Harry Severens of Minong)
Pat Goodwin and Ricky (Goodwin)
Moore are children of Percy Goodwin, the oldest son of John (Johnny)
Goodwin. Percy was born in Washburn County in 1890. Percy
in Washburn County until 1905 and was educated through the 8th grade at
Chittamo school. He left in 1905 at age 15 and went west to
in search of his father. He returned about 1907 and lived with
sister, Emma, and her husband in the Cloquet, MN area until 1911 and
returned to Montana. His next visit to Washburn County was in
Harry Tracy/Severens worked
for Johnny Goodwin and became Ed Goodwin's stepson.
“Harry Tracy made Jesse
James look like a Sunday school choir boy”, said one historian about
most notorious outlaw who ever spilled blood across the northwest, and
came to his death finally near Creston in the Spokane region.
At the time I read this
I knew much about Jesse James and I thought this a very brash and
statement. Sometime later, however, when I learned the full story on
turn-of-the-century bad man, I found that I was very much inclined to
with this opinion of him.
How well Tracy stacked up
against the other outlaws of his day is of course, a matter of personal
speculation. No one though, could ever question the cold, fearless
and diehard determination of this desperado. Having read about most of
the “hardcase” gunmen of those wild ol’days, it is my opinion that
Tracy takes a back seat to no one in the categories of gunplay and guts.
The final, and most spectacular
episode in Tracy’s long, violent career began about 7 am on the morning
of June 9, 1902 in the Oregon State Prison. An Oregon drizzle met the
of gray-clad prisoners as they marched from their cells to the various
shops they had been assigned in the house of bondage.
Harry Tracy, one of the
deadliest men in America, and his companion Dave Merrill, were among
working out their debt to society in the prison foundry shop. Tracy, in
prison jargon, served “hard time.” He was constantly at outs with the
for refusing to conform to what he thought were “trivial rules.” On
particular morning, however, he was filled with high hopes.
According to the generally
accepted version of what happened, a promise of a deal of money had
a former inmate, Charles Monte, who had been released from the prison
previous month, to help Tracy set up an escape from the adamant old pen
at Salem, Oregon.
In fulfilling his part in
the plan, Monte did an amazing thing - probably one of the few feats of
its kind in history. On the night of June 8, 1902, Monte drove a buggy
to a secluded spot nears the prison wall. Toting a cumbersome bundle of
ropes, grappling hooks, and guns, he approached the prison wall under
cover of darkness. Hurling a grappling hook high in the air, he secured
it fast to the catwalk above. Hand over hand; he made his way up the
to the top of the wall. Drawing the rope up quickly, and letting it
inside, he lowered himself into the prison yard.
Moving silently, he crossed
the yard, entered the foundry shop, and planted two loaded 30-30
rifles beneath some patterns in some packing cases. Stealthily making
way back to the outer wall, he climbed over it and was soon gone into
night. It was a clean job: no one had seen him. It was a daredevil feat
- but one that later earned him a life-sentence. For this act was
in causing the deaths of three men the following day and several more
the weeks to come.
On the morning following
Mont’s secret visit to the prison, Tracy, Merrill, and the 157 other
that made up the foundry gang entered the shop as usual. The moment
and Merrill stepped through the door, they sprang toward the packing
against the wall. In a moment they were armed with the deadly
rifles. Tracy, with a curse, drew a bead on Frank Ferrell, the shop
“I’ll learn ya’ to hard time me, you ( )” exploded Tracy.
The heavy slug ripped into
the guard’s body and he died almost instantly. Some of the old time
said that this cold-blooded killing was motivated by the fact that
Ferrell had once tied Tracy up by his wrists and lashed his back with a
pronged leather strap. According to Joseph “Bunco” Kelly, in his
“13 Years in the Oregon Penitentiary” corporal punishment was then much
in vogue in the prison.
As Ferrell went down, Tracy
swung his rifle around and took aim at another shop guard. At this
an old convict, Tom Ingraham (doing life for killing his brother), made
a move to stop Tracy and was blasted in the leg. The old prisoner was
gave a pardon for this act but lost his leg as a result of the wound.
Picking up a ladder, which
was lying behind the packing cases, Tracy and Merrill ran into the yard
and toward the northwest wall.
