Mysterious Murders




ALTHOUGH fifty years have passed since the notorious and beautiful young woman, Doras Doyen, otherwise known as Helen Jewett, was mysteriously butchered in her bed at No. 41 Thomas Street in this city, the brutal and unavenged crime has not been forgotten. Many old residents still recall with horror the cruel murder of the fair cyprian, which was committed early on the morning of April 12, 1836. Doras Doyen was born in Augusta, Maine, and at the time of her tragic death was but twenty-three years of age. Her many charms were thus described by an able writer, at the time of the murder:

“She was a shade below the middle height, but of a form of exquisite symmetry, which, though voluptuously turned in every perceptible point, was sufficiently dainty in its outline to give her the full advantage of a medium stature to the eye. Her complexion was that of a clear brown, bearing in it all the voluptuous ardor of that shade.

“Her features were not what might be termed regular, but there was a harmony in their expression which was inexpressibly charming; the nose was rather small, which was a fault; the mouth was rather large, but the full richness of its satin lips and the deep files of ivory infantry which crescented within their rosy lines redeemed all its latitudinal excess; while her large, black, steady eyes, streaming now with glances of precocious knowledge, and anon languishing with meditation or snapping with mischievousness, gave the whole picture a peculiar charm which entitled it to the renown of one of the most fascinating faces that ever imperiled a susceptible observer.

“In disposition this lovely creature was equal to her form. She was frank and amiable. Her heart was kind to excess to all who required her assistance, though the ardor of her temperament rendered her amenable to fiercest sentiments of passion.”

A young clerk in a Maiden Lane store, named Richard P. Robinson, was among the many admirers of the comely Helen Jewett. He was strikingly handsome, having a frank, boyish face that was well set off by curling hair of golden brown. Robinson, though but eighteen years of age, was an habitue of the .fast resorts in the city, where he was commonly known as “Frank Rivers.” The long Spanish cloak which he wore jauntily about his shapely person became, after the, murder of his mistress, the rage among the young men about town, and was known as the “Robinson Cloak.”

It was at a theatre that Helen Jewett and Richard P. Robinson met one night by chance. The clerk defended her against the advances of a drunken ruffian and was rewarded with an invitation to call on her at the house of a Mrs. Berry in Duane Street, known to the wild young men of the day as the “Palais de la Duchesse Berri.” There Helen received him in an apartment that would have done credit to the palace of Cleopatra. Other visits soon followed, and within a few weeks her passing fancy for the handsome youth ripened into the maddest infatuation.

For a time all went well, but at last rumors began to reach Helen’s ears that she was but a sharer in her admirer’s affections. Determined to discover the truth she disguised herself as a young man, and posting herself in front of the Maiden Lane store in which Robinson was employed waited till evening, and followed him first to his boarding-house in Dey Street and from there to a house in Broome Street, where she found him in the company of a rival siren.

Mad with jealousy Helen threw herself on the woman and struck her repeatedly in the face, her diamond rings drawing blood at every blow. She repented her violence and wrote to her lover a few days afterwards imploring him to forgive and return to her. A reconciliation followed, but within a few months, Helen, furious at the discovery of some fresh perfidy on the part of Robinson, taunted him with having caused the death of a young girl whom he had wronged and then deserted. Terrified at the consequences of exposure he professed to be ready to do anything that Helen wished, and finally purchased her silence by promising to marry her. Once more all went well until Helen learned that Robinson not only did not intend to keep his promise but was on the eve of being married to a young lady of wealth and position. In a fury she wrote him a letter threatening the most dire consequences if he failed to keep faith with her.

There is little doubt now that that letter sealed the fate of Helen Jewett. Her life only stood between Robinson and fortune. On April io, 1836, the day preceding the murder, Robinson received a note from Helen begging him to call on her that night and containing a hint of the terrible penalty in case of a refusal to do so. He replied, promising to call the next night.

The house of Mrs. Townsend, No. 41 Thomas Street, an establishment famous for the magnificence of its appointments from one end of the country to the other, was the place where Helen was then living. Robinson, enveloped in his long Spanish cloak, rang the bell of this house between nine and ten o’clock on the night of Saturday, April ix, 1836. At the door the clerk was met by his young mistress, who was heard to exclaim joyously: “Oh, my dear Frank, how glad I am that you have come!”

