This is the first in what will be a series of articles on horse thieves, featured every Thursday.
SHE IS FOND OF HORSES.
May Colvin Does Not Hesitate to Appropriate Her Neighbor’s Nags.
Kansas holds the trumps in the game of horse stealing. She has outdone all other states in the line of phenomenal thieves and still has a few, despite the known fact that her Anti-Horse Thief association is noted for carelessness of life in dealing with thieves. In truth, there is a proverb in the southern boarder counties that a murderer has a much better chance of life than a horse thief; yet Washington Waterman, famous as the octogenarian horse thief, died last year in the Kansas state prison at the age of 92 and in the first year of a 20 year sentence, and now a handsome miss of 18 years is awaiting her second trial for a similar crime.
May Colvin is the name of this heroine of darkness, and her home was with her parents near Thayer, Mo., till her mania for horseflesh made her a fugative. A true mania it is, no doubt, for she steals fine horses and gallops away on them without thought of the consequences. In early womanhood she showed such a passionate desire to fondle and caress fine horses that the neighbors declared she was insane, and her father, evidently not a very wise father, resorted to hard whipping and close confinement. She was then 17 and took to thieving.
Entering a neighbor’s barn in the night, she bridled and saddled the first animal that sped her away from its owner, and she has since been either a refugee or a prisoner. After perpetrating several successful thefts and adroitly eluding the officers of each locality in which she operated, she made her appearance in Fort Scott last summer and was for a short time known as a girl of the town. Suddenly she disappeared, and with her a fine buggy and valuable trotting mare from Louis Albright’s livery stable. She drove all night and the next day and was heard of three days later at Weir City, Kan., where she was captured and the animal recovered.
Here was a queer case, and the prosecuting attorney decided to rate it as one of true mania. She made an attempt to escape by sawing off one of the bars of her cage with a steel saw procurred from a fellow prisoner, but was frustrated at the vital moment. Hon. Eugene F. Ware, known among Kansas writers as “Ironquill,” made an earnest plea for her, and the prosecuting attorney was induced to nolle pros the case against her. Consequently she was released from jail immediately.
In less than 12 hours she was on the dead run behind a span of stolen horses and a buggy taken from a farmer’s barn in Crawford county. With insane daring she drove to Fort Scott, called on some of her fast friends, then drove furiously on to Nevada, Mo., where she put the stolen team in a livery barn as security for another team, with which she continued her journey, she cared not where.
Another day, however, found her in the grasp of the sheriff of Vernon county, Mo., just as she was driving into Irwin, Boston county, and she is now a prisoner in the jail of Crawford county, Kan., where the next to the last theft was committed.
And now the question is, What shall be done with her? It is perhaps worth noting that the women say, “She ought to be hanged,” while about half the men say, “Poor thing.” She is pretty, that’s certain, and aside from her peculiar mania seems to be ordinarily bright and sensible. Nevertheless a year or two of quiet life, honest industry and strict moderation in the use of rich food — just such advantages as she will enjoy in the Kansas penitentiary — will doubtless go far to cure her.
The Anti-Horse Thief association has recently effected several very sudden and radical cures of male patients, and the only wonder is that in such a country Washington Waterman lived so long. That man served five full terms in Missouri and Kansas penitentiaries, yet kept right on stealing horses and died in prison, as aforesaid, at the age of 92. Truly he was “possessed.”
The News (Frederick, Maryland) Mar 4, 1893
Female Horse Thief Captured
FORT SCOTT Kan. June 19 — May Colvin the female horse thief who escaped from the Carthage (Mo.) jail last Friday, has been captured by the officers and posse of citizens who were in pursuit.
May Colvin, who escaped from the jail at Carthage, Mo., where she was confined for horse stealing, was recaptured on the border of Indian Territory.
The Salem Daily News (Salem, Ohio) June 21, 1893
A BEAUTIFUL HORSE THIEF.
She is May Colvin, an Ozark Girl of 18, and as Pretty as a Picture.
The female department of the penitentiary undoubtedly furnishes the most depraved types of humanity. Primarily the partiality of courts and juries for women characterizes every judical system of civilization, and so it must be a depraved and dangerous woman indeed whom a jury of Americans will sentence to penal servitude.
Decidedly the most unique personality of the female population of the prison is May Colvin. May is only 18 years old and is a rustic beauty. Dress her in the gorgeous paraphernalia of Lillian Russell and she would be a more brilliant beauty than that stage celebrity. She has great blue eyes and a mass of touseled hair of Titian tint. Her form is luscious — well rounded and plump — and her cheeks are red with the vigorous life of the Ozarks, whence she came. Her mouth is one that an impressionable artist would go wild over, with its cherry red lips of sensuous curves, the whole forming the most perfect Cupid’s bow. And, withal, May is a horse thief and doesn’t deny it. Certainly the confinement in the penitentiary has brought out her native beauty, that must have been blurred or obscured by her exposure to all sorts of rough weather while fleeing over the plains and mountains of the southwest from the officers or else no jury could have ever been induced to giver her a term in prison, especially for so common and plebeian an offense as stealing horses.
But May is not only a horse thief, but a jail breaker as well by her own confession. Her feat in breaking from the jail at Girard, Kan., where she was confined about two years ago for horse stealing, her escape to Jasper county, Mo., and her subsequent capture there and prosecution on an old charge will be recalled by the readers of newspapers.
“Well, I have no hard luck story to tell,” was the way May greeted The Republic representative. “They made no mistake in my case. Nearly everybody else in here is innocent, according to their own statement, but I’m not. I’m here for horse stealing.”
“When I heard you were here and wanted to see me, I thought you were an officer from Girard, Kan., and wanted to take me back there for breaking out of jail. I’m glad you are not, but I guess they’ll come for me as soon as my term is out here, which will be in about 14 months if I behave myself. I’ve been a pretty good girl since I’ve been here. The reason for it, I guess, is that I haven’t had a chance to be bad. However, I’ve so managed to break the rules as to be put in the dark room two or three times. But I’m going to behave myself from now on so I can get the benefit of the three-fourths rule.”
“I don’t know why I’ve turned out so bad unless it is that it was just born in me. My mother is a good woman, only 35 years old now, a member of the Methodist church and has been married three times. She raised me right, and my father, who is a dentist, was always kind and indulgent to me. I went to the public schools in Webb City until I was 16, and then the devilment began to crop out in me. I don’t know why either.”
“Nobody ever taught me any wrong. I’m not like other women, either, in blaming my downfall on any man.”
–St. Louis Republic.
The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) June 14, 1894