Guard S. R. Jones, in his
towers saw them running across the yard and began firing. Tracy
off one shot. Jones yelled, dropped his rifle and toppled from the wall.
Reaching the wall, they
placed the ladder firmly against it, and with Tracy in the lead,
over. Guard Tiffany started firing at them from the East Tower. Tracy
Merrill both returned the shots and a slug caught Tiffany in the chest.
He fell outside the wall. In a moment the two escaping convicts dropped
to the ground outside, rushed to the wounded guard, and forced him to
feet. Using him as a shield, they made their way quickly to a dense,
area a short distance away.
When the guard had served
his purpose, Tracy shoved him to the ground and put a bullet through
brain. When Tracy and Merrill made their break, it marked the beginning
of one of the greatest, most widespread man hunts in American history.
This was not the first dramatic
jailbreak for Harry Tracy, but it was certainly the most spectacular.
the West, he had left a trail of sawed bars and dead men.
Tracy, whose real name was
Harry Severens, was born in Minong, Wisconsin, in 1875, and had drifted
west at an early age. It seems he fell immediately into the pathways of
crime, for he soon was riding with Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch, or “Hole
in the Wall” gang, as they were known. Tracy, along with Harvey “Kid
Logan, was probably the most ruthless and feared man to ever ride with
the notorious gang.
There has been much garbled
fiction written about Tracy’s boyhood years, and most of it was dreamed
up in the minds of the pulp paperback novelists who were grinding out
dime-novel hash under the label of “historical fact” just after the
of the century. In truth, little is known of Tracy’s early life for he
was not one to talk often about his boyhood.
His first recorded jailbreak
took place in 1897. Tracy, then 22 years old, had been sentenced to a
in the State Penitentiary at Salt Lake City on July 10, 1897, following
a burglary in Provo, Utah. Tracy (No. 939) was in the prison less than
two months when he led three other convicts in a daring escape.
On Oct. 3, while working
at a rock quarry some distance from the prison, Tracy attacked a guard,
grabbed his shotgun, changed clothes with him, and accompanied by Dave
Lant, Pat Johnson and Jack Bennett, made good his escape. Dodging
the four convicts fled to the safety of a remote outlaw camp known as
Hole” in northeaster Utah. On the first day of March 1898, a young boy
named Willie Strang was brutally shot and killed in Brown’s Hole by one
of the Salt Lake escapees, Jack Bennett. Before he could make his
Bennett was captured by Valentine Hoy and other angered ranchers of the
region, who promptly honored him at a necktie party.
Upon receiving word that
a posse was on its way to the hole, Tracy, Lant, and Johnson decided to
make a fast exit from the valley. When the lawmen arrived, Hoy and
ranchers joined in the chase for the fleeing outlaws. They finally
Tracy and his companions on a rugged mountainside in Lodore Canyon,
above the Green River. The posse had advanced up the treacherous cliffs
to a spot just below a group of large boulders where they had the
As Valentine Hoy moved out
from the others to a position just a few yards from the cornered men,
yelled down at him, “What kind of a fool are you, Hoy? Get back down
or I’ll blow your head off!” Hoy chose to remain where he was. It was a
fatal choice. When the rancher showed himself, Tracy rose up and fired
once. Hoy tumbled down the hill with a bullet in his heart.
After night had fallen the
outlaws managed to slip by the posse and make their way off the
The outlaws’ stronghold was situated in a deep valley and was bordered
on the south by the Green River. Setting their course toward the west
to Brown’s Hole, some 80 miles away, the desperados raced their horses
parallel to the river, the posse pressing hard not far behind. Some
later, the three men were once again cornered, and despite Tracy’s
they decided to surrender.
They were taken to Colorado
where Pat Johnson was tried, convicted and sentenced to a term in the
State Pen at Canon City. Tracy and Dave Lant were taken in irons to
County and lodged in the jail at Haun’s Peak to await trial for the
of Valentine Hoy.
During his incarceration,
Tracy wrote a poem, which he gave to Sheriff Charley Nieman. It is
here for the first time, the courtesy of Sheriff Nieman’s widow, Ruby,
of Steamboat Spring, Colorado. (The spelling is Tracy’s.)
