#29 Charles Wilson

Paul C. Wilson (Abt. 1852–????), aka Charles Wilson, Charles Wilks, Little Paul — Sneak thief, Shoplifter

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-three years old in 1886. Stout build. Born in England. Not married. Height, 5 feet 2 3/4 inches. Weight, 140 pounds. Brown hair, gray eyes, round full face, light complexion. Whiskers, when grown, are a little sandy.

RECORD. “Little Paul” is quite a clever sneak and shoplifter. He was sent to State prison in New York City in January, 1878, and again on June 18, 1883, for four years, for larceny in the second degree, by Recorder Smyth.

On November 14, 1883, in company of Frank Harrison, alias Frank Reilly (79), he escaped from the mess-room at Sing Sing prison early in the morning, by sawing off the iron bars of a window and crawling into the yard; they then went to the west end of the prison wall, which projects over the Hudson River docks, and there, by means of a convenient float, reached the shore outside the prison wall, where they left their prison clothes and put on civilian’s attire, that had been “planted” there for them some time before.

Paul was re-arrested in New Orleans, La., on January 26, 1884, and returned to Sing Sing prison in February of that year. His full time will expire on June 17, 1887. His picture is a good one, taken in 1878.

Wilson was gifted with a third stint at Sing Sing in November 1893 for Grand Larceny and sentenced to three years and two months.

However, in Wilson’s case, his criminal career is far less interesting than the Gordian’s knot genealogy puzzle he left for future generations. Here are the clues:

  • Despite Byrnes’s assertion, there are multiple sources that place his birth year at around 1852 in Philadelphia, not England.
  • He had the letter “P” tattooed on his right arm. Both Byrnes and Sing Sing registers maintain that his real name was “Paul C. Wilson.”
  • His earliest Sing Sing record, from May 1874, offers his name as Charles Wilks, and his father’s name as James Wilks of Philadelphia (no specific address).
  • His 1883 Sing Sing record uses the name Charles Wilson, and he lists a sister: Mrs. Mary A. Lodge of 715 Sansom Street in Philadelphia.
  • His November 1893 Sing Sing record also uses Charles Wilson and lists a cousin, Mrs. C. R. Forepaugh of 303 N Fifth Street, Philadelphia.

And some items to ponder:

  • In 1883, the address 715 Sansom Street in Philadelphia included upstairs apartments: but also was home to the Miller & Sharkey Detective Agency.
  • There was a Mary A. Lodge living in Philadelphia in 1883, married to Louis Lodge. Mary’s maiden name was Farrell. Her paternal grandmother’s name was Mary Wilson. Mary had a brother, Joseph Farrell, born in 1852, whose fate can not be traced into the 1870s or beyond.
  • Mrs. Caroline R. Forepaugh married into the famous Forepaugh circus family. Her maiden name was Lachlan. Nothing can be traced beyond her mother and father’s names–making it possible to know the family names of any cousins.

While it’s fairly obvious that “Little Paul” came from Philadelphia; and used the names of real people as contacts; it also appears that he made something of a game out of hiding his identity.

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