Monday, February 22, 2021

George C Contant: Alias George C Sontag

George C Contant was born 10 Apr 1864 in Mankato, MN to Jacob Contant (1830-1867) and Anna Maria Bohn (1835-1929).

Inmate:#2760 Folsom Prison
Rec: 3 Nov 1892
Crime: Robbery
Term: Life

 Him and his brother John sometimes used their stepfather's last name. He was Mathias Jacob veteran of the Union Army during the American Civil War . Their mother married him after their father's death in 6 July 1867 in MN. 

George Contant however kept the original name though the two were usually called The Sontag Brothers. The two were frequent partners in crime. After he stole cigars from an employer, George Contant was sent to reform school in St. Paul, Minnesota. After a subsequent conviction for theft, Contant was imprisoned at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln.

There was a prison break

Here are some newspaper articles about their prison break and capture, just click on the links to read them.


Below is a photo of John Sontag wounded at Battle of Stone Corral 1893

Below is their friend and partner in crime Chris Evans, after the shootout above this photo was taken he was shot in the eye and arm and had to have part of arm amputated, but he lived another day for another shoot out.






  There is a marriage record of George Contant married to Therese Landgraff (1865-1898) on October 11, 1887 in La Crosse, Wisconsin; they had at least one child George Contant (1887-1896).

Prison Lincoln, Antelope, Nebraska

For embezzling money from his employer he was arrested again and sent to the Nebraska State Prison. He was released in 1887.

John Sontag came to California to work for the Southern Pacific Transportation Company. While coupling rail cars in the company yard in Fresno his leg was crushed; he accused Southern Pacific of failure to care for his on-the-job wounds and their refusal to rehire him after he had healed. In 1889, John Sontag was working on the farm of Canadian Christopher "Chris" Evans near Visalia in Tulare County. Evans was outraged by Southern Pacific's high freight rates and the pressuring of landowners to sell their property to the railroad. This seizure of particularly valuable wheat-farming land is known as the Mussel Slough Tragedy. Later Sontag and Evans went on to lease a livery stable in Modesto, but after a year the structure burned and the horses were lost in the fire. At some point Sontag became engaged to Eva, daughter of Evans.

After the failure of the livery yard Sontag and Evans began robbing trains in such locations as Ceres, Goshen, Pixley, and Alila, later Earlimart. After each robbery, they would hide in remote places in the foothills of the Eshom Valley, such as Fort Defiance, or Roop's Fort near Susanville, California. The two would leave horses at the spot where they intended to stop the train and would then walk back to the depot and secretly board the train. When the train neared the spot with the waiting horses, the bandits would burst forth from their hiding locations and order the engineer to halt the train; they would dynamite the express car to gain access to the money on board. Finally, they would mount their waiting horses and make their getaway.

Sontag and Evans travelled to Minnesota where they met up with Sontag's brother George Contant, who had been released from Nebraska State Penitentiary in Omaha in 1887 after serving time for theft. On July 1, 1892, they robbed a train while riding along the Minnesota River between St. Peter and Kasota; they acquired nothing of much value, but their crime aroused the concern of Pinkerton detectives. A month later they travelled to California and robbed a train at Collis, now Kerman in Fresno County. They were more successful this time, netting $500 and bags of Mexican and Peruvian coins of no apparent value. Several days later, law-enforcement officers arrested Contant in connection with the crime, but Sontag and Evans fled and spent almost a year as fugitives.

Sontag and Evans were captured in what is now called the Battle of Stone Corral. Shots were fired by members of the posse sent from Visalia. Chris Evans surrendered, but as a result of the shootout he lost an eye and his left arm. Sontag was captured while lying in straw and manure near a deserted cabin at Stone Corral; he sustained severe wounds in the chest and forehead and died (from the wounds or tetanus) in Fresno while in custody. John Sontag is interred at Calvary Cemetery in Fresno; his tombstone lists his death as occurring in 1892, instead of 1893 so it erroneously indicates that he was 33 years, 6 months, and 4 days old at the time of his death.

George had a son with his first wife named George who died young, I found this newspaper article. His first wife died in 1898 his son died 1896 both while he was locked up.

His 2nd wife was Alice Brown Warbinton
(1864–1928). Her funeral record below.

