Tag Archives: State Convict Road Camp

- Mug Shot Monday: John Henry Ellis, No. 28276, 33714, and 43346


Photograph of John Henry Ellis, #43346, Prisoner Negative, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Negatives, Box 234, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  John Henry Ellis, the subject of this week’s post, was convicted three times for housebreaking and grand larceny.  His temper got him in trouble several times while incarcerated.

John Henry Ellis was convicted in March 1932 in Richmond Hustings Court for housebreaking and sentenced to three years in the Penitentiary.  Ellis was sent to work on State Convict Road Force Camp 19 in Wythe County where he immediately clashed with the guards.  “Ellis has been saucy and impudent with the guard and foreman here,” reported Camp Sgt. M.C. Russell to Penitentiary Superintendent Rice M. Youell on 19 October 1932.  His work was unsatisfactory as well.  “The [State Highway Department] foreman called him out without any results,” Russell wrote.  “Finally he threatened to stand him on the bank and Ellis told him he didn’t give a damn what he did with him.”  Russell punished him on 5 October 1932 by making him “stand in cuffs from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. taking him down only for meals and to use the bucket.”

Ellis turned violent on 17 October 1932.  While a group of prisoners worked in a quarry, one of them broke wind.  Another prisoner, Robert Coleman, said to … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: Ed Carr, No. 11516


Photograph of Ed Carr, No. 11516, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 171, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  Ed Carr, the subject of this week’s post, escaped from a convict road camp in 1913.  Jealousy led to his recapture in 1932.

Ed Carr was arrested in April 1913 and charged with grand larceny of a diamond ring.  Hoping to get a shorter sentence, Carr lied about his age.  “At this time,” Carr wrote Governor John Pollard in 1932, “I was 15 years old.  When I was arrested on the charge the people who were in jail with me, told me that if I told my correct age they would send me to a reform school until I was 20 or 21 years old, but that if I ran my age up, and in case of conviction, I would get a year in the Penitentiary.  I listened to this, and gave my age as 25 when I came up for trial.”  It did not work.  Carr was convicted on 3 May 1913 in the Corporation Court of Norfolk City and sentenced to 10 years in the Virginia Penitentiary.  Carr was assigned to State Convict Road Force Camp No. 5 in Russell County.  He didn’t stay long.  Carr escaped on 7 August 1913 having served less than 90 … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: Ted K. Calvert, No. 24376


Photograph of Ted K. Calvert, #24376,  Escaped Inmate Card, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series IV. Office of the Superintendent, Subseries B. General Correspondence, Superintendent Rice M. Youell, Box 420, Folder 8, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  Ted Calvert, the subject of this week’s post, escaped the State Lime Grinding Plant after a gun battle, only to be recaptured in California.

In May 1929, 24-year-old Ted K. Calvert was sentenced by the Stafford County Circuit Court to five years in the Virginia Penitentiary for forgery.  Calvert was assigned to work at State Lime Grinding Plant No. 1 in Augusta County.  On 6 October 1931, six prisoners, including Calvert, attempted to escape during a daytime shootout between the convicts and guards.  Plant officials believed that the prisoners’ friends planted several guns in the limestone quarry where they were working.  Two prisoners were shot by the guards and seriously wounded.  Four others, including Calvert, escaped.

Calvert, using the alias James Livingston, was recaptured two months later in Bakersfield, California.  He waived extradition and returned to the Virginia Penitentiary on 23 December 1931.  On 29 February 1932, the Augusta County Circuit Court sentenced Calvert to an additional five years in the Penitentiary for conspiracy and attempted escape.

Photograph of Ted K. Calvert, alias James Livingston, #6127, Bakersfield Police Department, ,  Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series IV. Office of the Superintendent, Subseries B. General Correspondence, Superintendent Rice M. Youell, Box 420, Folder 8, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Upon his return to Virginia, Calvert was assigned to State Convict Road Force Camp 29.  In a letter to Penitentiary Superintendent Rice M. Youell, dated 3 September 1932, Calvert promised “to make … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: Charles E. Beckner, No. 16663


Photograph of Charles E. Beckner, #16663, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series IV. Office of the Superintendent, Subseries B. General Correspondence, Superintendent Rice M. Youell, Box 418, Folder 8, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  Charles Beckner, the subject of this week’s post, began his life of crime at the age of 14.  By the time Beckner died in 1943, he had escaped three times from Virginia correctional facilities.

