Pinkerton Report - Jan 20 1891

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McM investigates Manion fire attempt.




MS020 1/10

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New York Jan 24, 91.
Jos. M. Ives Esq.
257 Main St.
Danbury, Conn.

Our Operative J. T. McM. further reports.
Tuesday Jan 20, 91.
Today in Danbury.

After breakfast I went to the Police station to get any facts regarding the attempt to set fire to Mr. Mannion’s house on Grand St. last night. I saw the Capt. of Police. He told me that it was a fact the attempt was made. I went to the house of James A. Mannion at No. #60 Grand St. It is a two story, double wood house, newly built, standing in some distance from the street and at quite an elevation above the roadway, one doorway of the house is numbered 60 and the other 60 ½ – on the stoop to #60 ½, I saw at once that oil had been spilt in such a quantity that it had run down the steps and over the side. Over the stoop is lattice work; this also
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was covered with oil, and spots on side of house under bay window showed traces where it looked as if the oil had spattered up against the side. I rubbed my hand on the place on the stoop where oil was, and saw that it was kerosene oil, in my opinion at least a quart (perhaps more) had been spilled; who ever did it spilled the oil on stoop close to building and under doorway. I looked over the stoop and along the side and found a match almost consumed, only having about ¼ of an inch. I took this remaining part of the match. I rang the bell of 60 ½ and Lady came to the door. I learned that Heber Pettit, a hatter, lives here. I asked the Lady regarding the attempt to set fire to the house, and she at once referred me to Mrs. Mannion at No. 60. I then called at No. 60 and saw Mrs. Mannion and going into sitting room she said, “About 11 o’clock last night, myself and husband were in bed asleep, I was awakened by some one calling my husband from the outs. I opened the window and saw that it was Mr. Parker who lives next door. He asked if Jim, my husband, was in, I said he was and asleep. He said, send him down at once. I called Jim and he dressed and went down there. He found quite a quantity of oil on the stoop of No. 60 ½ and was told by Mr. Parker
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how he had seen a man attempting to set fire to the stoop. My husband went at once to the police station and informed the police and a “Special” was sent out here. Mr. Parker, at McLeans dry goods store can give you the full particulars. All we know is what we have been told”. I returned up town, and saw the Mayor regarding this last attempt. The Mayor was quite sure that the fire bug was at work again. I went to McLean’s dry goods store at 221 Main St. and met Mr. James A. Parker. He is a middle aged man, trim grey hair and beard, and has the best of reputations in town. He lives on the north west cor. of Grand and Whittock Sts. and the first house south of Mr. Mannion’s house; he said,
“I returned home last night at about 10 p.m. Saw no person about the house that acted in any manner suspicious. At about 10:30 I had occasion to take some ashes out into the yard and noticed a tall man with long overcoat walking slowly past Mr. Mannion’s house. I did not pay any attention to him at that time and returned to the house. Not long after that I had occasion to go out to closet in yard, and saw that the man was still there. I sat in closet in yard and noticed the man was walking up and down the street. He would stop and
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look up at house, first at mine, and then at Mr. Mannion’s. As a stranger coming up Grand from Wooster, came into sight, the man I had noticed ran to the other side of the street and kept out of sight until he passed, he then came back on to our side of the street. There are two steps leading from roadway to street walk, then several steps from walk up to Mr. Mannion’s yard. I saw the man first sit down on steps from roadway. He remained here a short time, he then sat on steps leading to yard, he then sneaked up to stoop steps. By this time I had returned into house and was watching man from my bay window. The shadow therein by the electric light prevents me from seeing what the man was doing, but I could make out that he was doing some thing. While watching him I saw a faint light as if made by a match. The light went out, then again came another flash. It was held close to the stoop. I ran to my door, and no doubt the noise made by closing the door frightened the man, for he jumped up and ran away very fast down Grand to Wooster. I called out to him, “Hi there, what are you doing?” I could see the man run to Wooster St. It was such a bright moon light night, I ran at once to Mr. Mannion’s house, got him up and went to stoop. Then Mr. Mannion took up
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in his hand (scooped) kerosene oil, where was quite a quantity of it, I should think at least a gallon. We went at once to police station and gave the alarm. Strange as it may seem I cannot give any description of this man. I was watching him from about 10 p.m. until 11:30 p.m.; this was about the time that he ran away. I can only say that he was tall, about 5ft 9 and wore a long coat and derby hat. I cannot say if he was black or white, nor if he had any beard or not. I was not at any time less than seventy five feet to him. It never occurred to me that he perhaps might be about to attempt to burn the building, not until I saw him light the match. I now see that I did wrong to make any noise to attract his attention. I thought that perhaps he might be watching for some person.”
I then went down street as far as Wooster House, where I met “Special officer” Goodell. I went with him to private room over Huras’ saloon, and had a talk with him. He has been special on Stevens for some time and feels convinced that Stevens has had nothing to do with the late fires and he does not think that of all the suspects we have not yet struck the right person. He has been looking for the man seen by Mr. Parker last night. I had
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lager and cigar with Mr. Goddell and it now being noon, I returned to hotel for dinner. After dinner I went to Morris Meyer’s store to see if he had any information regarding last night’s attempt; he had none other than what I had. Stevens was in town last night, he said. I then went to McPheleney’s saloon on White Street, spoke to him about attempt. He told me to come in at 6 p.m. and he would give me a man that he thinks has run across this strange man seen by Mr. Parker and he thinks it is the same man that was seen by persons to go under Greene & Beebe’s shop a few nights before that place burned.
I went out and visited all the different saloons, such as might be visited by the “fire bug” and in each place I looked at the matches to see if they corresponded in shape to the remains of the one I found at #60 Grand St. At only one place did I find such a match, and that was at Dillen’s on Ives St. The match I found was grooved down the side. At Dillen’s I saw several such matches lying in end of bar near door. I looked at one and put it in my pocket and have it now saved up with
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the burnt match from Grand St.. At none of the saloons did I see Hack or Lobdell. It now being 5:45 p.m., I went to McPhelney’s saloon and was told by him that the man he spoke of had been in and had gone away and would be back on Wednesday night, and left word that he would meet me and by that time he could tell me more about the man with the long overcoat.
After supper I left hotel in company with Officer Bradley; we went through lower section of the city, went into such saloons as we came to, went up side streets but at no place could we find any man to answer the description given by Mr. Parker. At same saloons we visited I treated Officer Bradley to cigars. Tomorrow I will start early to drive out to Stevens’ house as I want to get rid of him. I would have gone there today only for the attempted fire last night.
I made inquiry last night regarding the reputation of Mr. Mannion and if malice might not be the object of the attempt, but I was told that Mr. Mannion was not known to have any enemies and had a good reputation.

