A Woman Planned the Alcatraz Escape

One Runaway Was Wounded

Five Shots Fired, But Only One Took Effect

Three Soldier Convicts Seized a Small Boat and Got Away in Spite of Sentry's Fire

There have been lively times on Alcatraz Island for the last few days and the soldiers on guard are becoming quite proficient as marksmen. They had a number of opportunities to test their skill and a disabled gasoline launch and a wounded soldier are to their credit.

The whole trouble has been caused by the prisoners. Several of the men confined on the island were volunteers and they consider themselves as being harshly dealt with because they have been sentenced to serve three years for desertion during the time of war. All of them have relatives able and willing to help them and the attempts at escape have been numerous. The plots were discovered, however, before they were ready to be sprung and the result was a number of prisoners on bread and water and a more rigorous watch.

All the attempts at escape were not fruitless however. One of them succeeded last Tuesday night and the authorities on the island are now searching high and low for H.R Beale, John Meredith and Edgar M. Sweeney. They got away in a small rowboat owned by the son of Major Kinzie and reached the mainland, but not before one of the escapees had been wounded by the soldier on guard at the military wharf.

Sweeney is the ringleader of the gang. He fell in love with a woman who lives at North Beach and it was for her he deserted. This woman has been in constant communication with the prisoner and also with his friends in the East. A few days ago she wanted to send over to him a telegram she had received from Sweeney's friends, but when told that it would be read by the officer of the day on the island she decided to keep it until she saw her lover.

Simultaneously with the arrival of the telegram a small gasoline launch called the Meteor began prowling around Alcatraz. She was warned away, but the next day about dusk she was back again. This time the guard opened fire on her and the man who was running her quickly took the Meteor out of range. The next evening she was back again and this time the soldiers put a couple of shots into the hull disabling the machinery. The man in charge dropped into the bottom of the boat and remained there until the Meteor had drifted out of range once more.

That means of escape was thus cut off and to understand how the prisoners finally succeeded, it is necessary to go a little into the daily routine of the island. Once a month, with the consent of the commandant, the prisoners are allowed to give an entertainment.

The soldiers on the island are charged 25 cents. The proceeds go toward buying odds and ends for the prisoners not in the prison fare.

The prisoners are locked up every night at 6 o'clock, but when an entertainment is about to come off the performers are allowed to practice in the library until 9 p.m. Next Tuesday night there is to be an entertainment and as Sweeny and his companions were to be among the performers they were allowed to go to the library.

The prison, as every passenger to Sausalito and Tiburon knows, is on the eastern end of the island and the wall runs clear down to the water. On the wharf below a sentry patrols day and night, while at the bend of the road and on the hill leading to the prison two other guards are stationed. Under the wharf on which was the sentry lay Mr. Kinzie's boat. When the soldiers made their escape from the library and reached the beach, if they had made for the wharf direct they would have undoubtedly been discovered. Instead of that they made for a complete circuit of the island and coming up behind the sentry succeeded in getting into the boat and launching it.

They had got a considerable distance from the wharf when one of them caught a crab and the splash attracted the sentry's attention. He at once opened upon them and at the fifth shot one of the men dropped into the bottom of the boat and began groaning horribly.

Sweeney got up in the boat and shouted, "Don't shoot any more. Don't you see we've got no oars? We surrender." The sentry stopped firing and while he was explaining matters to his superior officer, the prisoners got out their oars again and were off like a flash.

A prison break alarm was turned in and the five-oared boat belonging to the island manned. It gave chase, but in spite of the best efforts of the crew the prisoners got away.

The description of the prisoners is as follows: H.R. Beale, age 21 years, height 5 feet 10 inches, hair dark brown, eyes brown. He was serving an eighteen months' sentence for insubordination. John Meredith, age 22 years, height 5 feet, 8 inches, hair dark brown, blue eyes. [He was serving] eighteen months for desertion. John Meredith, age 22 years, height 5 feet 8 inches, hair dark brown, blue eyes. [He was serving] 18 months for desertion. Edgar M. Sweeney, age 24 years, dark brown hair and brown eyes, height 5 feet 9 1/2 inches. [He was serving] three years for desertion, but the sentence was reduced to two years by the adjutant general. When he was taken to the island he was heard to remark that he wouldn't be a prisoner for much over a month. He has kept his word as he had not been quite six weeks on the island when he escaped.