Helen an hour afterwards from the head of the stairs called for a bottle of champagne. When Mrs. Townsend brought the bottle of wine up-stairs the young woman received it from her at the room door. That was the last time the poor girl was seen alive.

The inmates of the house one by one retired, and at one o’clock on that Sunday morning all was still. Marie Stevens, who occupied a room directly opposite that of Helen’s, was aroused an hour later by a noise that sounded like that of a blow or a heavy fall. It was followed by a long and heavy moan. Getting up she listened at the door. All was then as silent as the grave. Presently she heard the door of Helen’s apartment open gently and the sound of feet passing along the hall. Cautiously opening her door she saw a tall figure, wrapped in a long cloak and holding a small lamp, glide down the staircase. Then she returned to her room.

Mrs. Townsend at three o’clock had occasion to go down stairs, and found a glass lamp belonging to Helen still burning on a table in the parlor. Looking around she discovered that the back door was open, and after calling out twice “Who’s there?” fastened it and went up-stairs to Helen’s room. The door was ajar, and as she opened it a dense volume of reeking black smoke drove her back and almost overpowered her. Her screams of terror roused the house in an instant, and several of the inmates rushed to the spot and attempted to force their way through the smoke. The draught from the open door at that moment caused the smoldering fire to burst into flames, whose flickering light revealed to the horror-stricken women the form of the ill-fated Helen lying bathed in blood in the centre of the room. Her fair forehead was almost divided by a ghastly axe-stroke. The bed linen in which her form was half enveloped was burning brightly. A sickening odor of scorched flesh pervaded the apartment. The awful discovery redoubled the excitement in the house. The women screamed with terror, and in a few minutes three policemen rushed in. With their assistance the fire was soon extinguished.

Helen Jewett’s body, clad in a dainty night-dress, lay with the face towards the bed; one arm lay across the breast and the other was raised over the head. The left side from the waist up was burned to a crisp. The examination of the remains showed that death had been caused instantly by the stroke of the hatchet on the right temple, and that the burning had taken place after death.

The room in which the tragedy was enacted was a marvel of luxury. It was filled with magnificent furniture, mirrors, splendid paintings and objects of art, and contained many rare and beautiful volumes.

The trail of the assassin was plainly marked. In the yard was picked up a bloodstained hatchet, and close by the rear fence lay the long Spanish cloak which Robinson invariably wore. The murderer after scaling the fence had found himself in the rear of a small frame house inhabited by negroes. He had forced his way into the cellar and from there had made his exit into the street, down which he was seen to run at full speed by a negro woman, who had been awakened by the noise made in forcing open the door.

Robinson was found apparently fast asleep with his room-mate, James Tow. He showed no emotion when told of the murder, and merely remarked, “This is bad business,” as he quietly rose and dressed himself. While he was doing so the policeman noticed on the knees and seat of his trousers were marks of whitewash such as might have been received while scaling the fence in Mrs. Townsend’s yard. When confronted with the body he retained the most perfect self-possession and turned away repeating, “This is a bad business.”

Robinson’s trial began on June 2, 1836, and lasted five days. The court room was packed to suffocation every day of the trial. So strongly did sympathy set for the prisoner in some quarters, that the fast young men of the day flocked to the trial in crowds, wearing in his honor glazed caps such as he habitually wore, which were long afterwards known as “Frank Rivers” caps.

District-Attorney Phoenix conducted the prosecution, assisted by Mr. Robert Morris. The prisoner was defended by Mr. Ogden Hoffman, Mr. William M. Price and Mr. Maxwell.

The weight of testimony was overwhelmingly against the accused. Fortunately for him, Marie Stevenson, the woman who saw him leaving Helen Jewett’s room, was found dead in her bed before the trial began.

The cloak was proved to be Robinson’s, and the hatchet was identified as having been taken from the store where he was employed. The string which was tied round its handle was shown to have formed a part of the cord belonging to his cloak. His trousers, marked with whitewash, were also put in evidence. A drug clerk swore that the prisoner, under the name of Douglas, had attempted to purchase arsenic from him ten days previous to the murder.

