How a man escaped in 1893 from the new jail in San Bernardino – San Bernardino Sun

A new county courthouse was built in the city of San Bernardino in 1892. As was common in those days, the county jail was in the courthouse building. It took less than a year before the first escape occurred from the new county jail.

A man by the name of Link Pierce was being held in jail under indictment for bribery, according to the Riverside Enterprise. Pierce, described by the Enterprise as a “bold, bad man,” made a study of the jail layout and operations and devised a plan to escape.

Apparently at that time the jail cell doors were not locked during the day, they were only locked at night. On Jan. 3, 1893, Pierce took advantage of this arrangement by making a dummy out of an old sack stuffed with hay and placing it under the blankets of his bed in his jail cell. He then entered the female section of the jail, the door of which was across the hall and also unlocked.

He then somehow managed to then crawl up above a door and make his way back over to above the corridor in the men’s section of the jail. When the jailer, Pink McCullough, came around to check on the inmates before locking them in, McCullough saw nothing amiss in Pierce’s cell, and then locked the cell door, unwittingly locking Pierce out of his cell, not in it. After McCullough left, Pierce made his escape from the jail through a window on the east end of the corridor.

In 1893, the position of jailer was an elected one, and McCullough had only been in office for three days when Pierce made his escape. Sheriff James P. Booth offered a reward of $100 for the missing prisoner. Pierce was described in local newspapers as being about 28 years old, 5’11” tall, weighing about 165 pounds, with brown hair and mustache, and a loose, swinging walk.

On Jan. 10, the Enterprise mentioned, in a short column titled “county seat news,” (as Riverside was not a separate county quite yet), that Pink McCullough had resigned as jailer, because he “could not endure the hilarity of the boys over his recent episode with Link Pierce.” Perhaps McCullough was a bit too thin-skinned to be the county jailer.

Unfortunately nothing more could be found about Pierce or McCullough. It appears that both “Link” and “Pink” were nicknames, which makes it difficult to find further information on the two men. There were a number of men who had the same last name in the area at the time, and who had a middle initial (“L” for Pierce and “P” for McCullough) that was appropriate.

With no more information known, it allows us to use our imaginations concerning the fate of these two men.

Did Pierce escape capture and go on to live in another state? Did McCullough survive the humiliation of the jail escape and stay in San Bernardino, or did he move away to escape the jokes about the jail escape? Maybe more information will come to light, or maybe we will never know!

If you have an idea for a future Back in the Day column about a local historic person, place or event, contact Steve Lech and Kim Jarrell Johnson at

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