from an August 1876 Anamosa Eureka


An Escaped Convict Returns To His Prison Abode After An Absence Of Fifteen Months

There are few criminals consigned to infamy and the unrequited toil of convict life who will not break away from the galling burden if an opportunity to do so presents itself. But it is very seldom indeed that a man who has committed a criminal offense, for which he feels there is a sure penalty, willingly commits himself into the hands of justice. Still more rare is it that an outlaw who has followed thieving for years as a profession, cheated the penitentiary out of its just dues times without number, and at last fallen within the shadow of its walls which, with a voice that is felt but not heard, speaks the doom of stripes and soul-gnawing isolation from the associations and privileges of the world -- very rare is it, we say, that such a criminal with such experiences voluntarily returns to his prison abode and takes upon himself the unpaid penalty of his crimes.
But here is a remarkable instance of this character. Last Friday about noon a young man, approaching the premises from a back street, rapped for admission at the prison gate. The guard responded and the young man stepped inside. He remarked, on gazing about for a moment, that things looked natural. The gate-keeper replied in the affirmative and asked the young man if he had visited the prison on a former occasion. The stranger answered, "Yes, as a convict: my name is Merrill -- I belong here -- I have come back to give myself up and wish to see the warden." This was rather startling news, but Merrill referred the guard to Bryan, who was called and on being interrogated at once identified Merrill as his old roommate. The warden arrived in due time and soon the returned prodigal was clothed in stripes.
Orville Merrill and "Mickey" Mike, whose names are yet fresh in the memory of many of our readers, escaped from the prison here on the 12th of May, 1875. Their route was southward and they stole a pair of horses belonging to George Brown, rode them some miles, then permitted them to return home, were next heard of near Olin and Hale Village, then at Wyoming, where they were fired upon, and lastly near Bowen's Prairie. Merrill was incarcerated for two years for larceny at Cedar Rapids, and had served six months of his time lacking one day. He is a noted thief and house-breaker. In his conversation with the officers of the prison he affirmed that he had been hunted, hounded, and shot at, and at last he had determined to come back and suffer in quiet the penalty that had been placed upon him for his crimes; and what is also remarkable in this connection, Merrill supposed that he would be obliged to served two years --his full sentence--and that no account would be made of his six months' imprisonment before he escaped. In this he was mistaken. He gives no definite account of his wanderings, though it has transpired that he visited at his father's home, near Monticello, four days before giving himself up. It was doubtless partly through the influence of his parents that he returned. But little confiedence is reposed in Merrill, who is 23 years of age, but there is no doubt that the boy has suffered more more or less from apprehension and trouble ever since his escape. He reports "Mickey" Mike in Georgia, but whether this is reliable or not of course no one can tell. At all events Merrill is doing duty for the state, and his volutary return is the sensation of the hour.