Tag Archives: Edward Sourbler

Jail Plot Exposed (Part 7)

Schwartz, W. B. - 1906-09-20, p. 8 (4)

“The men are well treated,” he said. “Their food is good. It is utterly false that Edward Franklin, the night turnkey, has been intoxicated. I know he has not touched a drop in ten years. As to the complaint about the filth, they are expected to clean their own quarters. I announced to them in criminal court, where some of them were arraigned, that none would get a bite to eat until the cells were thoroughly cleaned.

“Yes, Judge Alford asked me about the complaint, and I showed him the evidences of the plot to escape. They made the complaint in order to escape punishment.”

Inspection of Ward.

County Commissioner McGregor and a representative of The Sun visited the jail Thursday, inspected the United States ward, and talked to the prisoners, who were house-cleaning very industriously, by applying streams of water from the hose to the cell floors. They said they were required to mop the floors every morning, but complained that there was a thorough cleaning ordered only once in about three weeks.

“Everything in that letter was true,” said Attorney William B. Schwartz, the counterfeiter, looking through the bars “Our bed-clothing is full of vermin, which is the worst things we have to bear.”

Prisoners Were Beaten

“Is it true that Jack Blake and L. Knauss were seriously beaten because they did not wish to sign the letter” he was asked.

“They were not hurt,” Schwartz replied, smiling, but he admitted they had been punished by the “Kangaroo court.”

Knauss cried when asked about his experience. “The ‘Kangaroo court’ said that I could not have a cot unless I paid for it,” he said, “and after the first night I had to sleep on the floor. They beat me up when I refused to sign the letter of complaint. I was whipped with a strap. Boys, it wasn’t right.”

Court Must Be Stopped.

Sheriff Sourbler is taking strenuous measures to break up the sessions of the court. John Smith and a prisoner named Greeley, two officers of the court, have been confined with the negro prisoners as a punishment, but the men in the dungeon are thought to have been the ringleaders.

Commissioner McGregor suggested to the sheriff that a garbage can be provided for the prisoners and that the cells be washed out oftener. Otherwise, he thought the prisoners had no right to complain, and will so report to Judge Alford.

“Jail Plot Exposed,” Indianapolis Sun (Indianapolis, Indiana), 20 September 1906, p. 8, col. 3-4; digital image, Newspaper Archive (http://www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 7 April 2014).

Jail Plot Exposed (Part 6)

Schwartz, W. B. - 1906-09-20, p. 8 (3)Meals for Sunday.

“At this meal the sirup is not diluted. The dinner meal is served at 2 o’clock in the afternoon and is the same as any other day, with the addition of boiled potatoes. No supper is served Sundays. The condition of the table and cutlery used by the prisoners, so far as filth is concerned, is in keeping with the other surroundings. Apparently no attempt is made to removed the corrosive and rusty substance from the cutlery, which time and inattention allow to accumulate.

Men Lost Their Breakfast.

“The occasion of this complaint is the outcome of a long series of the abuses embodied in this letter, and brought to a climax by the further unbearable treatment of the night turnkey in depriving all men in the United States ward of their breakfast, without the slightest provocation, and after he had repeatedly, and without cause, threatened to make life unbearable for all men in this ward. There are men here who are actually starving, unreasonable as it may seem, and unless something is done for the relief of these men the outcome will be serious, in some cases where the men are fit subjects for the hospital.

Ready to Make Affidavits.

“We, therefore, beseech your honor to cause such investigation as you may deem necessary and proper to verify the truth of these statements and to effect a long needed reform.

“Respectfully submitted by the prisoners of the United States ward who stand ready to make affidavit to these and more serious abuses.”

After reading this letter in commissioners court, Thursday, Sheriff Sourbler declared it to be a tissue of lies from beginning to end.

“Jail Plot Exposed,” Indianapolis Sun (Indianapolis, Indiana), 20 September 1906, p. 8, col. 3; digital image, Newspaper Archive (http://www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 7 April 2014).

Jail Plot Exposed (Part 3)

Schwartz, W. B. - 1906-09-20, p. 1 (3)Ringleaders in Dungeon.

After the sheriff discovered the kangaroo court, Monday, he sent Thomas McDermott and J. A. Hardin, well known as robbers, to join De Vall in the dungeon. He had reason to believe that these three men had come into possession of weapons and tools with which to manage an escape, but they denied this charge.