Charles Edwin Beckner, the ninth child of Winfield and Augusta Beckner, was born on 26 July 1898 in Tennessee.  After Winfield’s death in 1902, the family moved to Richmond, Virginia.  Charles probably was exposed to crime through his older brother Chester.  Chester, alias The Tennessee Kid, was arrested numerous times between 1906 and 1916 for highway robbery, stealing, and fighting.  He served several short sentences in jail but was never sentenced to the Penitentiary.  Charles wouldn’t be so lucky.

Beckner’s first brush with the law came in March 1913 when he was arrested for theft.  Beckner and three other boys were part of a gang of thieves who fenced their ill-gotten loot through Richmond fortune teller “Professor” Wilbur R. Lonzo.  The Richmond City Juvenile Court sentenced the boys to the Laurel Reformatory in Henrico County for an unspecified amount of time.  In September 1918 Beckner completed his World War I draft card in the Portsmouth City jail.  He was arrested on 9 May 1920 for committing … read more »

- I Scream, You Scream, We All Steal Ice Cream!


Reid Ice Cream Co. truck, probably in Washington, D.C., ca. 1918.  The Imperial Ice Cream truck referenced in this post probably looked similar.   National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress (no known restrictions on publication)

On the afternoon of 18 April 1924, an Imperial Ice Cream Company truck got stuck in the mud on the road between Winchester and Front Royal.  The driver left the truck to telephone the company’s Winchester plant for help to get the truck out of the mud.  When the driver returned ten minutes later, he saw that a “gang of convicts, in charge of a guard, had climbed on the truck and stolen from it five quarts of brick ice cream and ten dozen Chocolate Coated Ice Cream bars” worth $6.50.  The guard told the driver that “he couldn’t do anything with the convicts, as they were in for stealing at the time.”  Or so A.W. Warne, Manager of the Virginia Division, claimed in two letters to Major R.M. Youell, Virginia Penitentiary Superintendent.  Outraged, Warne demanded an investigation and financial restitution.  He added that “it seems to me a deplorable state of affairs when a guard in charge of a gang of convicts does not have enough control over the convicts, or himself, to prevent the stealing” of ice cream.  A subsequent investigation by Penitentiary officials tells a completely different story.

A week after the alleged incident, Superintendent Youell ordered J.W. Johnson, the officer in charge of State Convict Road Force Camp 29, to investigate.  Johnson’s reply on 29 April 1924 reported that the driver … read more »

- Walk Like a Man? One-Legged Prisoner Escapes Road Camp

On Sunday 20 January 1907, Ed Baker, a “one leg Italian” with “a bad face”, escaped from the State Convict Road Force camp near Williamsburg. Baker, one of the camp cooks, made his break at 6:07 a.m. when a guard sent him to get some wood. The alarm was sounded at 6:15 and a manhunt begun.  Baker, who had a wooden leg and only an eight-minute head start, was not easy to recapture.  The Virginia Gazette reported that Baker was pursued by several guards as well as local citizens and students for nearly nine hours.  Baker was finally caught at 3 pm by guard R.F. Morris – 20 miles from the camp!  The guard in charge of Baker when he escaped was fired.  That evening camp Sgt. W.B. Pattie wrote Penitentiary Superintendent E.F. Morgan that ”a man who can’t hold 4 men with a shot gun & pistol is no good to me.”  Baker was also punished.  Even though Baker only had one leg, Pattie “put a ball and chain on that and will give him 39 [lashes] in the morning.”

Letter from W.B. Pattie, dated 20 January 1907 to Capt E.F. Morgan

The State Convict Road Force was created by the General Assembly in 1906 as part of the Withers-Lassiter “good roads” law that created the State Highway Commission. The Penitentiary was responsible for … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: Bob Addison, No. 35074


Photograph of Bob Addison, #35074, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 26, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate mug shots in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.

On 16 May 1936 at 8:15 PM, Bob Addison, #35074, a prisoner assigned to Camp 16 of the State Convict Road Force located in Fauquier County, escaped.  Addison used a fake shackle to fasten himself to the chain that bound all the inmates together at night.  He quickly used an iron bar to open the back cell door, fled into the night and disappeared without a trace.  Addison remained a fugitive for the next 30 years until his past finally caught up with him.

Bob Addison was born in Tazewell County in July 1913.  In May 1932, at the age of 19, Addison was convicted in Tazewell County of assault with a knife and sentenced to four years in the Virginia Penitentiary.  He served 2 1/2 years and was released.   Addison got in trouble again in 1935 in Russell County.  He was arrested for cutting another man with a knife but escaped prior to his trial and fled to West Virginia.  He met a girl, Edna Sanders, whom he married in October 1935.  Addison used his real name during the ceremony and was captured five days later.  He was tried in December 1935 in Russell County and received … read more »