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And after his recovery, as he hobbled about on his wooden substitutes for legs, he was most submissive and obedient to every command of the prison officials: for he was fully convinced that the horrors of that night were a judgment of heaven upon his life of wickedness. At the next session of the Connecticut legislature a special enactment was passed giving Jake his liberty. The act was based upon the change in the man's temper and also upon the fact that his self-inflicted punishment was more than equivalent to the remaining years of his unserved term. So Jake went forth from Newgate a changed man. He had gained his freedom but in a manner utterly unexpected. For many years he lived in the neighborhood, working at his trade of cobbler or doing odd jobs for the farmers, and no one ever feared to trust him, nor was he ever known to indulge his old appetite for strong drink.
That was a red letter day in the history of Old Newgate when Dublin—Dublin, the Incorrigible—was brought to the prison. True, he was a desperate villain and caused the officers no end of trouble, furthermore he was wholly unscrupulous and would doubtless even have committed murder to secure his ends, yet he was so jovial and good natured in his villainy that he proved a real acquisition to the prison society and the savor of his name clung to the prison long after his final departure.
Not even the whipping post could long repress Dublin's blarney. And when some escapade worse than
common had doomed him to the treadmill he would solemnly assure the officer in charge that "it remoinded him of the toime whin he wuz cloimbing the Alpses." His Irish wit and irrepressible spirits often served as a good foil to the surly vindictiveness of the darkey Jake with whom he was on terms of the closest intimacy notwithstanding their contrasting dispositions. In fact they were equal partners in many a dark plot against the peace and safety of the prison authorities, and opinions were divided as to which of the two was the more dangerous criminal. Yet Dublin caused far less apprehension and uneasiness among the keepers than his mate; for, as one of them said, "It would be much pleasanter to be murdered outright by the jolly Irishman than to be compelled to live long in company with the brutal black."
Dublin's real name no one knew. Many doubted whether he knew it himself. He had borne so many aliases in the course of his checkered career that the original name had become lost in the crowd and was supposed to be forgotten. His unmistakable brogue as well as his ready wit left no doubt as to his Irish origin, and as the scenes of many of his stories were laid in the capital of his native isle his companions and keepers nicknamed him Dublin, and from that time he was known by no other name.
Burglary was the crime for which Dublin was committed to the state prison and his term was a long one. In company with another he had entered a house in one of the smaller Connecticut towns and, after securing a large sum of money and not a little other booty of considerable value, they had destroyed many things that they did not care to take in a spirit of wanton mischief, and finally had set fire to the place. The occupants of the house were an aged couple, and as they had been left bound and gagTged they would both have perished in the flames but for the timely assistance of neighbors who came to their rescue.
It was surmised that Dublin came to this country to escape the penalty of crimes committed across the sea, but of that nothing was definitely known. Certain it is that he often entertained the group below stairs with thrilling accounts of his early adventures, and many a tyro in crime received lessons from him at these gatherings that served to confirm his evil tendencies and send him out into the world at the end of his brief term a mature and astute criminal. In conversation with his keepers, on the other hand, when not indulging in ribald jokes, Dublin posed as an innocent and guileless traveller who had seen a good deal of the world and who had been convicted of crime simply as the result of mistaken identity.
Unlike Jake, Dublin was a cheerful worker and seemed really to enjoy the labor required of him. At all events he seldom complained of the work and never rebelled against doing it nor openly shirked. His work, however, though done with apparent readiness and good will, was often of poor quality, and frequent and serious were the accidents to his tools. Hammer handles were always breaking, or hammer heads forever got loose and would fly in dangerous proximity to some of the guards while
Dublin was innocently pounding with all his might upon some refractory piece of iron. There were grave suspicions that most of these accidents were carefully planned and that his poor work was wilful; but the imperturbable good nature of the man together with his well feigned surprise and regret usually disarmed official wrath, while his readiness and wit in the invention of excuses saved him from many & punishment.
