the Don Valley, as three men were seen late in the afternoon prowling thru the bash near Danforth-Avenue.

Attempt at Recapture.
When the escape was discovered the other prisoners on the corridor were put in their cells and the jail guards scattered over the exits from the city.

Governor Chambers notified Inspector of Detectives Duncan, who at once called his entire staff to his office.  He communicated with Crown Attorney Corley, who immediately went to the city hall with P.C. William Child of the police court force, who volunteered his services.

The wires were kept hot, and all railways notified to inform their train crews to be on the lookout for blind baggage.

Governor Chambers went direct to the wharves, where he made a careful inspection of the Turbinia and other outgoing boats.

The police in East Toronto and North Toronto were, however, not aware of the escape until asked by The World if they had any news as to the fugitives.

Planned by Rose.
The escape, doubtless, was worked out in the mind of Rose.  His familiarity with recent events and knowledge of the adjacent death chamber, which was used for the first time when the negro, Boyd, was hanged last January, would point to that conclusion.

Communicating these facts to his fellow prisoners, two of whom, like himself, were in constant confinement and were not in jail garb, the three have with deliberation worked out their plans.  Outside the watchful gaze of the guard on duty, the trio would take turns in picking at the lock – a common spring affair – on the wooden door in the north wall of the corridor where the trio were permitted to walk up ad down, and which led into the death chamber.  With the aid of a table fork and some pins, this was accomplished without injury that would attract attention.

Once inside the chamber, the rest were easy, for somehow the prisoners had obtained some crude bits of iron with which they labored at their pleasure.  With one or two at work inside, the other one would keep watch.  Evidently the work took several days before the outer portion of the stone wall was reached.  The broken stone and plaster were carefully picked out of a hole about a foot and one-half square and laid aside.

Chose Time Well
Again Rose’s hand is seen in the affair.  The escape was time when the guards were changing off and until a mess was called the prisoners were not missed. The hole was discovered and an alarm sounded.  Governor Chambers was in the jail at the time.

That the prisoners separated when the fence skirting Riverdale Park was scaled is evinced from the fact that Rev. Frank Vipond, rector of Chester Church, saw three men in the woods near the CNO tracks near the Necropolis.

Citizens in the neighbourhood had not seen nor heard of the escape.  It was raining hard at the time, and altho several people on Broadview-avenue were out on verandahs not one could be found who had noticed anything out of the ordinary.

Who the Men Are.
Alexander Rose was held for examination as to his sanity, having pleaded guilty to two offences, the penalty for either of which is life imprisonment and whipping. He has also a considerable criminal record.

He pleaded guilty in the criminal assizes last spring to an assault on Ethel Skitch in Wellwood’s fruit store, near the corner of Queen and Yonge. He entered the store at 8 o’clock in the evening and Miss Skitch being alone, he grabbed her by the throat and beat her terribly.  He also pleaded guilty to an assault that same evening on Allan G. Duncan, in his grocery store at John and Adelaide-streets.  He used up the storekeeper pretty badly, but left his revolver behind in the scuffle.  He is also wanted in Syracuse, N.Y., for breaking parole while under sentence of highway robbery.

Churchill, Et Cetera.
Harry Churchill, alias George Adams, alias Eddie McGraaw, alias Andy Bowen, alias Tim Churchill, alias Harry Harris, alias George Davis, alias Thomas Williams, alias Little Tim, alias Kid Morgan, alias Kid Davis, alias Bauman, was arrested early in June by Detective Wallace on a G.T.R. train from North Bay. He is charged with picking the pocket of Charles H. Hammond of Chicago of $50.  He was committed for trial to the September sessions.  He had made a great deal of trouble since his confinement at the jail, having appealed to the American consul and tried to send letters out.  His record follows:

March 1, 1898 – Detroit, Mich., as Geo. Adams, suspected person.
Jan 18, 1900 – St. Louis, Mo., as George Davis, alias Kid Davis, con man
July 14, 1900 – Boston, Mass., as Eddie McGraw, con. man, discharged
Sept. 20, 1900 – Buffalo, N.Y., as Edward Weber, con. man, ordered out of the city
Oct. 6, 1905 – New York City, as George Cohbott, con. man
Feb. 1, 1903 – Kansas City, vagrancy, discharged
Feb. 19, 1903 – New Orleans, La., as Andy Bauman, alias Bowen, suspected P.P. Feb. 27, 1903, released on $25 bonds.  Arrested again March 1, 1903, suspected person; released on bond.  May 9, 1903, fined $15 or 15 days, parish prison; 15 days added in default of fine.  Appealed.  Arrested March, 1903, for grand larceny.; case pending.
Sept. 10, 1904 – San Francisco, as H. K. Mack, alias Thomas Williams, P.P.
Dec. 19, 1905 – Kansas City, as Tim Churchill, P.P., released.
Sept. 6, 1906 – Bedelia, Mo., P.O. Bound over to circuit court.
May 14, 1908 – St. Louis, Mo., as Tim Churchill, idling; fined $100.
June 18, 1908 – Toronto, Canada, as Harry Churchill, P.P., committed for trial.

