This Week in History: 1894: Mr. Many Names runs away with a beautiful 18-year-old

Credit to Author: John Mackie| Date: Fri, 14 Feb 2020 16:00:20 +0000

The front page of the Feb. 14, 1894, Vancouver Daily World was filled with international stories like the arrest of an anarchist bomber in Paris, civil war in El Salvador, and a controversy about the House of Lords in Britain.

But the most interesting story was local: “Miss Vincent Riled.”

“At the end of the row of tough mugs at the police station this morning sat slick Mr. Morton with many aliases,” it begins. “On the bench at the side sat Mr. Vincent and his daughter, who voluntarily ran away with Mr. Many-names.”

The World dubbed E.P. Morton “Mr. Many-names” because he had pseudonyms galore: Jack Powell, Catterlini, Calleway, and Caterly. And he sounds like a real piece of work.

“Powell alias Caterly has been known to the police of Vancouver and New Westminster as a gambler and blackguard of the worst type, having some pretentions to good looks and a certain superficial polish,” noted the Nanaimo Free Press.

“He is already a married man, but deserted his wife to lead the life of a tinhorn and frequenter of disorderly houses.”

Period slang like “tinhorn” (a low-class gambler) and “disorderly houses” (brothels) is what makes reading 1894 newspapers fun. Crime stories often read like they were written by Dashiell Hammett, the master of the hard-boiled detective novel.

In this case, Morton/Powell/Catterlini/Calleway/Caterly had left his wife in Salem, Ore. to try his luck in Vancouver, where he met Jennie Vincent at a roller rink.

“Miss Vincent is a young lady of 18 summers, possessed of more than ordinary good looks and a well-developed figure,” said the Nanaimo paper.

“How (Morton) came to infatuate Jennie Vincent is not known, but his efforts were so far successful that he persuaded her to leave home and accompany him to Nanaimo, where he promised to marry her.”

Jennie Vincent story in the Feb. 14, 1884 Vancouver Daily World. PNG

Her parents contacted the Nanaimo police and the couple were detained when they landed on Vancouver Island. Vincent was sent back to Vancouver, while Morton went to Victoria, where he was quickly arrested and charged with stealing Vincent’s father’s new raincoat.

The World had no sympathy for him: “Forty lashes laid on by the deluded girl’s father would be very appropriate.”

The tale was picked by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which said the police “had evidence that Morton passed counterfeit money, and that it was his intention to put (Vincent) in a house of prostitution in Seattle.”

Jennie Vincent would have none of it. When Morton’s trial was delayed and she was told to return the next day, the World reported she stamped her foot and stated, “I won’t come, now you see if I do.”

She eventually relented. But before she left the courthouse she had a conversation with “the man with many names,” which alarmed the World’s reporter.

“The Vincent girl’s action this morning proves her to be a brazen hussy, and her conduct must have cut her father like a knife,” said the World. “Her manner indicated that she was ready to go off again with the man who stole her father’s overcoat if he gets free.”

Morton did go free on Feb. 15. Jennie Vincent’s sister testified that Morton had tried to give her the overcoat before he boarded the boat for Nanaimo. She had rebuffed him, but Morton had wanted to return the coat, not steal it, so the judge let him go.

On Feb. 22, the Nanaimo paper reported Jennie tried to run away a second time to join Morton, but was stopped by her mother. There are no more reports of the affair in the papers, so lord knows if she was ever successful.

Court House building at Hastings and Cambie Streets, circa 1898. Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: Bu N418. PNG

The other local story on the cover of the Feb. 14 World was about “James Steward, a Seattleite, and Charles Amos, better known as Shorty,” who were charged with stealing iron wheels from a deserted logging camp near Point Grey.

“Amos was on his way for goodness-knows-where when he was overtaken by Officer Purdy in the tug Swan and captured after a desperate resistance,” said the World. “Amos used to be a hard-working longshoreman, but lately he has fallen in evil ways and has been several times in the cells within a month or so.”

The miracle health cure in the World that week was something called Staminal, “a palatable Beef Tea combining the virtues of Beef and Wheat with the tonic Hypophosphites.”

Wikipedia defines Hypophosphites “a class of phosphorus compounds conceptually based on the structure of hypophosphorous acid.”

Sounds delicious.

Jennie Vincent story in the Feb. 8, 1884 Nanaimo Free Press. PNG

Nanaimo Free Press story on the “Vincent elopement” on Feb. 12, 1894. PNG

Story on the dismissal of the case against Mr. Many names in the Feb. 15, 1894 Vancouver Daily World. PNG

Staminal ad in the Feb. 14, 1894 Vancouver Daily World. PNG

An ad in the Feb. 14, 1894 Vancouver Daily World for the (first) Bank of British Columbia, whose head office was in London, England, not Vancouver or Victoria. PNG

Real estate ad in the Feb. 14, 1894 Vancouver Daily World. PNG