It was February 1989 and Brian and Frank sat back in their chairs a brew in their right hand and a problem on the table between them. Their latest venture, a pub in downtown Fredericton, was due to open in May and they needed a name that would reflect the distinctive Maritime flavor they meant to create.
Their inclination was to reference some noteworthy historic figure from the Maritimes but they were uninspired until Frank remembered Henry Moon – The Lunar Rogue. A trip to the library to brush up on the details of his life revealed that Barbara Grantmyre's book on Moon titled "The Lunar Rogue" had not been taken out for over 20 years. It was time to revive his memory and what better place to commemorate one of the greatest rogues in the province's history than in a traditional Maritime pub.
When he lived and traveled in New Brunswick more than 200 years ago, he relied on the fact that he was a stranger to most. One of his jailers, Sheriff Bates, wrote of his dealings with Henry Moon in a book called "The Mysterious Stranger". In time, however, Henry Moon became a household name and the stuff of legends. A likeness of Henry Moon can be found in the New Brunswick Museum along with some artifacts connected with his amazing jail escapes. Peddler, tailor, robber, liar, horse thief, escape artist and con-man extraordinaire, Henry Moon was all of these and more.
The following chapters will tell you more about the life and times of Henry Moon, The Lunar Rogue. For more information, we recommend you read, "The Mysterious Stranger" by Walter Bates, Non-Entity Press and "The Lunar Rogue" by Barbara Grantmyre, University Press.
With so many parks, monuments and important buildings named after famous New Brunswickers from our rich history, one would think ours was a land of Saints and Scholars. The truth is we have our share of rogues as well and Henry Moon was perhaps the greatest of them all. Dubbed "The Lunar Rogue" by maritime author Barbara Grantmyre, we thought it a fitting name for our Maritime Pub. This week we begin a series of articles chronicling the fascinating story of this amazing character from our history.
In 1815 while awaiting the hangman's noose in New Brunswick's Kingston Jail, he claimed his real name was Henry Moon. The gravity of his situation may have lent credibility to his assertion but he had been convicted under the name of Henry More Smith, and had on various other occasions claimed to be Henry Moore or William Newman. Details about his origins are sketchy and come from a very unreliable source, himself! He claimed to have been born in England and educated at Cambridge. The last record of him was in 1835 when he was imprisoned for burglary in the Toronto Jail under the name of Smith.
A thorough rogue, he lied cheated and robbed his way through this area of New Brunswick 200 years ago. There is no record of a single kind or honest act on his part and yet neither is there recorded any act of violence. It is perhaps the absence of this character trait that has allowed us to view him with tolerance, through the passage of time, as a most remarkable character. Just how remarkable will await the next installment.
Henry Moon arrived in the Rawdon area of Nova Scotia about 1812 and found employment under the name of Frederick Henry More with a family and local landowner, James Bond. A year later, he eloped with the employer's daughter, Elizabeth, moved to Windsor, NS, and established himself as a tailor/peddler.
Customers in the area were amazed that Henry could sew them a suit of clothes of the finest fabric in only a couple of days. As a peddler, Henry also did very well. It was noted that he made frequent business trips to Halifax usually leaving late in the morning and returning early the next day with bundles of goods.
Given the time necessary to make the 90 mile return trip to Halifax on horseback, he had to have conducted his business at night, - and hastily. Perhaps his customers, well pleased with the quality and price of the items, thought it prudent not to ask questions. In other camps, however, questions abounded. At about the same time as the peddler from Windsor was having such success, a rash of robberies occurred in Halifax and suspicion turned to Henry.
Eventually, however, it was his work as a tailor that proved him guilty. One of the local men visited Halifax in a suit Henry had made for him and it was instantly recognized by the gentleman from whom it had been stolen a few weeks earlier.
Upon investigation, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Frederick Henry More. It was time for the Lunar Rogue to move on.
With a special warrant issued in Nova Scotia for the arrest of Frederick Henry More for theft, the Lunar Rogue arrived in Saint John in July, 1814 in the name of Henry More Smith. Typically, Henry settled in easily.
Officers of the 99th Regiment enjoyed his company and described him as a charming man, familiar with the military and knowledgeable about horses. But the Lunar Rogue was a master of charm, cunning and deceit. He could assess a situation, see an angle and contrive a scheme at a moment’s notice without the slightest twinge of conscience.
Noting the two horses drawing Colonel Daniels’ carriage, were different colors, and remembering a black horse in Cumberland that would be a perfect match for the black, Henry made the colonel an offer. For an advance of fifteen pounds, and leaving his own horse as a guarantee, he offered to go to Cumberland on a sloop and return with the horse. If satisfied, the Colonel could buy it for fifty pounds. The Colonel agreed, but the plan was too straight forward and not profitable enough for the Lunar Rogue.
In fact, Henry planned to steal a horse, ride it to Cumberland, sell it, steal the black horse, ride it back, sell it to the Colonel, reclaim his own horse and make a hasty escape to the United States.
Henry stood to make about ninety pounds on the horses and we can assume, given his nature, more than a few items would disappear from households along his route.
The Lunar Rogue plan to steal a horse in Saint John, ride it to Cumberland, sell it, steal another, ride it back, sell it to Colonel Daniels of the 99th regiment and then escape to the US with the proceeds, started to wrong from the start.
