Monday, May 01, 2006

Harry Tracy: The Mackintosh Bandit

The sun hadn't been up long on June 9, 1902. Breakfast was over for the prisoners at the Oregon State Penitentiary. A group of prisoners had just been marched from the chapel to the stove foundry where they worked. F.B. Ferrel, a guard with a reputation for cruelty was in charge of the detail. Suddenly two prisoners broke away from the formation, grabbed rifles that they had hidden nearby and shot Ferrel to death. It was the beginning of the bloodiest jailbreak in Oregon up to that time.

Thus was born the legend of Harry Tracy who would be idolized by a generation of young people as the Lone Bandit, the Oregon Badman, or King of the Western Robbers. In 1947 Stewart Holbrook, Oregon's great lowbrow historian debunked the myth, by telling the more-or-less true story of Tracy's pathetic career, but still Tracy is remembered as the one true western outlaw to operate in Portland.

To Read the rest of the story you will need to get my book...


Blogger kahla said...

Harry Tracy was not a Severns.He was my paternal Grandmothers Uncle.My Grandmother told my Dad that He was her Uncle and She had no reason to make that up because She was not proud of Him.My Grandmother was a Tracy before she was married.

6:54 PM  
Blogger jd chandler said...


I am very interested in your information. Do you have any geneological documents for the Tracy family? I would love to see them. It would be great to debunk the Severns myth. You can email me directly at

1:02 PM  
Blogger pravoslavniye said...

Very interesting! I came across mention of Tracy in the October 1944 issue of Railroad Magazine, in a memoir by retired Northern Pacific engineer Tom Bradford.

Bradford was operating a locomotive in work train service out of the now defunct railroad town of Gates, Washington in 1902. He reports he and his fireman had just put their engine to bed about 10:30 one night when a man climbed into the cab holding a rifle. Since they had heard of Tracy's escape, they figured it was him and chose to "join the birds" rather than be taken hostage or be killed.

Hiding out in the dark, Bradford says Tracy did let off a couple of shots but then turned to try to get the locomotive moving. Apparently he didn't have enough knowledge to do that and fled. When the sheriff arrived the next morning, Tracy was long gone.

Bradford later identified Tracy from a photograph.

I was hunting more information about Tracy thanks to that article in Railroad, so I thank you for having shared your knowledge!

9:34 PM  
Blogger stevenl said...

A local account of Tracy's demise:

6:25 PM  
Blogger stevenl said...

Here's a local account of Tracy's demise:

6:27 PM  

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