What follows appeared in the January 11, 1911, edition of the Maine Woods newspaper. The paper regularly printed a feature called “Fly Rod’s Notebook” penned by none other than the famous Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby. Her column most often covered the goings on in the local and national sporting scene, but occasionally covered general local topics. The edition shared below gives an interesting early history of Franklin County high crime and misdemeanors as shared via the old Franklin County Jail logbook (or “Guest Register” depending upon your personal proclivities).
Enjoy what follows and be sure to strive forth in the brand-new year (in some cases make a fresh start) and make some “LAWFUL” history of your own!
(Contemporary commentary shared in Italics).
Fly Rod’s Notebook
St. Anthony Cottage, Phillips, Me. December 12, 1911.
It was my pleasure this week to be the guest of my old friends, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. W. Small, at Farmington. Mr. Small is deputy sheriff and keeper of the Franklin County jail, and the “jail cottage” is now their home. The jail is a place of interest, and one always feels sad to think in this land of the free, where everyone has a chance to be good and do right as there are so many who do wrong and are “sent up” for thirty days, and perhaps much longer. In the afternoon, seated in the office close to the heavy iron door, I noticed the records on the desk and asked Mr. Small if we could not look them over. We did and from the pages I learned many facts that to our county are of interest. It was in 1845, December the 8th, the first person, a Henry P. Newell of Temple, was sent to the Franklin County jail for riot. In 1846 one from Rangeley is recorded and we find out of the four men locked up one was sent to state’s prison. In 1847 Geo. Fenix, Jr., of Phillips, attempted to pass counterfeit money and landed behind the bars. It was in 1849 trouble began and the first man was sentenced for “getting drunk,” and in 1850, Francis G. Butler, sheriff, committed one Azel Macomber of Jay, for selling “spiritous liquors.” For the next 62 years, until December, 1911, the reason most often given for the inhabitants of this jail has been using or selling “intoxicating liquors” and 1631 have been locked behind the bars. In 1854 we find the Emery Brothers robbed the mail, and the next year Farmington shuts up two men for selling rum. It was in October 1857, the first murderer, Henry Wilbur, of Rangeley, who shot his own son but 11 years of age, was sent here and later to Augusta or the Insanity, where he died. We follow down the yellow pages of the old record and from Avon, Industry, Farmington, etc., come men who had “sold rum.” In 1860 Thomas Tuttle of Kingfield, attempted to kill a man with a scythe and was sent to State’s prison after his term here. In 1861, Sydney B. Dyke was sent here from Weld for murder, and “by order of S. J. court admitted to bail.” It was in September 1862, that Lawrence Doyle was sent here for the murder of the 9-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mr. Isaac Libby of Strong. This murder will never be forgotten and attracted worldwide attention. The people of this part of Maine were “greatly excited over the fearful tragedy”, although Doyle, by circumstantial evidence was sentenced to “one year in solitary confinement in state prison, then to be hanged, died before the year expired, and until the last declared his innocence. Thus, the fearful crime still remains a mystery and a grave in the cemetery at Strong tells where sleeps this little girl who was murdered while on her way to Sunday School. The next autumn Phillips had a murder when Jesse Wright shot Tuck near the Winship schoolhouse. In November of the same year one Samuel Richardson of Temple was sent here for murder and his sentence, “one year in solitary confinement in State Prison then to be hanged,” is read from the pages. In March, 1872, the “sharpest and most notorious rum seller of this county,” “ Marm Cleaves” of Carrabassett, who kept the only hotel at that time between Kingfield and the Dead River region, was sent here, and after her term expired she went back and continued the same business, and so back she came. Many remember the affair, and I wonder if anyone can tell what became of “Old Marm Cleaves.” (What a great name for a tavern in Carrabassett that would be… “Marm Cleve’s Tavern”! Someone should at least name a cocktail after her).
It was in 1876 the only death, that of Luther Curtis of New Sharon is recorded. In 1882 the record tells of Alpheus Guild of Phillips, who “kept a tippling shop,” and paid his fine, $111.56 (That’s a whopping $3,129.00 in today’s dollars and what’s up with the 56 cents? Additionally, according to the Law Dictionary “a Tippling Shop is a place where intoxicating drinks are sold in drams or small quantities to be drunk on the premises, and where men resort for drinking purposes”. So, there you go…Marm Cleve’s Tippling Shop” …perfect).
The next year Mary Viola Bean of Avon was sent here for burning buildings and taken to the insane asylum in Augusta. (Me thinks vengeance hath no fury perhaps?).
On Oct. 22, 1886, the big fire which wept over this village burned the jail, shut the records saved tell of the prisoners being taken to Auburn, and in November 1887, the new jail was ready.
One cold winter day in 1890, the only woman tramp was housed here. In 1891 the names of two tramps, one from Jacksonville, Fla., and the other from Indiana appear. (Why the jailer recorded that it was “a cold winter day” on which the jail housed ‘THE only woman tramp’ suggests ways to stay warm were being considered at the lonely jailhouse….hmmm?).
In 1891, J. B. Ouillette, a Frenchman, from Jay, “murderer,” received a three-year sentence in state prison. (“A Frenchman?” Was that important to include? And he was probably from Quebec and not France at all…I smell a defamation lawsuit on this one. Never mind, I was thinking by today’s standards for convicted murderers).
This is about 1903, trouble began and the jail has since then received most of its inmates from Jay, as the records at that time numbered only 800. (Sounds like Jay was the happening spot).
“Selling and drinking” is the principal cause of this jail having inmates. (My guess is now that it’s OUI so the more things change the more they stay the same).
Last summer was the one of history, for five murderers, as all know, were tried at the September court and are now in Thomaston (Former site of Maine’s State Prison).
Did you ever go through the jail? (Not voluntarily). As the clink of the big keys and the heavy iron doors close you follow the keeper along the stone floors, look into the cells with their iron doors and small openings that take the place of windows, you find everything as clean as soap and water can make it. The men now wear the “stripes” that mark them as “jailbirds.” The county never made a better investment than when they extended the jail adding a workshop, where now hundreds of cords of wood, that is bought off the farmers, is worked up and sold to the customers in the village to whom it is delivered. At present, there are but 10 prisoners. Since the workshop was built and the men are kept busy. Their health and courage is much better. (And there you have it! New meaning for the term “Buck Up, Old Boy”. According to Maine.gov, the average price of a cord of firewood in Maine is $290-$320. We should bring this practice from the past back to help inmates at Franklin Co. Jail pay their Hotel Bill “keep busy and better their strength and courage”, instead of working out in the gym and watching Dr. Phil).
It is said that there is not a better kept jail in Maine than the one of Franklin County, yet I hope none of my friends will ever be located there even for 30 days. (Me too, Fly Rod! Have a great week everyone!).

Photo of the Jailers Report for the entire year of 1938 (54 male/1 female). By comparison, there were 48 intakes at the Franklin County Jail in just the month of December 2023 alone (38 male/10 female).

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