But we struck Park City
early where the Morning sunbeams lit
On our stripped pantaloons where a
happy party sit.
It’s there we took to refuge
in some jungles which stood near
and watched the brave policeman while
around us they did stear.
It’s there we ate our lunches
and our weary limbs did rest
Until the sun was sinking in the far and distant
When we started on our
journey for our home they call the wall
where very few detectives ever
dair to call.
For their we have no sheap
to heard and corn we do not hoe
and for other kind of labor old sheats
is rather slow.
Joe Bush is also harmless
with his doubled barreled gun
For when he came to powder
springs he was prepared to run
He is out for noteriety
and not atal for gain
He may arrest a school
boy or pull a hobo from a train.
We claim to be no poetes
but the truth we will plainly tell
of those two brave detectives who have
by the wayside fell.
Now just one word to citesome
who for protection cry
Just vote for braver officers
when the swallows homeward fly.
and Best Wishes
On March 24, 1898, Dave
Lant broke through the wall separating their cells, and got into
cell. When Sheriff Nieman brought the morning breakfast, Tracy clubbed
him over the head with a heavy object, secured his keys, locked him in
a cell and he and Lant made their escape.
They had taken the keys
with them, so it was sometime before the jail lock was pried off and
Sheriff was released from the cell. He immediately took after the
and succeeded in capturing them a few miles south of Steamboat Springs.
In a short while they were lodged in the stronger jail at Aspen, Colo.
The adamant Tracy wasn’t
to be held here long either. It was here he performed the spectacular
that was applied some 30 years later by that infamous Indiana farm boy
John Dillinger. In a bold bluff, Tracy bulled his way out of the
tank of the jail with a wooden gun, which he had carved in his cell,
covered with tinfoil. Dave Lant, as usual, followed him to freedom, but
at this point, for some unknown reason, they parted company.
Lant later joined the armed
forces and distinguished himself for bravery in the Philippines. After
his discharge, he returned to Utah and thereafter lived a peaceful
Not so with Tracy. He headed to Oregon where he soon teamed up with
young criminal named Dave Merrill, to act out the final and most
chapter of his violent misspent life.
Merrill and Tracy had a
lot in common - namely, their interest in a successful career in crime.
Merrill was two years older than Tracy and the young bandits favored
other to a remarkable degree in looks. Merrill, however, was to prove
be the weaker counterpart of the fearless, intractable Tracy. The pair
launched their new partnership by staging a series of daring daylight
of department stores in the Portland, Ore., area. They wore grotesque
during these forays and soon came to be known in newsprint as the
Merrill didn’t have the
seasoned good judgment and criminal instinct for caution that the
Tracy had. After a successful job, Merrill would often go on a wild
and drinking spree, and invariably talked too much. On one of these
he came under the suspicious eye of Portland Detective Dan Weiner who
Merrill to his mother’s home and arrested him. After tripping himself
in a web of lies, Merrill finally confessed, and hoping to get his
shortened, put the finger on Tracy.
When confronted on the street
by Weiner that night, Tracy put up his usual tiger-like resistance. At
the corner of Market and Fourth, Tracy and the Detective exchanged
and leaping aboard a slow moving Southern Pacific train, Tracy
the engineer at gunpoint to “speed up, and get this train out of town!”
Someone, however, had pulled the emergency cord and the train very
began to lose speed.
Tracy sprang from the engine
and once again exchanged shots with Weiner who had been running
A butcher, Albert Way, saw the two men blazing away at one another. He
grabbed his shotgun and fired at Tracy. The heavy charge of shot
into the side of the outlaw’s head and he sprawled in an unconscious
on the ground. Luckily for Tracy, the charge had only grazed his skull,
and though painful, his wound was soon to heal. Weiner hauled him away
to the Portland jail, and that same night detectives found much of the
loot from their stickups in Merrill’s home.
Portland police might have
kept a more diligent watch on Tracy had they been aware of his past
On the morning of his trial, Tracy made another desperate bid for
Somehow he managed to have a gun smuggled into his cell in the old
Kelly Butte jail. At gunpoint he forced the guards to release him from
the “strong cell.”
