Inquest of James McCabe

From the Northumberland and Durham Court Records fonds
Series E: Inquests (1832-1914)

Name McCabe, James
Adress Port Hope
Age 39
Sex Male
Date October 11, 1883
Cause of death Shot in self defence by Constable William Rankin

From the 19 October 1883 Weekly Guide & News

ESCAPE OF A CONVICT:- A convict named James McCabe, who was sentenced at Belleville to a term of ten years, made his escape from the Penitentiary Friday afternoon about two o'clock. He asked the Warden to send him to work on the farm near the show grounds, and the Warden granted his request, he having worked there before. McCabe disappeared from the farm and has not been seen since. He went into a home near the depot and told the inmates that he was a convict. He had procured a suit of clothes and a revolver from some person. McCabe was serving his fourth term and had five years to put in. He is about 45 years of age. It is thought a discharged comrade suppied him with the clothes and revolver.-Kingston News

The following is a transcription of the documents produced at the inquest held following James' death at the hands of Constable William Rankin. For easier reading, we have corrected the grammatical errors (punctuation, capital letters, etc.) and paragraphed where appropriate. The spelling is as in the original documents.


The inquest was commenced at ten o'clock before Coroner Maxwell. The following gentlemen comprised the Jury:-F.E. Gaudrie, foreman; R. Elliott, W.W. Renwick, C. Stewart, A. Dean, S. Williams, J. Quinlan, F. Foster, J.N.G. Lodge, Prof. McLaren, R. Harcourt, H. Hawkins, J.W. Stevenson, M. Boyd, P.J. Connell, and J.H. Rowland. After viewing the body,

John James Turner, hotel keeper, was then sworn, who said:
          Yesterday, the 10th instant, at about half-past three p.m., the deceased (did not know McCabe) came into the bar with an old Indian who had an axe. I told the Indian to take the axe out of the bar, as I did not like such things around. The Indian then took his things and went away. When he went, the deceased said the Indian had been with him two years. He had not seen the Indian since and did not know his name.
          The Captain of the tug and the deceased had a few words. The Captain said he could thrash him, and the deceased said he could shoot him. He then put his hand in his pocket and took out a revolver which I made a grab for and took it away from him. He then wanted me to give him the pistol back again, but I would not. After he had gone I took it out in the yard and tried to discharge it, but it had nothing but empty shells. He asked me for a glass of brandy and said he would go away after he took it. I asked for ten cents pay, but he said he had not got any money, but said, "You have got my overcoat and revolver and you can keep them until I go uptown and get some money." I told my boy to go up and tell Mr. Rankin to come down, as there was a desperate man here who had a revolver. The boy went, and I also sent the hostler.
           They could not find Rankin at the time, but he came down a few minutes after that. I told Rankin who he told me he was, and I explained about him: the deceased told me his name was Anderson, and I showed him the Mail. Looking over it, he found the account of where Anderson and two others had attempted to escape from Penitentiary, and said he was Anderson, pointing to the name.
          He went away and did not come back until 10:30 in the evening. It was about 3:30 when he went away before, and he had a different hat on from the one he wore in the afternoon. He then called for a glass of brandy and threw me down a quarter. I gave him back his change - 15 cents. He then asked me for his overcoat and I gave it to him. He asked me if that thing was in it. I said, "No, it was here," meaning in the cupboard behind the bar. I then handed the revolver to him. I saw it was not loaded or I should not have given it to him.
           He walked out in the sitting room and was telling what he could do: he could lick any man or shoot any man who was there. While he was standing at the bar, Mr. Frank Warden and Frank Nicholls, who works for Mr. Courts, were in the bar. I asked if they would go for Mr. Rankin. They went amd it was after I sent for Rankin he went into the sitting room. I heard talking, and fearing some trouble I went into the room. I asked the deceased if he would go outside, as I did not want him in my house. He went out and I shut the door and left him outside. He put his hand in his pocket as I had seen do in the afternoon. I did not know any more until I heard the shooting: it could not have been less than six minutes or more than ten.
          When I heard the shot, I ran into the sitting room and said to those sitting there, "For God's sake, run. That fellow has shot someone." I ran with the rest, but went back, as I did not wish to leave my house open. I did not see him until he was carried into my house by Rankin and Johnson. He was breathing when the doctor came. He was sober both times when he came in. He did not say McCabe was his name. I told Rankin when he came down that he was an escaped convict, a dangerous man, and had a revolver. I thought him perfectly sane and sober.

