Monday, March 17, 2014

More on the Story of Elizabeth Doyle

Last week, Gossips discovered, in the Hudson Daily Register for June 14, 1901, the story of Elizabeth Doyle, who was convicted and served five years in the House of Refuge at Hudson for stealing a valuable gold ring. More than a year after her accuser confessed, on his deathbed, that he had been mistaken and she was not the one who had stolen the ring, Elizabeth Doyle was released from the House of Refuge. The story as it appeared in the Daily Register raised a number of questions, principal among them: What was the relationship of Elizabeth Doyle and Edmund Doyle, her accuser?

On the same day, and for about a week afterward, the following article, which was probably an Associated Press account, appeared in several newspapers through the state, among them the Monticello Republican Watchman, the Schuylerville Standard, the Silver Springs Signal, the Clyde Democratic Herald, the St. Johnsville Enterprise, the Clinton Courier, and the Mount Vernon Daily Argus.

This article provides information that was not included in the report as it appeared in the Register. Elizabeth Doyle was Edmund Doyle's daughter-in-law, and Maggie Allen, the young woman who had actually done the deed, was his granddaughter. Maggie Allen ended up in the House of Refuge at Rochester, presumably for an offense other than stealing Mary O'Brien's valuable gold ring. (This article also gets two of the names wrong: Elizabeth Doyle's mother was named Carrie Jackson not Mary Jackson, and the owner of the ring is identified elsewhere as Julia O'Brien not Mary O'Brien.)

Photo credit: Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Transfer from the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Social Museum Collection
The day after the story was reported in the Hudson Daily Register, an article appeared in the New York Sun that gives more insight into the sequence of events that led up Elizabeth Doyle's release from the House of Refuge. According to this account, Edmund Doyle's widow kept Maggie Allen's confession to him a secret for two years after his death.

On June 17, 1901, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle tells a somewhat different tale, attributing Elizabeth Doyle's release from the House of Refuge, after she had almost served her entire five-year sentence, and her exoneration to her mother's unflagging efforts to prove her daughter's innocence. In this article it is revealed that the owner of the ring was Elizabeth Doyle's husband's cousin and the ring had been returned to her four years before Elizabeth Doyle was finally released from the House of Refuge.

Tracy Huling, who has been studying the Record of Prisoners' Visitors at the House of Refuge at the New York State Archive for the Prison Public Memory Project, generously shared this information and the photographs with Gossips. Between January 3, 1899, and June 17, 1901, Mrs. Carrie Jackson, Elizabeth Doyle's mother, visited her daughter eight times. On June 17, the day she was released from the House of Refuge, the log indicates that Elizabeth Doyle had two visitors: her mother (erroneously logged in as "Mrs. Clara Jackson") and Mr. J. P. Barridge, who is identified as a photographer.

The photograph of the House of Refuge reproduced above is dated c. 1900 and is in the collection of the Harvard Art Museums. It was discovered on the Harvard University Open Collections Program website.

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