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John Thomas Flavell (abt. 1864)

John Thomas Flavell
Born about in Toronto, York, Ontario, Canadamap
Ancestors ancestors
[spouse(s) unknown]
[children unknown]
Died [date unknown] [location unknown]
Profile last modified | Created 2 Apr 2019 | Last significant change: 19 May 2021
12:38: Alison Kilpatrick edited the Biography for John Thomas Flavell (abt.1864-). [Thank Alison for this]
This page has been accessed 86 times.
The Birth Date is a rough estimate. See the text for details.

Aliases included: "Johnny the Rat," "Little John," and "William Harris."[1][2]

Contents

Biography

John Thomas Flavell was born about 1864. He was the son of John Flavell and Anne Gilmore.[3][4]

Census enumerations

1871 census (Canada)

1871 census enumeration (Canada):
  • John Flavell, male, age 37, born in Ireland, Church of England, Irish, grocer, married
  • Ann, female, age 36, born in Ireland, Church of England, Irish, married
  • Mary Ann, female, age 8, born in Ontario, Church of England, Irish
  • John Thomas, male, age 6, do., ...
  • census place: St. John’s Ward, Toronto, Ontario[5]

1881 census

After her mother’s death in 1879, the family was recorded in the 1881 census as follows:
  • John Flavel, male, age 44, born in Ireland, Church of England, Irish, labourer, married
  • Rachel, female, age 26, born in Ireland, Church of England, Irish, married [Note: Rachel Gilmore was Mary Ann's maternal aunt.]
  • Mary Ann, female, age 18, born in Ontario, C of E, Irish, milliner
  • John T., male, age 16, born in Ontario, C of E, Irish, labourer
  • George, male, age 1, born in Ontario, C of E, Irish
  • census place: St John’s Ward, Toronto, Ontario[6]

Criminal escapades

1883: Larceny and embezzlement (Toronto)

Chronology of John Flavell’s trial for embezzlement and fraud in 1883, according to reports published in The Globe and Mail (Toronto) newspaper:
  • July 25: Police Court: John Flavell charged with larceny; committed for trial.
  • July 26: Criminal Court: John Flavell charged with the larceny of $151 from Mr. Britton, in whose employ he has been for some time, was remanded until the 2nd, bail being taken in two sureties of $500 each.
  • Aug. 3: County Criminal Court: John Flavell charged with embezzling $9 and stealing $157, to be tried by jury; remanded to General Sessions.
  • Sept. 7: General Sessions: scheduled to commence on Tuesday, Sept. 11.
  • Sept. 11: Postponement of General Sessions 'til Sept. 12.
  • Sept. 15: General Sessions of the Peace: Arraigned—John Flavell, for embezzlement; accused pleaded not guilty, and also for larceny, not guilty.
  • Sept. 18: General Sessions: Queen v. John Flavell, for the larceny of $150 from his employer William Britten, verdict returned of guilty with a recommendation to mercy.
  • Sept. 19: General Sessions: John Flavell was charged with embezzlement of $9.88, the money of his employer, Wm. Britton. This case went to jury at 3 p.m.
  • Sept. 20: No report of the proceedings of the General Sessions was published in that day's edition of The Globe & Mail.
  • Sept. 21: The previous case having concluded, the next case was commenced in the General Sessions.[7]
From the Judicial Court Minutes, held by Archives Ontario: On 20 Sept 1883, John was tried, by jury, for embezzlement in the Queen v John Flavell; the jury returned a verdict of guilty. On 21 Sept, the court administered a sentence of one month in common jail for larceny, plus one month common jail for embezzlement, to be served concurrently.[8]
As it happens, this episode was just the first in a long series of crimes to be committed by John T. Flavell.

1888: Arrested in Detroit for robberies

Reported in the 3rd May 1888 edition of the Pittsburgh Daily Post newspaper:
BLINKEY MORGAN’S PAL.
John Flavel, Desperado and Thief, Arrested at Detroit.
Detroit, May 2.—John Flavel, alias William Harris, alias “Little John,” was arrested to-day by United States secret officers O’Neill and Smith. Flavel [is] known as one of the most desperate of Burglars and thieves. He is a pal of “Blinkey” Morgan, who murdered Detective Hulligan, of Cleveland, and Sheriff Lynch, of Alpena. He is also a postoffice robber and is wanted for robbing the postoffices at Dexter, Grass Lake, Addison and other places in Michigan, and also offices in Missouri, Indiana and Ohio. When arrested he pulled a revolver and attempted to shoot Deputy U.S. Marshall Galloway, but was overpowered and after a desperate struggle landed in jail.[1]