He then ran into his final
obstacle, Ned Daugherty, the head jailor, who was commanding the last
door to the outside. In what would appear to be nothing short of
the old jailor threw the keys through the outer bars and out of reach.
Dougherty saw the look of death in the gunman’s eyes as Tracy ran up to
him. Then, in what was certainly not typical of Tracy, he proceeded to
curse the jailor rather than shoot him. At this moment, Deputy Sheriff
Tom Jordan appeared and triggered off a shot which knocked the gun out
of Tracy’s hand.
Forced to surrender, this
incident stands on Tracy’s record as his only unsuccessful attempt to
out of confinement in his long, bloody career.
Tracy, between holdups,
had found time to marry Dave Merrill’s sister, Rose. It was thought
possible that she had smuggled the gun to him while visiting the jail.
Brought to trial, Tracy was handed a 20-year sentence at hard labor in
the Oregon State Prison. Merrill, for his part in Tracy’s capture,
a lesser sentence of 13 years. Tracy entered the Oregon Pen at Salem on
March 22, 1899, as No. 4033 -Merrill as No. 4089. Oregon prison records
give us this information on Tracy. Real name: Harry Severens, Born at
Wisconsin, Height 5 ft. 5 in., weight 160 lbs., 24 years old, married,
raised a Catholic, cook by occupation, has served time in Utah and
Prisons, has a brother and a sister in Wisconsin.
For nearly three years Tracy
bided his time waiting for the right opportunity. Since the day of his
arrest, Tracy had been suspicious of Merrill. As they labored in the
shops, Tracy often commented to Merrill about the difference in their
Merrill passed him off by saying that Tracy’s additional time was
by his attempted break from the Portland jail. This explanation seemed
logical enough, but it went on boiling in Tracy’s bitter mind. Whatever
bad judgment may have led Tracy to choose his destructive way of life
was not stupid nor was he a double-crosser! He would find out the truth
about Merrill someday.
Now with three dead guards
behind him, following their escape, they were being closely pursued by
men and bloodhounds from the Oregon prison as they fled north toward
town of Gervais. It has been told that Tracy sprinkled pepper along the
way to throw bloodhounds off the trail. A posse from the Washington
Prison at Walla Walla and Company F of the Oregon Militia were called
on the trail.
In Gervais, the two desperate
convicts stole a horse and buggy and continued their flight northward.
That night they found themselves surrounded in a thickly wooded area,
cunningly made their escape under cover of darkness. Stopping at farms
along the way, they made their way past Oregon City and on to Portland.
When confronted by the pair, farmers never argued with their demands,
fixed them a meal and gave them clothing and other essentials. When
a farmhouse, Tracy would announce, “I’m Tracy. This is Merrill. Just do
as you’re told and we’ll get along all right.”
One old farmer told that
the convicts ate with guns across their laps while a posse passed down
the road just a short distance from the house.
On June 15, a week later
after the break, Charles Holtgrieve, a farmer living on the Columbia
was confronted by two men who ordered him at gunpoint to row them
the vast river, which divided Oregon and Washington states. This was
and they landed about five miles above Vancouver. That the pair had
to successfully elude the hundreds of armed pursuers for a full week,
gain the Washington shores, seemed an unbelievable feat. Not stopping
look back for a moment they stole another team of horses and started
the mountainous country directly north.
Without any serious encounter
with their pursuers, they passed safely by Ridgefield, La Center and
and near Castlerock, Wash., they stopped at another farmhouse for a
While sitting in the kitchen after finishing the dinner, Tracy glanced
over a local newspaper. It was here that he confirmed his suspicions
his partner. In recounting details of the manhunt, the paper related
Merrill had betrayed Tracy to the Portland authorities. Tracy put down
the paper, and never let on what he had learned to Merrill. In a few
they were again on their way.
The record discloses that
Tracy first came to the attention of the law in the spring of 1897 when
he was arrested on a burglary charge in Provo, Utah, and was sent to
Salt Pen from which he soon escaped to begin his long reign of terror.
