Friday, August 26, 2011

Happy birthday to me...John Ricklefs admission register to New Jersey State Prison

My birthday present finally arrived, and only a day late! Ha ha.

The New Jersey State Archives sent me the inmate register to the New Jersey State Prison at Trenton for one of my favorite uncles, John Ricklefs. Alias Harry Young. Alias James Hamilton. It's nice to know an obsession with names runs in the family.

I would like to especially thank Bette M. Epstein at the Archives for her help with this, as some of the handwriting is next to impossible to read and she gave me her best translation of what it says - I'm not sure I would've been able to decipher it without her help!

But let's get to the good stuff, shall we?

After beating the rap for not one but two burglaries in the early part of 1916, John Ricklefs was arrested by the Elizabeth, N.J. police for either breaking and entering or burglary, but definitely stealing, and was sentenced Nov. 17, 1916 to 4 to 7 years at the state prison in Trenton and a $1000 fine. He would have been out by November 1923 at the latest, 1920 at the earliest. With only a year and change to go, he escaped from the New Jersey prison on June 22, 1919. Three months later he was arrested in Connecticut and sentenced to 5 to 10 years at the state prison in Wethersfield. From which he escaped only two months later, in December.

John Ricklefs, escape artist...our family's Harry Houdini.

Now there's a whole chunk of time where I'm missing info, from the deets of his incarceration in Connecticut, his escape from there, and his subsequent arrest and imprisonment in Massachusetts. I still haven't heard back from the Massachusetts State Archives about that. I do know that after serving his time in MA, he was sent back to Connecticut in 1936 to serve his time there, and then sent back to New Jersey to finish serving his time there. The register I received reads "returned from Conn Nov. 16, 1940," and apparently he was paroled on April 22, 1942. The info from NJ clarifies and corroborates info on both Jack's WWI and WWII draft registration cards - when he registered for World War I in 1917, it lists his residence as "NJ State Prison," and in 1942, he's living in an apartment complex in New Jersey, because it was after he was paroled after his second New Jersey prison stint.

Now, some of these prison records have been very helpful, but some have been very bare bones, but using the info from them, I've been able to find newspaper articles that round out the stories surrounding Jack's arrests, imprisonments, and escapes. Fultonhistory.com and ChroniclingAmerica.com have been especially helpful with that. The problem now is I need to find old New Jersey newspaper archives and neither of those sites have it, so I am opening the floor to my readers for suggestions!

Also, if the Massachusetts State Archives would be so kind as to get back to me, I'd really appreciate it...thanks!!

Happy weekend everyone! Anyone in the path of Hurricane Irene, please stay safe!

Wordless Wednesday - John Ricklefs mugshots

Filling in the blanks - the New Jersey State Archives

Going down one path will always lead to another

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