Source: San Francisco Call, 19 August 1898, page 16.

Sentries' Shots Had No Effect

Escaped From Prison While Under Fire

Three Desperate Prisoners in the Night From Alcatraz

One of Them Wounded.

Mysterious Launch May Have Brought Them to This City.

With the prospect before them of serving long terms of imprisonment, three men confined on Alcatraz Island made a successful break for liberty on Wednesday night and are now supposed to be in hiding in this city. Edgar M. Sweeney of the Fourth United States Calvary, with three years remaining to serve, and H.R. Beale and John Meredith, with eighteen months each, are the men who succeeded in eluding their pursuers. They were known to be desperate and had frequently been confined in the dungeons for infractions of the rules.

For some time past the prisoners have been arranging for a concert. Several times a week, under armed guards, they have been taken to the chapel for rehearsal, being returned to their quarters at 9 o'clock. On Wednesday night all of the prisoners were at the chapel. The three who escaped were at the back of the stage, engaged in moving furniture and other stage properties.

At the back of the stage is a window leading to a passageway, at the end of which is a door, which is always kept locked. No guard was posted at this door.

At the close of the rehearsal the absence of the three convicts were noticed and a search was made for them. They could not be found, but the door at the end of the passageway was open and told how they escaped.

Simultaneously with the discovery four shots rang out, a cry for help came up from the waters, and the shadowy outline of a boat could be seen some distance from the island. The entire guard was called out and a search of the island was made, while a crew was sent out in the barge to overtake the boat.

When the escaping prisoners left the chapel they first made for the wharf, but fearing detection by the sentry on duty, they crept out beneath its sheltering shadow. Securing a boat belonging to a son of Major Kinzie, they muffled the oars and pulled out under the shadow of the hill.

They were discovered by the sentry, who fired at them. Back over the waters came the cry, "Don't shoot; we are fishermen!" followed by a moment later by a cry from the boat, "My God! I am shot." By this time the crew of the barge was bending lustily to the oars, but they were unable to overtake the light boat. After an hour's search the chase was abandoned.

Several nights during the past week a mysterious launch has been seen sailing around the island. No lights were shown, and it moved with great caution. On Monday night it was fired upon by the sentry. Again it was seen hovering around on Tuesday night, but did not venture within range. The launch was not seen on Wednesday night, but it is thought that it was not far off when the boat pulled away from the wharf, and that it was headed at once for San Francisco, with the other boat in tow.

Sweeney is known to have a female friend in this city who corresponded with and visited him as often as the rules of the prison allowed. Whether she had anything to do with the escape is not known, nor will any of the officers, if they know, disclose her identity.

Source: San Francisco Examiner, 19 August 1898, page 7.


Prisoners at Alcatraz Work Themselves Through a Chimney and Ship on a Float

Joseph Caulfied and Michael Tracy, two military convicts now confined in a dungeon at Alcatraz Island on a bread and water diet, have just passed through an adventure of attempted escape full of desperate chances and signalized by an utter disregard for personal safety. That they did not perish in the waters of the bay was due only to the timely discovery of a guard and a change of mind on the part of the prison breakers.

This is not the first attempt made by Caulfied and Tracy to escape paying the penalty imposed upon them for violation of army regulations.

At Nagasaki, the two prisoners escaped from the transport Meade and "enjoyed" a taste of freedom for six days. Half-clothed and half-fed they roamed about the hills, but were finally overtaken by the authorities and brought back to the ship and brought to this city.

Before the Meade steamed into the Golden Gate, the pair of convicts had planned another escape. They had filed the bars of one of the port holes, depending upon their ability as swimmers to wrest the waves to a haven of liberty on the north beach of the city. But disappointment was their measure in this contemplated break for freedom. The Meade anchored near Angel Island just at dusk and the attempt was abandoned.

