Friday, March 4, 2016

On This Date in Minnesota History: March 4

March 4, 1911 – Two well-known Minneapolis criminals escaped from the state prison in Stillwater around 8 this evening; the first escape from a cell in 20 years.  One of the men, Jerry McCarthy, shot at Patrolman Jonasson Christmas Eve in 1909 when the officer attempted to arrest him as a suspicious character. The bullet passed between the arm and the body of the policeman. The other escapee, Peter Juhl, was sent up from Minneapolis last June on a charge of grand larceny. Juhl was serving nine years and McCarthy 10 years.

The men made false keys from bits of iron and unlocked their cell doors. They managed to reach the wall undetected and scaled it. Men passing the prison saw them as they dropped from the wall and promptly notified the police department in Stillwater.

As the Stillwater officers ran to the prison, the guards discovered the escape. A general alarm was sent out to the wardens, guards and officers and a closely woven human net began a systematic search of the territory surrounding the town. The telephone and telegraph wires were freely used and practically every town within a 50-mile radius was notified.

Stillwater Prison1

A reward of $50 for each convict was posted. It is thought the men may have crossed the St. Croix River on the ice and made for the Wisconsin woods. Warden Wolfer expects the men will be captured within a few hours, although the daring and clever manner of their escape indicates that they will probably be difficult me to capture.

Juhl is said by Minneapolis police to have a sweetheart in Minneapolis and they believe he will ultimately be found there. Both men are under 30-years-old. Juhl is described as being five feet, five inches tall, sallow complexion and weighing about 137 pounds. McCarthy is a little over six feet tall, weighs about 197 pounds and is of light complexion.

There is much concern from the warden and guards that the counterfeit cell keys have not been found, and may be in the hands of other prisoners.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Minneapolis Convicts Escape State Prison. Jerry McCarthy and Peter Jule Thwart Guards at Stillwater. Long Term Men at Large, With Large Posse in Pursuit. Closely Woven Human Net Formed—Rewards Posted.”; March 5, 1911; p. 1.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Secret Signal System Credited to Convicts. State Prison Officials Are Alarmed Over Situation in Penitentiary. Inmates Said to Know of Two Prisoners’ Escape through Code. Whereabouts of Missing Key to Cells Causes of Much Worry.”; March 9, 1911; p. 3.


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