Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Preston Castle Was Compared To Spreckels Palace

Post Card- Spreckel's Mansion
Let me first say that during the writing of my book, I did the best I could with the information I had at the time. I have made a few revisions in my first publication of the book, as far as editing grammatical errors that were overlooked. In my research to provide the most accurate information pertaining to any and all history of the Preston School of Industry, I have learned that I misquoted something in my book that I wanted to make sure is fixed. So, I am taking it upon myself to clarify this very easily misunderstood information and make note on this blog that I plan to update this in future copies of the book.

What mistake was made, you may ask?

You see, in the beginning of my book I mention an 1895 article in the San Francisco Call, where writer Joaquin Miller compared the beautiful stonework of the Preston School to that of the "Spreckels Palace" in San Francisco.  Well, at the time of researching this information, the only " Palace" I could find that the Spreckels family was involved in was the Palace of the Legion of Honor. My mistake was not checking the date of construction of that building, as I would have immediately noticed it was built after Preston Castle, not before. For that I apologize.

So then, what was this "Palace" that Joaquin Miller  was talking about? Well, Miller called it Spreckels Palace but in actuality it was known as the Spreckels Chateau or Spreckels Mansion (not to be confused with the one in San Diego bearing the same name). This mansion was located on the corner of Van Ness and Clay Streets in San Francisco. It had been built in the 1880s, about a decade before Preston was built.  In retrospect, this makes more sense being that the Palace of the Legion of Honor doesn't have any similarities to Preston at all. This mansion does however show similar style and grand design as well as its use of stonework.

So what happened to the Spreckels Chateau? Unfortunately it was damaged by a fire after the great earthquake in 1906 when the army decided to create a fire break in order to curb the fire at Van Ness Street,  and was dynamited. Even after such damage the structure remained intact although the insides were gutted. Sadly, in 1927 it was finally demolished entirely and turned into apartments which still stand to this day. What an architectural tragedy.

Demolition 1927
 -- J'aime Rubio (Copyright 2015, All Rights Reserved). 

Photos: by the California State Library, California History Room
via Calisphere, California Historical Society, State Archives and historical post card.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Murder In The Making--Tuffy Reid's History At Preston

Clarence "Tuffy" Reid
(Photo edited from original - editing by J'aime Rubio)
During the process of writing "Behind The Walls," I discovered the published findings of journalist Leon Adams. His articles were written while working undercover as a ward at Preston.  Leon Adams was given the assignment to infiltrate the Preston School of Industry and expose them for their mistreatment. In order to do that, Adams was purposely framed for a crime. He then was sent to the Preston School of Industry under the guise of an average young criminal, so that the staff and administration would be unsuspecting of his intentions.

Adams had heard of some of the most deplorable conditions and harsh treatment to wards while in the detention building at Preston. In order to really get a taste of "solitary," Adams had to get into trouble. After allowing himself to get into a fight, and then refusing to "stand the line," he was then sent away to the detention building, exactly where he wanted to be. In my book I go into further details about Adams' experiences there and the harsh realities that he brought to light via the San Francisco Daily News.

While Adams was in solitary confinement in the detention building, he described the conditions of his cell No. 22:

"Two gates clanged, four locks clicked, and I was alone--for 15 long days and nights. My cell was ten feet high and nine feet square. A faucet, a bowl, an iron bunk, two dirty blankets, a little wad of cloth for a pillow---that was my furniture.....Before an hour had passed, I began to calculate how long it would be before I left my dungeon. Fifteen days, each with 24 long hours, seemed like years.
What I am trying to tell about is impossible to conceive. Think, think and suffer. That's all one can do in a cell. Sleep affords no rest....My tomb, I called the place. It was the tomb of many boys before me. Scratches on the wall revealed the presence of an assemblage of notables."

Adams goes on to recall that he read the name "Tuffy" Reid etched into the wall, following "third time over the hill." Other names were also scratched into the walls along with marks of how many days spent in solitary. Adams claimed that the name "Tuffy" kept standing out in his mind, and later he remembered where he had heard it, the media!  Tuffy was a death row inmate who made headlines in the newspaper for a murder in Los Angeles in 1923.

Who Was Tuffy Reid?

Clarence "Tuffy Reid was born in Texas around 1903, according the California State Archives records. Not much more is known about "Tuffy," besides the fact that he was sent to the Preston School of Industry in 1922 on robbery charges, but he somehow escaped. While on the lam, Reid found his way down to Los Angeles, and on January 21, 1923, he made a choice that would change the course of the rest of his life.

