In 1773 Capt. John Viets, who had worked in the New-Gate copper mine, was appointed the first master of the prison in what was then part of Simsbury -- now East Granby. The same year he also was granted a tavern license. Viets sometimes allowed certain prisoners to leave their cells and have a drink at his tavern, just across the road. John Hinson was unlikely to get such special treatment. On Dec. 22, 1773, the 20-year-old burglar and con man was the first criminal confined to New-Gate prison. According to the Colebrook Historical Society, when Hinson was turned over to Viets, the judge warned that "he is sly, ornery and cunning as a viper. If there is any way of breaking out of Simsbury jail, Hinson will find it." Eighteen days later, Hinson did just that. On a snowy January evening, Viets checked on his prisoner and found only an empty bed. Hinson's personal belongings were gone, and so was he. A letter to the General Assembly dated Jan. 17, 1774, from the prison's three overseers described the escape: "We the subscribers, overseers of New-Gate Prison, would inform your Honors that New-Gate prison is so strong and secure that we believe it is not [possible] for any prisoner out there to escape, unless by assistance from abroad: yet it so happens that one John Hinson ... has escaped by the help of some evil minded person at present unknown, who in the night ... drew the prisoner out of the shaft." Hinson's departure led to another Connecticut first: a classified ad offering a reward for an inmate's escape from a state prison. The week after Hinson's escape, The Courant published an advertisement placed by Viets, offering $10 to anyone who "will take up said fellow and return him to the subscriber ... of said prison, or shall discover those that aided him in his said escape, so that they may be brought to conviction." No record of Hinson's return to New-Gate was found. Hinson's escape, and the ad that followed, wouldn't be the last.