Friday, June 13, 2014

Good Evening, I'll See You Some Other Time


Detroit Free Press, May 12, 1878 (enlarge)
Such were the words of Bondsman Baxter as he came face to face with escaped Eloise patient Henry Ward, who was pointing a pistol at his breast in the bedroom of the insane man's mansion on Fort Street in Detroit. Ward had recently been transferred from the asylum at Kalamazoo to the one in Wayne and despite what he called a place with "geniality, friendly greeting, enlarged liberty for man and beast and strychnine enough to dip your pistol cartridges into till doomsday."--eat your heart out Miss Dix!--had escaped the facility and retreated to the safe confines of his homestead. Baxter had come to return the fugitive to Kalamazoo--since it had been ruled his transfer to Wayne was in violation of state law--and only gave up his pursuit of Ward for the time being, doing surveillance of the house to ascertain the situation before heading back to police headquarters.

Early the next morning Baxter and a triumvirate of patrolmen--Cavanaugh, McDonald and Hammond--returned to the mansion and settled inside the old dining room. It was an advantageous spot being that it was enclosed and, apparently, frequently used despite its moniker. After many hours of waiting Ward appeared through the north door of the room and locked eyes with Baxter who was sitting at the kitchen table, while the patrolmen hid out of sight. Baxter offered Ward an opportunity to discuss the matter with the latter curtly declining and offering instead to shoot the bondsman.

Baxter coolly rejoined him, "I guess not. In the first place you are too great a coward to do that and then you are too much a gentleman to shoot an unarmed man."

Obviously, it was a calculated move by a man acquainted with Ward lest the outcome might not have worked so advantageously. Ward, both check-mated and humored, retorted, "You are right. I wouldn't shoot a dog that couldn't bite." and slammed the door, returning once more to his barricaded room.

The four lawmen stayed their collective calm course, suspecting that Ward would soon return, and within 15 minutes he did just that. This time the patrolmen were ready to seize him when he entered the room. Alighting through the main entrance Ward was confronted by McDonald. Having intended to grasp Ward's wrist he instead grabbed a coat sleeve, allowing for the insane man to fire a shot from his pistol. McDonald was fortunate not to have been hit as his arm came into contact with Ward's just before discharge, sending the wayward bullet into a baseboard behind him.

Ward was subsequently contained after an intense struggle and taken to the police station. There, a Free Press reporter questioned him on matters of sanity, old friends and world affairs, among other things, to which Ward rationally answered that his mind was healthily engaged though a bit defiant. He reminisced light-heartedly, but in a concerned manner that showed him both intelligent and affable. After many changes in tone his thought shifted from the coherent to wild ranting and his mannerisms and gesticulations followed suit. It was obvious to the reporter, though not so much to me, that Ward's mind had gone soft-hunting. At least that's what I think he said. The typeface is a mess and loft-hunting seems as ridiculous as Ward's indifference to epaulettes. Whatever the hell they are.

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