If the timetable of the Loone Lake story is accepted it would appear
Tracy journeyed from Washington State to Utah where he got in his first
Several days passed and
then, on July 2, 1902, employees of the Capital City Oyster Co. at
Bay, a short distance from Olympia, on Puget Sound, got the surprise of
a lifetime when Tracy stepped into their place and ordered them at the
point of his Winchester to get something to eat. After he had finished
a large breakfast of bacon and eggs, Tracy tied up several of the
and then ordered Capt. Clark and three others to accompany him to the
N. & S., which was anchored nearby.
“Everybody aboard!” Tracy
announced. “We’re going to Seattle: but don’t bother to hurry, because
I don’t want to get there ‘till after dark.”
Accompanied by Capt. Clark,
his son, and two men named Scott and Munro, America’s most wanted
started out slowly across the waters of Puget Sound. As the tug passed
by the Federal Prison on McNeil Island, Tracy said to the captain,
in closer, I want to see if I can pick off a couple of guards!”
Tracy was no doubt serious
but he was finally talked out of it by Clark and the others when they
out that some of the men in the boat might be hit if the guards opened
fire on them.
Capt. Clark, like most everyone
else, had followed the exploits of this news worthy outlaw. While
northward across the sound, he asked Tracy where Merrill was. Tracy
him matter-of-factly, “I read in a newspaper that Merrill had double
me into the pen, and I figured he would turn on me again to save his
skin if he had the chance, so I killed him!”
When pressed for details,
Tracy told this story to the men: “We were walking in the woods about
when I told Merrill that I knew he had betrayed me. I said I was going
to kill him. I told him that I’d give him a chance though, and offered
him the choice of fighting a duel or being shot down like a dog.” With
a tone of satisfaction, Tracy recounted the grim game. “I could see he
was scared as hell but he finally agreed to the duel. He had no choice.
He knew I meant business.”
Tracy went on to relate
that the two men were to pace off 10 steps, pistols in hand, then turn
and fire at the count of 10. “We started back to back and I counted off
the steps out loud. I figured, yellow that he was, he would try to
me before the count of 10, so I turned at the count of eight and let
have it. I got him square in the back; and just for good measure, I put
a couple more slugs in him. He was a yellow rat and he deserved it,”
Several days later Merrill’s
body was found shoved behind a log in some woods near Castle rock,
Tracy said the “duel” had taken place. He had been shot three times in
the back and head.
The N & S. landed that
evening at Ballard, six miles from Seattle, and Tracy left his captive
crew with a friendly “So long.” He even shook hands with Captain Clark
and thanked him for the boat ride. The rewards for his capture, dead or
alive, now totaled $5,600. That night Tracy slept in a deserted
shack in Ballard, and by sun up, he was walking north along some
tracks. A caretaker on the University of Washington campus spotted him
and rushed a call to the Sheriff’s office. This day, July 4, was to be
the bloodiest red-letter day in Tracy’s career.
A posse was quickly formed
and they came upon Tracy sometime later that morning near some deserted
cabins at Wayne Station along the old macadam road near Bother.
In the battle that followed,
Tracy’s Winchester again took a heavy toll. The first man to fall was a
news reporter, Karl Anderson. As he and Deputy Charles Raymond advanced
up a rain-soaked hill toward Tracy’s position, the outlaw suddenly rose
up from behind a stump and fired. Anderson crashed forward on his face.
Before Raymond could go into action, Tracy killed him instantly with a
bullet through his heart.
Another newsman, Louis Sefrit,
following a short distance behind, exchanged shots with Tracy, and fell
as though he had been hit. For several nerve-wracking moments. Sefrit
in the damp weeds watching the outlaw through slitted eyelids - not
to move. Tracy watched him from behind the stump for three or four
which must have seemed an eternity to the newsman, then, apparently
that he was dead, the outlaw slowly moved away toward the shacks nearby.
