Pinkerton Report - Jan 9, 1891

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8 1/2" X 11" - Hand-written
Report from Pinkerton Operative McM (McManus) to Danbury Alderman Jos. M. Ives.


The first report from Pinkerton Operative McManus begins with his arrival in Danbury via the train from New York City on Friday, Jan 9, 1891, and then reveals that he is staying at the Turner House which was located at 73 Main Street.
The operative's first morning in the city brings him into conference with Joseph M. Ives, the Alderman to whom the Pinkerton reports are addressed. Mr. Ives gives him a brief outline of the city's expectations of his investigation, and then proceed to visit the sites of the fires currently under investigation -- Foster Brother's Lumber Yard, Clark's Box Factory, Osborne's Lumber Yard, Greene's Box Factory, and Reed's Machine Shop.
The operative is then introduced by J.M. Ives to the Mayor Lewis LeGrand Hopkins, Alderman to the Second Ward Mortimer G. Rundle, and Ellery J. (a.k.a William) McPhelemy who is a Councilman of the Fourth Ward and serves as a member of the Joint Standing Committee for the Fire Department.
Danbury's city administration expresses its strong suspicions of Howard Stevens and Eugene Lobdell (Lovedell).
The operative speaks to Stevens' wife who slurs Morris Meyers and Democrats and blames them for the fires while also saying that she knows who's responsible.



Document Item Type Metadata


New York Jany 13 , ‘91
Jos. M. Ives Esq.
257 Main St.
Danbury, Conn.

