Pinkerton Report - Jan 13-14, 1891 - typed transcription

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81/2" x 14"


Jan 13, 1891


MS020 1/3

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Jos. M. Ives, Esq.,
257 Main Street, Danbury, Conn.,
Our Operative J.T. McM. Further reports as follows, relative to the fires in Danbury, Conn.:

Tuesday, Jan. 13, 1891.
“To-day in Danbury. After breakfast, I started out to call at the office of Osborn Bros., lumber dealers. On the way to the yard, I met Granville Holmes, who suggested that and inquiry be made regarding “Whiskey Davis”. We both, then, made inquiry at different places and at last learned from policeman Bradley that Davis was in town on Saturday night but has not been seen since. Bradley said he would learn to-day, if possible, whether he had left, or was still in the city.
I called at the office of Osborn Brothers, on White Street, near the scene of the late fire. I met Mr. Chester C. Osborn, one of the members of the firm. I explained my business to him and he at once took me into the yard and showed me the grounds and site of the burned buildings. After examining the grounds, we returned to the office and Mr. Osborn made the following statement:
“The fire took place on the evening of Saturday, Dec. 20, 1890, at about 10:30 pm. Just who discovered it, I do not know, but heard it was discovered by a man who happened to be passing at the time.
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Dr. Rider, a dentist on Main Street, was on of the first to get here. He was walking through White Street. The buildings that were destroyed were the regulation lumber sheds, open in front with slanting roof, a platform running the entire length of each, half way up, so that lumber could be put away. A bridge across from the platforms, at both ends enabled a man to go from each shed without going on the ground. The buildings were two stories high, running north and south. Dr. Rider said that when he reached there he saw a distinct fire, like a barn fire, at the north end of the upper story and a train of fire from there to the bridge at the south end of shed, to another spot of fire like a barn fire, the train of fire continuing around the bridge to the west shed, to another large blaze, which to Dr. Rider looked like a blaze from oil. We have not employed any night watchmen for some time. We did not employ one when so many fires took place, two years ago. I have my own opinion as to who can be the originator of these fires and that is Stevens, Hack and a man named Horatio Brown. In regard to Carlton Hack, at the time of the Anderson fire in Ives’ court, Fred Olmstead saw a man running away and he said he was positive it was Carlton Hack. Freight Agent Burr, of the Housatonic R.R., will tell you of three men he saw standing in front of the yard and talking about the sheds. There is a very singular incident connected with the fires and that is, that a man named John Ray was here about two years ago, during the time of the fires and he was suspected of them, but left the city and went to Norwalk, where fires at once became frequent. I understand that he is back here not, but cannot get any definite information as to whether he is or not. Hack is
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in this city and has a lame foot, which he claims is burned. The loss to us, is, as near as we can judge, about $28,000. It is evident that a crude oil was used, for it was seen on the ground, in the gangway between the sheds. This oil was evidently obtained from an oil car, which stood at the further end of the yard. That it was a deliberate act to destroy my property, I have not the slightest doubt.”
At the close of the interview, it was 12:15p.m. and I returned to the hotel, first meeting Mr. Holmes at Dow’s saloon.
At 1:45 p.m. I called on Dr. Rider, dentist on Main Street and made inquiry of him regarding the fire at Osborne Bros. He said:
“At about 10 p.m. on that evening I heard the alarm of ire sounded. I was on White Street near the Wooster House. I ran down to the yard of Osborne Brothers. There were quite a number in the yard when I reached there. I saw a large fire at the north end of shed, in the second story and a trail of fire to the south end of shed, to another large fire over the south bridge, to a large fire in the south end of west shed. It was my opinion that the trail of fire was caused by oil but I could not smell any oil. I helped save the books and papers in the office. I cannot recall any persons I saw that night at the fire. I did not see Stevens that night. It is my opinion that the fire was set. I took particular notice of the trail of fire from one end to the other.” As this was all the information I could obtain from Rider, I called on freight agent Burr. He was busy and could not see me until 4 p.m. At the latter time I again called on him and he made the following statement regarding the fire:
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“I have been employed here only since November, 1890. I think it was two days before the fire, and some time in the afternoon, that I left my office to go up White Street. As I left the yard, I saw three men standing on the side walk, facing the gangway between the two sheds. The best description I ca[n] give of them is as follows:
No. 1 – About 35 years of age, 5 ft. 10 ins., stout build, dark complexion and dark mustache, wore derby hat and kind of gray over coat, a little stoop shouldered.
No. 2 – About 40 years of age, the same height as No. 1, slim build and mustache slightly gray, wore dark suit and hat.
No. 3 – About 25 years of age, wore dark suit, had no beard. I cannot give any real description of this man. The first man I could identify were I to see him again, but I do not think that I could identify the others. They were in earnest conversation and the stout man was pointing toward the east shed and as I passed, I heard him say, “Right there (pointing) and there.” I at first thought that something was the matter in the yard so I glanced through the gangway and then passed on, as I saw nothing. I did not go to the fire, in fact, I did not know of it until Sunday morning. On Sunday afternoon when reviewing the matter, the memory of those three men recurred to my mind and I told Mr. Osborne of it. IO am unacqua[i]nted in Danbury and these three men were strangers to me but I am sure I could pick out the stout man were I to see him again.” Mr. Burr and I then went out into the yard and going to the rear end, he showed me where the oil car stood. It was at the end of the lumber yard. It was received on Dec. 4th and taken away on Dec. 24th. Mr. Burr said that he would at