Turner House

R.G. Blackham, sworn and said:
          I am a hotel-keeper. This man gave his name as Jim McCabe when here before, and I recognized the deceased as the same party. I was standing on the sidewalk about two or three years ago about 11 o'clock in the morning. The deceased came down the sidewalk and said, "Blackham, I want a bottle of liquor. I have no money." I told him I was not accustomed to give strangers liquor without money, and he said, "If you do not give it to me, I shall have it anyway." I asked him who he was and he said he was Jim McCabe. I knew him by reputation and I gave him the liquor.
          The same night, Mr. Smart was robbed of silverware and several other robberies took place. He came into my house yesterday morning about 10:30 o'clock, slapped me on the knee, and made use of an expression to the effect that it was his house and I had no business there. He then said, "I am McCabe", looked me in the eyes and held his revolver so I could see it.
          Thomas Crosby then came in. Deceased told Crosby in my presence that he had went through a house on Protestant Hill the night before and got 35 cents out of the man's pocket. He said when he was going out of the house, he saw a party in bed and thought he would have some fun. He said the house was a brick one and it was a stout young fellow that was in bed. He shook him and he sat up. Deceased said he held the young fellow by the arms so he could not spring on him. Deceased said he further annoyed him and then shoved him back and sprang out of the room. Deceased said, "I grabbed an overcoat and expected to have the police after me." Deceased told me if I had not given him the liquor two or three years ago, I should have lost ten times as much more, and my pants, too. Crosby and he then went out and did not come back until some time in the afternoon and then stayed a couple of hours. He said he had just got out the other day.
          I told some young men from Lindsay to tell Mr. Douglas that the deceased, McCabe, was in town. I told Mr. Johnston to tell Rankin I wanted to see him, having heard that Mr. Douglas was out of town. Mr. Rankin came down about seven o'clock in the evening. I told Rankin that McCabe was here, who was just out of the penitentiary. Rankin said a man by that name had just escaped from penitentiary. I told Rankin to take lots of help, as he was a desperate character, and would as soon drop him as not. I meant shhot him. He made a threat to the effect he would drop a policeman if interfered with.
          Rankin left about 7 o'clock and returned at about 10 and asked me if deceased had been there again. I again told Rankin to be careful of himself. He said he heard it was not McCabe, and I assured him it was. Crosby also reconized him as McCabe. In the morning, I asked him what was the matter with his hair, as it was an odd color. Deceased said he had dyed it. He was sober.

Thomas Lovelace sworn:
          I have seen the body of the deceased, and recognize it as that of McCabe. I have seen him in Trento in the Queen's hotel. He was pointed out to me as Jim McCabe. He was then a resident of Trenton, and his father is living there and works for the corporation. Deceased was sent to penitentiary a few days after I saw him last.

Thomas Hills sworn:
          I have seen the body downstairs. I recognized it as that of James McCabe. I knew of McCabe being in Penitentiary. I was assistant constable and helped to arrest him at Trenton a number of years ago. I brought him back to Port Hope. I knew him quite well, and am satisfied that the deceased was the man. He had some peculiarity in his voice, which he could use when he wanted to. The general character of the man was that of a desperate scoundrel. He was a very hard man to arrest. In saw him shoot at a man in this town. I saw him stab a woman some years ago here in town.

An adjournment was then made until 2:30.

Francis Werden was sworn:
          I have seen the body and recognize it as the man whom I saw at the Turner House last night. He came in and asked for his coat and revolver and was given them by Mr. Turner. He then went out, followed by Turner's man, and they stood talkng. When I went out, deceased accused the man of going for the constable, which he denied. He then put his hand in his hip pocket and said he would have anything he wished, and if he was interefered with, he would shoot them in the leg or somewhere. He turned on the sidewalk and took a handkerchief and made pretence of crying.
          I then went into the barroom and Turner asked me if I would go up and tell Rankin the man whom he had spoken of was at his place. I went and met Rankin and said all right. I turned and went back and when about fifty yards away heard the shot, which occured at or near the back entrance of the hotel.
          After the man was shot, Rankin asked me to go and fetch Douglas, which I did. Rankin then gave himself up. Rankin, the other constable, Turner's man, and others I do not remember helped to carry the body over to the Town Hall.

Frederick Sands, sworn, said:
          I board at Turner's and recognize the body as that of the man who was around the house at half-past ten. He walked into the sitting room and dared anyone out to fight. There were quite a number of sailors in the room at the time. Mr. Turner told deceased to get out of his house. He stood a few minutes and then went out the door and stood on the platform. I went out with a young fellow and the deceased struck up a conversation about the town and people in it, and said it was quite a time since he had been in town.
           I was on the corner when the shot was fired. I was 20 feet away. I heard him say he would shoot the first man who tried to arrest him. He said this to a man named Fox. Deceased was on the corner of Mill street and Cobourg road when the conversation occurred. Rankin came down the Cobourg road and they met at the gates. I did not see Rakin trying to make the arrest. When I came forward the deceased was lying on his face by the sidewalk with the revolver in his hand. I was there when the doctor arrived. I can not say what distance was between Rankin and deceased when the shot was fired.