The last unsuccessful venture occurred on the night of May 28. The soldier prisoners had been thrown into one of the cells in the island prison through which an unused chimney was built. The top of the chimney had been closed by a board capping nailed to the roof and over which a tarpaulin covering had been placed. This was removed by means of a hammer, a jimmy and a knife that had been converted into a saw. After reaching the roof the aperture at the top of the chimney was covered with a blanket in order to conceal the light from the eyes of the sentry.

When the sentry had gone his rounds Caulfied and Tracy dropped to the ground, dodging the sentries and keeping well under cover until they reached the bellhouse steps on the south side of the island. Here they found a board float which was moored fast. This they succeeded in cutting adrift. Nothing but large shingles was at hand so they boarded the float, using these as paddles.

Out on the dark waters of the bay the two desperate men worked their way with their improvised paddles and an opportune float. For several hours they exerted every effort to work their way toward the city, but they got caught in an eddying current and could make no headway.

Drenched to the skin, their strength spent by their arduous labors, they were discovered by a guard at 4 a.m. just as the day was dawning. At this time they were floating hopelessly in the swirling tide, and a few shots from Guard Jorgensen wrought a desire on the part of the convicts to a return to their island prison. After a short time the two men on the float landed and were placed in a dungeon.

Caulfied was a private in Company I, Fourth United States Infantry. He was tried in Manila for disobedience of orders and sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment. Later ten years of the sentence was remitted. He is only 21 years of age. Tracy was a member of Company M, Sixteenth United States Infantry. He was convicted of assault with intent to kill and sentenced to eight years. He had been in the army seventeen months and is 27 years of age. He is from Philadelphia.

Source: San Francisco Call, 2 June 1900, page 11.


Box Marked As Freight Used As Means of Escape

Numerous have been the escapes from Alcatraz Island, and in each a certain amount of courage, coupled with the ingenuity which constant contemplation of long years of confinement develops has been evident.

To the man who succeeded in being carried from the island as freight the prisoners remaining take off their hats.

Prisoner A. Adams, who in his capacity as gardener had ample opportunity to make all arrangements, secured a box marked "Hospital Presidio," and left it in the freight shed. Calling into his confidence a fellow prisoner he made known his plans, which were that he would stow himself by the box and depend on his comrade to securely nail on the cover.

Though the men are closely watched, opportunity was not lacking, and as a result the steamer McDowell carried to the Presidio wharf a box marked "Handle with care" and addressed to the hospital. As is his custom, Wharfinger McBride telephoned upon the arrival of the steamer that a box was on the wharf for the hospital, and he was told it would be called for in the morning.

He was considerably surprised on opening the shed the next morning to find the box smashed to pieces and no trace of the contents. All that remained to furnish a clew [sic] to the cause of such a peculiar circumstance was a short bar of iron.

Shortly after the discovery the report of an escape was received from Alcatraz, and it gradually dawned upon the officers and men that the box containing, as they supposed, delicate surgical instruments, was filled with human freight and that the short iron bar had been held in the hands of a man willing to take any chance to regain his liberty and he had succeeded.

Source: San Francisco Call, 5 October 1900, page 4.

Escaped From Alcatraz

By Squeezing and Hiding Himself in a Small Packing Box

Secreted in a small packing box, cramped like a sardine and in momentary danger of death by suffocation, Convict Jesse Adams, a military prisoner at Alcatraz, was shipped with a load of freight from the island prison and stored in the freight house on the Presidio wharf, from whence he made his escape. Every detail of the audacious break for liberty was carefully planned and boldly executed.

Adams, who is serving a life sentence for killing a comrade, was employed as a gardener and was allowed a certain amount of freedom while performing his duties.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the steamer McDowell touched at the island to pick up a load of freight. Among the cases and bales was a box about three feet long, two feet wide and fifteen inches deep, addressed "Hospital," and with the balance of the consignment it was placed aboard the steamer. As near as can be learned, Adams, who identity cannot be ascertained, made his way to a shed near the wharf, where he was squeezed into the box, which was nailed up.

When the McDowell arrived at the Presidio wharf the freight was unloaded and part of it was removed in wagons.

Owing to the vagueness of the address, "Hospital," and there being no conveyance from either the Post or General Hospitals, the box containing Adams was placed with others in a warehouse on the wharf.