According to Reid's filed appeal records, the incident occurred at 419 S. Spring Street, when Reid and his accomplice, Lawrence McMullen entered a trunk store owned by Charles and David Weingarten, and they proceeded to rob them.

"The murder occurred in the rear end of a trunk store, located at 419 South Spring Street, in the city of Los Angeles, at about 6 o'clock P. M. on January 21, 1923. There were present in the store at the time six persons, Munson, Safady, Mason, Ingham, Charles Weingarten, the deceased, and David Weingarten, brother of the deceased and proprietor of the business.

The defendant, accompanied by one Lawrence McMullen, entered said place of business through the front door, which was slightly ajar. As they entered the store they were met by David Weingarten, who thought they had come on business. Both the defendant and his companion were carrying guns. The defendant commanded David Weingarten to "stick 'em up" and forced him to walk back to the rear of the store where the safe was located. Charles Weingarten seized the defendant's arm and held it up. While in that position the gun in the defendant's hand went off, the bullets striking the ceiling. With his other hand the defendant reached into his pocket, procured another gun and fired straight at the deceased, killing him. The shuffling and the shooting all occurred in the space of a few seconds.

After the shooting the defendant and his companion fled from the store. Jumping on the running-board of a moving automobile the defendant succeeded in making his escape. In his flight the defendant had dropped the hat he was wearing in the store. Meeting the former owner of the hat that evening about 7 o'clock and knowing that the initials of the former owner were in the hat he told the owner that he had "bumped off" a man and for the owner of the hat to "watch out." At the trial the defendant was positively identified by an eye-witness to the shooting as one of the persons who had participated in the attempted robbery and his companion was identified as a workman in an electrical shop just across the alley from the trunk factory where the deceased was shot. The defendant upon the trial of the case did not deny the killing, but interposed the defense of insanity."--- (People v. Reid - 193 Cal. 491 (Cal. 1924) Crim. No. 2598, Supreme Court of California)

Reid went to trial, and was convicted of murder in the 1st degree, earning him a death sentence. Newspaper reports stated that a witness in the trial, Jesus Hoyuela, another inmate who had claimed that Reid confessed to the murder of Weingarten, later recanted his statements claiming that he perjured himself and that none of what he told the court was true. Reid still attempted to appeal the conviction, but failed.

Interestingly, Reid's attorney, Ernest Torchia was a very popular man within the Italian community. Being that San Quentin records claim that the only employment Reid had experience in was being a news boy, it made me wonder how could Reid afford to retain Torchia in the first place? Could Reid have been involved in organized crime in Los Angeles?

As I kept digging, I found that just a few months after Reid's appeal was denied and his stay of execution was lifted, Torchia received a very horrific gift in the mail that proved to be disastrous. What appeared to have been a gift-wrapped Christmas present for Torchia, ended up being an explosive device that went off in Torchia's home, critically injuring the attorney.  The wounds were so severe the newspapers stated that they thought he would not survive the attack. Torchia's left arm, one of his eyes and part of his abdomen were blown off in the blast.  Detectives discovered the package was postmarked in San Francisco, but it would be hard to figure out just who was behind the vicious act. Torchia had served as a divorce attorney in several cases of prominent Italian families over the years, making many enemies.  The question of who sent the package, and why, continued to leave the police baffled.
Identification Card 

After wearing out his appeals, Reid was finally executed at the gallows on April 23, 1925 at 10:02 a.m., at San Quentin Prison. 

On another note, in July of 1930, David Weingarten- the brother of the murder victim, was found dead. Weingarten was found in his car, engulfed in fumes. He had locked himself in the garage and ran the motor of his car until he succumbed to the exhaust. The police ruled it a suicide, taking in account his wife's statement that he had suffered great losses in the stock market and had been very depressed.

California State Archives, Sacramento, California;
Secretary of State of California 
State Archives, San Quentin Prison Registers.
People v. Reid - 193 Cal. 491 (Cal. 1924)
Crim. No. 2598, Supreme Court of California
Berkeley Daily Gazette, 12/25/1924
Oakland Tribune, 12/26/1924
San Jose Evening News, 7/31/1930
Santa Cruz Evening News, 4/24/1925

Random Mugshots

Here are some photos of past wards at the Preston School of Industry along with the reasons for their incarceration. 