Having stolen a saddle and bridle, he set out to steal a horse to ride to Cumberland. The horse, however, wasn’t co-operative. After chasing it around the pasture all night, Henry, deciding discretion was the better part of valour, hoisted the saddle on to his back and started out on foot. By the time he found another horse to steal, it was evening and with 30 footsore miles behind him, Henry put up in a barn to catch a few hours of sleep. He intended to continue the journey under cover of darkness.
It might have worked if the Lunar Rogue hadn’t succumbed to fatigue and overslept. A local resident saw him gallop away in the morning, gave the information to a Mr. Knox who was making inquiries about his missing horse and the chase was on. On July 24, 1814, 3 days and 170 miles later, Knox caught up with Henry and had him arrested.
Getting Henry back to the Kings County jail in New Brunswick to await trial was no easy task for Mr Knox and the Sheriff that accompanied him. Not only were there frequent, if predictable, stops along the way to return good stolen by Henry on his way through, but the Lunar Rogue began to reveal his talents as an escape artist.
Arrested for Horse stealing, Henry did an admirable job of protesting his innocence. He claimed to have bought the horse in question from a stranger named James Churnan and even produced a receipt for it at his hearing.
Claiming to be 20 years old, he said he had arrived from Brighton England some 18 months previously and was awaiting his parent’s arrival in the spring. The Lunar Rogue then added the finishing touch. I am a stranger sirs, penniless, friendless and in a desperate situation. I have neither friends, nor money, nor anyone who knows me to take my part. I am an innocent man, the victim of ill-circumstances, who has been badly used without just cause.
Henry’s plea had no effect on the judge, who ordered that he be held for trial; however, the Lunar Rogue hadn’t lost his touch completely. There was a great deal of public sympathy building for this handsome youth who, if convicted, faced a sentence of death. Even Walter Bates the High Sheriff of Kings County was convinced of Henry’s innocence. Knowing Henry had no money, the sheriff quickly arranged to have his personal effects brought from Saint John and permitted Henry to sell them to raise funds for the lawyer the sheriff had recommended.
The good people of Kingston were not only sympathetic but very generous and they quickly bought up Henry’s possessions to provide him with his lawyer’s fees. It’s a safe bet that the items offered for sale had been pilfered from other gullible souls in neighbouring communities but the Lunar Rogue was never known to suffer from a guilty conscience.
Henry More Smith, confined to Kingston Jail to await trial on a charge of horse stealing, was a model prisoner. Although still professing his innocence, he seemed resigned to his fate and spent his time reading piously from his bible.
Without complaint, he suffered greatly from a bruised and swollen side, which he claimed was the result of a severe blow he received during his capture and return to jail. Over the next few days he began to develop a hollow cough, bleeding and fever.
Public sympathy grew as Henry’s condition worsened. Over the next two weeks he suffered violent fever, chills, loss of appetite, bleeding and increasing weakness. The attending doctor could do little and finally advised, as Henry’s symptoms intensified, that there was no hope of recovery. Overcome with pain and seizures, unable to eat or drink, too weak to raise his head, and with his voice barely audible, Henry dictated his will. For their kind attention to him in his sickness, the magnanimous Henry left his remaining money to his jailer and all his clothes to the jailer’s son John.
On Sept. 24 1814, Henry lay near death. Throughout the day his condition worsened until finally, in the early evening, he was seized by a final agonizing convulsion. The jailer’s son, filled with compassion, ran out of the cell and down the hall to get a hot brick to place at Henry’s feet to comfort him. He was gone but a few minutes which was all it took for the Lunar Rogue to affect a miraculous recovery, leap from his deathbed, gather his possessions and make good his escape.
Sheriff Bates had left the Lunar Rogue on his death bed in jail. When a messenger came to announce, “Smith is gone”, Bates responded, “Poor fellow, what time did he die”? Shock must have set in with the reply, He’s not dead; he has escaped.
To accept the fact that he had been taken in by a rogue was one thing, but to lose face in the community must have been worse. The Sheriff’s reputation for sound judgement and integrity was in jeopardy.
People were quick to point out that the Sheriff had taken an uncommon interest in the prisoner. Hadn’t he arranged for Henry’s personal effects to be brought up from Saint John and then assisted in the sale of those goods to provide the prisoner with legal fees? Hadn’t he tried in vain to locate the stranger Henry had claimed sold him the horse he had been accused of stealing? Could it be that Bates, the jailer and Henry were in cahoots?
With gossip racing through the community, Sheriff Bates sent search parties out in all directions. The Sheriff and his deputy took the route to Nova Scotia and rode hard all night without success. In the morning, the Sheriff started back to Kingston leaving his deputy to travel another 40 miles in pursuit.
People began to fear the Lunar Rogue was long gone. At about the same time, it was discovered that Henry had spent the previous night not 10 miles away. He had slept till noon and then relieved a local resident’s home of a number of personal articles before continuing on his way. The Sheriff was not having a good day!
Jurors and witnesses had traveled to Kingston from around the province for the trial of Henry More Smith on a charge of horse theft. Even the Attorney General had arrived for the occasion. Unfortunately the accused had escaped 3 days earlier.
Hoping the prisoner would soon be apprehended, the court convened on Tuesday. Accounts of thefts drifted in from the lower Saint John River valley. It appeared that a handsome and personable young man, having received food or shelter, was relieving his hosts of numerous personal effects. Only once did he arouse suspicion and on that occasion he was taken to the home of a magistrate to be examined. As it turned out, they sent the Lunar Rogue on his way with much embarrassment and profuse apologies. Why, you could tell the stranger was an honest man by the way he answered the magistrate’s questions. The Lunar Rogue was apparently back in business.