Mr. Hoffman made a sentimental but powerful appeal in the prisoner’s behalf and undertook to prove by the testimony of Robert Furlong, a grocer at the corner of Cedar and Nassau streets, that the accused had been in his store until a quarter past ten on the night of the murder and therefore could not have entered the Thomas Street house between nine and ten, as was sworn to by Mrs. Townsend.

Furlong committed suicide two weeks after the murder by leaping from the deck of a vessel into the North River.

The rest of the defense consisted of attempts to impeach the veracity of the inmates of the Thomas Street house. The colored woman who saw the prisoner escape from the cellar door was spirited away before the trial began.

On the evening of the fifth day the case was given to the jury, who, in spite of the tremendous array of testimony brought forward by the prosecution and the feeble character of the defense, brought in a verdict of “not guilty” after a very short deliberation.

It was generally believed that some of the jurymen had been corrupted. The verdict was received with a tremendous outbreak of enthusiasm among the glazed-cap sympathizers of the prisoner, and the court adjourned amid a scene of the wildest confusion.

Robinson immediately left for Texas, where he died a few years afterwards.




“THE Mystery of Marie Roget,” Edgar Allen Poe’s famous story, founded on the A mysterious murder of Mary Rogers, “the pretty cigar girl,” has made that tragedy known wherever the English language is spoken. Mary Cecilia Rogers was the only daughter of a respectable widow who kept a boarding-house for clerks in Nassau Street. She lived under her mother’s roof until she was twenty years of age, when John Anderson, the famous tobacco merchant, heard of her marvelous beauty and conceived the idea of making her serve as an attraction in his store on Broadway, near Thomas Street. This was in 1840.

As “the pretty cigar girl,” Mary became famous. Custom flocked to the store. The young swells of the time made the shop a lounging-place, and vied with each other in attempts to win the favor of the divinity of the counter. Her conduct, however, appears to have been a model of modest decorum. She was lavish in her smiles, but repelled all undue advances with a decision that checked the boldest of roués.

Once only did the breath of suspicion attach to her good name. She disappeared one day from the store, and was absent for a week, when she returned and answered all inquiries with the statement that she had been visiting friends in the country. A widely circulated rumor, however, had it that Mary had been seen several times during her absence with a tall, well-dressed man of dark complexion. Who this man was has never been ascertained, but it was afterwards rumored that on the day on which she was supposed to have been murdered a man answering to that description was seen in company with her.

A week after her return to the store she suddenly resigned her position and went home to assist her mother in household duties. It was soon afterwards announced that she was engaged to be married to Daniel Payne, a young clerk who boarded in her mother’s house.

On the beautiful morning of Sunday, July 25, 1841, Mary Rogers was last seen alive. At ten o’clock she knocked at Payne’s door, and told him that she was going to spend the day with a Mrs. Downing, in Bleecker Street. Payne replied that he would call for her and bring her home in the evening. A furious thunder-storm, however, broke out in the afternoon, and during the evening the rain fell in torrents. Payne, who was evidently a rather careless lover, failed to keep his engagement, supposing that his betrothed could just as well spend the night at her friend’s house. Next morning he went to his work as usual. When afternoon came and Mary did not return, her mother, who took it for granted that the girl had been storm-bound for the night at Mrs. Downing’s, became seriously alarmed. When Payne came home to dinner, and learned that Mary was still absent, he started at once for Mrs. Downing’s house. To his amazement, he was told that she had not been there on Sunday. The police were notified, and a general search was made. So well known was the girl that the news of her disappearance created a great sensation. No trace was found of her until the following Wednesday, when some fishermen, setting their nets off Castle Point, Hoboken, found the body floating near the shore, not far from a refreshment saloon known as “Sybil’s Cave.”

The corpse was frightfully disfigured, the face having been entirely destroyed, evidently with repeated blows of some blunt instrument. Round the waist was fastened a stout cord, to the other end of which a heavy stone was attached. Encircling her neck was a piece of lace torn from her dress, tied tightly enough to produce strangulation. Sunk deeply into the flesh of both wrists were the marks of cords. The hands were covered with light kid gloves, and a light bonnet hung by its ribbons around the neck. The clothing was horribly disordered and torn. A further examination disclosed the awful fact that a more fearful crime than murder had been committed.