WALTER TESCH-- Ward # 1379, accepted at the Preston School of Industry in 1910. Walter Tesch was convicted of burglarizing the home of Mrs. Ella Noble in 1909, and spent 2 years at Preston for this crime. When he was released, it didn't take long before he found himself in more hot water. He was later charged as an accomplice to several robberies with his friend, murder suspect- Henry La Frenz in 1912.

EDWARD ROWE-- Ward # 487, accepted at the Preston School in 1902.  On April 20, 1904 he attacked the night watchman in the upper dormitory room of the Adminstration building. He and his accomplice, Dan Gillette, then escaped from a water pipe on the side of the building.  After he was apprehended he was then transferred to San Quentin as inmate # 20626. His acceptance date at San Quentin was May,10, 1904.  He was sentenced to 10 years for "assault to commit murder," however he was able to commute his sentence on February 16, 1908, where he was then released.
DAN GILLETTE-- Ward # 548, admitted to Preston School of Industry in 1903, escaped from Preston on April 20,1904, after attempting to murder the night watchman, J.S. Phillips. He was caught and sent to Folsom prison where he served 3 years as inmate # 5693 only to return to Folsom again on burglary charges as inmate # 8764, in 1913.

EUGENE GRIFFIN-- Ward # 1136, accepted at Preston in 1909. According to the Amador Ledger dated March 11, 1910, Captain William H. White, who was drillmaster and held the rank of Major, narrowly missed being fatally shot by ward Eugene Griffin, when he and his accomplice, fellow ward Albert Brown attempted their escape at Preston. Griffin had stolen a revolver from the bakery shop, where he worked, and after being chased by White, he fired behind him barely missing White. Brown and Griffin were later caught and the newspaper states that the school had no intentions on keeping them so it was more than likely Brown was sent to the State Prison for the remaining term of his sentence, and any other time added for their attempted escape. Griffin was sent to San Quentin and later discharged on January 11, 1912.

WILLIE BANNING---Ward # 160, William "Billy" Banning was just 10 years old when he was sent to Preston School of Industry for stealing camellias from the garden of Miss Hurd of P Street, in Sacramento. Judge Davis sentenced William to 8 years at Preston, in 1895, after he was convinced that William was incorrigible. You see, William had been arrested several times before, and due to his age he was always given a slap on the wrist. This time around he was not so fortunate. Still, an 8 year sentence did seem pretty steep for picking flowers.  After William was released trouble caught up with him once again, when he was arrested and convicted for 2nd degree burglary and sentenced to 4 years at Folsom in 1909. He was released in 1912.

Sac Daily Union 3/15/1895

 (Photos from the State Archives, San Quentin & Folsom Prison records)

(© Copyright 2012-2015, J’aime Rubio, Originally published either on blog “Dreaming Casually” by J’aime Rubio, on my Facebook Page or in the book “Behind The Walls- A Historical Exposé of The Preston School of Industry” by author, J’aime Rubio.)

All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission by the author/publisher, J’aime Rubio. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Superintendents & Their Legacies

Preston School of Industry, Ione, CA-
In previous blog posts and also mentioned within my book "Behind The Walls," I touch on the subject of mistreatment to the wards, under the supervision of the acting superintendents.

The first superintendent. E. Carl Bank, was accused of mistreatment only after he fired some of his employees at the school. There really wasn't enough evidence to prove the case, so nothing was done.  Bank was booted out of his position in favor of Edward Stephen O'Brien, for sheer political reasons, leaving many to wonder if the accusations of mistreatment were just a farce to soil his reputation.  Unfortunately, the era of actual abuse and mistreatment was just about to begin at Preston. The second superintendent, E.S. O'Brien ruled with an iron fist and it was his reputation that brought such reproach to the school that it was dubbed, "The Preston School of Scandal." His methods of torture and abuse was unfathomable, making his role at Preston, not that of just a superintendent, but that of a tyrant as well.  (To read about E.S. O'Brien, click here.)

Even after several affidavits to the authorities from not only wards, but staff and doctors who had good standing in the community, nothing seemed to happen. Even the Governor himself couldn't touch O'Brien. It seemed he had some friends in really high places, which kept him out of reach for any sort of disciplinary action.  Eventually though, the media attention he was getting must have got the better of O'Brien, so he resigned from his position, but not before threatening everyone that if he was continually smeared any further in the papers, that he would sue them.

