Robert Elliott Coxford

M, b. 10 June 1860, d. 29 November 1914
FatherJohn Coxford1,2 b. 16 Jan 1831, d. 1919
MotherSarah Ann Elliott1,2 b. 27 Mar 1841, d. 1913
Birth*10 June 1860 Robert Elliott Coxford was born on 10 June 1860 at Ramsay Twp, Lanark County, Ontario.3 
Baptism1 August 1865 He was baptized on 1 August 1865 at Pembroke Twp, Renfrew County, Ontario.3 
(Witness) Marriage22 January 1885 He witnessed the marriage of James Coxford and Mary M Campbell on 22 January 1885 at St John's Church, Eganville, Renfrew County, Ontario.4 
Marriage*9 June 1887 Robert Elliott Coxford married Isabella Jane Raitt on 9 June 1887 at Pembroke, Renfrew County, Ontario.1 
Death*29 November 1914 Robert Elliott Coxford died on 29 November 1914 at Pembroke, Renfrew County, Ontario, at age 54.2 
Burial* He was buried at Wesley United Cemetery, Pembroke, Renfrew County, Ontario.
Anecdote* Robert Coxford began his Corrections career at the Renfrew County Jail in Pembroke in 1907, at the age of 54 years. He left a wife, Isabella, and they had six children.

Coxford was beaten to death by inmates Peter Whiteduck, 32 years, and Anthony Jocko, 22 years, during a surprise escape attempt. Gaoler William Brown was also badly beaten.

On Sunday 29 November 1914 inmates Whiteduck and Jocko were cooling their heels in the Pembroke Gaol, remanded on charges of stealing liquor and other goods from sealed box cars on the Grand Trunk Railway the previous Tuesday, and awaiting their trial date the following week. They were looking at a lengthy prison sentence.

The two inmates concocted a plan to lure Coxford into the cell block common corridor area bathroom, saying one of the water taps was not working. They would assault the Officer, take his keys, and escape through the doors to the courthouse, and on to freedom.

Officers Coxford and Brown had distributed supper to the inmates, and then gone to the Officers Room. Shortly after Coxford went back down to the cell area to collect the dishes.

Jocko informed the Officer that there was a problem with one of the taps in the bathroom, Whiteduck was hiding behind the bathroom door. Coxford went there and upon entering the area was bashed in the head with a board broken off a bench located in the common area. Coxford was beaten badly as the board was later found in two pieces and heavily stained with blood. He was left lying on the bathroom floor.

The two inmates headed for the walkway and stairway to the doors to the courthouse. Other inmates began making a commotion, and Gaoler Brown headed to the cell area from the Officers Room. Jocko and Whiteduck hid under the stairway and jumped Brown as he descended the stairs, beating him too. Brown called for help from ‘trusty’ Ferguson working in the kitchen. Ferguson came with a long heavy poker, but the poker was wrestled away from him, and then used on Brown and the trusty. Brown and Ferguson were left badly beaten and bleeding profusely on the corridor floor. Brown received a 5” gash on the back of his head, and additional 3” gashes on the side of his head. The trusty was stabbed in the abdomen.

Jocko and Whiteduck ran up the stairs to the courthouse door, finding it locked, one went back and took the keys from Coxford. Unlocking the courthouse door, the two ran through the court and out onto William Street and into White’s bush and away.

Brown came around enough to drag himself to his nearby house getting help from his son Dalton Brown. The alarm was sent to Sheriff Morris of the jail break. Dr. Graham was summoned from his home across the street from the jail. Dalton ran to the jail bathroom finding Coxford face down on the cement in blood, dead. Jail physician Dr. Joseph was also summoned. First, Coxford was removed from the bathroom, and the jail locked down. The bloody footprints through the jail and courthouse told the story, and the focus was immediately directed at capture of the escapees.

The town fire alarm was sounded at the direction of Chief Butler, and in short order the towns citizenry arrived at the jail. Rural residents, and stations along the Canadian Pacific and Grand Trunk Railways were contacted by phone to be on the lookout for the fugitives, all the firearms and ammunition were acquired from the local hardware store and armoury, and all available automobiles were requisitioned. Residents dressed for the cold, loaded into the vehicles, and on foot, were sent in all directions from town with directions from Sheriff Morris capture dead or alive. The sheriff offered a $200.00 reward for the apprehension of the fugitives.