The patience of the Court and the community was being sorely tried and as the need to blame someone grew, Sheriff Bates was the odds on favourite. The last act of the court before adjournment on Friday was to charge the Sheriff and the jailer with negligence in the escape of the prisoner and to have them held on bail until the next sitting.
About that time, Mr. Knox, who had laid the original charge of horse theft against Henry, burst into the court to announce his second horse had been stolen overnight. Guilty or not, the Lunar Rogue would have appreciated the scene in the courtroom that day.
With a reward on his head, and the possibility of the “noose” should he be captured, tried and convicted, Henry should have been making haste out of the province. But logic and prudence were evidently not his strong suit.
The morning after his escape he stole a watch, 8 dollars and some clothing from a Mr. Bailes. Two days later, he stopped at Nathaniel Veal’s tavern opposite Gagetown and left with a set of silver teaspoons. Next he visited a Mr. Solomon Perley in Maugerville where he tried to sell the teaspoons and, being unsuccessful, stole a new pair of boots and took his leave. He then stopped in a Bailey’s tavern, conducted some “business” and was later seen under a bridge counting his money. Later, just outside Fredericton, the Lunar Rogue stopped at Ingraham’s Tavern where he spent the night, then paid his bill, gathered up his belongings, as well as a suit, cloak and personal articles belonging to Ingraham, and continued on his way.
Henry’s route was taking him toward the American boarder at Woodstock but there was nothing in Henry’s actions that indicated he felt any great urgency. He played the gentleman, impressing those he met with his apparent honesty and charm and entertaining them with his wit. But it could not be said that he played favourites. He robbed them all in turn until he was finally captured a few miles short of the American boarder.
Henry was taken to Fredericton where he admitted to being the escapee from Kingston Jail and was ordered returned for trial. The order was one thing, getting the Lunar Rogue to Kingston was another.
In Fredericton, Judge Saunders ordered Henry More Smith returned to Kingston jail. So it was that a canoe proceeded down river that day with Mr. Putnam in one end and Mr Watson in the other and between them, tied to a bar in the center of the canoe, was the pinioned and handcuffed Lunar Rogue. Putnam and Watson, determined to get Henry to Kingston quickly and without incident, took turns watching him the first night. They paddled all the next day and broke their journey the second night at the home of Mr. Bailes. Bailes had been robbed by Henry soon after his escape from jail so the weary Putnam and Watson felt safe in accepting his offer to watch the prisoner and they retired for some much needed sleep.
Henry engaged Bailes and his wife in idle conversation for some time and then, when Henry finally said he was tired, they made up a bed for him on the floor. At this point Henry decided he needed to “go to the door”. When Watson was roused to see to the matter, he grumbled, “I ought to make you hang on till morning”, and made motions to wake Putnam as well in case it was a trick. Henry apologized meekly and suggested, “Perhaps Mr. Bailes has a rope. If you tie that to my arm you’ll be sure of me”.
Out the door they went, the rope tied above Henry’s handcuffs and the other end wound around Watson’s hand. A few minutes later, Watson staggered back to the door, the rope dragging on the ground behind him.
Both professionally and personally, Sheriff Bates had a lot riding on the return of Henry More Smith to stand trial. We can only imagine the Sheriff’s reaction when told the Lunar Rogue had again escaped. His frustration must have been at a peak as he once again organized a pursuit.
For two weeks they searched in vain and then, on October 26, 1814, just as the Sheriff began to accept the fact that Henry had probably left the province, word came that the Lunar Rogue was back in business in the Fredericton area.
Henry More Smith was reported to be a handsome, quick-witted man of intelligence and charm. A reward had been posted and, if recaptured and convicted, a “rope” awaited him. In spite of this, Henry had not left the area! Was he that confident of his ability to evade capture or was it common sense he lacked?
Henry first turned up about 10 miles out of Fredericton where he spent the night in an abandoned house. The next night he robbed the home of Mr. Wilmot, stole a black pony, rode it to within a couple of miles of Fredericton, and settled comfortably into a hay shed owned by Jack Paterson. Acting not at all like a fugitive, each day Henry slept late, idled away the afternoon, and then rode the pony into town at night to “conduct business”. On his return, he would stash the stolen goods in the hay and turn the pony out to graze. A quiet existence for a rogue but Henry was soon to right that with a visit to the home of the Attorney General.
Henry More Smith was an escaped prisoner who would likely hang if brought to trial. The public was outraged and Sheriff Bates was pursuing him like a man possessed. Was the fugitive keeping to the woods, catching a few hours of fitful sleep where he could and pushing on through the cold October nights in a desperate attempt to get away? Not the Lunar Rogue!
He was holed up in Jack Paterson’s hay shed a few miles outside of Fredericton. By day he slept and looked around the shed, by night he climbed aboard his stolen pony, rode into Fredericton and robbed the citizens blind.
It could have been boredom or a sense of adventure, but it was more likely sheer arrogance that prompted Henry to pay a visit to the Attorney-General, who was entertaining guests when Henry came to call. Barbara Grantmyre, in her book “The Lunar Rogue” which was published by Brunswick Press in 1963, wrote of his visit, “He neither knocked nor rang but entered with his usual stealth, cleared the hall of outer garments, and left as quietly as he had come. Three plaid cloaks, five topcoats, and a corresponding number of comforters and tippets must have made a bulky load for the pony. Henry rewarded him with a feed of hay when they got back to his hide-out”.