James McKelvie sworn:
          Am hostler at Turner's, have seen the body and recognized it as the man who was there in the afternoon. I saw him in the evening about 10:30. I did not see the pistol before the shot. I was sent for the constable in the evening. The deceased told me he came from Kingston penitentiary on Friday. I think he followed me with the intention of putting an end to me. He said if a man came back to take him, he would tell him to stand back, or he would make him. He said if he wanted money and met a person he would have it. I did not know he had a revolver until Turner told me. I told Rankin that I thought deceased would shoot if he were interfered with.
          Rankin followed me up very close when I went for him. The deceased was standing with three or four others in front of the hotel when Rankin came. I went in at the side door and came out of the front. Rankin came down Mill street. When Rankin came, he bid us good night, deceased also, who immediately walked around the corner.
Rankin followed and told him to stop. I was not very close. On the Cobourg road, deceased faced Rankin and they were only three yards apart. Deceased says stand back, and immediately I heard the shot. I told Rankin to shoot again. The deceased staggered about three yards and fell. I saw Johnson take the revolver from the hand of the deceased and put it in his pocket immediately after. When I saw deceased walking away, I told Rankin that was the man. He told me two or three times in the evening that his name was Jim McCabe.

Mr. Blackham recalled:
          Deceased went through the dining room and he looked rather familiarly around, and I knew he had skeleton keys. I feared burglary, which was the reason why I sent for the constable. I removed plate and valuables to safe quarters.

Wm. Johnston sworn:
          I was in the Police office last night when Turner's man came in and wanted the constable to go down. He said there was one Jim McCabe down there using a revolver rather recklessly. He said he was flourishing a revolver around and was a hard-looking case. Rankin told him he would go down right away and asked me to go along.
          We went down immediately and found deceased and four others standing on the corner. I could not recognize him particularly. I bid them good evening and deceased turned around and walked off down the Cobourg road. Rankin and I followed.
          When we got pretty close, a few steps away, Rankin told him to hold on and come into the hotel as he wanted to speak to him. When Rankin made a motion to arrest him, deceased pulled his revolver and said stand back. Rankin immediately fired. I considered Rankin's life was in danger and if he hadn't shot when he did, he would have been shot himself. I would have shot him myself if I had had a revolver. As soon as he fell, I took the revolver from his hand and put it in my pocket. I afterwards took it out and handed it to Dr. Corbett, who examined it.
          I am one of the town's night-watchmen. After viewing the body, I am satisfied it is Jim McCabe. When McCabe walked off from the corner, Turner's man said, there goes the man.

Dr. R.A. Corbett, sworn:
          Was called on to examine deceased at Turner's hotel last night about quarter to 11. He was lying in the front sitting room, and was dead when I arrived. I examined the body last night and this morning made further examination. I found a wound half-way between the nipple and armpit, which corresponded with a similar mark in vest and shirt. I had the body removed to the Town Hall. I made a post mortem examination there this morning and traced the wound.
          This wound extended through left lung and entered the right. Direction was upward and towards the right side. The hole in the left lung was a large, ragged wound. The result was hemorrhage took place very rapidly, and the plural cavities on the left and right were filled with blood. Death resulted from hemorrhage caused by the wound.
          I examined pockets and clothes of the deceased. Mr. Johnston handed me the revolver which was full cocked, and said he had taken it from the deceased. It contained one full cartiridge which was opposite the hammer, and there were also three discharged shells. I let the hammer down against the undischarged shell and kept it in this condition until I further examined it.
          In his pocket were one wooden pipe, two cartridges also loose in his pocket, a knife, and a set of burglar's keys, consisting of seven wands, a shaft, and a leather case.

Wm. Johnston recalled:
          Did not hear any conversation between Douglas and Rankin at the police office, but it was mentioned that the deceased was a desperate character in Mr. Rankin's hearing. When Rankin asked me to go with him, I said it was useless for one to go to take such a desperate character and I would go with him.

Mr. Baines, acting for Mr. Rankin, did not deem it necessary that Rankin should make any statement. This ended the evidence and the jury retired, and after due deliberation, brought in the following verdict:-
          "We, the undersigned jurors impanelled to make enquiry into the shooting of James McCabe by William Rankin, constable of Port Hope, find that the said James McCabe was shot and killed by the said Wm. Rankin in self defence and in the discharge of his duty, and we furthermore commend the said Wm. Rankin on the courage displayed by him, and exonerate him from all blame."

F.E. Gaudrie (foreman)
W.W. Renwick
A. Dean
J. Quinlan
J.N.G. Lodge
R. Harcourt
J.W. Stevenson
J.H. Rowland
R. Elliot
C. Stewart
S. Williams
F. Foster
Prof. McLaren
H. Hawkins
M. Boyd
P.J. Connell

Mr. James Weir, steward of the Provincial Penitentiary, arrived in town on Thursday evening and fully identified the body as James McCabe, who escaped from the Penitentiary Friday, the 5th inst.

Peter and Barbara Bolton - Port Hope, Ontario