He is wanted in St. Paul, Minn., for jail breaking.

Was a Letter Writer
Churchill was discovered writing letters June 24.  These were taken from him by Governor Chambers.  The first letter was addressed:

‘The Hon. Jim Jerdon,
        Care Metropole Hotel,
              41st and Broadway,
                      New York,
                         Toronto Jail, June 24, 1908.

‘Friend Jim:

‘I thought I would drop you a line to ask if you would try and raise me $100.  I was bound over to September for a mere $50 polk, but can get sprung for $250.

‘Jim, I hate to lose the summer, as it is a good one, so if you can raise me $100, I have the rest.

‘I was on my way to New York when I was taken off the train.

‘I have some friends around New York, and I know you can do this if you will.

‘See ‘The Wonder’ and see what he can do.  The nightwatchman will be around, so I must close.

‘Your old friend,
            ‘Harry Churchill.’

The other was addressed, ‘Hon. C. Sweeny, 55 River-street, Chicago, Ill.,’ and was practically the same appeal.

William Jones and J. C. Clark were arrested in a Yonge-street hotel charged with stealing a gold watch from another boarder.  Jones pleaded guilty and served ten days for the theft.  Both were held for extradition to Newcastle, Pa., where they were wanted for breaking jail in June while awaiting sentence for picking pockets.  A reward of $100 is offered in Newcastle for that jailbreak.

Young, But Bad.
Robert Snow, tho only 15 years of age, is a hardened criminal.  When convicted in the police court of burglarizing the Warren sporting goods store, Yonge and Agnes-streets, he was sentenced to jail, but it was learned he was a few days under the age of 16 years.  He was given an indeterminate sentence in the Mimico Industrial School.  He had been there less than 24 hours when he made an escape strangely similar to that of yesterday, by a rope made of sheets.

Detective Wallace picked him up in the street Thursday night, and he was arraigned in police court yesterday morning.  He then asked for one more chance and was remanded until to-day.  He is in a very weakened condition if exposed to yesterday’s heavy rain will suffer severely.

J. Copeland and Edward Lee were arrested five weeks ago for theft of cloth from a number of city tailors.  They would enter a shop, and while one priced goods the other slipped cloth under his coat.  They were committed for trial.

Governor Tells How ‘Twas Done

Guard Who Could Only Count Seven When Fourteen Have Been There Discovered the Escape.

Governor A. B. Chambers gave out the following statement:

‘It was just because we did not suspect any such attempt at escape.  A key or some instrument with which to pick the lock must have been smuggled in to these men.  Churchill had meals sent in to him.

There were fourteen men in corridor No. 3.  That is the corridor on the first floor, up in the north side of the East Wing.

During the day these men are allowed the liberty of the corridor for exercise, but at night they are locked in their cells so that what work they did either on lock or wall must have been done in the daytime.

The execution corridor opens off this and projects from the north wall.  The door to it is made fast with a Yale lock.  This was picked.

A hole large enough to permit the passage of a body was made in the east side of this projection, and thru this to the ground, 15 feet below.  The men let themselves to the ground by means of a sheet and a towel tied together.

We cannot tell how long they were in making that hole in the bricks.  It may have been hours or days.  They could work in that room all day unnoticed.

This door leading to the execution chamber was a heavy iron one. It and the lock were examined by Guard Thos. Lorigan at noon when he went off duty on the landing at the west and of the corridor.  Guard Spanton was on duty from 12 to 1, and noticed nothing wrong.

Guard James Elliott went  on at 1 o’clock.  He asked Lorigan when he came off at 4 o’clock how many men should be in this corridor.  He was told fourteen.  He said he could only seven, and upon investigation the delivery was discovered.

The spot where the men reached the ground is 50 feet from a gate in the east surrounding or fence-wall.  I think the men went out thru this.  This gate opens on a lane road which runs to Broadview-avenue and to the grounds at the Isolation Hospital.  From there they could get to Gerrard-street.

The men were all on remand, or awaiting sentence.  They had their ordinary clothes on, even their hats.  I do not know whether they had money.  They were not supposed to have, but they often manage to smuggle it in.

I know that Churchill was having his meals sent in to him.  Others may have had theirs sent in.  I do not remember.  The meals, which they would buy in the ordinary course, come from a Mrs. Groves.  I trust her implicitly.  But anyone familiar with the jail routine would know that she serves these meals, and a key or other small instrument cold easily be sent in in food if it could be once concealed in it.’”

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