20th Century, Institutions

The Faces of Kingston Penitentiary

A young inmate from Gananoque. Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 4349019. (click image to go to source)

A young inmate from Gananoque. Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 4349019. (click image to go to source)

There is an interesting collection of pages from old Kingston Penitentiary inmate description ledgers available on the Library and Archives Canada website. Ranging from the early 1900s to about 1919, these pages provide information such as the convict’s name, age, birthplace, crime committed, distinctive marks, and for men only, two mugshots. I’m not sure why they didn’t photograph women – or if they did, why they kept the photos elsewhere.

I don’t know much about the history of the Penitentiary and it’s never been a real interest of mine (I’m bored to tears by virtually all crime/prison books, movies, etc.) but it’s hard to deny the fascination that these pages contain. Despite the lack of information on these people, I feel a tinge of sympathy for some of them, like the boy above convicted of “Buggery,” which was, in 1919, a vague and yet very specific offence (read more about it here – scroll down to “Background”). Here are a few interesting pages from the Archives’ collection:

Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 4349308 (click image to go to source)

The circa 1916 newspaper article above is about a woman, Louise Cull, convicted of manslaughter after a woman she performed an abortion on died. Cull “protested her innocence of any criminal intent” but there was much evidence that she regularly performed abortions and was paid for it. A widowed former nurse, originally from England, Cull’s sentence was decreased to five years’ imprisonment due to her age, fifty-seven.

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19th Century, People

Horrid Murder!

Kingston Gazette, July 18, 1815

From the Kingston Gazette

Here’s a very weird and unpleasant story about a man who, after conducting a lengthy incestuous relationship with his daughter (not half-sister, as the above notice states), finally killed her in a fit of jealousy and drunken despair. This sad tale was published in a pamphlet written by the murderer himself, Joseph Bevir, while in jail. Interestingly, Bevir comes across as very articulate and appears to reveal his emotions and motives honestly. Of course, I have no way of knowing whether everything he says about his life is true, so I have to take his word for it. The passage of 199 years between the murder and today has softened it into a gruesome curiosity, but at the time it must have been an awful situation.

For brevity – and because, let’s face it, is it really necessary? – I’m going to withhold my comments about these events and just present them as Bevir did. Original spelling and punctuation are retained, and I’ve indicated short edits with an ellipsis.

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