Once while he was at work in the nail shop, or smithery as it was called, Major Humphrey, the warden of the prison, reproved him sharply for making defective nails, and even threatened the treadmill if his work was not better done. "Why, Dublin," he said, "you never make two heads alike!" "I know it, sor," replied Dublin with a sly wink, "but wud ye be expectin' a fellow like me to do betther wurruk than the Almoighty? If he'd made our two heads aloike, I moight have been wearin' the warden's clothes instid of me own this day. But never you fear, Major Humphrey, I wouldn't be afther sendin' ye to the threadmill. Divil a bit of it. I'd jist say, 'Here, my poor fellow, is a drap of the craythur. Take a good pull now, for it'll do ye good and maybe stidy yer hand so that ye can do betther wurruk.'"
At the time of Dublin's introduction to the prison the wall had not yet been built. The enclosure was protected by high wooden palings surmounted with iron spikes. One day Dublin was sent from the smithery to another part of the institution to work, and while crossing the yard he managed to elude observation and steal away behind some of the buildings to a portion of the palisade that was concealed from view. With the aid of a piece of timber he quickly succeeded in climbing to the top of the barricade and jumped for freedom. But, alas for his calculations! His ankle fetters caught on one of the iron spikes and in a trice Dublin was suspended head downwards several feet from the ground. The position was a most trying one, and the shock of his fall dazed him for a few moments.
At first he thought he must call for aid or perish where he hung. But his spirits soon returned and in silence he worked with tremendous energy to get free. At length he succeeded in lifting himself once more to the top of the fence and regaining an upright position though at the cost of terribly lacerating his finger ends and tearing off nearly all his nails. Then disentangling his fetters from the spike he dropped to the ground and without further loss of time made his way to the neighboring woods where he remained safely hidden for a number of days, subsisting upon the berries and roots which he was able to gather in that region.
Roots and berries, however, did not long satisfy the dainty appetite of Dublin, and he resolved to improve his bill of fare. Impeded by his fetters he had not attempted to go far away from the prison, but lingered in the vicinity hoping that some other convict might escape and join him and the two might succeed in breaking one another's manacles. He therefore came by night to a farm house which he had frequently visited as a laborer under guard of some of the prison officials, and breaking into the well stocked
pantry, feasted on the bread, cheese, pies, cakes and other good things which he found there. He also took with him 'a bountiful supply for future needs and went into hiding once more. With the spirit of recklessness which at times seizes the most wily criminals, he concealed himself this time under the barn of the farmer whom he had robbed. His hiding place was a dark and foul cellar which he entered from a sheep pen.
The farm being almost within sight of Newgate, and farmer Beecroft or his German hired man making daily trips to the prison with vegetables or other farm produce, the recent escape was well known to the household. Naturally enough they at once suspected that the theft from the larder had been committed by Dublin, and that he was probably lurking in the immediate vicinity. Word was therefore sent to Michael Holcomb, one of the guards, to come over and watch the premises. Late at night when the household were supposed to be in bed and sound asleep a noise was heard at the barn which afterwards proved to have been made by Dublin in his efforts to break his fetters with a stone.
Stealthily going to the barn, Holcomb followed the sound and finally located his prisoner. As he came to the opening in the side of the sheep pen he called out, "What are you doing in there?" "Driving the shaap out of me pasture," said a familiar voice within. "Well, Dublin, you had better drive yourself out and come along with me," said the officer. Again came the reply in a rich Irish brogue, "Faith, Misther Holcomb, and sure it's not me at all, at all. It's farmer Baycroft's big Dutchman." But a lantern being brought and a pistol pointed at him, Dublin came slowly and ruefully forth and returned once more to the prison.
For this escapade Dublin was condemned to the stocks and the solitary cell for three days. On his way thither he assured his keeper that he was indeed grateful to the prison authorities for permitting him a few days of absolute rest and quiet meditation after the recent excitement and fatigue of foreign travel. He even argued with Holcomb the justice of dividing with him the reward of ten dollars received for his capture on the ground that his had been the greater labor and hardship.