On Wednesday morning Adams was reported missing by the prison guards at Alcatraz, but the officers were unable to find any clew [sic] to his escape. During the day Wharfinger McBride, at the Presidio wharf, telephoned several times to the Presidio hospitals, notifying them to call and remove the box consigned to them, but they failed to do so.

Yesterday morning McBride entered the warehouse and found the box in question empty, with the cover broken open and a heavy iron bar lying beside it.

A stranger had been seen in the vicinity of the wharf for several days and it is thought that by a pre-arranged plan he released Adams from the box and assisted him to escape, for in his cramped position it was almost impossible for Adams to have extricated himself. The evidence shows that the convict was thoroughly acquainted with the movements of the McDowell, for he chose a time when he knew that freight not called for would be placed in the warehouse.

Detective Fitzgerald of Sacramento arrested Adams in that city yesterday. He was identified by a tattoo mark on his arm, and admitted that he was a military prisoner.

Although severely cross-questioned by the police, Adams stolidly refused to divulge how he escaped, and said he would die rather than tell. He will be brought to this city and turned over to the Alcatraz authorities to-day.

Source: San Francisco Examiner, 5 October 1900, page 4.


Escapes From Alcatraz in a Small Boat With Two Other Prisoners

Three prisoners with long terms to serve escaped from Alcatraz Island during the early hours of Wednesday. They were Frank Kinne, with fifteen years to serve; C.F. Huntington, serving a ten-year sentence, and J.M. Polls, with five years to do.

The escape was evidently the result of a prearranged plan, as it was made from the hospital where the guard is not so strict.

The men complained a few days ago of being ill and made the complaint so often that at last they were assigned to a ward in the hospital. Opportunities were not lacking for the successful carrying out of their plans. The men cut the bars in the windows and when a chance offered crawled through and dropped to the ground.

Although the hospital is surrounded by sentries, the three convicts were not observed. They reached the beach, jumped into one of the boats used by the Government employees and rowed away. No trace of them has been found.

The boats were always kept there, but in anticipation of just such an event the oars were removed. It is probable that the men had assistance from outsiders, who placed oars where they could easily be found.

Kinne's sentence of fifteen years was given for desertion and treason. He deserted from his regiment in Manila and and some weeks afterward was found in the company of a number of Filipinos, who said he was holding a commission in their army.

A board, consisting of Colonel William H. Forwood, assistant surgeon general; Major Robert J. Gibson, surgeon, and Acting Assistant Surgeon W.H. Winterberg, has been appointed to examine the physical condition of Captain John A. Lockwood, Fourth Calvary.

Captain Harry A. Smith, Fifteenth Infantry, has been ordered to the Presidio for temporary duty with recruits, awaiting transportation to Manila.

The Hospital Corps men who returned on the Meade, have been assigned to duty at Fort McDowell.

Source: San Francisco Call, 2 November 1900, page 7.


Four Prisoners Escape From Alcatraz on Bogus Pardons

Clever Scheme Successfully Worked by Quartet of Military Convicts.

The officials at army headquarters are vainly attempting to get a trace of Joseph White, John L. Moore, Cornelius Stokes (colored) and James Darling (colored), who escaped from Alcatraz prison a week ago to-day on forged orders remitting their sentences, which amounted to about two years in each case. Major Morrow, judge advocate, and Major Williams, assistant adjutant general, assert that their signatures were forged to the documents.

The Washington authorities telegraphed General MacArthur yesterday that the Secretary of War had remitted the unexpired sentence of Cornelius Stokes on Monday, but that nothing had been done in the cases of the other men. Stokes went free on the forged order five days before he would have been legally released.

The document on which prisoners are released is a letter, with the War Department head, on which is typewritten a formal order signed by an assistant adjutant general. The department judge advocate and adjutant indorse the paper and it is sent to Major Paxton, prison commander, who releases the men. He makes a report subsequently to the judge advocate, who is supposed to compare the returns with his orders from Washington to see that everything is straight.


The incident has brought to light the fact that Judge Advocate Henry W. Morrow has failed to keep this tally, either through ignorance of his open duty or through negligence. Had the news of the escape of the four convicts not been brought to headquarters through rumors that circulated among the prison guards, other men, Major Morrow admits, might have escaped by the same means. He states that he thought his clerk kept such matters in his head. Illustrative of the trite saying anent locking stable doors, Major Morrow says that he intends to keep his books properly thereafter. He has surveyed his returns for the last nine months and asserts that only the four men have escaped on forged orders.