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any time in the evening visit the different places in the city, to see if he could pick out his man with me. Mr. Burr lives at 144 Main Street. The description given of the first man is a duplicate of that of Howard Stevens, the second is part of that of Lobdell and the third is uncertain.
I called again on Mr. Osborne and he said that on Friday evening before the fire, he saw Capt. Keating going through the yard several times. Finally, he came to the office and asked, “Do you keep a night watchman?” Mr. Osborne said, “I was surprised at that as he knew we did not keep one and I told him “No.” He then paid a little bill that he owed and left. On the Monday after the fire, I met Capt. Keating on the street and he asked, “Do you remember what I asked you?” This has ever since kept me thinking. The first time that I saw Hack since the fire, was on Jan 10th, near the Wooster House. He acted as if he did not want to see me and kept looking away from me.”
I remained with Mr. Osborne until 5:10 p.m. when I went to the Wooster House and saw Mr. Holmes and went with him to Dowd’s saloon, where he entered the private room and had several drinks. He said that he and the committee wanted me to be at the special session of the Councilmen to-night at 8 o’clock, as all the members of the fire department had sent in their resignations and they were to be acted upon and without doubt there would be many of the firemen present and they wanted to designate some of them to me, also, that it would be a good night for a fire and Stevens would no doubt be in. I remained with Mr. Holmes until 5:55 p.m., when I went to the hotel and had supper.
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At 7:30 pm. I was at the City Hall, where I met Mayor Hopkins, Councilman McPhelemy, Mr. Holmes and the fire commissioners, also the special committee on the late fires. At 8 p.m., the meeting was called to order by Mayor Hopkins. The object of the meeting was to act on the resignation of the entire fire department, with the exception of two members. It seems that the Councilmen had granted an increase of pay to the members some time ago but the Aldermen could not concur with the lower body, thus killing the act of the Councilmen. The men asked for a uniform salary of $200 for bunkers and $75 for call men per year. There appeared to be a divided feeling as to how to act. Some desired to accept the resignations and to reconstruct the entire department, while others thought to grant the request. After considerable discussion it was voted to ask the members of the department to continue for one month longer and then give the Alderman and Councilmen a chance to act on the question and arrive at some kind of a conclusion. The call men now get $25.00 per year, or as they term it, $.07 per day. They are willing to do anything for the city to save it from disaster, free, but if they are to be known as a paid department, they want a sum suitable for the work performed. From inquiry made, it appears that the masses think that the firemen are just in their demands, but do not like what is here termed a “strike” on the part of the department. Chief Meyers was an interested spectator during the entire proceedings. The resignations were to take effect on Jan. 16th. It was stated by Councilman McPhelemy that he was sure the members would wait for the month asked of them. The outcome of this undoubtedly will be that the advance will be granted but many
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of the old members will be dropped, by first accepting the resignation then granting the increase and then making appointment of such members of the present force, as will be thought best. The meeting lasted until 9 p.m.. None of the firemen were present but Chief Meyers. Word was sent to Mr. Holmes, Mr. Porter and myself that Stevens had not come to town as was expected. I then returned to the hotel.
So far, there are good grounds for suspecting Stevens in regard to the Osborne fire. First, he has an appointment with Holmes on Saturday night, when Holmes is given to understand that Stevens is to divulge the names of any that are engaged in the business. He fails to keep that engagement and a fire occurs that very night. On Sunday, at 10:30 a.m., when Mr. Holmes drives out to Stevens’ place, Stevens speaks of two fires, as news obtained from news-boy, when he could have only got news of one, if he had stayed at home, as he claims was the case. Then, again, he contradicts himself as to who his company was that night. Again, Sherwood, the market man, at No. 81 White Street and Ed Hews, his book-keeper, claim to have seen Stevens walking away from the fire just at the time when it was discovered. Again, the description given by the freight agent (Burr) at the Housatonic Railroad depot, of the man he saw in company with two other men, two days before the fire, at the gangway leading to the lumber yard and who was pointing to the shed where the fire was set, is enough to justify a most rigid examination of him.
As to the fire at Lyon’s barn, “Whiskey” Davis, if he is ever found, may with a little pressure, tell all that he knows and if he does, may be able to explain where and how he got the cow manure on
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his clothes. The person who set the Osborne fire is the person who set the others.
There is but one solution to these fires and that is an attempt to show up the inability of the present fire department to cope with fires.
It has been at the request of the parties in charge of this matter that I have refrained from questioning any of the suspects, but by so doing they may be able to get from them some clue. I suggest that each be interviewed and get them to explain some facts that as they stand now, do not place them in a good light.”