The Attorney-General’s embarrassment must have been acute as his guests faced a chilling ride home in open carriages near the end of October. It’s unlikely Henry would have risked robbing the Attorney-General’s residence for the sake of a few coats and blankets but the scenario would have undoubtedly appealed to the Lunar Rogue.
Jack Paterson noticed some hay strewn around a shed on his property just outside Fredericton and, upon investigation, discovered a trespasser. The man explained he was a traveller on his way to buy some land and had put up in the shed overnight. He hoped it had not caused the owner any trouble. Paterson assured him it was no trouble at all and left, however, when he saw the man climb out the hay shed window a few moments later and sprint to the woods, he knew all was not right.
With some assistance, Paterson set off in pursuit and the stranger was quickly overtaken. When it was discovered that he was none other than the famous escapee, Henry More Smith, he was promptly handed over to the sheriff of York County who ordered him returned to Kingston at once.
Given Henry’s reputation, no one was going to take a chance on another escape and so the Lunar Rogue was prepared for transport. He was hand cuffed and an inch and a half wide iron collar with a hinge and clasp was fitted around his neck and secured with a padlock. One end of a ten-foot iron chain was attached to the collar and, with Paterson holding the other end; the party boarded a sloop and set off for Kingston.
They arrived at mid-night and with Henry, appearing composed and indifferent, was thoroughly searched and confined to the cell from which he had escaped nearly a month earlier. Walter Bates, the High Sheriff of Kings County, had his prisoner back in jail but there was no time to feel smug. The contest between Bates and the Lunar Rogue had just begun.
Henry More Smith had been recaptured and returned to Kingston jail to await trial. Henry was resigned, composed and even co-operative. Sheriff Bates was nervous. The Sheriff cited “painful experience” as the motivation for the extraordinary measures taken to secure the prisoner.
The Sheriff described Henry’s cell as being twenty two feet by sixteen, with three foot thick stone and lime walls on three sides and the fourth of twelve inch thick timber, lathed and plastered. The door was of two inch thick plank doubled and lined with sheet iron and secured with three iron hinges and three strong padlocks. In the door was a small iron wicket, also secured with a padlock. There was one small window through the stone wall with grates inside and out and enclosed with glass on the outside.
Not yet satisfied, the Sheriff’s description continues: “We put on his right leg an iron chain no more than long enough to allow him to reach the necessary, and take his provisions at the wicket door. The end of the chain was fastened to the timber floor by a strong staple near the partition wall so that he could not reach the grated window by five or six feet”. The jailer checked the prisoner frequently to ensure he remained secured and every couple of days, the Sheriff arrived to make a personal assessment. Henry was calm and quiet and came to the wicket willingly to have his irons checked. As the days passed, Sheriff Bates became confident that they would have no further trouble keeping the Lunar Rogue confined. It was on the twelfth day that his confidence was shaken.
Henry More Smith seemed quietly resigned to his imprisonment and willingly allowed his shackles and chains to be checked frequently. On the twelfth day, however, a Mrs. Perkins announced to the Sheriff that she had heard a sound like filing coming from the jail during the night and feared the prisoner was trying to escape. Knowing Henry was chained in such a way that he couldn’t reach the double grated window by 5 or 6 feet, the Sheriff told Mrs. Perkins that although it was unlikely the sound came from the jail, he would investigate.
The Sheriff found Henry chained and lying on his bunk as usual and, at first, all seemed in order. A closer examination, however, revealed that one bar in the inner grate was cut through so cleanly, top and bottom, that it could be removed and replaced with ease and that a bar in the outer grate was cut two thirds through.
Asked how he had done it, Henry produced from under his bunk, a knife with its steel blade cut in fine teeth and a common hand saw file. As to how he had reached the grate, Henry had cut his chain in the joint of the links where it was not easily seen. Realizing the knife blade was too thick to have made such a fine cut, a search of the cell turned up a neat spring saw with a cord attached.
New chains and handcuffs were applied but, within 24 hours, Henry had freed himself and had almost completed the job of filing through the window grates again before he was discovered. It was Bates vs. the Lunar Rogue and it was anyone’s game.
Within 24 hours, Henry More Smith had twice removed his shackles and nearly escaped. It was midnight when his second attempt was foiled but Sheriff Bates was in no mood to return to his bed. Henry’s cell was thoroughly searched and his bunk was knocked apart and every split and joint examined. For all the effort, no tools were discovered. Henry’s chains and padlocks were replaced and a pair of screw handcuffs designed to keep the prisoners hands close together were applied. Only then, at 4 in the morning, was Sheriff Bates sufficiently reassured to leave the Lunar Rogue and retire. We can assume the Sheriff slept fitfully at best.
When the Sheriff returned he found Henry lying on the floor of his cell where he had been left some hours before. Taking nothing for granted, the sheriff took a closer look and found the new screw handcuffs were separated in such a way that Henry could put them on and off easily.
