Bayfield County Press

Trouble At the Jail -- Nov-Dec 1885

Bayfield is usually considered a quiet sort of town, but one night last week, so say the police, there occurred a fight, a divorce and a wedding in less than two hours -- Bayfield County PRESS OCT 10, 1885

[Compiler's note: Although it is perhaps unlikely that the desperados of the Wild West would have mistaken Bayfield of 1885 for Deadwood or Tombstone, not all the excitement in the Harbor City centered around the gales of November remembered. The following paragraphs are taken from the October - December 1885 editions of the Bayfield County PRESS.]

OCT 31, 1885: Monday, James BODDEN was brought up from Washburn and lodged in the county jail to await trial on a charge of assault with intent to kill, at the January term of the circuit court. BODDEN was at one time in the employ of the Omaha railway company at Washburn and lately in that of the Lake Shore and Western at Ashland. He is said to be a good citizen when sober but a devil when drunk, and it was in the latter condition he committed the crime with which he is charged.

NOV 14, 1885: A. E. SOEKLAND, superintendent of the Neil & Pratt lumber company at Pratt, this county, was in the Harbor City over Monday night. For some time past, Pratt has been infested by a sneak thief and all attempts to bag him proved abortive until Monday when upon complaint, Thomas COLWELL was brought before Mr. SOEKLAND and acknowledged his guilt. George L. OSBORN was was appointed constable and in company with Mr. SOEKLAND, brought their prisoner to this place on Monday evening's train. On their way uptown from the depot, the prisoner who is a burly man and somewhat noted as a pugilist, made a break for liberty by knocking down OSBORN and taking leg bail. But his efforts in this direction were lamentable failures, he being speedily recaptured. He was taken before Justice FLANDERS, pleaded guilty and in default of bail was handed over to the tender mercies of Sheriff [John T.] GONYON for safe keeping until the January term of court when he will undoubtedly be sentenced to a term at Waupun. COLWELL is a single man about thirty.

Pratt Items: Supt. SOEKLAND, justice of the peace, G. L. OSBORN constable, and Tom COLWELL, prisoner whent to Bayfield Monday. OSBORN returned Tuesday and reported quite a lively time with their prisoner who is now safely lodged in jail. Our Justice returned Wednesday, minus his bonanza revolver.

NOV 21, 1885: An unsuccessful attempt to break jail was made Wednesday afternoon by the three prisoners confined therein awaiting trial at the January term of court, two on a charge of larceny and one for assault with intent to kill. The particulars are as follows: Sheriff GONYON and his deputy have been expecting something of the kind for some time, owing to the desperate character of the inmates, and Wednesday evening he decided to give the jail a thorough overhauling, and to this end pressed ex-sheriff DOHERTY into the service. They entered the jail about half past six and caught the inmates right in the act, and so well had their attempt succeeded that another half hour would have seen them well on their way to liberty. The visit of the sheriff at this hour was a complete surprise, as the practice had been to allow the prisoners to remain in the corridor until about nine o'clock when they were locked in their respective cells. They had torn one of their bunks apart and secured two wedge shaped pieces of scantling and reaching through the grates which separates the jail corridor from the jailor's corridor, had succeeded in securing a ball and chain. This with the scantling enabled them to get a purchase on the bars which resulted in wrenching one from its socket in the floor, leaving space enough for them to pass into the outer corridor where the only thing between them and liberty was an oak door which would not long have withstood their attack with so effective a weapon as the heavy ball for a sledge. A search of the cells disclosed the fact that preparation for this event had been on foot for several days, as a quantity of provisions had been secreted and a case-knife saw and a new file were found after a diligent search. The prisoners were locked in their respective cells where they will remain until the damage done to the corridor can be repaired and it is also safe to presume that the leniency heretofore shown them will be greatly curtailed.

DEC 5, 1885: BROKE JAIL: Tuesday last between eleven and twelve o'clock in the forenoon, James MOSSO and Tom COLWELL, two prisoners confined in the county jail on charge of larceny succeeded in making their escape during the temporary absence of the jailor. MOSSO, who has been the ring leader in all misconduct and who bears the earmarks of a desperate character, planned and executed this successful escape. The particulars are related by Jerry BODEN, a fellow prisoner confined on charge of assault with intent to kill, but who refused to aid in the attempt and remained in his cell are as follows:

The three prisoners were locked in their respective cells, a blacksmith was at work repairing the door of the corridor and the jailor had stepped out to clean some fish for dinner. The blacksmith finished his job and left, and MOSSO, who apparently had been waiting for something of the kind, said, "now is the time, if ever," and wrenched loose from his iron bunk a V shaped bar of iron about four feet long. He ran this through the grates, and using it as a wrench, unscrewed the large nut that held the bar that connected the rod with the combination lock which enabled him to easily slip back the two large bolts that barred the door. The door was still secured by a heavy brass padlock and catching this in the jaws of his V shaped instrument he easily twisted the lock in two. He then freed COLWELL in the same manner and asked BODEN if he wanted to go. BODEN told him he did not and was threateded with death if he attempted to give any alarm. With the same instrument they easily broke the padlocks to the two outer jail doors, thus gaining entrance to the main corridor in the basement and from thence passed through the alley to the public water closets and out through the window, the entire time from beginning to end not occupying to exceed ten minutes.

