Thursday, June 1, 2017
Paying One's Debt to Society
Newspapers have a way of playing up the action big, when uncertainty looms and there is still a threat present. When a crisis comes to its concluding act, however, the report may be buried in the fine print, several pages in—if even mentioned at all.
It was only thanks to the records of the United States Penitentiary at McNeil Island, Washington—digitized by the National Archives and Records Administration and included in the collection at Ancestry.com—that I learned what had become of Arthur J. Daugherty's friend and flight instructor following the Ohio man's death near Los Angeles in 1927.
Apparently, Burley Russell Chaney—listed simply by his initials as B.R. Chaney in the federal record—had been sentenced to a year in federal prison. He arrived at the facility—ironically, set on an island accessible only by air or by boat—on August 21, 1927.
Charged with violation of U.S. immigration laws, Chaney had, according to the prison's records, claimed "not guilty" up to the end.
The records included some other interesting minutiae concerning its prisoners. Chaney, we learn from the two pages on which his entry appears, was thirty years of age at the time of his 1927 arrival, and stood five feet eight and a half inches, packing one hundred sixty six pounds. His hair was dark brown, his complexion ruddy.
The ledger reveals that he reported his occupation to be aviator, and his religion to be Baptist. His home address was recorded as "Longdale" in California, but as there is no such designation, the likely mistaken answer was Lawndale, a city close to the Gardena location of the air field where Chaney's student aviator, A. J. Daugherty, lost his life.
Sadly, among the entries spanning the two pages in the ledger regarding Chaney, we learn that he did not provide the required information regarding his parents' names or address, but that he did declare the information required about his wife. Apparently she and their four children remained in "Longdale" in southern California while he spent his time isolated at the island prison up north.
Provided he minded his behavior during his stay, with good time, he could expect to be released on June 10, 1928.
Above: Photograph of the United States Penitentiary on McNeil Island, Washington, about ten years after Burley R. Chaney's incarceration there in 1927; photograph courtesy National Archives and Records Administration via Wikipedia; in the public domain.