Our operative J.T. McM. reports as follows.
Friday Jany 9. ‘01
Today in Danbury.
I arrived here last evening from New York at 11.45 pm and went to the Turner House.
At 7 am I arose and after breakfast called at the Mayors Office in City Hall but found that he had not yet arrived. I went to the store of Mr. J.M. Ives. I gave him letter of introduction, we went into private office and had conversation. Mr. Ives gave me a brief outline of what he desired, and then drove me through the section where all the fires had taken place, and I find that they have all been confined within the space of 1/8th of a mile and all near
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and in the vicinity of the Housatonic R & R yards, and all that have been reached in time, oil waste has been found, and at Osborne’s Lumber Yard oil was found poured on boards in lumber yard. The fires of the present investigation are:
Foster’s Lumber Yard and Shop
Clark’s Factory and Roundhouse
Osborne’s Lumber Yard
Greene’s Box Factory and Reed’s Machine Shop
We then drove to the factory of Mr. Rundle where I met Mayor Hopkins, Mortimer G. Rundle, J.M. Ives, and Elery J. McPhelemy. The conversation at once was regarding the fires, in the first place the names of Howard Stevens and Lobdell were only considered it being the firm belief of the Gentlemen present that both of these men if not the actual perpetrators of the acts, knew who was engaged in it.
At the Osborn fire Stevens was seen, yet he denies being at the fire or even in the town that night, his wife also says that Stevens was home that night. The Mayor told me that he would bring me proof that Stevens was within a few feet of the fire when it broke out and before the alarm was given. But at once got out of sight, and was not seen again during the evening. The feeling exists yet against the department by the (at least some of) members of the Kohanza Hose Company, as regards
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Lobdell, he has been discharged from the employ of the Railroad Company, but his friend Betts yet remains on the road running on the “branch”. Stevens has moved from the city and now lives out about seven miles on the borders of Taunton Lake. He keeps a boat house and sells liquor on the quiet.
Carlton Hack of the Truck Company is thought to be a tool of Stevens and Lobdell. Two barns that were burned in the month of December are not thought to be the work of the party that has been engaged in the other fires. These two barns were out at the further end of town. It is also a queer fact that all the fires take place between the hours of 10pm and 2am, and confined in the same section of the town and between the two railroad tracks. The committee feel convinced that there is someone that keeps the person engaged in this, informed as to the moves of all engaged in trying to unearth this, and it is the general belief that the “livewire”, is no less a person than the Chief of Police Keating, not that he does it to defeat the [cuds] of justice but more from a source of petty jealousy, he wishing to be the one to get at the bottom facts. It has also been evident that whoever the party is, that they must be either very bold and daring in their acts or insane
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for instance the fact of the Osborn Lumber yard fire, while that fire was in progress the Green and Reed buildings are set on fire but a short distance away.
At the Osborn fire the first person seen is Stevens, at the Green fire the first person seen is Ellwood. The fire at Osborn’s Yard was at 10:30pm at Green and Reeds at 1am. Mayor Hopkins said he would have Sargent Waggoner of the Police Department meet me this afternoon at the same place, as he had some important information to give me. None of the Gentlemen I met this morning had anything but hearsay evidence, but I told them that what I wanted was direct evidence and they promised to procure it. It was thought best to meet again at 2pm same place.
At 2pm I returned to Mr. Rundle’s office and met Sgt. Waggoner. It is fit to state here that there is a self-constituted committee formed unknown to outsiders who are doing their best to form some conclusion. That committee consists of Sgt. Waggoner, Mr. Portin of Hull & Portin hardware dealers, Main Street, and G.O. Holines, clerk of the city court. They have at the present time parties on the outside, who are keeping watch of all suspected parties and Mr. Holines is in with Stevens, giving Stevens to understand that he can have the money offered if he will give up the parties
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that are the firebugs.
At Mr. Rundle’s office, I met Mr. Rundle, Mayor Hopkins, Mr. J.M. Ives, Sgt. Waggoner, and Mr. Portin. Waggoner spoke as follows, “ I have been engaged in trying to get at the bottom of this for some time. My suspicions have been directed toward Stevens, Lovdell, Whiskey Davis, and a man named Archie Lake. How many more are engaged in it I cannot say. I am doing outside work on it, but have several men who are on the inside. There is no man in the city that knows the town as well as Howard Stevens in all its ins and outs. He is a keen, cunning, and careful man. While I do not think he is the real person, the person who set the match, I am convinced that he knows who did it. About 3 weeks ago a barn belonging to Lyons just on the edge of the city here was burned at 2am. Howard Stevens was in company with Whiskey Davis and Archie Lake at Wooster House, that same morning up till 12:20am, and they were intoxicated. Davis went to bed, and these men left. It would take about 30 minutes for a person on a good smart walk to walk from Wooster House to Lyons place where fire was first discovered. Whiskey Davis and Lake were the first persons there, yet they live in a different portion of the town. I got to the fire as soon as Engine got there
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And saw the men, and on their seeing me they at once left. Since then Davis has not been seen. Lake is here now.
A man Mr. Jennings standing near Davis heard Lake say to Davis, “There is Waggoner”. And at that both fled. It is my (Waggoner’s) opinion that Stevens put these men up to this job. Mr. Booth, manager of Wooster house, can swear to Stevens being with those two men that night in bar room of hotel.
A few nights before the Green fire, Pat McCarty, well known here, saw two men near Green’s shop. Saw one go under shed and the other continued and crossed brook just back of the shop, out of the men the one that went under the shed, answers the descriptions of Davis, one was a tall and one was a short man, where the man came out and seeing that McCarty was watching him, he pretended to be quite drunk. This took place four nights before the fire. Whiskey Davis is said to have made the remark to Aldermen Foly and also Jacko De Barbier, an Italian, that Green’s would be the next place to go. Four nights before the Osborn fire, Lovdell in a small gathering at the Kohanza Hose Social Club made the following remark, “God damn the City-Fathers. God damn the department. You will see a bigger fire than Danbury has ever seen before this has ended.” (meaning trouble in fire dep’d) At the time of the Ives Court fire (about one year
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ago) At about 12:10 am Lobdell + Betts were seen in close conversation near the coal sheds just below the passenger depot of the Housatonic R.R. depot. This was just before it broke out, just as the alarm sounded they both ran towards the Engine tank. They were seen by Sup’t Payne of the R.R. who sent the night watchmen Grotty to inform the Police but the Police say that Grotty never came to report to them. Last spring Howard Stevens and his wife moved out to Taunton lake where they now keep a boat and fishing house.