Henry was searched again and a fine steel saw was found tied around his upper thigh with a piece of muslin cord. With the saw removed, Henry was again secured with chains, padlocks and handcuffs. Sheriff Bates, whose caution was by now bordering on paranoia, also left four men to watch him through the night. In the morning the window was bricked up leaving only a 5-inch square opening in the 3-foot thick walls. Henry’s cell had effectively turned into a dungeon. It was November 13, 1814 and, not trusting even his own elaborate precautions, an anxious Sheriff Bates urged that the Lunar Rogue’s trial begin as soon as possible.
Chained and shackled in a bare cell, 22 by 16 feet, with only one 4 by 5 inch window, Henry More Smith’s disposition changed dramatically. Up to now, despite his repeated attempts to escape, he had remained docile and co-operative but on November 16, 1814, the Sheriff found the prisoner in a foul temper, threatening to burn the jail down. Loose again, he had broken one padlock and had knocked much of the plaster off one wall by lashing at it repeatedly with his chains. Although there was little chance Henry could escape, the Sheriff took out some insurance.
The following is the Sheriff’s own description of the measures he took to secure the prisoner.
“I then prepared a pair of steel fetters, case hardened, about 10 inches long, which we put on his legs, with a chain from the middle, 7 feet long, which we stapled to the floor; we also put an iron collar about his neck, with a chain about 8 feet long, stapled also to the floor in a direction opposite to the other; and also a chain from his fetters to the neck collar, with handcuffs bolted to the middle of his chain in such a manner as to prevent his hands reaching his head and feet when standing, leaving it just possible for him to feed himself when sitting. In this situation we left him, loaded with irons, the entire weight of which was forty-six pounds, and without anything to sit or lie upon but the naked floor.”
The Sheriff could be forgiven if he felt a bit smug as he left Henry’s cell, but the Lunar Rogue was not finished with Bates just yet.
It was November 16, 1814 and Henry More Smith was paying the price for his repeated attempts to escape. As the door of his dungeon slammed shut behind Sheriff Bates, Henry’s situation was bleak. Weighted down with 46 pounds of chains and shackles, Henry was left alone in a dark, unheated and completely bare cell. The sheriff records that at this point Henry became troublesome and noisy. One can assume that under the circumstances a saint would have become troublesome and noisy, and the Lunar Rogue was no saint!
Over the next weeks, the Sheriff became convinced that Henry was showing signs of insanity. Day and Night, Henry’s mad ravings echoed through the jail. Quoting scripture and railing at his captors, Henry would keep up until he was hoarse, fall silent for a while, and then start over again.
On December 16th, it was discovered that Henry had apparently kept busy during his month of raving. He had broken his iron neck collar, pulled the staple, which secured his chains, out of the timber and then replaced it so cleanly that it couldn’t be detected. Sheriff Bates, by now convinced that the cell was secure in itself and that Henry was mad, ordered lighter chains for the prisoner and provided a straw mattress. By mid January it was so cold the Sheriff feared Henry might freeze to death before they got a chance to hang him and thus provided a blanket. Henry was, thereafter, checked frequently to be sure he hadn’t succumbed to the cold but astonishingly, the Sheriff’s records show that Henry’s bare hands and feet, as well as his chains, were always found to be warm.
Sheriff Bates records that although Henry More Smith’s cell was so cold that he feared the prisoner might freeze to death, Henry’s bare hands and feet, as well as his chains, always felt warm! Barbara Grantmyre in her book “The Lunar Rogue”, suggests Henry might have had some acquaintance with yoga, but in 1814, rumour in the community had it that Henry was in league with the devil. Given the extraordinary events that had transpired since the God-fearing Sheriff Bates and the rogue, Henry More Smith, had crossed paths, the Sheriff probably agreed but he stopped just short of stating that for the record. In any event, Henry’s astonishing escapes are as baffling today as they were to Sheriff bates 200 years ago.
Throughout January and February, Henry repeatedly escaped the chains, handcuffs, padlocks and iron collars that were intended to keep him secure. One collar was kept for many years as a curiosity and a testament to Henry’s strength. It was made of a flat bar of iron an inch and a half wide but Henry had twisted it from his neck and broken it in two parts. Despite the appearance of insanity, Henry seemed to have no trouble focusing his attention when it was in his interest. He smashed the wire-hooped bucket his water was kept in and broke the iron hoops into 3 inch pieces. Each time the jailer raised a candle to the wicket in the cell door in an attempt to check the prisoner and despite the fact that he was handcuffed, Henry would wing a piece at the candle snuffing it every time.
Throughout the winter months, the mad ravings of Henry More Smith continued. He neither spoke nor responded directly to anyone and, by mid February, had taken to sleeping most of the day and then spending the night ranting at an unbelievable volume. The deafening, nightly noise drove the jailer and his family, who lived upstairs over the cell, to distraction but nothing could be done to quiet him. Sheriff Bates, convinced of Henry’s insanity, stated “He could never be surprised into the utterance of one single word or articulate sound, and took no notice of any person or thing or of what was said to him, no more than if he had been a dumb, senseless animal”.
In spite of his apparent insanity, Henry never lost sight of his goal to escape. Henry tossed off Sheriff Bates’ chains and shackles almost as quickly as they were applied. Once the Sheriff reported, “It appeared also that he had been at the grates; but how he got there was a mystery, for the chain by which his legs were bound was unbroken and the staple fast in the timber”. The Sheriff had reason to be anxious and stated, “He had already given such mysterious and astonishing proofs of his strength and invention that I feared he would finally baffle all my ingenuity to prevent his escape”.