The officials at the prison keep a very accurate set of accounts and cannot be blamed for being deceived by the forgery Colonel Andrews of the adjutant general's office took the preliminary step in the investigation, and General MacArthur subsequently assigned the case to Major Morrow. This latter called in Handwriting Expert Eisenschimmel, who says that the work is very crude. The printing on the forged documents is dissimilar to the War Department paper and the numerals are not in the proper alignment.

The forger knew the details of the work perfectly. He numbered the document improperly, however, and gave the wrong rank to officers whose purported signatures were attached.


Ralph E. Williams, who was sent to Alcatraz from Manila for defrauding the Government out of about $10,000, is suspected of having some connection with the escape. He was a very clever penman and worked in offices where he could become familiar with orders for remissions of sentences.

He was also a friend of White, one of the escapees. The last named felon worked in the adjutant's office at the prison, but his work was clumsy. John L. Moore worked in the printing office at Alcatraz and might have printed the letterheads although it is generally supposed that this part of the work at least was done on the outside.

The two negroes were uneducated and assigned to ordinary work. Darling was sent frequently under guard to Fort Mason and the Presidio and it is thought that he might have been a go-between. Stokes was the only man of the four that received any money on release.

There is no doubt in the minds of the officers that the prisoners were aided by a confederate in this city. Otherwise, the letter in which the pardons were sent could not have been mailed to Major Paxton at Alcatraz. It was feared at first that more men might have secured their freedom through like forgeries when it was learned that Major Morrow's bookkeeping would have allowed such matters to pass unnoticed and great relief is felt at headquarters that the escape is an isolated instance.

Morrow thinks that he will get descriptions of the escapees within a day or two. He does not know whether he will ask the peace officers throughout the State to be on the lookout. The Government gives a reward of $30 for the return of escaped prisoners.

Source: San Francisco Call, 14 October 1903.


Alcatraz Island Officers, Guards and Prisoners Are Questioned in Regard to Escape.

The investigation of the escape of Federal Prisoners White, Moore, Stokes and Darling from Alcatraz a week ago was commenced by Judge Advocate H.W. Marrow yesterday. He left headquarters early in the morning and spent the entire day at the prison. Officers, enlisted men and prisoners were questioned regarding their knowledge of the affair.

It was learned that the rumor that the four prisoners had won their way to freedom by means of forging orders of release had begun to circulate shortly after the escape. No one knew definitely whether the letterheads had been made on the island. Major Marrow is inclined to think that most of the work was done at the prison. It is suspected that Moore, the printer, may have made the necessary type in the office.

No news can be heard in regard to the whereabouts of the escapees or the identity of their supposed confederate in this city. Major Marrow will continue the investigation and embody the information he may discover in a report to General MacArthur.

It is generally supposed that Stokes' money paid the fare of the four plotters to some point in the East and the authorities in that section of the country have been warned to be on the lookout.

Source: San Francisco Call, 15 October 1903


Major Morrow Obtains Light on Plot of Escapes.

Private Foster Disappears and a Suspect is Located.

Major H.W. Morrow has made a considerable amount of progress in his investigation of the escape of Federal Prisoners White, Moore, Stokes and Darling from Alcatraz on October 7. Messenger Foster, who was detailed to carry the mail between army headquarters in this city and Alcatraz, has deserted. William Lefeyth, who was suspected of complicity in the plot through which the convicts were released, has been located at Mare Island. It was learned by Major Morrow that he had enlisted in the marine corps, and a diligent search revealed his whereabouts. Lefeyth will be subjected to a rigorous questioning, and if it is found that he has done anything criminal he will be severely dealt with, as he has already received a dishonorable discharge from the army.

Major Morrow spent two full days at Alcatraz and inspected the offices where White and Moore were detailed. Paper like that on which the forgeries were committed was found in abundant quantities. In the printing office Major Morrow made an exact copy of one of the forged orders, thus demonstrating that the crime might well have been committed on the island.