The next superintendent to take on the job was D.S. Hirshberg. His time at Preston, January 1, 1898 up to December 15, 1900, was not without its share of scandals.  According to the Preston School of Industry's Biennial Report for 1896-1898, the "Corporal Punishment" section reads:

 “When low or base things are practiced , it becomes necessary to resort to vigorous punishment, which, however, is inflicted with discretion.”
 It goes on to say:  “Punishment is never inflicted without knowledge or authority of the Superintendent, and always in his presence, but never by him.”

On his watch, there was the ingenious escape of  Robert Byrd, and also the death of Joseph Morgan, a ward who was killed while attempting to escape. Those events alone brought so much unwanted attention, along with Hirshberg's open view of corporal punishment, making it necessary for him to resign his post and pass the torch to yet another superintendent.

C.B. Riddick entered the scene on December 16, 1900.  During Riddick's time at Preston there was only one reported death of a ward, June 24, 1902.  The young man's name was John Lawne, and his cause of death was reported in the Biennial Report as tuberculosis. The feat that Riddick managed to hold down his post at Preston for nearly four years without any sort of scandal was impressive, given the reputation of his predecessors. The Amador Ledger spoke of this accomplishment in an article mentioning Riddick's resignation in 1903.

"Superintendent Riddick Resigns-- The San Francisco Chronicle says that J.B {sic} Riddick, who for the past four years has filled the responsible position of superintendent of the Preston Reform school at Ione, has sent in his resignation, to take effect in December next. With many who desire the welfare of the institution, this action on the part of the superintendent will be regretted. The place is an arduous one; not every good man can manage a reformatory of this kind with credit. It must be admitted that under Dr. Riddick's care the school has been free from the rumors of scandal and mismanagement  that have marked it in previous years.The boys have been contented and happy; the attempts to escape have been few. That he has not pleased everyone is not to be wondered at.  That feat is beyond human accomplishment. Public interests will be well served if his successor proves as capable and efficient in the management of the school as the retiring superintendent has proved himself."----- Amador Ledger, September 25, 1903

When I wrote my book, "Behind The Walls," I hadn't been able to find a lot of information in regards to the fifth superintendent, W. T. Randall.  The only story I found at the time Randall was superintendent, was a story about a ward, Joe Pires, who claimed to have been wrongfully committed. He stated that he never had a trial, but instead was forced to plead guilty to petty larceny to a Justice of the Peace in Santa Barbara and immediately shipped off to Preston. He filed a petition on the basis of habeas corpus, but I was unable to find any outcome of this young man's case. In my past research, the only other information I found was that Randall retired in 1909, claiming that he wished to devote  more time for educational work at Berkeley, but I have found that couldn't have been further from the truth. An article in the San Francisco Call, enlightens the subject with more detail as to the real reason why Randall retired from Preston. 

"Sacramento, November 19.--- Dr. William T. Randall, former superintendent of the Preston School of Industry at Ione, did not resign of his own accord to pursue educational work in the bay cities, but gave up his position under pressure following an investigation held by the governor and the trustees of the reform school.

Mistreatment of the boys under him was one of the charges brought against Doctor Randall. Another was that he favored the Free Methodist sect in the appointment of teachers on the school staff. These charges by Dr. J.K. McLean of Oakland and Rev. Charles A. Ramm of San Francisco, were kept secret by the investigators by agreement. Secretary of the Board of Examiners Deming  admitted that pressure had been brought to bear in Doctor Randall's case.

"Doctor Randall's conduct of the school was above reproach," said Deming. "The only thing that could be said against him was that he was a little too severe with some of the boys. The worst thing he did was to imprison one boy for 90 days in a room in an attic. There were other things not quite so severe.  We did not suspect any of this until the state board of charities and corrections investigated complaints that had been sent to it. Its charges were in turn investigated by the governor and the trustees, and it was agreed that Doctor Randall should resign. He would not agree that he was wrong, and that was the only course left open to him."--- San Francisco Call, November 20, 1909.

The horror stories would not stop with Randall's resignation. No, the Preston School of Industry would continue to carry on its reputation for scandal and mistreatment for many years to come....

