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265 CHAPTER 26 “He’s gone!” E ver since his capture, Cur ry had been planning and preparing for the eventuality of his escape.1 The first night, as he g ripped the bars of his cell, he was alert to every move that went on in the jail. The following day, he asked for a special brand of shoes and socks made of materials that could aid an escape. That same day he probably secured some rope or strips of can vas before being gi ven a replacement for his “tor n” hammock. He succeeded in obtaining pieces of window molding and lengths of broom wire during the tantrum he threw in April 1902. Subsequent violent outbursts resulted in additional materials which he would use in his escape. Curry was running out of time. His attor neys had to fi le an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court by July 10, 1903, or else Curry would be transported under heavy guard in a steel-lined mail car to the Columbus, Ohio, federal penitentiary.2 However, on Saturday afternoon of June 27, he was ready to put his escape plan into action. Curry was housed on the second floor of the jail with only one guard, Frank Irwin, for company. At about 4:15 Curry was pacing the corridor between the two rows of cells when he struck up a conversation with the guard, Irwin. Irwin was walking around the outer corridor between the main cage and the jail w all. He stopped at the window in the south wall where there was a good view of the Tennessee River. “I think, Charley, that the river is rising slowly for so much rain,” Irwin said to Curry. As Curry responded to the guard’ s statement , he began walking to the south end of the inner cor ridor. He was standing directly behind Irwin with onl y the bars of the cage betw een them, when he called the guard’s attention to an object in the river. Irwin had his back to the bars and w as looking at the ri ver, when Curry suddenly threw a loop of twisted wire o ver the guard’s head and around his neck. He jerked on the lasso, slamming Irwin against the bars. 266 Chapter 26 According to Irwin, Curry said, “I have got the advantage of you, Frank, and I am going out of here. If y ou move I will kill you; just do as I tell you and don’t yell, and you are all right.” He forced the guard to tur n around and place his hands through the bars. Cur ry held the wire loop tightly against Irwin’s throat with his left hand , while he used his right hand and teeth to tie the guard’ s hands together with canvas strips torn from a hammock. After making sure the knots w ere secure, Curry then said, “I am going out of here. Yell, and you are a dead man. I lik e you, Frank, and it may be that I will be stretched out here dead in a few minutes . I don’t want to hurt Tom [Bell, the jailer do wnstairs], but he has got to turn me out.” Irwin begged Curry not to hurt Bell, saying Tom had nothing against him. Curry then retrieved a long pole he had put to gether from pieces of molding and kept hidden in the bathroom. At one end of the pole he had fastened a hook made from w hat looked to be the r usty handle of a bucket. He stuck the pole through the bars of the nor th corridor with the intention of hooking a pasteboard shoebo x located at the nor thwest corner of the main cage. Inside the bo x were the guards’ pistols, a .45 caliber Colt and a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson. With a few minutes’ effort he was able to drag the box within reach and retrieve the pistols. He took care to retur n the box to its original position, so that the jailer would not notice anything amiss. Curry then returned to Irwin and took the watch from the guard’s pocket. “I only want to see what time it is. I don’t want anything that you have got,” he said. It was 4:30, about the time jailer Bell routinel y left his office on the first floor to check on his second fl oor...


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