Richard Cornell

In late June of 1867 a man named Richard Cornell called for the arrest of a 15 year old English boy named Henry Richard Griffiths for the theft of his clothes. When arrested the boy, who was described as appearing "truthful and honest", made a counter claim that Richard had approached him, taken him drinking about town and brought him back to his room at the lodging house. There Richard would not let Henry go, they undressed and they got into bed together to sleep. When Richard made advances on Henry in bed, which Henry described as when he "became frightened by the conduct of his bed-fellow", he fled the room and in his confusion grabbed the wrong clothes. On July 3 the charges against Henry were dropped and Richard was charged with sodomy and held on bail of $500. His case was further dismissed on August 17.

Because of their rather common names and the fact that no occupations or specific address is given for either, it is difficult to identify them outside of this incident. However, there was a Richard Cornell, a carpenter, aged about 25 listed in the 1870 census and another Richard Cornell listed as a carrier of various newspapers in the San Francisco city directories from 1865-1868 without any further notice. Henry Griffiths may also be a youth named only as "Griffiths" who was in inmate at the Industrial School for Boys in 1868-1869. Interestingly, this young man claimed that he was being treated badly, not given sufficient blankets and no chair and books, when he was accused of attempted murder of one of the guards. If this is the same boy it is interesting to see a possible pattern with young Griffiths, who when confronted with a crime makes unfounded counter charges against his accusers. On the other hand, further testimony about the conditions at the industrial school from another inmate describe how Griffiths was confined under such harsh conditions that he eventually became crazy and unable to walk. It should also be noted that "sodomy" was commonly used in Britain as counter accusations for other offenses as well as for blackmail. Henry being from Britain may have learned this trick there, a tactic that I have not yet seen in California cases other than this one.


Newspaper Articles

Daily Alta California (San Francisco, California) - July 1, 1867

COUNTER CHARGES - Henry Richard Griffiths, a young English boy fifteen years old, was arrested last night on the accusation of Richard Cornell, charging him with petty larceny. The boy, who appears truthful and honest, and repeatedly asked Cornell in the Station House "to look him in the eye and deny if he could" the statement he made of the transaction, which request, it may be said, was not complied with to any great extent, says he was invited to sleep with Cornell, who said he was an Englishman and knew his (G.'s) family. Having reached the room the boy desired to leave, which his companion would not consent to. They retired to bed, and the youth says he became frightened by the conduct of his bed-fellow and south to escape. In his confusion probably he seized the first clothes he laid hands on and ran from the room. An alarm was given, and the young boy was found on the stairway dressing himself, and taken into custody by officer Mell?s. At the Station House the boy, by the suggestion of some present who heard and believed his story, made a charge of indecent assault against Cornell. The boy has not been long in the courts, and never met Cornell until last night, when the latter introduced himself, took the youth to several places to drink, and persuaded Griffiths, to accompany him to his lodging house.

Daily Alta California (San Francisco, California) - July 3, 1867

SENT UP - Yesterday, in the Police Court, the case of the young boy Griffiths, charged with the crime of petit larceny, by Richard Cornell, was disposed of. The youth was acquitted, and Cornell convicted of a nameless offence. He was sent to the County Court, bail being fixed at $500.

Daily Alta California (San Francisco, California) - August 17, 1867

Richard Cornell, sodomy - dismissed

Daily Alta California (San Francisco, California) - February 16, 1868

THE INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL - The Hospital Committees of the Senate and Assembly met yesterday at Dr. Dean's office, to take testimony about the confinement of unruly boys at the Industrial School in cells. It has been charged that the boys were not provided with chairs, books or sufficient clothing. The principal case was that of a young man named Griffiths, who laid a plan to murder one of the officers of the school. The Grand Jury for the September term of last year complained that he had no bedding save a pair of blankets.

The Committee took the testimony of Gen. Cobb, Dr. Dean, Capt. Morrill, Donald McLennan, H. B. Janes, S. Ambrose and Col. Wood. The testimony was that Griffiths had as many blankets as other boys had, and that in September, when the Jury visited the school, he did not need more. As to furnishing chairs and books to criminals confined in solitary cells for grave offences, that may be customary, but we have never heard of it. Instead of complaining of the severity of Griffiths' treatment, it appears to us that the complaint should have been of leniency for not having him tried for conspiracy to murder, and sent to San Quentin, where he would find an institution in comparison with which the Industrial School is a luxurious home. The Committee, of course, gave no expression to their opinions, but some persons present seemed to think that their report could scarcely be unfavorable.

Sacramento Daily Union (Sacramento, California) - July 14, 1869


We give another installment of the examination of this School from the San Francisco Herald of July 19th:

Harbourn sworn - … the boy Griffiths was confined until he became crazy; he was not able to move one foot after the other when he came out; he was a strong and hearty boy when he went in

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