The prisoners must have had an accomplice on the outside in order that the envelope containing the fraudulent remissions of sentences should come in the mail bag to Major Paxton, prison commander. Major Morrow was making a quiet investigation as to who might have slipped the fateful missive in the mail bag when it had disappeared. The army officers are inclined to think that the enlisted man was affected with a guilty conscience and that he thought Major Morrow was close on his track. A vigorous attempt will be made to apprehend Foster.

The investigating officer will complete his formal report at an early date and transmit it to General MacArthur.

Source: San Francisco Call, 17 October 1903


Major Morrow Tells How Army Prisoners Escaped.

War Department Issues New General Orders on Subject.

Major Harry Morrow, judge advocate of the Department of California, sent a report to General MacArthur yesterday explaining how military prisoners Williams, White, Moore, Stokes, and Darling escaped from Alcatraz by means of forged orders. No recommendations are made in the report as to methods of preventing further escapes in a similar manner, but the department commandant will probably attend to this feature of the case himself.

Ralph Williams went free on a forged order of release early in September. The other four prisoners effected their escape simultaneously a month later by the same means. It was thought at first that the felons were aided by conspirators on the outside of the prison walls, but Major Morrow is inclined to think from the evidence presented during the recent investigation that the whole work was done at Alcatraz. Moore and White had access to the adjutant general's office and to the printing plant on the island.

Major Morrow went into the printing office and made an exact copy of the fraudulent pardons. He thinks that the only aid which might have been given the prisoners must have come from Messenger Foster, who carried mail between Alcatraz and headquarters, and who deserted as soon as the facts in the case were made known.

The investigation officer does not see how there could have been any connection between the escape of Williams and his subsequent release of the other four felons. He thinks it might have been possible that White and Moore heard how their former friend won his way to freedom and were thus inspired to make a similar attempt. The orders on which White, Moore, Stokes and Darling were releases are not at all like the one used by Williams; nor was the same method followed in placing the documents in the regular military channels.

Colonel Andrews received an order from the War Department yesterday "directing that all orders of release must bear the signatures of the Secretary of War and of the acting Secretary of War, besides those of local officers. The War Department seal must also be affixed to all such documents." It is thought that this will prevent similar occurrences in the future.

None of the escapees have been recaptured, although officers in every part of the country are on the lookout for them. It is known that Williams was at Vallejo recently, but he fled before the authorities could lay hands on him.

Source: San Francisco Call, 11 November 1903, page 9.


Dramatic Escape From Military Prison on Alcatraz Island Results Fatally for John Cole

A dramatic escape from the confines of the United States military prison on Alcatraz Island occurred last evening and as a result Andrew J. Allen occupies a cell in the City Prison and John C. Cole is beneath the waters of the bay. The story of the desperate chances taken to gain freedom is unequaled in the history of escapes from the island.

Allen was turned over to the police of this city by the captain of the ferry-boat Encinal, who picked him up off Lombard street wharf in a state of exhaustion. His narrative of the escape from Alcatraz on a raft, the subsequent death of his companion and his own sufferings is replete with sensational features.

When seen after being transferred to the City Prison Allen was still shivering from his battle with the waves and was averse to discussing the case. He finally consented to make a statement. His story is to the effect that about 6:30 o'clock, after the first verification of the prisoners had been made by the guards, in company with Cole and a convict named Pratt, he made a break for liberty. Owing to the fact that he was employed in a clerical position it was not necessary for him to answer to his name. His two companions likewise were so situated that their absence would not be noticed for some time.


They cautiously made their way to the water on the westerly side of the island. Four planks were secured and firmly lashed together and the improvised raft was successfully launched. The three then climbed aboard and shoved off from the island. Pratt, who was serving a sentence for a slight infraction of military rules, at the last moment decided to return, and accordingly jumped into the water and swam back.

The tide soon had the raft in its clutches and carried it toward this city and freedom. Cole and Allen lay prostrate on the lumber, desperately clutching the sides. Several ferryboats passed them and the swell caused washed them off the raft repeatedly. Miraculously they managed to regain the raft each time. They were rapidly becoming benumbed by the cold and death stared them in the face.