Barbara Grantmyre, in her book The Lunar Rogue, states, “Henry had shown many angles, gentleman rogue, pious young man, military hanger-on, loving husband, horse thief, skilful burglar, glib-tongued traveller, strong man, sick man , mad man, and now, on March 1st, he displayed another facet of his character, the artist.” This talent was perhaps the most extraordinary of all.
On the 12th of March 1814, a new jailer was assigned to the Kingston jail and to the chained and shackled prisoner, Henry More Smith. Henry gave him 2 weeks of relative quiet and then apparently decided to break him into the routine.
On the 24th, the jailer sent a desperate message to Sheriff Bates claiming that the prisoner was attempting to break out. The Sheriff arrived with a half dozen men only to find to his astonishment that Henry had shed all of his irons. He had fashioned a sword from a lathe and was busy performing all the thrusts, parries and flourishes of the sword exercise. Hanging on nails in the partition was his neck collar, broken in three places and his handcuffs broken in four. His chains were broken into various lengths and tied together with strips of cloth torn from his clothing.
Henry was subdued and secured by another leg chain firmly stapled into a new position, stiff handcuffs and a new neck chain fastened to the floor. This held the Lunar Rogue for four days after which he was loose again. The Sheriff took stronger measures. He had new handcuffs fitted and fastened them to the chain between Henry’s neck and feet so that standing, he couldn’t reach in any direction. This time, it took Henry only 3 days to get loose.
As Henry lay unconcerned on his bunk, his chains all separated, Sheriff Bates puzzled over the fact that no links appeared broken or twisted to show how they had been parted. A thorough search turned up a bunch of links tied up in a piece of Henry’s shirt. Incredibly, the links were broken, not cut.
Throughout March and April of 1814, Henry More Smith continued to astound the jailer and Sheriff Bates by regularly breaking loose of his chains and shackles. Strength of chain made no difference to the Lunar Rogue. Up to this point, the chain used was described as, “a large horse trace-chain”, but by mid-march they were using a timber chain and by April, Sheriff Bates had progressed to using an ox chain. It was all to no avail. Henry shed them all and often tied them back together with bits of cloth and wrapped them around himself again.
About this time, Henry began to braid straw. First he made a bread basket and then he went on to making straw people. Sheriff Bates says, “Sometimes he would make the likeness of a man, and sometimes that of a woman, and place them in postures singularly striking: at this he would amuse himself during the day, but spent the night in shouting and hallooing, and beating the floor with his chains.”
The Sheriff must have been disappointed when Henry’s trial, originally scheduled for April 20th, had to be postponed due to the fact that the St. John River was still full of ice. These conditions made it difficult for the Judge and the Attorney General to travel from Fredericton so a new date was set for May 4, 1814.
Beginning on April 30th, the Sheriff visited Henry every day trying to elicit a response by talking about his trial. The Sheriff reports, “…all was in vain. He gave the most decided indications of confirmed insanity; patted his hands, hallooed, sang with articulating, and continued to beat the floor with his chains the most of the night.”
On May 4, 1814, the trial of Henry More Smith began. Spectators arrived from all over the country and witnesses had come from around the province and as far away as Nova Scotia. At 11:00 am, his Honour Judge Saunders and the Attorney General, Thomas Wetmore, arrived from Fredericton and at 1:00 pm, the whole court moved in procession to the courthouse.
Sheriff Bates, in his book “the Mysterious Stranger”, provides this description of the opening courtroom scene. “…The prisoner was called to the bar. The jailer and four constables brought him and placed him in the criminal’s box. He made no resistance, nor took any notice of the court and, as usual, acted the fool or the madman, snapping his fingers and patting his hands; he hem’d and ho’d, took off his shoes and socks, tore his shirt. Every eye was fixed on him with wonder and astonishment.”
The Lunar Rogue stood silent, paying no attention to the Judge as he asked if the prisoner’s plea was guilty or not guilty. Receiving no response, Judge Saunders directed the Sheriff to empanel a jury to, “inquire whether the prisoner at the bar stood mute wilfully and obstinately or by the visitation of God”. Since the evidence showed Henry had been in this state for three months “during which time he could not be surprised into the utterance of one word”, the jury found that the prisoner stood mute by the visitation of God and a plea of not guilty was entered on Henry’s behalf.
Had they paid admission, the spectators could not have hoped for a better opening act for the show that was only just beginning in the crowded courtroom.
Friday May 5, 1814 marked the second day of Henry More Smith’s trial. Proceedings began at 10:00 AM with the prisoner being led in without incident. Henry sat down quietly and remained silent and inattentive. This behaviour prompted Judge Saunders to observe that the prisoner seemed more calm this morning which just goes to prove that even the observations of a learned judge are not always accurate.
Things began to unravel when the prisoner was directed to rise, hold up his hand and hear the evidence. Henry, as usual, ignored the order. It might have been better to allow Henry, the hopeless madman, to remain seated quietly in the prisoner’s box but the directive was, after all, an order off the court and a prisoner should be made to comply!
The constables were ordered to hold Henry’s arm up for him but Henry was not grateful for the assistance. Fighting furiously, he snapped the rails in front of him like matchsticks and it soon became clear that the four constables would not be able to restrain the prisoner. A rope was procured and Henry’s arms were lashed to the railing behind him. His response was to kick out the entire front of the prisoner’s box with his feet, so more rope was brought in and his feet were tied as well.