And at the time of the Osborne fire, Charles Sherwood, who keeps a fish market about 100 ft away from where the fire started was standing in his doorway. This was about 10 pm he saw the flash of light and the blaze this was before the alarm was sounded. He ran towards the fire and passing by the telephone pole about 25 ft from the fire he saw Howard Stevens standing up close to that pole as if trying to hide himself. Sherwood passed him and went on to the fire. Stevens was not seen again that night or morning, yet Stevens wife and Stevens himself claim that he, (Howard) was not away from the house at Taunton lake that night. I should have stated while Sherwood in passing Stevens, Stevens spoke to Sherwood and said, “They will leave this time.” This was
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Before any person had yet arrived at the fire and before the alarm was given.
Three weeks before the Osborne fire John Spain, 2nd asst Engineer, Thomas Spain, his brother, Thomas Madden, a saloon keeper, and Edward McStay, had been out to Newtown for a drive and returning stopped at Stevens house at the lake for a drink and got into conversation with Mrs. Howard Stevens, and she made this remark, “God damn you democrats. You got Howard out of the department and that god damn sheeny (meaning Meyers) drove him out of the city. You have him down as the fire bug. He did not do it, but we know who did.” Howard came in at this time and heard her talking and became much excited and gave her a look enough to say “shut up.” There is one trouble here, and that is everyone is after Howard Stevens, and he is always on his guard. He gets all information of everything that is being done, and that information is from Chief Keating and policeman Reed. Lobdell and Stevens had been known to have been in town at every fire.
Serg’t Waggoner told me that he would have G. O. Holmes meet me tonight at Mr. Porters store.
At 7:30pm I went to Hull and Porters store and met Mr. Porter and Mr. Holmes before going on with Mr. Holmes story.
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It might be well to state facts regarding Mr. Holmes.
[Granville] O. Holmes is a well-known young man, is clerk of the city core, and a general all-rounder, knows everybody, and enjoys a good time. He is one of the committee that are trying to unearth the real person. He is a good friend of Howard Stevens and Stevens places confidence in him. Holmes gives him money now and then in small sums and pays for his lodging at Wooster house at different times and will take a social glass of liquor with him. Holmes is well to do, and besides being clerk is engaged in the real-estate business. Holmes feeling confident that Stevens was or did know the real culprit began working on Stevens. As a liar Holmes says that Stevens is a glittering success, or he is a most consummate villain. I had got so that Stevens had promised to turn up the parties to me if he would not be punished. He has already told me that he was engaged in the fires of two years ago, but is not in the present ones. Howard was to have an appointment with me the night of the Osborne fire but failed to keep it that night the fire took place. I, in company with a Mr. Mason, the next morning (Sunday) drove out to Stevens place to ask him why he had not kept his appointment. When
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we drove under the shed at his place he came out and helped us put up the horse. I asked him why he had not kept his appointment. He said he had company that night, first he said it was a Mr. Roscoe, and then changed it to a Mr. Minor, he said he went to bed at 10:30 pm. He then spoke about the two fires in town the night before and said the news boys told him about it that morning. (we arrived at Stevens house at 10:30 am) We then went into the house, held a general conversation. I then told Stevens I wanted to see him that night in the city. He said, “I guess I can.” He then spoke to his wife saying Holmes wants me to come over tonight. Mrs. Stevens then said, “Were there any fires in Danbury last night;” He said yes and told her what they were. (it seems strange that if Howard got his information from the news boy that he did not inform his wife) Now this is the night Stevens claims not to have been in the city, when Sherwood is positive about his identification of him not 25 ft from where the fire started. Stevens has told me that he could name Hack of Hook and Ladder Co. Waterman, hostler at Pat Osluis Stable and a young man named Freeland to set fires and would give me the tip when the trick was to be turned, so that they could be bagged all at once, he was to give the tip one hour before the job was to be done.
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A few nights before the Osborne fire, Stevens was at Dillons with Hack and Freeland but he afterwards told me he was shadowed so close by Reed and others that he could not make his appointments. Had Reed not followed him up so close that night I am positive that we would have got them all that night. When Hack came to the fire at Osborne’s he was very much excited and could hardly get on his coat, he is now suffering with a burned leg that he claims he burned while warming his feet in the oven of his stove after the fire. When Mr. Lyons barn burned two weeks ago Stevens, Whiskey Davis and Archy Lake were all at the Wooster house that night. Davis and Lake left at 12:20 am, Stevens had been in close conversation with them all evening, there were intoxicated and had gone to bed before they left at 1:40am. The fire was discovered by Mr. Lyons, the hired man who ran out followed by Mr. Lyons. The hired man got the horses and cows out of the barn. That night was cold and everything froze solid. The fire was set under the cow barn. Just after the hired man and Mr. Lyons had got out, two men came running up the walk to the barn; they did not make any outcry until almost up to the barn when the began yelling
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out, “Fire, Fire.” The hired man noticed that the tallest man’s (Whiskey Davis) clothes was covered with fresh cow manure and he said he got it in taking out the cows (cows were taken out by hired man). The only place he could get any fresh cow manure on his clothes was under the cow stable just where the fire was started. That Davis and his friend (who was no doubt Lake) the moment they saw Serg’t Waggoner come on to the ground disappeared, and were not seen again. Lake is here yet but Davis has not shown up since that night. Mr. Holmes feels convinced that Stevens is putting up these men to do these jobs and is always in town when they are done.
It was agreed that I should see Sherwood, Lyons and Meyers tomorrow. It was now 11 pm and I left the store in company with Mr. Porter and made several calls at Wooster House and Saloon to get spot on Hack or Stevens but did not see them. At 12:10 am I returned to my hotel.
Yours Respy
Pinkerton’s Nat-Dect Agy
Robt. A. Pinkerton
General Supt E





Pinkerton, Robert A. (Robert Allan), 1848-1907. “Pinkerton Report - Jan 9, 1891.” Pinkerton Detective Agency Danbury Fires Investigation Collection, MS020. WCSU Archives, 9 July 2019. Accessed on the Web: 29 Jan. 2020.


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