Cañon City Public Library Home Page Local History Center Home Page Prisons (1) Anton Woode, #3199, 1893




Anton Woode arrived at the Colorado State Penitentiary on August 8, 1893. He was twelve years old at the time, and the youngest person in the United States to be confined to a state institution. Woode was convicted of killing Joseph Smith reportedly because he wanted Smith's gun and his "pretty gold watch".

Woode's incarceration has become legendary. When he entered prison, another prisoner, who was a former college professor, took him under his wing. He began to tutor Woode and found him to be an excellent student. It was reported that he passed a college math class, studied language and writing skills, and learned to play the violin. Woode preferred art to his other classes and it was this skill that later contributed to his early release.

(2) Anton Woode, #3199, August 8, 1893

In 1900, Woode was one of four men who successfully escaped from the penitentiary. The details of the escape are well documented and, while Woode participated in the escape, all accounts, including interviews with Warden Hoyt, seem to indicate Woode was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thomas Reynolds, #3883, and C. E. Wagoner, #4580, planned the escape. Kid Wallace, #3855, who was brought into the plan after its inception pressured Woode into participating. Woode was told about the escape when it was already in motion and testified that Wallace threatened his life if he did not escape with them. Wallace also promised to keep him safe if he did what he was told. Kid Wallace confirmed Wood’s statement in his own testimony to Warden Hoyt following his capture. During the escape, the night captain, William C. Rooney, was killed, and all witnesses confirmed that Woode stood back and did not participate in the murder.

Woode and Kid Wallace were captured at a tollgate in Cripple Creek the day after their escape. They were returned to the prison hidden in the back of a hay wagon in order to escape the angry mob outside the prison gates, which was ready to lynch them. Reynolds was not so lucky. After his capture the following day, he was seized from guards outside the prison gate by a group of over one hundred people. He was immediately taken to a telephone pole on Main Street and lynched. The crowd returned to the prison and demanded Woode and Wallace be released to them. The mob was turned away by Warden Hoyt and Wallace and Woode went to trial for their part in the escape. Wagoner also went to trial after he was recaptured on the day after Reynolds was lynched.

Woode later won support for his parole from Warden John Cleghorn (1902-1909) and the prison board when Woode reported an escape in progress to the guards in 1903. They lobbied for his release based on his actions and time served.

Prison Board Of Commissioners
Resolution Concerning Anton Woode and Thomas Helster
Whereas, We consider that great assistance was rendered this institution by the prompt and fearless action of Thomas Helster, No. 4839, and Anton Woode, #3199, in the attempt to escape made this morning by the six desperate criminals confined herein; and,
Whereas, We further consider had it not been for their efforts and prompt action great injury or death might have resulted to Mrs. Cleghorn and others connected with the institution.
Therefore be it Resolved, By the board of penitentiary commissioners now in session, that we most respectfully recommend His Excellency, James H. Peabody, governor of Colorado, to extend executive clemency to said Helster and Woode, as a reward for their services and meritorious conduct.

Signed:

Louis King, President

H. L. White, Secretary

Thomas M. Bowen

John Cleghorn, Warden

Done this 22nd day of June, AD 1903, at Cañon City.

Madge Reynolds, wife of a Denver oil man, began a campaign in Denver in support of Woode's freedom. She became his benefactress and Woode promised to pay back every penny she had spent on him. At the time there were several articles printed in local newspapers about an unknown woman, closely associated with the Denver News, who was also campaigning for Woode's release by speaking at Denver women's clubs in order to gain public support for the young man.

Largely because of these efforts, Governor Peabody granted Woode a pardon on October 13, 1905. He had served twelve years, four months, and twenty-eight days at the time of his release.

(3) Anton Woode, paroled October 13, 1905

On the day of his release Woode was accompanied by William Cleghorn, son of the warden, and James C. Peabody, son of the governor, to East Aurora, New York. There he assumed a new name and worked at a previously arranged job at Elbert Hubbard's Roycrofters community. Hubbard himself petitioned for Anton to be paroled and to be allowed to come to Roycrofters studios where he could use his artistic ability to contribute to the community's endeavors. Hubbard's community employed 500 people and his philosophy was based on the idea of equal opportunity through hard work. Known as an arts and crafts colony, it's products have become collector's items in recent years.

Roycrofters was a good start for Woode, although he left in 1906 because he was dissatisfied with the advancement opportunities provided. An article in The Canon City Record comments that Woode had taken a position working as a stenographer for a New York calendar company. An article published in 1982 in the Rocky Mountain News associates the calendar company with a specific church. It was reported that Woode also gave violin lessons and played for the church. Woode was also married during this period. It was reported that his wife was the daughter of a judge who knew his background

Woode made his first payment to Ms. Reynolds on February 1906. He wrote a note about his progress saying, "I send you this payment on the money you loaned me to secure my pardon and I will send you more each month. When I secured my release I promised to recompense you for every penny and I will make good. I am doing finely; in fact, so well that I hope to pay you the entire amount-$550—this year."

According to the Rocky Mountain News there was never another report of Woode getting in any further trouble with the law.

Bibliography

Newspapers

"Anton Wood: Boy Murderer, May Be Released." Canon City Record 25 June 1903: 3.

"Anton Wood Is Free." Canon City Times 4 September 1905: 6.

"Anton Wood Makes His First Payment." Canon City Daily Record 15 February 1906: 1.

Melrose, Frances. "Tragic Tale Had A Happy Ending: Turn-of Century Lad’s Genius Emerged." Rocky Mountain News 19 September 1982.

Tracy, Harry. "Youngest Killer Remembered." The Sunday Chieftain 8 March 1998:1&2.

Official Documents

Anton Woode. Statement Given To C.P. Hoyt. January, 1900: Page 1-9, Local History Center, Canon City Colorado.

Anton Woode. Further Statement Given To C.P. Hoyt. January, 1900: Page 1-9, Local History Center, Canon City, Colorado.

Lawrence, W. E. Statement Given To C.P. Hoyt. January, 1900: Page 1-9, Local History Center, Canon City, Colorado.

Starke, Fred. Statement Given To C.P. Hoyt. January, 1900: Page 1-9, Local History Center, Canon City Colorado.

Wallace, Kid. Statement Given To C.P. Hoyt. January, 1900: Page 1-9, Local History Center, Canon City Colorado.

Wallace, Kid. Further Statement Given To C.P. Hoyt. January, 1900: Page 1-9, Local History Center, Canon City, Colorado.

Periodical

Soucie, Lowell. "Rediscovering Roycroft: The Newly Revealed Letters of Elbert Hubbard to Felix Shay." Style: 1900 Fall, Winter 1998, Volume II, #4.

Photographs

LHC = Local History Center, Cañon City Public Library

MCP = Musem of Colorado Prisons, Cañon City Public Library

1 MCP: Photograph of Anton Woode, Booth Collection.

2 MCP: Photograph of Anton Woode, Booth Collection.

3 LHC: Photograph of Anton Woode, Smith Collection.



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