(© Copyright 2012-2015, J’aime Rubio, Originally published either on blog “Dreaming Casually” by J’aime Rubio, on my Facebook Page or in the book “Behind The Walls- A Historical Exposé of The Preston School of Industry” by author, J’aime Rubio.)  All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission by the author/publisher, J’aime Rubio. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Wards Face Justice For Brutal Attack On Guard

San Quentin Inmate # 20626
In a previous post on my "Dreaming Casually" investigative blog, I had written about a wild escape from Preston back in April of 1904. Unfortunately, during this attempt to escape, two wards beat the night guard so bad he almost died. (Click here to read that story!) After escaping from the school, both wards split up but were eventually caught. With so many stories about Preston, we don't always have access to photos being that many times the boys were under age.  I did manage to get photos of the two wards in this case, because they were immediately sent to the State Prison for attempting to murder the night guard, J.S. Phillips.

Edward Rowe was originally arrested in 1900, at the age of 15, for burglary charges. I am unsure if he was first sent to the Whittier School, or perhaps even given a slap on the wrist first, but he wasn't actually accepted at the Preston School until two years later in 1902.  Now a ward of the state, Rowe was known as ward # 487. After he was apprehended for his attack on guard Phillips and his escape from Preston in April of 1904, he was then transferred to San Quentin as inmate # 20626. His acceptance date at San Quentin was May,10, 1904.  He was sentenced to 10 years for "assault to commit murder," however he was able to commute his sentence on February 16, 1908, where he was then released.

Folsom Inmate, # 5693 (1904)
Folsom Inmate, # 8764 (1913)
What about Gillette? Rowe's accomplice, Dan Gillette, ward # 548, who was brought to Preston in 1903 on charges unknown was arrested in Carbondale after his role in the assault and escape and was transfered straight to Folsom. Now just recognized as inmate # 5693, Gillette was sentenced to 4 years but only served 3, being released on May 8, 1907.

His life of crime didn't end there. He was picked up again on 1st degree burglary charges and sentenced to Folsom once again on June 24, 1913 up until January 27, 1917. To read all about Gillette and Rowe's escape, please click here! Thank you for visiting!

(© Copyright 2012-2015, J’aime Rubio, Originally published either on blog “Dreaming Casually” by J’aime Rubio, on my Facebook Page or in the book “Behind The Walls- A Historical Exposé of The Preston School of Industry” by author, J’aime Rubio.)

All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission by the author/publisher, J’aime Rubio. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

More Interesting Facts

Hospital Staff, 1916
PRESTON HOSPITAL STAFF, 1916-- The 1916 Biennial Report for the Preston School of Industry briefly speaks about the hospital quarters (infirmary) and the staff on site. The chapter is written by E.J. Thompson. Was Thompson the head nurse? I am not sure, but still looking. However, in John Lafferty's book "A Centennial History" he mentions a ward who described the head nurse (named Thompson) who was very brutal to the wards there during the same time period (about 1915). Could it be the same woman shown in the photograph? Was she really as brutal as the ward claimed or was the ward over embellishing his story? This is just another question to add to my list of things to investigate. My work is never done......(Photo from Biennial Report).

ESCAPES- During the first 18 years of the Preston School of Industry's existence, nearly 66 wards escaped or attempted to. The reporting years for 1895-96 (having 10 escapes), 1896-97 (having 17 escapes) and 1911-12 (having 13 escapes) were the years with the most escapes at the time period.

Do you see the V-notch in the heel of this shoe? Well, it was a standard issue for wards at the Preston School of Industry, that way in case one of the wards snuck off and tried to escape, they could track their heel prints in the dirt.

From page 26 of my book, "Behind The Walls"- a list numbering the wards who were sent to Preston and the reasons for being sent there between the years 1894-1898.-- 

EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES: Besides teaching the boys discipline, proper education and a trade, the boys were also allowed to be in social clubs, sports teams and even a band.  Not everything that happened at Preston was bad, and I am sure there were plenty of good stories along with those that were not so good. 

At one time the Preston School of Industry had a very popular band (circa 1900). In fact, the residents of Ione petitioned Preston to allow the boys to perform at the Commercial Hotel (which once stood where Ione's City Hall office sits today). Once approved, it became a weekly occurrence. Every Saturday the boys performed at the Preston School, but every Thursday they performed for Ione residents at James Mc Cauley's "Commercial Hotel" in downtown Ione.

Preston Band

Here's an old photo of the wards from the "Brotherhood Club" and staff from the Preston School of Industry, long ago.-- Archives.

Preston's football team, lined up on the field. (Circa 1915)

Inter-Company Basketball Team Season Champions, proudly displaying their trophy, circa 1915.