At first thought one is led to believe that some one is entitled to censure for the escape of these men but a thorough investigation of all the facts in the case and a personal inspection of the instrument used by MOSSO, convinces the PRESS that no blame can be attached to any of the officers or that the jail is any more insecure than the average jails throughout the country, In fact, only a few months ago the jail was examined by the secretary of the state board of charities and reform, a part of whose duty it is to personally examine into the security of all the jails in the state, and was pronounced by him to be first class in all respects but one. He found one weak spot and it is a noteworthy fact that no attempt was made to escape at this weak point.

The PRESS is inclined to think that the true secret of this successful jail break lies in the fact that the officers did not fully appreciate the metal of this man MOSSO. According to his own story, he is an old hand at the business of breaking jail and claims to have led in an slmost successful attempt to escape from Waupun a few years ago, his time at that institution only expiring last May. No ordinary jail can hope to hold him without the constant use of the ball and chain and this is what he ought to have had applied to him. Some express surprise that the attempt to escape in broad daylight should have proven successful, but the very audacity of the move was what rendered it successful. The several county officers were in the building and in passing through the water closet, the prisoners were within three feet of Judge WARDEN, it was very near the hour for dinner, and taken in all, no one would have thought they would have chosen this apparently inopportune hour.

DEC 5, 1885: Wednesday Jerry M. BODEN, who has been confined in the county jail for several weeks past on a charge of assault with intent to kill, came before county judge [A. M.] WARDEN on a writ of habeus corpus. J. J. MILES of Ashland appeared for BODEN and district attorney SHEA for the state. The judge took until Thursday to decide the case and then gave BODEN his liberty, deciding that the commitment was irregular. BODEN left on the noon train for his home in Ashland, the PRESS trusts a wiser and better man than when he was brought to jail.

DEC 12, 1885: MOSSO Caught: Thursday morning Sheriff Gonyon boarded the morning train for Shell Lake having received a dispatch from that point, stating that James MOSSO, an account of whose escape from the county jail was published last week, had been captured after a desperate struggle and was dangerously wounded.

DEC 19, 1885: Tuesday, Sheriff GONYON was called to Hayward by a telegram to the effect that his escaped prisoner COLWELL had been captured at that place. It proved to be a tramp who somewhat resembled COLWELL.

Sheriff GONYON returned from Shell Lake Saturday last where he found his escaped prisoner, MOSSO, hovering between life and death. It appears that a party at Shell Lake by the name of SMITH, owed MOSSO a small sum of money and on his escape from jail here, he started for Shell Lake to secure the sum due him. He entered the town in the day time and was seen by one of the local police officers who shortly after received Sheriff GONYON's description of MOSSO and recognized his man. That night Sheriff HYLAND, his deputy and three others traced MOSSO to a house of ill-fame about one mile out of town, and surprised him in bed. The Sheriff, with revolver pointed at MOSSO's head, ordered him to surrender. This he refused to do and attempted to pull his revolver when the sheriff snapped his revolver twice, both times it failed to respond. By this time MOSSO's revolver was almost levelled and the deputy sheriff opened fire, the ball striking MOSSO in the left shoulder. MOSSO's pistol dropped but he quickly rallied and attempted to fire when another bullet from the deputy's revolver entered his neck and he fell back disabled. Physicians were summoned and decided that both balls had lodged near the spinal column but could not locate them exactly. MOSSO was removed to the jail where he now lies in critical condition. Until the arrival of Sheriff GONYON he would not admit that his name was MOSSO. The fact that he showed fight while in bed and under cover of revolvers of two officers shows the desperate character of the man and demonstrated the fact that his assertion that he would never be taken alive was no idle boast. It is said that the sheriff of Marathon county has offered a reward of $200 for his capture on a charge of horse stealing. MOSSO was born and raised at Sauble, Mich., and served a term in the reform school of that state. He also served a short term in this state's prison at Waupun, where he will again lodge for a season should he recover from his present wounds.

COLWELL, who escaped with MOSSO, was tracked to Pratt, but when the officers raided his ranch, he had flown.

Since MOSSO was arrested a few days ago, we understand that COLWELL stayed in Pratt several nights with his sister who has been living here, but since the knowledge of her brother being here she concluded to leave, which she did.

DEC 26, 1885: Wednesday morning Sheriff GUNYON boarded the morning train for Shell Lake, having been notified by Sheriff HYLAND that his prisoner, MOSSO, had so far recovered from his wounds as to be able to stand removal to this place. The sheriff and his prisoner are expected on Thursday evening's train.

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