Wednesday, Jan. 14, 1891.
“I left on the 7:36 a.m. train for New York where I received instructions to obtain statements from some of the more respectable members of the fire department and the police department. I left New York on the 1 p.m. train and arrived in Danbury at 3:45 p.m. I met Mr. Porter at the depot and he told me to go to Hurd’s saloon as Stevens was there. I entered the saloon and had a drink. Stevens had just arrived in town and was about to go out to his mother’s house. While I was standing at the bar with Mr. Porter, Stevens came up and stood near us. We all treated. I did not care to spend much time with him and left and went to Morris Meyer’s cigar store. Mr. Meyers was not in and I left word to have him call at the Turner House this evening. I returned to the hotel where I waited until 8:30 p.m. but
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as Mr. Meyers had not made his appearance up to that time I went about town again. I saw Meyers in his store but as there was a crowd in there I did not enter. At Hurd’s saloon I met Mr. Holmes and Mr. Porter. They informed me that Carlton Hack was on Ives Street at the present time and in an intoxicated condition and it might be a good time to see him. I went immediately to Ives Street, where I looked into the saloons but saw nothing of Hack. I visited McPhelemy’s saloon on White Street and had been there but a short time when Morris Meyers entered with a crowd of men. They all treated. The entire conversation was on the management of firemen at fires. could not find an opportunity to make an appointment with Meyers without attracting attention.
I returned to my hotel at 11p.m. To-morrow at 8 a.m. I shall call on Mr. Meyers at his store and obtain a statement from him there.”
Yours Respectfully,
Pinkerton’s Nat’l Det. Agency.
Robt. A. Pinkerton
Gen’l Supt. East. Div.




Pinkerton, Robert A. (Robert Allan), 1848-1907. “Pinkerton Report - Jan 13-14, 1891 - typed transcription.” Pinkerton Detective Agency Danbury Fires Investigation Collection, MS020. WCSU Archives, 9 July 2019. Accessed on the Web: 25 Jan. 2020.


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