(© Copyright 2012-2015, J’aime Rubio, Originally published either on blog “Dreaming Casually” by J’aime Rubio, on my Facebook Page or in the book “Behind The Walls- A Historical Exposé of The Preston School of Industry” by author, J’aime Rubio.)

All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission by the author/publisher, J’aime Rubio. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Strange and Mysterious Deaths

During my research into the history of the Preston School of Industry I have found a few strange stories. Most of the stories I would usually find were connected somehow to violence, but these two were just odd. Call it unfortunate circumstances, call it mysterious, but in each case people died or disappeared under "strange" circumstances.


During my years of researching the Preston School of Industry's various history, I've come across many interesting stories. This particular story was about a man who met his fate at the Preston Reservoir, but he wasn't a staff member, nor was he a ward. In fact, Fred Downs was just a regular guy who happened to have been on a hunting trip with his two buddies George Gorman and Ed Tibbitts when he met his fatal ending. 

The group of men were coming from Sutter Creek, but decided to hunt for doves near Mount Echo, just northeast of the reservoir. Nightfall was coming, so Fred made his last kill for the night, but the dove fell into the reservoir. Seeing that it was beyond his reach, he decided to go in after it and wanted to take a little swim as well. His friends claimed that he had only got chest deep in the water, wading normally when all of a sudden he went under. 

There was no sign of distress, no sound, nothing. In a panic his friend ran to the man attending the reservoir, Mr. Henderson, who arrived "within seconds". Fred's friends claimed they couldn't swim and that is why they didn't go in after him immediately, however given the amount of time between him going under and Mr. Henderson arriving it was said that it was nearly impossible for him to have drowned so fast. They pulled him out of the water, but he died on the banks of reservoir, before the doctor could reach him. 

They didn't know whether he drowned, collapsed in the water from heart failure or had some sort of heat stroke, but Fred Downs died suddenly and unexpectedly on Monday, August 4th, 1902. He was well liked within the community of Sutter Creek, where he was raised. He was 34 years old, unmarried and it was said that his "He was a great favorite with all who knew him, and his sudden and untimely death would be deplored by all."


Tuesday, December 4th, 1928-

While digging a sewer ditch on the property of the Preston School of Industry, six boys were literally buried alive after a cave-in of the 16 foot deep trench. After being being buried for some time, four of the boys were successfully rescued, only sustaining minor injuries after being pulled out. Sadly, two of young men were crushed and perished while buried under the earth. William Reppert (of San Francisco) and Henry Hirstein (of Sanger) were the two wards who died, and upon a Coroner's inquest of the incident, it was decided that their deaths were "accidental.


In November of 1925, thirteen year old Billy Forrester, (boy on the left side of the photo), was paroled from PSI and literally vanished without a trace. Did he ever really step foot off the property at Preston? If so, where did he go? No one ever heard from him again. Even census records show no trace of him, although I could locate his parents numerous times, but no Billy.  

To learn why he was sent to Preston in the first place, check out his story here.

(© Copyright 2012-2015, J’aime Rubio, Originally published either on blog “Dreaming Casually” by J’aime Rubio, on my Facebook Page or in the book “Behind The Walls- A Historical Exposé of The Preston School of Industry” by author, J’aime Rubio.)

All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission by the author/publisher, J’aime Rubio. 

More Violence At The Preston School of Industry

Preston has a bad reputation for brutality to the wards, but I can tell you, there was just as much brutality from the wards to each other and the staff. In this post you will read about different accounts at different time periods, but all relating to a violent incident. 

Whether it was a ward attacking a staff member, a ward attacking another ward, or worse, a staff member brutalizing the boys, there is plenty of evidence to show that this place certainly had its dangerous side.


According the Ione Valley Echo, dated July 26, 1924, a ward from Company F, Ray Baker attacked and attempted to murder guard Thomas Dooley. While Baker was nearly choking Dooley to death, Dooley was still able to reach for his pistol and shot Baker, fatally wounding him. Although Baker was brought to the hospital for his injuries, he died within 10 minutes of arriving. Guard Dooley was later exonerated for any wrongdoing due to the circumstances of the incident.


On February 7, 1912, ward # 1295, Frank Pimental, who was 20 years old, stabbed 14 year-old ward # 1266, Robert Robertson. The San Francisco Call misspelled Robertson's name and called him "Robinson," however this is the same boy. According to the papers, there had been an ongoing grudge between the two and that is what authorities believed led up to the stabbing (also mentioned "slashing") of Robertson. The newspapers also put into question why an older ward was mixed among the younger, less violent wards at the school.