Wednesday Jan 21, 91.
After breakfast I went to livery stable of Platt Osborn on Main St. where I engaged
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carriage to drive out to Taunton Lake to interview Howard Stevens. At 9 a.m. I left the hotel in company with Officer David Bradley. At 11 a.m. we arrived in sight of Howard Stevens’ house which is at the foot of a steep hill leading from Newtown road and on the banks of Taunton Lake. I left Officer Bradley at top of hill and I drove to the house alone. At the door I was met by Mrs. Howard Stevens who told me that Howard was out on the lake fishing. I told her I would like to see him. She then went to the rear of the house and called out loud to Howard who I could see about midway out on the ice; in about 5 minutes he came in and came to the sleigh where I was sitting. I told him I wanted to get some information from him regarding the Fire Dept. He invited me into the house. I put my horse and sleigh under the shed and went into the house. He introduced me to his wife who was just going out to drive. The house was very comfortably furnished. A large photo of Howard with uniform of Chief hangs on the wall of sitting room, and also a large photo of Chiefs of different sections of the country. Howard at once brought out some whiskey and invited me to drink. I drank with him. I then told him that I wanted him to give me
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his opinion of the origin of the late fires. He then made a statement, the greater part of his statement I paid no attention to as it related to his hatred for Meyers and how he will punch Meyers when ever he gets the chance. How to take his statement as regards Hack, I do not know If much weight can be given to it or not; he seems to be very positive as to what he says about him. At 1:30 p.m. I left Stevens’ house and met Bradley up the road. We returned to Danbury arriving there at 3:10 p.m., returned to stable where I paid $3.00 for use of sleigh. I went to Meads where I had lunch not having been able to get any thing to eat on the road. At 4 p.m. I returned to hotel where I waited until 8:30 p.m. for Stevens but he did not come. Thinking perhaps he might not have come in, I walked down town, and as I reached R.R. St. I saw Officer Goodell standing in front of Doods place. I felt certain that Stevens was in the saloon. I went in, saw Stevens with a large number of men among them was Granvill Holmes. Stevens was drinking. I went at once and was followed by Holmes. On the outside Holmes said to me, “Stevens has met Hack and there may be the devil to pay tonight. Keep a watch and follow us if we go out”. I did not return
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into saloon, as I did not want Stevens to talk to me in there. I then went as far as Wooster House, and saw that there were two shadows on Stevens besides Sargt. Waggoner; Granville Holmes and a young man named Dan; up till 10:30 they were still in the saloon and I discontinued.
Yours Respect[fully],
Pinkerton Nat. Dect. Agy.
Robt. A. Pinkerton
Genl. Supt. E. Div.




Pinkerton, Robert A. (Robert Allan), 1848-1907. “Pinkerton Report - Jan 20 1891.” Pinkerton Detective Agency Danbury Fires Investigation Collection, MS020. WCSU Archives, 9 July 2019. Accessed on the Web: 25 Jan. 2020.


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