Fearing that a serious plot was on foot, Sheriff Sourbler secured a Winchester rifle and patrolled the United States war Tuesday night. Wednesday night, the sheriff, with a force of deputies, made a thorough search of the ward, and learned that their fears were well founded.

In the cells of the three dungeon prisoners were found two revolvers, saws and other tools sewed in the mattresses on the cots. The prisoners had manufactured clubs from the broken, wooden parts of cell cots, and had hidden the bludgeons under the bedclothing. A large numbers of these clubs were found.

May Be Other Weapons.

The sheriff believes there are other tools and weapons yet concealed and he will discipline the three suspected men until they confess. A careful inspection is now being made of the bars in the various cells, as it is feared some sawing already has been done.

The communication sent by the prisoners to Judge Alford is a most remarkable document to emanate from the jail. It was written by William B. Schwartz, attorney, who has been acting as “prosecutor” in the “Kangaroo court” conducted by the prisoners. Sheriff Sourbler suspects that the letter was carried form the jail by some attorney who interviewed his clients at the jail. In fact, the sheriff believes it is possible that the weapons and tools might have been carried to the prisoners by a visiting attorney. The “round robin” is as follows:

Piece of Jail Literature.

“Indianapolis, Ind., Sept. 17, 1906 –
“To the Hon. Fremont Alford, Judge of the Criminal Court, Indianapolis, Ind.

(Continued on Page 8, Col. 3)

“Jail Plot Exposed,” Indianapolis Sun (Indianapolis, Indiana), 20 September 1906, p. 1, col. 1; digital image, Newspaper Archive (http://www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 7 April 2014).

Jail Plot Exposed (part 2)

Schwartz, W. B. - 1906-09-20, p. 1 (2)Judge Alford Prompt.

“I am in possession of a communication from the jail, which, if a part only is true, needs investigation. I have so many cases for trial I cannot investigate it now, but I ask the board to hear evidence and report your finding to me, or report the facts. I do not know that there is any truth in it, but we can not all just treat it with contempt unless we find that the complaints are untrue, and I now ask this board to aid me in the matter.”

County Commissioner John McGregor immediately went to the jail and decided that the complaint of the prisoners was unfounded, except that the sanitary condition of the cells was not as good as might be.

Tip as to Coming Trouble

Sheriff Sourbler received private information last Monday that all was not well in the United States ward, where the most intelligent and desperate prisoners in the jail are confined. He found that some of the cleverest men in the gang had formed what is known as a “kangaroo court,” where prisoners who did not side with them in their schemes, were tried, convicted and disciplined.

Albert De Vall, charged with rape, one of the most dangerous members of this self-constituted court, made a daring attempt to escape from the jail last week, and was successful in dashing to the basement before he was caught and overpowered. For this he was placed in the dungeon.

“Jail Plot Exposed,” Indianapolis Sun (Indianapolis, Indiana), 20 September 1906, p. 1, col. 1; digital image, Newspaper Archive (http://www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 7 April 2014).

Jail Plot Exposed (Part 1)

Schwartz, W. B. - 1906-09-20, p. 1 (1)


Bludgeons, Revolvers and Saws Found By Sheriff.



Investigation Disclosed Serious State of Affairs, Said to involve Many Clever Criminals, Who Were Placed in Dungeon.

A most desperate, carefully prepared and widespread attempt at jail delivery by a gang of the smartest prisoners ever held in the United States prison ward of the Marion county jail, has been discovered by Sheriff Edward Sourbler, who now has a set of ugly saws and files, two revolvers and innumerable clubs, the latter made from dismantled cell cots, to show for the seriousness of the plot.

In order to escape the penalties of discovery, the sheriff believes, the ring-leaders of the plot, who are horse-thieves, safe-blowers and other criminals of the worst type, induced Attorney William B. Schwartz, who is being held on a charge of counterfeiting, to draw up a ‘round-robin” complaining of alleged scandalous management of the jail. The leaders secured the signatures of 58 prisoners, addressed the ‘round-robin’ to Judge Fremont Alford, of criminal court, and it was smuggled to the postoffice. Judge Alford received the letter, Thursday, and sent the following notice to the county commissioners:

[to be continued] 

“Jail Plot Exposed,” Indianapolis Sun (Indianapolis, Indiana), 20 September 1906, p. 1, col. 1; digital image, Newspaper Archive (http://www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 7 April 2014).