At this juncture the ferry-boat Encinal hove in sight and then was enacted the tragic feature of the escape. The swell caused by the approaching steamer pitched the raft hither and thither and the lashings which held it together finally broke under the strain. Both of the men were cast into the water, but Allen managed to grasp a plank, with which he buoyed himself up until rescued. Cole sank beneath the waves.


Allen, realizing that all hope of escape was gone, shouted lustily and the captain of the Encinal heard his cries. A boat was lowered and the exhausted man taken on board. When questioned he revealed his identity, and upon the arrival of the steamer at her slip in this city Allen was turned over to Patrolman F. F. Bean, who took him to the Harbor station.

Allen was not at all exercised over the death of his companion and spoke lightly of the matter. He was somewhat depressed by his lengthy emersion in the water, but after being supplied with dry garments recovered his spirits. While in the Philippines he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for drunkenness and indecent conduct.

On April 15, 1901, while confined in a guardhouse in Manila, sided by several other desperate characters, he tied up the sentry and escaped. He was captured three days later and sentenced to three years at Alcatraz, fifteen months of which he has served. Cole, who was undoubtedly drowned, was serving a sentence of twelve years. Allen will be taken back to Alcatraz by the Government authorities to-day.

Source: San Francisco Call, 10 February 1904, page 2.


Alcatraz Soldiers Try to Escape Captivity

In an Old Butter Vat They Vainly Seek Freedom.

Wind and Wave Beat Them Back and Are Captured and Put in Irons.

Early on Monday morning four desperate Alcatraz prisoners broke the locks from their cells, crept by the sentinels and guns of the fort and put to sea in a tub. But wind and tide were against them and they were forced back to the shore of their island prison, where they were soon captured and put in irons. When found they were hiding in an abandoned magazine on the west side of the island.

It was about 5 o'clock Monday morning when the officer of the day, Lieutenant Edward E. McCammon, started on his rounds of verification and upon opening the cell of Arthur Armstrong he was surprised to find the prisoner gone. The prison guard was immediately called and sent in search of the missing prisoner, while the lieutenant continued his rounds and to his amazement found that the cells of George W. Davis, Thomas Stinnatt and George W. Brossman were also vacant, the locks having been forced from the outside. In the next cell the lock had been broken, but the prisoner was still fast asleep in his bunk and upon being questioned pleaded ignorance as to how the lock had been broken.


The missing prisoners were readily traced to the bakery, where a large butter tub, used for mixing dough, had disappeared, and a trail from there to the water's edge showed where the rude craft had been launched in a vain hope to reach the main land. Shortly after that the prisoners were found hiding in an abandoned magazine on the western side of the island and immediately sent to solitary confinement. They are now sent to their work with a ball and chain. The vat was found beating against the rocks near by, and in it were several loose boards which had evidently been used for oars.

The prisoners were taken before Major Abner Pickering, commander of the prison. They refused to make any statement except that they attempted to escape and were driven back by the tide when they left the shore. They also admitted that they were afraid of the frail craft in which they had embarked.

It was later found that the prisoners had effected their escape through the instigation of Arthur Armstrong, who evidently carried some heavy instrument into his cell and after verification at 8 o'clock set to work prying off one of the boards of his cell. Once the board was off it was an easy matter for him to walk down the line, and with one stroke of the same instrument, to knock the locks from the cell doors and, one by one, to free their occupants. Upon reaching the fifth cell the prisoner evidently refused to accompany them and the four started out alone.


Securing a barbed wire they threw it over the high board fence and, pulling it down into a crack between the boards until one of the barbes caught, they, one by one, climbed to the top and dropped down on the other side while the unsuspecting sentinel slumbered upon his beat unmindful of what was taking place under his very nose. Once over the fence and past the sentinel, it was an easy matter for them to reach the bakery and embark upon their journey. The men were so sure of their liberty that they deliberately cut the large "P" from the seat of their trousers and the back of their coats. An effort was also made to erase the number from their hats with mud and sand, but in this attempt they were unsuccessful.

Arthur Armstrong, although he was among the second class prisoners, was considered one of the most desperate characters on the island. He was sent to the island some time ago from Washington State, where, it is alleged, he committed a brutal assault upon a young girl. Ever since his arrival at the prison he has been the source of continual annoyance to the authorities and has more than once been punished for bad conduct. From now on, however, he will be compelled to wear the ball and chain. The other prisoners were serving time for larceny and desertion.