One posse headed out on foot tracking the two in the direction they took from the gaol into the bush. The Indian Reserve at Golden Lake was being watched, and friends of the fugitive were visited and any guns they had were taken.

Paul Benoit, a suspected participant with Whiteduck and Jocko in the train thefts was arrested, and local hotels were searched. The father of Jacko was hunting some distance away on Indian River, and he was visited. Jocko’s home was searched finding only his aged mother. Provincial detectives from Toronto and Officers from the Indian Department in Ottawa were brought into the search.

By Monday night reports from the Reserve had shots fired at the two escapees, but they had vanished back into the bush. The two got separated during the escape from the gunfire.

By Tuesday night Whiteduck went to the home of Ferdinand Luloff, about a mile from Golden Lake, tired, cold, wet, and hungry. One of the family members was able to get out of the house and warn authorities. When they arrived, they entered the house taking Whiteduck at gunpoint without incident. Whiteduck was arrested and formally charged. Whiteduck was returned to the gaol smiling to a crowd of 500 Pembroke residents. He was lodged in the cell he escaped from three nights before.

The search for Anthony Jacko the second escapee continued nonstop until Saturday 05 December 1914 some 70 miles from the start. On the Bonnechere River about 22 miles northeast of the Village of Killaloe at the residence of Larry Charbot the escapee stopped for something to eat and rest. Charbot sent one of his sons to inform local official. Four men arrived outside the residence on Friday night. They decided to surround the house and wait outside until Jacko emerged fearing weapons inside along with the rest of the Charbot family.

Saturday just before 7 a.m. Jacko came out the front door. The Officer told him to stop. Jacko took off running towards a swamp area nearby. The posse took up chase. Jacko was faster and gaining ground. The posse again yelled for Jacko to halt. He ignored the hails. Seven shots were fired as he hightailed it. He hopped a fence and one shot hit him in the foot but he didn’t slow down. A second hit him in the back doing serious internal damage. He went a few more feet stopped then went back to the fence he just hopped. Leaning on the fence he told the officers "Come ahead fellows, don’t be afraid.”

Jacko walked part of the way back to the Charbot house but had to be carried the rest of the way. Dr. McDermott of Lillaloe attended to Jacko’s wounds, and Rev. Father Reynolds was sent to administer the last rites. Jacko was taken to Killaloe.

Jack Brown was sent from Pembroke to return the escapee from Killaloe. The trip to Pembroke was expected to kill Jacko due to his poor condition. When Brown arrived in Killaloe Jacko asked if Brown was the gaoler’s son. He said he was. Jacko asked if he would be returned to the gaol and Brown answered that he would after he recovered sufficiently in hospital. Jacko said he would rather die.

At 2:45 p.m. on Sunday word was sent to Pembroke that Jacko was dead. An inquest into the death of Jacko was held on Monday. He was buried on the Reserve on Tuesday.

The inquest of Coxford had began on Monday 30 November and concluded on Tuesday 08 December 1914 in Pembroke.

Whiteduck died in custody from tuberculosis before he was tried for Coxford’s murder. 


Isabella Jane Raitt b. 2 Jul 1865, d. 24 Dec 1948


  1. [S1969] Robert Elliott Coxford and Isabella Jane Raitt, Ontario Marriage Register, Marriage Registration No. 010796 (1887).
  2. [S1004] Robert Elliott Coxford, Death Registration No. 27482 (1914).
  3. [S833] Robert Elliott Coxford, Baptism Registration (1860).
  4. [S1970] James Coxford and Mary M Campbell, Ontario Marriage Register, Marriage Registration No. 010159 (1885).
  5. [S2003] Margaret Ethelwin Coxford, Birth Registration (1888).
  6. [S2010] William Thomas Johns and Margaret Ethelwin Coxford, Ontario Marriage Register, Marriage Registration (1915).
  7. [S2004] Ida Irene Coxford, Birth Registration No. 30216 (1890).
  8. [S2005] Ida Irene Coxford, Death Registration No. 027181 (1911).
  9. [S2006] Robert Clarence Coxford, Birth Registration (1897).
  10. [S2009] Robert Clarence Coxford and Sarah Edna Kenny, Ontario Marriage Register, Marriage Registration No. 043399 (1926).
  11. [S2007] Walter Coxford, Birth Registration (1900).
  12. [S2008] Isabella Coxford, Birth Registration No. 038677 (1903).