On March 21, 1911 just shortly after 7 p.m., an argument of harsh words between wards John Greenan and Floyd DeHaye turned into a violent physical altercation. Once it seemed as though fists weren't enough, Greenan decided to pull out a razor and slashed DeHaye's throat. Guards at the school were able to subdue Greenan and Constable John Kelly held him in the County Jail on charges of "assault with a deadly weapon with intent to commit murder." DeHaye was sent to Hospital quarters and received several stitches to his throat but survived the attack.


Although this photo is of a model in the 1920's showing the style of "pistol packing" for women of that time period, it reminds me of a story I found recently in my further research of the Preston School of Industry about an escape that almost was. You see, on the evening of July 4th, 1923, six wards from Preston (PSI) assaulted a group supervisor, tied him up and threw him into a closet. They got as far as the Colonial Building when the head cook (a woman) who was standing in the living room looking out the window when she saw the boys run by. She quickly pulled her pistol out from under her clothing, which she had strapped above her knee, not unlike this photo, and she quickly went out after the boys and even fired in their direction scaring them. It notified the rest of the staff there that the boys were going that direction and their escape was stopped. This was a lesson learned by the Directors and Superintendent there that more staff was needed, being that they had just laid off their Asst. Superintendant, 6 group supervisors and ALL of their parole officers shortly before this escape attempt. After this incident, they knew that the budget cut had been a terrible mistake!


In his 1929 autobiography "Stealing Through Life", Ernest Booth touches on various aspects of his life, including his stay at the Preston School of Industry which started at the age of 17 in 1915. Ernest goes on to speak of horrid conditions and sexual abuse that was forced on the wards by older wards, and even worse, accusations of pedophilia that took place as well. In his book his account reads: "With fifty other boys I was herded into an ill-lighted basement each evening. There we sat, on benches for three hours, often deprived of all reading material, because some petty annoyance had, in reprisal, had been put upon the officer in charge of us. In the dormitories paederasty was nightly practiced. The night watchman seemed indifferent. For weeks he would do no more than chase an amorous older boy from the bed of some youngster. Then, waxing virtuous, he would deliver a tirade against all boys who even thought about such practices. While the boys stood at their respective bedsides, naked, he would walk about and lecture us on the evil of our ways."-- {"Stealing Through Life," Ernest Booth (1929)}

(© Copyright 2012-2015, J’aime Rubio, Originally published either on blog “Dreaming Casually” by J’aime Rubio, on my Facebook Page or in the book “Behind The Walls- A Historical Exposé of The Preston School of Industry” by author, J’aime Rubio.)

All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission by the author/publisher, J’aime Rubio. 

The Tyrannical Rule of Superintendent O'Brien

The Tyrant Emerges -May 20th, 1897 

Newspaper Clipping
Dr. Edward Stephen O’Brien's reign was the start of a terrible legacy that was rumored to have lasted throughout many decades even after he had been long gone. That legacy was cruelty. From the very beginning of his days at Preston, O’Brien ruled over the boys with an iron fist, literally. Rumors and gossip spread around town of his terrible temper and lack of self-restraint. By November of 1897, O’Brien had earned the title of “Tyrant.” Seven people which included employees and wards, filed petitions and affidavits with the Governor accusing O’Brien of “awful brutality” and “torturing the wards.”

H.R. Bernard, the Board Secretary for Preston stated this about O’Brien, “He who cannot govern himself, must not expect to govern others.” Bernard went on to accuse O’Brien for mismanaging the school and having an“uncontrollable temper.” He also claimed that O’Brien’s “egotism persuaded himself that he is indispensable and harbors under the hallucination that, as he expressed it, he is a ‘stone wall’ and ‘cannot be removed’.”

Bernard continued to state an account that would then be the start of many stories to come, which inevitably earned the school the title “Preston School of Scandal.”


“ I was called upon one evening to report immediately to the Superintendent’s office, and rushed in to find Dr. O’Brien wildly excited and beating A. Ascensio over the head and face with a cane, which he soon broke. He continued his blows with the part left in his hand. Which was also broken a moment later from the force of the blows.
Then the Doctor grabbed a pole about four feet long and proceeded to belabor the yelling lad over the body. The force of the blows was terrific.