Her obit which mention other children they had.

George Contant was at Folsom State Prison where he was serving his sentence after being found guilty of train robbery in October 1892, he served fifteen years.
Here are some more newspaper articles, he asked several times for a pardon which I don't think he got. Then there are lots of stories written about him and his brother.





 After release from prison he wrote an autobiography A Pardoned Lifer, with Opie Warner as his ghostwriter. He lectured in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and at the Mankato Opera House on the folly of living outside the law. About 1915, he produced a film, The Folly of a Life of Crime; there are no surviving copies. His last whereabouts are unknown, but in 1929 was listed as living in San Francisco in his mother's obituary.

The movie of his life:

Here's the link so you can read more about his movie, I tried to find it on YouTube for you but it's not there. Seems the movie is missing.

What a life and what a story to tell, George became reformed and he did give lectures on his life of crime.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Charles Edwards: Sneak Thief

Charles Edwards was born about 1856 in Virginia.

Inmate: #303 District of Columbia Jail
Arrested: 6 Dec 1886
Crime: Petty Larceny


Charles was arrest many times here are some more newspaper articles I found.





He was a handsome man and very well dressed, and look at that mustache.

I found another article I am not 100% sure it's him but it could be. His wife was out walking with another man and they encountered Edward and this man took his cane and beat Edward over the head.

I wish I could found more of his family information. I.I do believe I found him in 1870 Census age 14 living in Hardy, Isle of Wright Virginia bur he was alone working as a laborer. Says he can read and write. 

He would of pawned or traded the items he stole for money.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Augustus Dyson: Murder and More

Augustus Dyson was born Aug 1865 in Washington D.C. to a unknown father and Katherine.

Inmate: #211 District of Columbia Jail
Rec: 25 Apr 1885
Crime: Murder

Here are some newspaper clippings I found on the crime, the ones with links just click the link it will take you to the article.

Augustus was sentenced for manslaughter and received three years in the Albany prison.

In 1880 census he was in reform school in Washington D.C. it was located on Bladenberg Road. He was 18 years old. I Googled the address and this photo came up as the reform school that was there but no name of it.

I believe he was sent here for Assault and attempted rape, here are the newspaper articles I found for the 1878.

I also found more crime and mayhem for Augustus.

These are for 1894

These took place in 1895

This one was in 1897 and the last one I found.

Here is his family his mother was a widow before 1870, I found census records for them from 1870, 1880. The 1880 census has her oldest son John as her inferred spouse I put in a correction for that as he was 18 and she was 35 and he was in the earlier census as her son.

John E Dyson


Joseph Dyson


Ella Dyson


Mary A. Dyson


William Dyson


Augustus Dyson


Cassie Dyson


Their mother Katherine was born about 1835 in Washington, D.C.

What an amazing photo of him. I hope a descendent finds this, so they can have this treasure for their tree. He seemed to of been a lost soul, maybe because his father died when he was so young. I didn't find his mother in the 1900 census, Augustus is in German, PA working as a cook and single.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Ignazio Deluca: Jewelry Thief Gets Grand Larceny

Ignazio Deluca was born about 1853 in Italy.

Inmate: #298 District of Columbia Jail
Rec: 30 Mar 1887
Crime: Grand Larceny

I found this newspaper clipping on his crime.

As I was searching Ignazio, I had his age and the year of the crime so that would of made him born about 1853. There is another one born about the time but died in 1859 age 7. I didn't find any other born around this time.

This is not the above man.


Ignazio Deluca


Antonina Lombardo


Giuseppe Deluca


2 mag 1852 (2 May 1852) Termini Imerese, Palermo, Italy


3 mag 1852 (3 May 1852) Parish of Termini, TERMINI IMERESE,PALERMO,ITALY 

The above died at age 7 in Italy in 1859.

I didn't find anything else on Ignazio.I wonder how many crimes he had gotten away with before getting caught at this one. The newspaper articles says his fence was being watched by agents, so I am guessing that was the only reason he was captured. He and his partners had a lot of jewelry worth a lot of loot for back then.$1,500 in 1887 is worth $41,127.47 today. They could lived on that their whole lives if they spent it wisely.