As Tracy dodged around the
corner of one of the shacks, a movement in the brush caught his eye. It
was the lone figure of Deputy Jack Williams. Three well-placed slugs
Tracy’s rifle brought him down. Two other officers, Nelson and Brewer,
then appeared and began shooting. Dodging the hail of bullets, Tracy
into some woods and escaped. The remaining few unscathed members of the
defeated posse loaded their dead and wounded in a wagon and started
to the city to report the grim news to Sheriff Ed Cudihee, who had been
away on other matters when the call to Bothell was received. Cudihee
he would run the outlaw into earth. He was to have his chance that very
In quick time, Tracy put
several miles between himself and the battle scene. He next stopped a
named Johnson, who was driving his buggy along a backcountry road, and
forced him to drive to Freemont, a Seattle suburb. Tracy and his
arrived in Freemont about 8 pm and reined the buggy up in front of the
Vanhorn residence. They were met at the door by Mrs. R. H. Vanhorn who
was understandably frightened to hear, “Hello, Ma’am. I’m Tracy. You’ve
no doubt heard of me. I want to rest a while and have something to eat,
and, as you can see, I’m badly in need of a change of clothes.”
So that evening Mrs. Vanhorn
had the somewhat dubious pleasure of playing host to the country’s most
wanted outlaw. While they were having dinner, Tracy talked freely of
past life and spoke of his mother, whom he hadn’t seen in many years.
talked tenderly about her, and there were tears in his eyes,” a newsman
later quoted Mrs. Vanhorn.
This revealed a well-hidden
spark of tenderness in his strange make-up. Most who looked into his
steel blue eyes would not have guessed that Tracy ever had a good
toward anything or anyone!
After the meal was over,
Tracy thanked Mrs. Vanhorn profusely, and seemed in good spirits as he
walked out the door, accompanied on either side by Farmer Johnson and
man who had been at the home when he arrived. Tracy was not aware that
a butcher’s boy, who had delivered some groceries to the home that
had received a hurriedly-whispered message from Mrs. Vanhorn. So, a
full moon and a cool evening breeze weren’t the only things that
Tracy as he emerged from the Vanhorn home.
(A piece of this article
is missing but will take up what I have of the finish).
Severely wounded, but still
game, Tracy got down on his hands and knees and began crawling through
the deep barley. The wind, causing the grain to ripple, made it
to detect the outlaw’s movements. Tracy tied his belt around his
leg, tight, in an effort to halt the heavy flow of blood. It is
that he was making an effort to reach the far end of the valley where
could have a good opportunity to escape. Lillengreen’s account is as
“After Tracy disappeared
into the grain we fired a few more shots where we saw it moving and
everything became quiet. We decided on a plan of watchful waiting. No
risking our lives to go in after him where he could see us and we
see him. So we spread out around him, around the field. In the morning
we could flush him out. It was a tedious business, sitting there
the hours watching the field for a wounded killer to emerge, but soon
began to arrive by the score:
The party consisted of posse
men, lawmen and just plain curious folk. They spread out around the
It was about 10:30 that night, as I remember it, that we heard a single
shot out in the wheat field. Then everything was quiet again.”
Throughout the long night
the men kept to their grim (missing) “could have been I as well as any
other member of the posse. We all tried hard enough to get him!”
Archie Hoople, who still
resides in the area, drove Tracy’s body to the County seat at Davenport
in a buggy, and delivered it to the undertaking parlor. It is often
that souvenir hunters stripped the dead man of his clothing and took
of his hair. Tracy’s body was taken back to the Salem Prison from which
he had exited some two months previous. His long, round-trip was over.
He was buried beside his ill-starred partner, Dave Merrill. Oregon
officials are vague as to the location of their graves. They lie buried
somewhere beneath a large new industrial shop, which was erected over
old prison graveyard inside the walls.
Lillengreen stated in his
memoirs: “Sheriff Gardner was acting very much as if he was going to
all the credit for Tracy’s slaying and sure enough, he immediately
for the reward. But when Tracy’s body was sent on by rail to Salem,
Doc Lanter, and Maurice Smith went right along with it. They saw to it
that the rights of the five of us were fully protected.
“It seems Harry Tracy Severne
came west to Loone Lake, some 40 miles northwest of Spokane) when he
twenty-one and worked as a lumberjack for J. W. Dunlap, got into it
two Wilman brothers over their married sister having an affair with
thus he went into his life of crime.
claimed that it
was believed his mother killed her first husband by drowning him in a
but the body was never found so couldn’t be proven. They say she wanted
to get rid of him so she could marry Uncle Ed, which she did. Perhaps
son Harry came by his callousness naturally.