There’s an interesting story behind Capone’s Quadeville Hideout. It begins like this. Alphonse Capone (aka) Scarface was born January 17, 1899, in Brooklyn, New York, receiving his infamous nickname in a bar knife fight after hitting on some guy’s sister. Capone was an American prohibition gangster who was the boss lord of organized crime in Chicago from 1925 to 1931 and eventually became one of the most famous gangsters of all time.
Capone was the fourth of nine children who grew up in Brooklyn and attended school until the age of fourteen years old before dropping out for hitting a teacher. He worked several odd jobs, including being a candy store clerk, a bowling alley pin boy and a labourer.
Capone also had way too much time on his hands for a young lad. This inevitably allowed him to become a member of several youth gangs, including The South Brooklyn Rippers, The Forty Thieves and The James Street Boys, who were well known in the area for petty crimes and vandalism.
Al Capone met his future wife, Mae Coughlin, at the age of 18. She was two years older than him and often complicit in his lifelong crime spree. While she didn’t wield a gun herself, she was well aware of what her husband did for a living and always remained by his side through it all.
Capone’s Adult Years
By the age of twenty-one, Capone’s petty crimes had escalated into much more violent crimes, including murder. However, he was never actually charged with any of the crimes he committed as there were never any eye-witnesses.
He soon became the crime leader of Chicago, running gambling, prostitution and many bootlegging rackets while brutally gunning down his enemy rivals.
In 1926, at the age of 27 years old, Capone went into hiding for three months after a rival mobster was killed and police were on the lookout for him. It is rumoured that this is when Capone travelled to Canada and used his hideout in Quadeville, a small town near Foymount, Ontario, to lay low until the heat was off of him once again.
On February 14th, 1929, the Valentine’s Day Massacre took place in which seven members of Bugs Moran’s gang were machine-gunned down against a garage wall on Chicago’s North Side. Moran and his gang were lured into the garage by a bootlegger to buy whiskey while Capone’s men dressed in stolen police uniforms barged in and staged a raid. The bootleggers were then lined up against the garage wall and cold bloodily machine-gunned to death.
The notoriety of this heinous crime made Capone famous even though he was never officially charged in connection to the massacre.
In fact, Capone was never charged with any of his gang-related crimes other than possession of a pistol and tax evasion in 1931, in which he would be tried and found guilty of. Despite his attempt at handpicking the jury in which the judge shockingly changed at the last minute, Capone would be ordered to spend 11 years in federal prison as well as pay some hefty fines for tax evasion.
During his time in prison, Capone became very ill with syphilis. He was released after serving just 6 years of his sentence for good behaviour.
He was admitted to a long-term care facility to be cared for as his health began to rapidly decline from the onset of his disease, leaving him at the brain capacity of a twelve-year-old boy.
Al Capone died on January 25, 1947, of a heart attack at the age of 48 years old in Palm Island, Florida with his wife and family by his side. He had one son, Albert Francis (Sonny) Capone Jr., who later changed his name from Capone to Brown in 1966 to remove all ties from his father. He died in 2004 at the age of 85.
Quadeville’s Secret Hideout
According to the Mission House Museum and Gallery in Combermere, Ontario, it is said that Al Capone had a fortress in Chicago. He also had a mansion in Palm Springs. A rumour implies that he may just have had a secret hideaway deep within the Madawaska Valley as well.
It is also said that Capone was a flashily-dressed gangster who became a notorious and impeccably tailored self-made businessman. He had a ready-made smile and a quick handshake. These attributes often turned out to be fatal for his rivals. It took five hundred gang-related murderers to make Capone the boss lord of Chicago.
His friends all called him Al. The newspapers called him ‘Scarface.’ The public knew him as Public Enemy Number One. Although one thing for certain is that if anyone happened to see anything, they often turned their heads in fear of his wrath.
For more than forty years, that reputation alone was enough to keep Capone’s Quadeville hideout a virtual secret from the rest of the world.
The secluded hideout was established in the 1930s just north of Quadeville. Well hidden off Letterkenny Road, members of Capone’s gang sought sanctuary there from rival gangs and the police.
Quadeville is a short distance east of the small town of Combermere. This secret hideout has become a fascinating story over the years for many local residents and visitors to the area.
A long, sturdy, log building was built by local carpenters to the specifications laid down by Capone’s second-in-command; one of Capone’s star gunmen. The building no longer looks like the fortress it once was when Capone’s gang was there. It has since been converted and furnished as a summer home. At one time, it was owned by Harvey and Rene Mesdag of Toronto.
The building and property have since been sold several times. It is presently owned by someone from Pembroke. Its windows and doors were boarded up to keep out present-day vandals. Carved initials can be seen on the log exterior. Anything of value left inside the building is now pretty much ruined.
According to the Mission House Museum, it is also rumoured that a former property owner, who also provided the pine logs for the structure, became uneasy over non-payment. He decided to go to Toledo and presented himself at the gangsters’ headquarters. Unexpectedly, he was met by a ‘frontman.
Once there, the Canadian was grilled by one of Capone’s lieutenants, who happened to be wearing a holstered handgun. “Now we can settle this matter between ourselves in the back office or you can come and take it up directly with the big boss at 10 o’clock sharp.” These were the two choices he was given. The words were loaded with menace. The Canadian replied that he would return and talk to the boss.
