#15 Joseph Cook

George B. Havill (1836-1913), aka Joseph/Joe Cook, Harry Thorn(e) — Burglar, Sneak thief

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-nine years old in 1886. Born in Canada. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 8 inches. Weight, 145 pounds. Light hair, blue eyes, light complexion.

RECORD. “Cook,” or Havill, which is his right name, is a Chicago sneak thief. He came East with Brockway in 1869. Brockway used him in a few transactions in New York, and afterwards in Providence, R.I., where he was arrested with Brockway and Billy Ogle on August 16, 1880, for attempting to pass two forged checks, one on the Fourth National Bank and another on the old National Bank of that city. Havill was convicted under the name of Joseph Cook for this offense, and was sentenced to four years in State prison at Providence, R. I., on October 2, 1880.

His time expired March 14, 1884. Havill was arrested near Elmira, N.Y., on February 14, 1885, in company with John Love (68), Charles Lowery, Frank McCrann and Mike Blake, for robbing the Osceola Bank of Pennsylvania, and sentenced to nine years and nine months in State prison on April 9, 1885, under the name of Harry Thorn. His picture is a good one, taken in 1880.

George B. Havill was born in Paris, Brant County, Ontario in 1836 [ten years earlier than Byrnes date] to William and Mary Ann Havill. He later used “Jr.” as part of his name, likely in honor of an uncle. In the mid 1860s, he migrated to Chicago, Illinois, and became the proprietor of one of Chicago’s infamous dives, Havill’s. His saloon was the scene of many violent incidents: shootingss, stabbings, and fistfights, involving both men and women. At the same time–perhaps bolstered by his bar’s clientele, Havill fostered a career as a thief. A slim, athletic man, Havill was known as a “climber,” or, what would later be called a “second-story man,” i.e. a burglar specializing in entering a building through upper windows and balconies.

He was arrested multiple times in the late 1870s, but never in the act of breaking in–only charged with possession of stolen items. Because of this, he escaped long sentences for many years; and likely had connections among Chicago’s politicians. He was also adept at shifting blame to other parties, whom he claimed had paid him to confess to robberies he did not commit. In the late 1870s, he was living with one of Chicago’s most notorious prostitutes, Ruby Bell, the “pet of Biler Avenue.”

At around the same time, Havill’s sister, Mary Jean Havill, was making a name for herself as one of America’s first and most noted burlesque actresses, under the stage name May Howard. She toured with the most famous burlesque troupes of the age, and had a long and successful career.

In 1879 [Byrnes incorrectly uses the year 1869], Havill met forger Charles O. Brockway, who had recently been captured in Chicago along with a partner, Billy Ogle. Brockway and Ogle were able to get off easy after providing evidence against a former government detective. Brockway, Ogle and Havill headed to New York in 1880, where Havill learned how to present forged checks and bonds. The gang was captured in Rhode Island, where Havill was imprisoned until 1884.

Upon his release, he fell in with the gang that attempted the robbery of the Osceola Bank in Pennsylvania in February 1885, including Johnny Love, Charles Lowery, Michael Blake and Frank McCran. The gang was discovered while working at night on the vault, and captured after a long chase of each individual. Havill was sentenced to nine years and nine months, but was released early on good behavior.

George Havill returned to Chicago in the early 1890s, reunited with his wife, Teresa Kinzig, and daughter Cora. His name was never mentioned in association with crimes again, and he rebuilt a career in real estate. In the 1900 federal census, he declared his occupation as “capitalist.” He died in 1913, leaving a small fortune to his wife and daughter. The will was contested by an illegitimate son, whose case was thrown out.


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