1888: P.O. robbery in Grass Lake, Michigan

Reported in the 15th December 1888 edition of The Detroit Free Press:
A FASTIDIOUS CRIMINAL.
John Flavel Sentenced for a Postoffice Robbery—He Objects to Some Statements.
John Flavell, alias Johnny the Rat, one of the most expert and cunning crooks that has ever been allowed his freedom, was yesterday given a snug berth in the House of Correction for five years by Judge Brown in the United States Circuit Court. The “Rat,” as he has been known for a long time among his associates and the state secret service, was convicted of the robbery of the Grass Lake Postoffice, and his apprehension for the crime is due to the skill of Postoffice Inspector P. O’Neill, who worked up nearly the entire case against him. About a year ago two men were seen around Grass Lake acting suspiciously and their disappearance was closely followed by the discovery that the postoffice and a jewelry store connected with the office had been robbed. A description of the men was given to the officers and several weeks later the police were put in possession of facts that led to the arrest of Flavell. The immediate cause of his arrest was due to the fact that a Mrs. Downer, her husband and daughter had seen jewelry in his possession which was identified as a portion of that stolen from the Grass Lake store. At the time of his arrest Flavell made a desperate attempt to shoot the officers, but was overpowered and lodged in jail on the charges of the Grass Lake postoffice robbery and resisting an officer. For the latter offense he was tried and convicted. Upon his conviction yesterday he was sentenced to one year in the Detroit House of Correction.
Flavell made a scene in the court room by inquiring of Judge Brown how it was that the witnesses for the government had made so much stronger a case against him than they did upon his first trial, when the jury disagreed.
Judge Brown replied that the testimony was well corroborated and seemed to indicate that he was guilty.
Flavell did not deny his guilt, but seemed to feel that the evidence against him did not make out a conclusive case.
“Why am I called ‘The Rat,’ your honor?” asked Flavell in disgust. “That is not a name that I have ever been known by, and I think it was given me to hurt my defense. Now, the detectives got hold of my photograph, but I will tell you how it was done. They sneaked my Bible and found one of my photographs in there. That is where they got it, and I do not think it fair.[“]
Flavell stands sentenced to the Detroit House of Correction for five years for the postoffice robbery and one year to the same institution for resisting an officer, the latter sentence to be served at the expiration of the first.
Flavell is supposed to have been connected with a series of postoffice robberies in Michigan, extending over a period of two years, and there is evidence against him for complicity in the Birmingham and Parshalville jobs, in each of which he was concerned with “john Doe,” now in jail in Detroit. Flavell has also a record of a being a member of the gang of which Blinkey Morgan, who was recently hung for murder, was an illustrious member.
As Flavell was leaving the court room he called to one of the officers. “Say, Mr. Galloway, you will be out of office pretty soon, but I’ll give you a pointer, I will be out of prison first.”[2]

1894: Imprisoned for safe blowing

Reported in the 30th January 1894 edition of The Daily Tribune (Great Falls, Montana):
THREE BAD CROOKS.
One of the Worst Gangs of Safeblowers In The Country Caught at Toledo.
One Train Robber Given a Death Sentence – Others Go to Prison.
Men Who Looted the Lazerne, Ia., Station Will Also Serve the State.
TOLEDO, O., Jan. 29.—John Flavel, alias “Johnny the Rat,” Charles Proctor and Henry Jackson, three of the most notorious safeblowers in the United States, were arrested on a Michigan Central train a mile outside this city at 11:30 p.m., but not until a desperate fight with the Toledo detectives did the three criminals surrender their liberty. They were apprehended on a tip sent from Wyandotte, Mich., by an ex-detective of this city, who recognized the trio when they boarded the Michigan Central train in Detroit at 9:15. When the local officers met the train at the wagon works, a station a mile from Toledo, Proctor and Jackson were asleep. Flavel recognized his danger at once, and reached for his revolver, but was pinned to his seat by three officers before he got the weapon out. When he and his pals were searched at the station a full kit of safeblowing tools, nitro-glycerine and two revolvers were found on them. They have served time in Illinois, Columbus, O., and several other places, and are among the criminals in Superintendent Byrne’s rogue[s’] gallery. Flavell, alias “Johnny the Rat,” is known as one of the most murderous crooks in the United States.[9]

1900: A ruse to flush The Rat out of hiding?

Published in the 11th November 1900 edition of The Detroit Free Press:
John T. Flavell Wanted.
Mrs. T. [sic] O’Leary, of Toronto, has asked Supt. Martin to locate her brother, John T. Flavell, who is said to have a large legacy waiting for him. “Johnny the Rat,” a notorious crook, is known to the police under that name. He was in Philadelphia when last heard from.[10]
... and in The Cincinnati Enquirer of the same date:
“JOHNNY THE RAT,”
A Celebrated Burglar, Has Possibly Fallen Heir To a Fortune.
Special Despatch to the Enquirer.
Detroit, Mich., November 10.—Mrs. T. [sic] O’Leary, of Toronto, wrote a letter to Chief of Police Martin, received to-day, making inquiries about her brother, John T. Flavell, stating that he had fallen heir to a large legacy. The only man known by that name to the police here is “Johnny the Rat,” a celebrated burglar and all-round crook, who came here from Toronto some 15 years ago, and for a time worked in the old Griswold House. He served five years at the House of Correction for burglary, and has been in most of the prisons in the country. He was last heard of in Philadelphia two years ago.[11]