At this point, with the exhausted and dishevelled constables on the alert for another outbreak, the Lunar Rogue relaxed in his seat and, lashed hand and foot, acted as if nothing at all had happened. Then, with the prisoner not standing, not raising his hand, and not paying the slightest bit of attention, the indictment was read and the evidence was presented.
Henry More Smith’s trial was hardly underway when the defence lawyer established that in the indictment Mr. Knox’s second name was spelled Willis instead of Wills. Peters then produced precedents showing where one letter added or omitted in a man’s name had quashed indictments and asked the judge to follow suit in this case. Judge Saunders overruled.
Mr. Knox, from whom the horse had been stolen, told of pursuing the horse thief to Truro, Nova Scotia and then on to Pictou in the company of Deputy Sheriff John Pearson. Pearson confirmed that when he confronted him regarding the theft of the horse, Henry had appeared surprised, claimed to have come by it honestly, and directed Pearson to where the horse was stabled.
The defence lawyer established that neither Pearson nor Knox had actually seen Henry with the horse and then pointed out that in spite of this Henry had readily admitted to being in possession of it and revealed its location. These are surely not the actions of one guilty of theft. Peters added that Henry had even produced a bill of sale.
Had Henry’s past behaviour and escapes not been fresh in the minds of the judge and jury, the closing statement of the defence attorney might have been effective. As it was, the judge overruled the argument in his charge to the jury saying Henry had changed his story of how he had obtained the horse so many times when first confronted that he had shifted the burden of proof to himself. The jury returned a guilty verdict and the judge sentenced the Lunar Rogue to death by hanging.
Henry More Smith’s trial was over. The fact that he had been found guilty of horse theft and had been sentenced to hang seemed not to make the slightest impression on him. It was obvious to all that in his mental state he could not comprehend his situation.
The Lunar Rogue was returned to his cell but the Attorney General advised that the execution was to be delayed and that he was to be kept informed of the prisoner’s conduct.
Over the next few months, “at home” again in his cell in Kingston jail, Henry constructed more astonishing puppets, referring to them as his “family”. Sheriff Bates, in a letter to the Attorney General, offered the following description of Henry’s “puppet family”.
“…It consists of ten characters – men, women and children – all made and painted in the most expressive manner, with all the limbs and joints of the human frame – each performing different parts…To view them in their stations, they appear as perfect as though alive.” Bates added that the exhibition was worth the attention of the public – “more worthy than all the wax-works ever exhibited in this province.”
Bates’ letter to the Attorney General was published in its entirety in the Royal Gazette early in July of 1815 and as stories of the “puppet family” spread, people came from far and near to view the exhibition – and Henry charged them for the privilege!
Those who viewed Henry’s puppet show marvelled at it and sympathized with the wretched condition of the poor, mad, prisoner. Soon public sympathy reached such a point that the Attorney General used his influence and the Supreme Court of New Brunswick decreed that the Lunar Rogue would not hang.
Public sentiment had it that Henry More Smith, the remarkable puppeteer, was much too talented to end up on the gallows. It was even said by some that he might have been convicted unjustly. Whether through public pressure or his own convictions, the Attorney General had Henry’s sentenced lightened and Sheriff Bates, who had travelled to Fredericton to determine Henry’s fate, returned again to Kingston with the news. Score another one for the Lunar Rogue, - he had cheated the gallows!
The jailer met the Sheriff on his return from Fredericton with the news that Henry had removed his neck chain and that despite thorough searches they had been unable to find it. The Sheriff went to investigate.
Henry admitted getting rid of the chain but would not reveal what he had done with it. Sheriff bates proposed a bargain, - produce the chain and promise to behave and the neck chain would be left off. Henry made no reply but the next morning the chain lay on his cell floor with no explanation as to where it had been hidden. That same day, the Sheriff removed Henry’s handcuffs so he could wash and then decided to leave them off. Henry smiled wryly and remarked, “On or off, one hand must follow the other whatever I’m doing. See? It’s second nature now.” True enough, Bates reports that the prisoner’s hands moved in unison as if still bound together.
In any case, the chains and handcuffs were left off, Henry’s behaviour took a turn for the better and he went into puppet production in earnest. The Lunar Rogue appeared to be changing his tactics, if not his goal.
Deciding whether or not Henry More Smith’s actions were genuine was a difficult task. After one of his earlier escapes from Kingston jail, the following notice appeared in which Bates attempted to describe the Lunar Rogue.
“He is supposed to be an Englishman, and is undoubtedly a most profound adept in the arts of knavery and deception. He speaks the English and French languages fluently, and can play off the air of a genteel Frenchman with the most imposing gravity. He is of middling stature, slender and active, and appears to possess an astonishing variety of genius. He is sick or well, grave or gay, silent or loquacious. And can fence, box fight, run, sing, dance, play, whistle or talk, as occasional suits. He amused himself while in prison by making and managing a puppet show, which he performed apparently with such means as to excite the wonder of the credulous. This involved having a piece of an old horse-shoe, whetted on the wall of his dungeon, as the only instrument of his mechanism, and complaining only the scarcity of timber to complete his group. He had the address, by an irresistible flow of good humour and cheerfulness, to make some believe that he was quite an innocent and harmless man. He excited sympathy enough in those who had the curiosity to see him, to obtain several gratifications which prisoners do not usually enjoy. Yet the depth of his cunning was evinced in accomplishing his means of escape which he effected by sawing a hole in the prison door, which is several inches thick, so neatly, that the block could be taken out and replaced without any marks of violence”.