At another time, Dublin and one of his fellow convicts, an Indian, were permitted to work for this same farmer Beecroft during harvest time. They went out from the prison under convoy of a guard, Ephraim Shaylor by name. One evening on their way back to the prison the convicts asked permission to gather a few apples for themselves and their companions in durance. Shaylor not only consented, but joined them in picking up the fallen fruit. In an unguarded moment the two sprang upon him, bore him to the earth and secured his weapons. The Indian at once seized a huge stone and was about to dash out his brains when Dublin interposed saying that it would be safer to take him to a clump of bushes close by and there dispatch him where no one would be likely to discover the deed till they were far away.
Ordering Shaylor to rise, Dublin seized him from behind by the sword belt with his left hand while
in his right he flourished the cutlass belonging to the guard and bade him march forward to the place of execution. The Indian followed a few paces in the rear with levelled musket. Before reaching the fatal spot, however, Shaylor's wits returned to him and slipping the buckle he left the belt in the hands of the Irishman and made a break for liberty. The Indian fired but missed him, and as they did not dare follow, the guard soon reached the prison in safety.
The two convicts secreted themselves in the woody hills and the Indian proposed to Dublin that they break each other's fetters, to which Dublin agreed. But after he had successfully performed his part of the bargain, the crafty red man took hasty leave without returning the favor fearing lest the noise should attract attention and he might not have a chance to make good his escape. One or two nights later, however. Dublin entered a blacksmith shop in Suffield and with a chisel cut off his own fetters. But soon the two were recaptured, and it was with no little relish that Shaylor availed himself of his privilege of applying a few keen lashes to both their backs.
It was perhaps a year after this event that the new wall was built, and a number of the prisoners were employed on the work as hod carriers and under men. None worked more zealously at this task than our friend Dublin. Apparently he took great pride in the work, and he had much to say about "what a foine prison it wild be whin the wall was done." With frequent and somewhat suspicious emphasis he declared that no convict would ever escape then. And one might almost fancy that he rejoiced at the prospect of the increased security of the prisoners.
When the wall was completed there was a great jollification in which those convicts were allowed to share who had taken any part in the work of building. At this feast Dublin was a prominent figure. His Irish wit lent not a little spice to the occasion, and his sarcastic toast is handed down among the prison legends,—"Here's to the health of the Captain and all the rest of the prisoners!"
In less than a week after the completion of the wall Dublin made his final escape from Newgate. During the progress of the work he had made the acquaintance of a workman who lived in the vicinity and who was not above being bribed to aid him in escaping. The prisoners were allowed to earn money by extra work, and Dublin had amassed quite a sum by his diligence in hod carrying. The greater part of this he willingly offered for the needed assistance. With the completion of the wall, too, there was a consider
able relaxation of watchfulness; for many believed, as Dublin had said, that with the new fortification escape was impossible unless when' the gate was open.
Following almost the same tactics as in his first attempt to escape, Dublin climbed the wall by means of a rope that had been thrown over from the outside, and fled to an appointed rendezvous in the rocky fastnesses of the Turkey Hills. There he paid the price stipulated for his release and then promised an additional five dollars for the removal of his fetters. This being done, and the money paid, the confederate started for his home; but in a few moments Dublin quietly followed him, knocked him senseless with a stone, robbed him of the money so recently paid, and decamped for parts unknown.
The witty Irishman was never recaptured in Connecticut: but his name has graced (or disgraced) the criminal records of other states, and his genial wit has served to enliven the tedium of several other prisons.
By Eugene C. Dolson
Ah, sometimes, when the year is at its Spring,
When young buds, opening, deck untrodden ways, A breath from woodlands, odorous of bloom, Is wafted through the quiet, open room;— Then round the heart a mystic sense will cling Of some long-lost or long-forgotten thing, The unremembered raptures of dead days.