Event Person Place

Ellen McKinney Makes Her Escape from the Scioto County Jail

“Very few persons know that there was a jail escapade from Sheriff Pursell last Sunday night week. The incident, very suspiciously too, has been suppressed as far as it could be, none of the city papers thus far having published it. It was a very strange escapade, for it was a woman who made the scape: Ellen McKinney, of Nile township, is well-known in Court circles, and first obtained her notoriety by running away with constable Hutsenpiller, who deserted his family.

“Mrs. Hutsenpiller afterward obtained a divorce, and her husband and Mrs. McKinney were arrested and afterward were sentenced to the Scioto county jail. Ellen McKinney was kept on the second floor of the jail. Last Monday morning week a search of the premises disclosed the fact that she had made her escape. To say that Sheriff Pursell was dumbfounded is to draw it very mildly. The astounded deputy was equally non-plussed. The jailer made a bee-line for Ellen’s old haunts in Nile township, and summoned to this assistance Constable Elliott. The house was pointed out to Nail by the officer, and Nail captured her as she was making her way out of the window, and brought her back to the jail.”

“The manner of her departure from the jail is one of the strange features of the escape. Is the laxity of jail discipline such that prisoners can walk off without as much as saying ‘by your leave?’ It is said the jail door was open, and all the lady had to do was put on her bonnet and promenade down stairs, out the hall, and take her leisurely walk to her old home in Nile township. Had she the freedom of the whole building, and did she abuse the accommodating confidence of Sheriff Pursell, or his deputy? The jail door was open. It couldn’t have been opened from the inside. It must have been left open, and it was the custom to let it remain open for her accomodation? Id it was not, such a careless act of permitting it to be open, when it should have been locked on the prisoner, looks bad for the conduct of the jail.”

“There was one jail escape under Sheriff Lewis, but it was in his absence, on official business at Columbus, when the guards were set upon and beaten and the jail opened by a bold dash for liberty.”

There was an escape under Sheriff Reiniger, but it was when Spencer, in the late hour of night, cut a hole through the iron cell and fled the State, but even then he was followed by Mr. Reiniger to Iowa and brought back and kept safely until he was tried, convicted and sentenced to the penitentiary. But here we have a woman prisoner, walking out of the unlocked prison doors, as coolly as if she were going to the butcher’s, of the baker’s or the milliner’s. The better care of the jail is demanded, and if it is to be no more carefully guarded, the incarceration of criminals will be considered a farce.”1

  1. A remarkable jail delivery. (1879, July 26). Portsmouth Times, p. 3.