Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jailbreak and Recapture in Murray [otd 11/17]

On November 17, 1890, the jailer for the Murray, Idaho jail, a man named Ives, brought a carrier loaded with evening meals into the jailhouse. The load was no doubt somewhat awkward since he had rations for all six inmates. Prisoner Nicholas Tully – being held for assault with intent to kill, but considered a “trustee” – offered his help.

Murray, Idaho ca. 1907.
Central Washington University Archives.
When Ives entered the cell block, Tully and another prisoner jumped him. After a brief struggle, they overpowered Ives, then bound and gagged him. In moments, all six prisoners were free. However, it was still light, so they decided to wait for the cover of darkness.

Established in 1884, Murray (Murrayville, initially) was one of the most important Coeur d’Alene mining towns. A special election in June 1885 made it the county seat … and therefore the site of the county jail. The exact construction date is unclear, but a suitable structure was in place by 1888 at the latest.

The prisoners had already taken the jailer’s watch, money, and keys … and locked him in a cell. Now they searched the office, but could find only two revolvers. When darkness fell, they crept out of town. All the escapees were fairly hard cases: Besides attempted killer Tully, they included two who were in for grand larceny, two for highway robbery, and one for murder.

As soon as he thought it was safe, Ives managed to chew through his rope gag. After awhile, a passerby heard his calls and came in to help. The sheriff was away and no one had any spare keys, so the rescuers had to file through some of the cage bars to set him free.

A county commissioner hastily organized a small posse. The pursuers headed out at first light. Two men crossed over a local pass to Delta, about four miles west and slightly south of Murray. There, they found some trace of the escapees: The report does not say what signs they found, but in those days many men were skilled trackers.

They followed the signs south along Beaver Creek for four or five miles, and discovered the fugitives skulking through the fields. They knew the narrowing canyon would soon force the escapees back onto the road, so they hurried ahead. There, the pursuers encountered the Wallace stage driver and another man, and they agreed to help.

The two original posse men hid along the road while their new allies rushed back toward where the first two had seen the runaways. When the six fugitives straggled out of the brush, the pursuers confronted them. In a well-timed move, the stage driver and his helper sprang out behind the six with shotguns. Outgunned, the escapees surrendered without a fight.

Reference: [Hawley], [Illust-North]

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