Research notes

  • Estimated date of birth:—John Thomas Flavell was born about five years before the commencement, in Ontario of civil registrations of births. The date of baptism has been used as a proxy for the date of birth.[3]
  • Heir to a large fortune highly doubtful:—No record of any wealthy relatives has been found, and no oral tradition to this effect has come down through the family. It does seem most likely that the long arm of the law was trying to reach John T. Flavell by laying an attractive trap.[11] ~Kilpatrick-1128 (2019-04-02)
  • Date of death unknown:—No trace has been found of John Thomas Flavell after the newspaper accounts published on the 11th November 1900. ~Kilpatrick-1128 (2019-04-02)

Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 Pittsburgh Daily Post, 3 May 1888 (g 1). “Blinkey Morgan’s Pal. John Flavel, Desperado and Thief, Arrested at Detroit.” Digital image online at newspapers.com (accessed by Alison Kilpatrick by subscription, and transcribed 2019-03-09.)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Detroit Free Press, 15 December 1888. “A Fastidious Criminal. John Flavel Sentenced for a Postoffice Robbery—He Objects to Some Statements.” Digital image online at newspapers.com (accessed by Alison Kilpatrick by subscription, and transcribed 2019-03-09.)
  3. 3.0 3.1 St. James’s Cathedral (Anglican), York Township, Canada West. Baptism of John Thomas Flavell, son of John Flavell and Anne Gilmore, 6th November 1864. Transcript by K.S. of Sutton, Ontario (interview with Alison Kilpatrick, August 2001).
  4. Canada 1871 Census. John Flavell, age 37, with wife, Ann (36), and children: Mary Ann (8) and John Thomas (6), in St. John’s Ward, Toronto, Ontario (district no. 4). Original record: Statistics Canada fonds, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (ref. microfilm C-9971, pg. 50, family no. 222). Digital image online at ancestry.ca (accessed by subscription, and transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2016-04-18).
  5. Canada 1871 Census. John Flavell, age 37, with wife, Ann (36), and children: Mary Ann (8) and John Thomas (6), in St. John’s Ward, Toronto, Ontario (district no. 4). Original record: Statistics Canada fonds, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (ref. microfilm C-9971, pg. 50, family no. 222). Digital image online at ancestry.ca (accessed by subscription, and transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2016-04-18).
  6. Canada 1881 Census. John Flavell, age 44, with Rachel [Gilmore], age 26, and children: Mary Ann (18), John T. (16), and George (1); in St. John’s Ward, Toronto, Ontario. Original record: "Census of Canada, 1881." Statistics Canada Fonds, Record Group 31-C-1. LAC microfilm C-13162 to C-13286. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa. Archival refs. Year: 1881; Census Place: St Johns Ward, Toronto City, Ontario; Roll: C_13246; Sub-district no. D, Division no. 1; Page: 168; Family No: 956. Digital image online at ancestry.ca (accessed by subscription, and transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2004-10-03).
  7. The Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario). Various editions, 25th July – 21st September 1883. Reports of John Flavell’s charge, trial, and sentence of imprisonment for larceny and embezzlement. Microfilm copies held by Archives Ontario (Toronto); extracts by Alison Kilpatrick, 2006-09-16.
  8. Archives of Ontario (Toronto). “Queen v. John Flavell.” Judicial Court Minutes, York County. Archival ref. MS 251, Reel #5. Verdicts and sentences re: charges for larceny and embezzlement, administered on John Flavell. Microfilm copy consulted by Alison Kilpatrick, 2006-09-16).
  9. The Daily Tribune (Great Falls, Montana), 30 January 1894 (pg 1). “Three Bad Crooks.” (John Flavel, Charles Proctor, and Henry Jackson.) Digital image online at newspapers.com (accessed by Alison Kilpatrick by subscription, and transcribed 2019-03-09.)
  10. Detroit Free Press, 11 November 1900 (pg 10). “John T. Flavell Wanted.” Digital image online at newspapers.com (accessed by Alison Kilpatrick by subscription, and transcribed 2019-03-09.)
  11. 11.0 11.1 The Cincinnati Enquirer, 11 November 1900. “Johnny the Rat,” A Celebrated Burglar, Has Probably Fallen Heir to a Fortune.” [re John Thomas Flavell.] Digital image online at newspapers.com (accessed by Alison Kilpatrick by subscription, and transcribed 2019-03-09.)


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Rejected matches › Thomas Henry Flavell (1865-)