It was established beyond all doubt that Mary had not gone to the house in Bleecker Street on the Sunday on which she disappeared. No one could be found who had seen her after she had left her home. At the end of a week not the faintest clew to the mystery had been found. The authorities then issued a proclamation calling on any persons who might be possessed of any knowledge of the girl’s history or habits that might furnish a possible clew to a motive for her murder to come forward. The next day the Coroner received an anonymous letter from a young man in Hoboken who declared that he had seen Mary in Hoboken on Sunday, but had not come forward before owing to what he termed “motives of perhaps criminal prudence.”

The writer stated that while walking in the Elysian Fields, then a famous summer resort on Sunday afternoons, he had seen a boat pull out from the New York side containing six rough-looking men and a well-dressed girl, whom he recognized as Mary Rogers. She and her companions left the boat on the beach and went into the woods. The writer was surprised to see her in the company of such rough-looking characters, and noticed that she evidently went with them willingly, laughing merrily as she walked away from the shore. They had scarcely disappeared in the woods when a second boat put out from New York and was pulled rapidly across the river by three handsomely-dressed gentlemen. One of them leaped ashore, and meeting two other gentlemen who were waiting on the beach, excitedly asked them if they had seen a young woman and six men land from a boat a few minutes before. On being told that they had, and on the direction they had taken being pointed out to him, he asked whether the men had used any violence towards the girl. He was told that she had apparently gone with them willingly, and he then, without making any further remark, returned to his. boat, which was at once headed for New York.

The author of this letter was never discovered, but the letter was printed in the newspapers, and the next day the two gentlemen who had been walking on the beach came forward and corroborated the story. They both knew Mary Rogers by sight, and said that the girl who entered the woods with the six roughs resembled her closely, but they were not sufficiently near to be able to positively affirm that it was she. The next important piece of evidence came from a stage-driver named Adams, who, after allowing several weeks to elapse, testified that on the fatal Sunday he had seen Mary arrive in Hoboken, at the Bull’s Ferry, accompanied by a tall, well-dressed man of dark complexion, and go with him to a road-house near the Elysian Fields known as “Nick Mullen’s.” Mrs. Loss, the keeper of the house, remembered that such a man had come to her place with a young woman on the day in question, and had gone into the adjoining woods after partaking of refreshments. Soon after their departure she heard a woman’s scream coming from the woods, but as the place was the resort of questionable characters, and such sounds were of frequent occurrence, she gave no further thought to the matter.

The exact spot on which there is no doubt the hapless girl was brutally ill-treated and then butchered was discovered by Mrs. Loss’s little children on September 25, exactly two months after the murder. While playing in the woods, they found in a dense thicket a white petticoat, a silk scarf, a parasol, and a linen handkerchief marked with the initials “M. R.” The ground all around was torn up and the shrubbery trampled as if the spot had been the scene of a terrific struggle. Leading out of the thicket was a broad track, such as might have been made by dragging a body through the bushes. It led in the direction of the river, but was soon lost in the woods. All the articles were identified as having been worn by Mary on the day of her disappearance.

Every effort was made to trace the “tall, dark-complexioned man,” but without success. It was rumored that he was a young naval officer. Mrs. Loss and several witnesses who claimed to have seen him with Mary during the time that she was absent from the cigar store, noticed that he seemed to be a person of a considerably higher social grade than his companion. It was generally believed at the time, that the murdered girl’s mother knew more about her daughter’s mysterious admirer than she chose to tell.

Daniel Payne never recovered from the shock caused by the awful death of his betrothed. The blow evidently affected his mind, and within a few weeks after the murder he committed suicide.

The crime was ever the subject of more searching and prolonged investigation, but in spite of everything that could be done, the veil of mystery has never been penetrated that shrouded the fate of “the pretty cigar girl.”