A board of officers was appointed to investigate the case. The prisoners refused to tell the time of their escape, however, and as there were three men upon the beat throughout the night, the board failed to come to an agreement as to whom to blame and was dismissed.

Source: San Francisco Call, 5 April 1906, page 1.


OAKLAND, April 27. . .George D. Collins, the San Francisco attorney, recently convicted of perjury and sentenced to San Quentin, is the star prisoner on Alcatraz Island, and was not among those brought over to-day. He explained to the soldiers that he would like nothing better to accompany them, but unfortunately he had an appointment with the commanding officer on the island for an important conference in the afternoon. Collins also told the soldiers that he didn't expect to serve a day of his sentence at San Quentin. He confidently expects to win his appeal in the Federal courts which is now pending. . .

Source: San Francisco Examiner, 28 April 1906, page 4.


Build a Frail Craft, but Are Discovered by a Guard During the Night

Three prisoners at Alcatraz Island made a daring attempt to escape from the military prison last Saturday night. They built a frail craft out of pieces of lumber lying around the work yard.

The spot chosen for the building and the launching of the boat was under a cave at the north end of the island. Previously they had made two strong oars with which they had hoped to row to the banks near Sausalito. Unfortunately for them a guard was passing along on his midnight rounds. He heard the tinkering and hammering of the boat builders and rushed down to the beach. The culprits fled away in different directions, but when morning dawned they were discovered crouching under some rocks and taken back to their place of confinement.

Source: San Francisco Call, 14 February 1907, page 4.


Military Felons Make Bold Break For Liberty, but Waves Wreck Craft


Lay Helpless on the Beach Until Guards Discover Them Next Morning

A bread trough, six feet long, three feet wide and three feet deep, was not a craft constructed with beam and keel to weather the stormy waters of the bay. If it had been the authorities at the Alcatraz Island military prison would now be mourning the loss of three prisoners and the baker on the island would still be wondering about the disappearance of the receptacle in which he mixed his dough.

Three military prisoners at Alcatraz made a daring attempt last week to breast the seas in the bread trough and gain freedom. The chief cook missed his trough about a month ago and reported the loss to the officer in charge. His search of every place about the island failed to reveal the hiding place of the trough. A twelve-foot fence surrounds the prison, outside of which sentries parade night and day. No one saw the trough pass the barricade and the guards, but the conspirators succeeded in getting their improvised boat to the water, and there, filling it with rocks, sunk it under the level of low tide.

The trough lay submerged for more than a month. The prisoners bided their time and made two strong oars. The favorable moment for embarkation arriving they eluded the guards, beached the trough, threw out the rocks and pulled out from the prison island. They started for the shores of Sausalito, but only a few feet from the island shore the waves swamped the craft and the men were pitched into the sea. They saved themselves by landing on the beach, where they lay half dead until morning, when the guards found them and removed them to their cells inside the prison walls.

Source: San Francisco Call, 17 February 1907, page 40.

"Alcatraz Prisoner Attempts to Escape Across Bay On Plank"

Fails Because His Frail Craft Is Hit By Ferry Steamboat


Deserter From the Fifth Calvary Must Serve His Term

August Stillke, a military prisoner, made an unsuccessful attempt to escape from Alcatraz Island last night. He leaped into the bay soon after dark with only a plank to aid him in making his getaway. He was a poor swimmer, but hung tenaciously to his frail support, clinging with one hand while he paddled with the other.

When Stillke neared the Union street dock a ferry boat bore down upon him, striking the plank. Stillke shouted lustily for help. The ferry boat was stopped and the half drowned man was dragged on board. He was turned over to the police at the ferry depot and taken to the harbor emergency hospital. After an hour's hard work by the doctors he had recovered sufficiently to tell his story.

Stillke said he belonged to the fifth calvary in Arizona. He deserted, was captured and tried before a court martial and sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment at Alcatraz.

Stillke will be returned to the island this morning.

Source: San Francisco Call, 23 October 1907, page 16.


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