Posted by Amy Johnson Crow on July 11, 2014 in Collections
Dick Fellows photograph, Folsom State prison, 1882. From California, Prison and Correctional Records, 1851-1950 collection.
Dick Fellows photograph, Folsom State prison, 1882. From California, Prison and Correctional Records, 1851-1950 collection.

Richard Perkins was born in Kentucky around 1845. As a young man, he answered the call of the West and headed to California to seek his fortune. Things didn’t go as he had planned, so he decided to take the alias of “Dick Fellows” and supplement his income by robbing stagecoaches.

In 1870, he was convicted of robbery and being an accessory to murder. He was sentenced to eight years and was sent to San Quentin State Prison on 31 January 1870. He was paroled after four years.

After being released, he tried various pursuits, but never with much luck and he returned to robbing stagecoaches. Unfortunate for him, his luck at highway robbery wasn’t much better than his luck in lawful work. Dick Fellows has been described as “California’s most unsuccessful highwayman.” In one attempt on a Wells Fargo wagon, he was bucked from his horse and knocked unconscious. A later attempt at a different wagon was marginally more successful. He got the treasure box… but had forgotten to pack the tools to open it. Thrown from his horse (do you see a pattern here?), he tried to lug the box all the way back to town. He broke his leg, stole another horse, and was later captured when investigators tracked the stolen horse. Fellows was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. He was sent to Folsom State Prison in April 1882. (He was pardoned and released in 1908.)

The new collection California, Prison and Correctional Records, 1851-1950, has records about Dick Fellows and his cellmates in Folsom and San Quentin state prisons, along with the California School for Girls, the Ventura School for Girls, and the Whittier State School.

In addition to the photographs in the collection, many of the registers have physical descriptions of the inmate along with biographical information. The records of the California and Ventura girls schools often name a parent or guardian.

As you go through the California prison records, be sure to follow all of the records for an individual. Records from different times of being incarcerated can have different information. For example, Dick Fellows’ physical description is much more detailed in his admission at San Quentin than it was at Folsom.

Looking for troublemaking ancestors who stayed back East? Read about our new collection of New York prison records.



Amy Johnson Crow

Amy Johnson Crow is a Certified Genealogist and an active lecturer and author. Her roots run deep in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states. She earned her Masters degree in Library and Information Science at Kent State University. Amy loves to help people discover the joys of learning about their ancestors and she thinks that there are few things better than a day in a cemetery. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Amy Johnson Crow.


  1. Nicki Kovalcik

    I have a relative who in the 1920’s was in a reform school for boy. Morganza is in western Pennsylvania. Any chance that you will get these records and put them on Ancestry?

  2. Carolyn Baker

    I have a great grandfather who during the Civil War (Confederate in SC) was court martialed for desertion. Where can I get the records of the court martial proceedings? I have his service records from Fold3. Thank you.

Comments are closed.