I have also witnessed a rough and tumble fight on the front portico of the administration building between O’Brien and a 16 year old lad from Ione……. Each pummeled the other for some time, until a blow from O’Brien cut the lad’s face. The boy was allowed to go, but later Mr. Phillips, an officer of the school and Deputy Sherriff was sent after the boy whom he brought back and was taken to the Superintendent…..O’Brien became brave and threatened the boy that if he ever dared to speak to him in Ione that he {O’Brien} , who had just handed the revolver to Phillips, would blow a hole in him that a team could run through”- H.R. Bernard's Affidavit.

Another account was recorded by Amador County Physician, E.E. Endicott on 11/14/1897 that reads:

This incident, among many others of a similar nature, came under my personal observation while in professional attendance at the said school, and serves to confirm in my mind, as I believe the of many citizens of Ione, the serious charges now appearing in the daily press…
A youth by the name of Nick Hamilton, in an endeavor to escape, had sustained a sprained knee. When called in to attend the injured lad I found him lying in the hospital suffering great pain. I examined the knee and found it badly swollen and inflamed. Dr. A.L. Adams of Ione had also examined him and confirmed diagnosis. Treatment was at once instituted with a view to relieving the suffering boy, when the Superintendent appeared and desired to examine the injury.

He rudely grasped the boy’s limb, and to our astonishment began vigorously flexing, extending and rotating the limb, heedless of the yells of pain emanating from the tortured boy, his only reply being “LIE STILL, I’M BOSS HERE!!”- E.E. Endicot, M.D.'s Affidavit.

Copyright: J. Rubio
One note I like to make right here is that this boy, Nick Hamilton died six months after this story was published in the paper. His cause of death according to the Biennial Report states he died from “pulmonary tuberculosis” and that he was kept “isolated” from all the boys. Yes, I guess anything is possible, but wouldn’t that be the perfect excuse to keep him isolated?  It also says they used “strict antiseptic precautions” to avoid contamination with the other wards. Perhaps he wasn’t sick at all, and this was a terrible punishment for his story leaking out to the press. By him being kept isolated there was no way for any of the other boys to know whether he was really sick or not. 

Remember, he had been there a while and had they known he had tuberculosis upon arriving there they would have kept him isolated all the time. Maybe the poor boy didn’t survive O’Brien’s torture, so they made an excuse that he died from tuberculosis. His body was never claimed, so he was laid to rest in the cemetery behind Preston.  Two more witnesses P.J. Glas and J.J. Harlon stated that O’Brien “flogged a boy until his flesh peeled from his back.” He also “lashed” another boy until he“exhausted him to the ground.”

Sadly, although so many came forward to testify against O’Brien for his misconduct and vicious cruelty to the boys, he was exonerated. According to the December 18th edition of the 1897 newspapers, the headline read “Dr.O’Brien Has Been Vindicated.” It was obvious there was some sort of payoff and cover-up on the part of O’Brien and his friends in high places. Even the Governor himself couldn’t seem to have anything done to O’Brien despite his very best efforts.

In regards to the entire investigation, The Board of Trustees for Preston ruled in favor of O’Brien, completely exonerating him of the charges of cruelty and unnecessary severity to inmates. The vote passed 2 to 1, being that Trustee Tyrrell voted negatively towards O’Brien. Unfortunately, O’Brien got off without so much as a slap on the wrist and even threatened to sue the State if they alleged any more wrongdoing. He was asked to resign on good terms to avoid any further scandal and he agreed as part of the stipulations of his investigation.

I am a firm believer that you reap what you sow in life and death. I also believe that when justice is not served, for whatever reason, that it will be left in God's hands to judge those who are guilty of horrible crimes upon meeting their "maker." With that being said, I have recently tracked down the grave of Preston's 2nd Superintendent, Dr. E.S. O'Brien. Although I feel that what he did there was completely horrible and wrong, again, he has paid for his sins in death and I respect the graves of all people, good or bad. At the same time we do not have to forget the horrible legacy he was made infamous for. At least we can do that much to remember the boys he affected during his reign at the Preston School of Industry. (Check out E. S. O'Brien's grave HERE).

For more information on Superintendent O'Brien and the rest of the Preston School of Industry's history, please keep reading my blog, and check out my book, "Behind The Walls" today! 

(© Copyright 2012-2015, J’aime Rubio, Originally published either on blog “Dreaming Casually” by J’aime Rubio, on my Facebook Page or in the book “Behind The Walls- A Historical Exposé of The Preston School of Industry” by author, J’aime Rubio.)

All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission by the author/publisher, J’aime Rubio.