Pinkerton Report - Feb 2, 1891

Dublin Core


81/2 x 14"




MS020, 1/19

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New York Feb 5, 91.
Jos. M. Ives Esq.
257 Main St
Danbury, Conn.
Our operative J.T. McM. further reports.
Monday Feby 2/91
Today in Danbury.
At 7 a.m. I arose and had breakfast. After breakfast, I received a telephone call from Mr. James Porter asking me to come at once to his store. I at once left the Hotel and proceeded by horse car to Porter’s store, where I met him. He told me that a man had been arrested and that oil and matches had been found at Beers lumber yard on Main st. I went at once to the lumber yard, which is situated just at the New England R.R. crossing on Main st. The yard consists of a long shed through the center of which runs a track for the use of Beers to load and unload lumber. The lower end of yard is devoted
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to coal. The sides of the shed are open. The shed runs East and West, on the South side of shed are piled matched flooring boards. They were not piled solid, but at different points, there were spaces where some of the lumber had been taken out, in one of these spaces about midway down the shed, and facing the main track of the New England track, my attention was called to stains on the boards. I rubbed my hands on the boards, and then smelled them and at once saw that it was kerosene oil. The oil had been poured upon the boards, and thrown up on the sides of the piles of lumber near by, about two feet further or nearer the street, the oil was used in the same way. On getting up on to the lumber, I saw that the oil had been used there also. After looking over the lumber, I took a car and went to station house with Mr. Porter. I went at once into the prison where I saw Mayor Hopkins and several men questioning a man who stood in their midst. I at once recognized him as a man that I saw in Johnsonville, New York, last Fall. He was there in shee[] an heotie and on a drunk. I asked that time if he belonged there, and was told that he did not.
I did not enter into the questioning
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only after they got through. I turned to the man, and asked him when he left Johnsonville. He said, “Young fellow, I guess you are mistaken. I do not know such a place, and was never there.” I said no more, but came out, and went up to the Mayor’s office.
I told the Mayor that I wanted to get statements from the men that found this man. The mayor said he would send for the men. After this I went to Ronans saloon on Keeler st. I described the man that was arrested, and asked if such a man had been in. He said that yesterday, at about 11 a.m., that man came in, drank beer, and spent twenty five cents, left there at 12 noon, came back at 2 p.m. but was so intoxicated that they would not give him any thing, came in again at 4 p.m., was quite drunk, would not sell him any thing, did not see him again. While he was in here, he made enquiry for a blacksmith shop. I then returned to the Mayor’s office, but the men had not yet arrived.
I went to telegraph office where I sent dispatch to agency stating that “Stranger arrested last night. Oil and matches found. Am making investigation, will advise you later.”
I returned to the Mayor’s office where
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I met Vergil E. Barnum and Frederich Bevans. I had them make statements to me in the presence of Mayor Hopkins, James Porter, Morris Meyers and Arthur H. Averill, prosecuting attorney for the City of Danbury.
One word in regard to Vergil Barnum, he is a man worth about $75,000. He has not got the greatest respect of all the citizens of Danbury, and some think that he is not over and above doing the very act that he wishes the public to think this man done, for the sake of the name of catching the man and the $3,000 reward.
Bevans is a poor man that has worked for Barnum in times past and who has been arrested for stealing a watch, but was let off by returning the stolen property. The entire affair has caused a quiet laugh throughout the city today.
I finished statements at about 12 noon. I then went with Mr. Averill to lumber yard to show him the place that oil was found.
I also met Silas Mead; he claimed to me to have found a bottle in which was found a small quantity of kerosene oil. That bottle is now in the possession of Mayor Hopkins. Silas Mead then made a statement.
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After dinner I saw prosecuting attorney at Kings eating house, No. 50 White st. He is not at all backward in saying that he doubts the story of Barnum and Bevans.
I went to the Mayors office where I wrote out the statements of Barnum and Bevans. When I had them finished I told the Mayor to send for Mr. Barnum and Bevans. On their arrival, I read the statements to them, after which they took oath to them, before George Wakeman, [] of Sup. Court.
I went to McLeans dry goods store where I saw Mr. parker, and asked him to come to station house with me. He came over, I told him a man was locked up, that I wanted him to see, and seeif he could recognize as having seen before. I then took him into the prison part, and going to this man’s cell, called him to the door, with the light full on his face, had him in conversation for about five minutes, Mr. Parker stood behind me. After giving Parker chance enough to view the man, I came out locking the door, had conversation with Parker, he said he could not tell if that was the man or not, all he could say was, that this man was about the same build of the man that he saw the night of Manion’s fire, that he
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said, is all I can say.
I then told him that I would bring his daughter up to see him, and see if she could identify him. He said he would let her come.
I then saw the mayor in regard to the matches. He said he was informed of the attempt early this morning. He went at once to the lumber yard and got the two partly burned matches and they are now in his possession. He showed them to me, they are almost burned up, but enough are left to show that they were the grooved match which is the style of the parlor match, such as found on Manion’s house steps.
The mayor does not know what to think of this man James Preston, the matches found in his pocket this morning when searched, were all of the black head, round match; no parlor matches were found.
I will get full statement from mayor in the morning, as the mayor was about to go home.
I then went into prison where I had a talk with James Preston, the man arrested for this attempt. He is a wild looking fellow, this look being no doubt the effect of the long spree that he has been on. He is about 5 feet 10 inches in height, slim build, black mustache
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rather long, weight about 170 pounds, dark hear, wears cap, medium length dark coat, somewhat worn, dark pants. He is getting over his drunk and begins to see the fix that he is in. I questioned him, he did not seem to want to talk much, but sticks to it that he was not intending to set any fire, nor did he make any attempt.
I went into Sergt Waggoners office and got statement from him.
Yours Resp[]
Pinkertons Nat. Dect Agy
Robt. A. Pinkerton
Genl Supt Ediv.




Pinkerton, Robert A. (Robert Allan), 1848-1907. “Pinkerton Report - Feb 2, 1891.” Pinkerton Detective Agency Danbury Fires Investigation Collection, MS020. WCSU Archives, 9 July 2019. Accessed on the Web: 22 Jan. 2020.


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