Though Henry More Smith remained in Kingston jail, he added more puppets to his show and his attachment to them grew more bizarre. Calling them his “family”, he cared for them, as if they were human. During one of Henry’s infrequent and short-lived periods of rationality, he claimed his real name was Henry Moon, son of a merchant in the south of England. Research has shown there was a Moon family in that area at about the right time and that they were merchants. Beyond that, there is no proof that this name was more credible than the others he had used.
Fortune telling was another talent that surfaced during this period. He read the past and predicted the future with such accuracy that the rumour Henry was in league with the devil circulated again.
One day Henry announced with great excitement that 3 papers would arrive at the jail by 4 o’clock the next day. He wasn’t sure what it all meant but he knew he would soon be “leaving this place” and advised Reid to get a box for his family. Reid dismissed the prediction as nonsense, but the next afternoon Sheriff Bates arrived at the jail, patted his coat pocket and said he had something Henry would welcome. “Not…not his pardon”, stammered Reid. The Sheriff confirmed that indeed it was a pardon, just arrived with 2 other documents from Fredericton. Seeing that Reid was visibly upset, he asked what was wrong and was told of Henry’s prediction. “We’ll not give him the satisfaction of knowing it came true, Reid,” said the Sheriff, “I’ll wait until tomorrow to tell him his pardon has come.”
Henry More Smith’s pardon impressed everyone but the condemned prisoner. He babbled on about the pretty paper but was uninterested in its contents and did not seem to comprehend its importance.
Henry’s clothes had been reduced to rags and so, because he had to appear before the court on August 26th for the reading of his pardon, the Sheriff arranged for a tailor to make him a suit. Henry would ruin the bolt of cloth but, unable to convince him otherwise, the Sheriff left enough material to make a vest along with a needle and thread and a small candle to provide light. Henry set to work immediately but soon snuffed out the candle and continued to work swiftly in total darkness. When the completed vest was found to be as fine as any tailor’s job, Henry was given the rest of the cloth and quickly finished the suit.
In spite of Sheriff Bates’ pleading and coaxing, Henry refused to leave his cell on the day of his court appearance until he was allowed to take along one of his puppets and a pair of scissors.
Having read the pardon, the judge was warning him to leave the province immediately upon his release when Henry interrupted. “Your shoe string. I want your shoe string,” said Henry, on all fours on the floor, his scissors perilously near the Judge’s ankle. “Best take him back, Bates. He’s as daft as a loon,” said the Judge.
Back in his cell, the pathetically insane Henry, reluctantly packed his puppet family into a box and waited, hopelessly unprepared, for his release from prison.
Sheriff Bates was understandably eager to release Henry More Smith after a frustrating and embarrassing year. Henry, however, gave no indication that he was anxious to leave Kingston Jail. Babbling and incoherent, he ignored the Sheriff who pleaded with him to pack his “puppet Family” away in the box he had provided. Only when the Sheriff tried to throw them into the box himself did Henry finally take on the job. When the Sheriff returned an hour later, he found the puppets packed and Henry dressed in his new suit and shoes patiently awaiting his release.
The Sheriff and the jailer hired a small boat and set off to the port of Saint John with Henry ranting and raving all the way. So determined was the Sheriff to be rid of Henry that finding no US bound ship in port, he housed him overnight in the jail and in the morning put the muttering and pathetic Henry on a ship bound for Nova Scotia.
Almost immediately, a dramatic cure came over Henry. He appeared on deck, smiling and pleasant, and made easy conversation with the other passengers. He was the perfect picture of a seasoned gentleman traveller. No one could have suspected he had spent the last year in a dark and dirty cell under sentence of death. Only once did he show erratic behaviour. He picked up some trace chains from the deck and tossed them overboard. “I hate chains,” he said, offering to pay for them. As for the “puppet family”, as soon as the ship docked they, along with the rest of his possessions, were left on board as the Lunar Rogue hurried ashore without ceremony or delay.
The Henry More Smith who stepped off the boat in Windsor, Nova Scotia bore no resemblance to the wretched prisoner who had spent the previous year in Kingston Jail. He had tossed off the mad man pose as easily as his prison garb.
Unrepentant, he took up his old trade quickly replacing the belongings he’d left behind by lifting from homes and Inns in the area. Along the way, he also gathered up watches, jewellery and silverware. Perhaps prompted by the fact that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest in Nova Scotia, Henry spent only a short time there before boarding a ship for Eastport, Maine.
Records show that for the next 2 decades in the U.S., Henry continued as before. There were countless stories of a mysterious stranger who charmed his hosts and then disappeared abruptly with their valuables. There were also a string of arrests followed by the inevitable, astounding escapes. During some longer stays in jail, Henry even went back into puppet production.
Henry did eventually return to Canada some 20 years later. The last record of him was on August 4, 1835 when, charged with burglary, he was imprisoned in a Toronto jail.
By today’s standards, Henry would be called a petty thief. He was a cheat and a liar with no sense of loyalty. But he was also a charming and witty man of astounding talent and ingenuity. There is no record of a single act of kindness on his part, yet neither is there recorded any act of violence and it is perhaps the absence of this character trait that allows us to view him through the passage of time as a truly remarkable rogue.