Next, he walked quickly to his waiting cab where the nervous driver warned him to get back to Canada as fast as he could. And so he did just that. That Canadian was August Quade and the amount of money owing to him was $1,500, which was a pile of money in the 30s. It is interesting to note that no one ever saw Capone in the hideaway or in stores in the area.
Other Places of Interest Nearby
Crooked Slide Park – 343 Old Barry’s Bay Road, Madawaska Valley, Ontario
Crooked Slide Park is 3 km from Combermere on Old Barry’s Bay Road. It’s irresistible to photographers, both amateur and professional. Its uniqueness is attributed to the reconstruction of an existing log chute on Byers Creek. Originally, it was used by loggers in the early 1900s to float logs down the Madawaska River.
There are three or four bends in Byers Creek at the mouth of the log chute. When the logs were going through these narrow bends, they would jam up. In order to prevent this, a chute was built. Water was diverted through the chute by closing a control dam. The logs would float approximately 220 feet in the chute and then fall 10 feet, back into the creek. From there it was clear, floating to Combermere where they emptied into the Madawaska River.
Murray Bros. Lumber Company of Barry’s Bay generously donated the six-and-a-half acres of land used to build the chute and park area. The chute was first reconstructed in 1973, and again in 1994 after it had deteriorated.
Polish Kashub Heritage Museum – 1112 Wilno Road, Wilno, Ontario
The Polish Kashub Museum is located in nearby Wilno and has a library, a heritage store and heritage displays. The park also includes three old log-style buildings, two smaller wooden buildings and a large timber-framed machine shed.
Covered Bridge Park – 1424 Round Lake Road, Killaloe, Ontario
Waterfront Log Cabin, Cottages, Yurts, Trailer and Tent sites on Bonnechere River; surrounded by 150 acres of mature forest, meadows and trails just outside of Algonquin Provincial Park. Boat, canoe and kayak rentals. Covered Bridge Park is great for hiking, fishing and canoeing. https://coveredbridgepark.com/contact_us.html
Grumblin Grannys – 19478 Hwy. 60, Madawaska Valley
Grumblin Grannys offers a selection of unique decor for home, office or personal items. They bring shipments in containers by sea and pass the savings to their customers. Make sure to stop by when in the area.
The Moose on the Beach Restaurant – 949 Lake Clear Road, Eganville, Ontario
In 1929, the Foran family built the lodge for travellers and local folks to enjoy the Ottawa Valley hospitality. The tradition continues in their newly restored lodge, which is now home to the Moose on the Beach Restaurant.
Here you will find great food at a reasonable price served in a cozy atmosphere. The Moose is open to guests and the public every day from late June through August. Weekends from mid-May to late June and Labor Day through mid-October. Full table service is available Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Take-out service is available every day from the end of June through Labor Day. Take-out customers are welcome to enjoy their meals in the restaurant’s dining room or on the patio deck.
Capone’s Hideout as it Stands Today
My daughter and I excitedly set out to visit Capone’s hideout this past Thursday. Before leaving our home, we set the GPS coordinates, using Google maps on my cellphone, to 386 Letterkenny Road, Palmer Rapids, Ontario. It was a great idea to set the GPS ahead of time because, for the most part, there was no service on the back roads driving to our destination. However, because we set the GPS ahead of time, we were able to easily follow the directions straight to the location.
Along the way there, there weren’t too many points of interest to be seen besides the beautiful, dense trees and scenic views and small lakes along the way. Once we arrived in Foymount, Ontario, it was pretty neat to drive past the old abandoned army base built at the highest ground level and used as a radar station in the 1950s. The old and weather-beaten houses and buildings still stand empty today. A definite destination to make a pit stop at on your trip to Capone’s hideout.
I must admit, it was a little eerie, to say the least, noticing random individuals standing at the side of the roadways as if to be monitoring their little ghost town from visitors. My daughter and I were more than a little freaked out, actually. So much so that as our GPS navigated us closer to Capone’s Hideout, we decided that not stopping was in our best interest. We did, however, slow down to get a good look at the overgrown lot that well hid the view of Capone’s old secluded cabin.
Large boulders now cover the entrance to the hideout to prevent cars from pulling in off the road. There are also visible signs and cameras posted, warning people to stay out. There is also no place to park a vehicle along the narrow shoulder of the road. So, unless you are in the mood for trekking on foot and are prepared to risk being caught by the new owners, I would not recommend attempting to visit this location up close and personal. If you are brave enough to venture on foot, remember to be respectful because you are on camera.
After years of vandalism, the new owners are clearly serious about keeping trespassers off the property. Who knows, maybe one day this historical sight will be turned into a museum for us all to enjoy? But for now, it is a great piece of Ontario history to reminisce about.
“My grandfather told of men with suits and fedoras, driving black cars and with a big German shepherd dog that used to come to his barbershop for haircuts on a regular basis. He never asked them any questions. His family was sure that they came from the Quadville area and that they were part of Al Capone’s gang. Maybe even Al Capone himself.” – Linda Dregischan
Featured Image Credit: Corey Moylan