ASEVERE storm passed over this city on the night of Friday, January 30, 1857, and as the rain was falling and the wind moaning about ten o’clock a piercing shriek of “Murder!” rang through quiet, aristocratic Bond Street. A gentleman living at No. 36 Bond Street heard the cry, but as he was unable to tell from what direction it came, and as it was not repeated, he closed his door and retired. The city was shocked next morning by the discovery of the mysterious murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell, a wealthy but eccentric dentist who resided at No. 31 Bond Street.

Dr. Burdell owned the house, of which he was in the habit of letting the greater part, reserving for his own use only the reception parlors, operating room and bedroom on the second floor.

In person he was a fine portly man of middle age. A man of strong passions and ungovernable temper, he had few friends. In spite of his invested wealth, which was considerable, and his large and remunerative practice, his mode of life was so penurious as almost to entitle him to the name of miser. His house was usually let to persons of questionable character, a class among which he had many intimates.

He kept his own servant, an extraordinary girl, who, although in most respects an ignorant creature, possessed a singular facility for acquiring foreign languages. French, German and Spanish she spoke with fluency, having devoted all her spare time to study. She was devotedly attached to the doctor.

On May r preceding the murder Mrs. Cunningham, a buxom widow with two daughters, took possession of the house. Like others of the doctor’s tenants, her reputation was none of the best. The other inmates of the house were John J. Eckel, who was generally supposed to be paying court to Mrs. Cunningham; Snodgrass, a youth of eighteen, who was very attentive to the two daughters, Helen and Augusta; Daniel Ulman and Hannah Conlan, the cook.

Mrs. Cunningham appears to have divided her affection between Mr. Eckel and the doctor, each of whom did his utmost to supplant the other, with the result of causing frequent uproars in the house.

On October 28, 1856, Mrs. Cunningham was married by the Rev. Dr. Marvine— to whom it has never been clearly proved. The certificate states that it was to Dr. Burdell, but it is by no means certain that he was not personated on the occasion. As his lawful wife, Mrs. Cunningham would, of course, have been entitled to her legal share of his estate in the event of his sudden death.

Whether they were married or not, however, furious outbreaks between the couple continued to be of frequent occurrence, and matters finally came to such a pass that the doctor determined to look out for another tenant.

While Dr. Burdell was out at dinner on the evening preceding the murder Mrs. Cunningham asked Hannah, the cook, what woman it was that she had shown through the house that day. Hannah replied that it was the lady who was about to take the house.

“When does she take possession?” asked Mrs. Cunningham.

“The first of May,” replied the servant.

“He better be careful; he may not live to sign the papers,” was the reply.

What time the doctor came home that night is unknown, but the exact moment of the murder is fixed at half-past ten o’clock, the time when the cry of murder was heard.

It was eight o’clock in the morning when the boy came, according to custom, to make the fires in the doctor’s rooms. He brought a scuttle of coals from the cellar and setting it down opened the doors of the front room on the second floor. It struck against something which seemed heavy and yet yielding. The boy, who was whistling merrily, pushed it back and stepped into the room. The sight which met his gaze struck him rigid with horror. On its back, with arms outstretched and eyes staring blankly at the ceiling, lay the body of the owner of the house, the head resting in a pool of blood. Blood was everywhere—on the walls, carpets, furniture, splashed five feet high on the door and spurted to the very ceiling. The boy’s terror found vent in a shriek that was heard by every soul in the house. Mrs. Cunningham, with her family and boarders, were quietly at breakfast in the basement, apparently all unconscious of the awful scene up-stairs.

On learning what had occurred she gave way to a wild outburst of grief. Eckel exhibited little concern.

The room in which the body was found had evidently been the scene of a terrific life and death struggle. The furniture was tossed about in every direction and hardly an article was found to be free from the stain of blood.

No less than fifteen distinct stab wounds, any one of which was sufficient to have caused death, were counted on the corpse, which was fully clothed. They had the appearance of having been inflicted with a long, narrow dagger.

Around the neck, sinking deeply into the flesh, was the mark of a small cord, showing that strangulation had first been attempted. This failing, resort had been had to the dagger.

The gas was burning full. The bed had not been slept in. A complete examination of the house disclosed the startling fact that there were blood marks on the hall, on the stairs, in the lower bed, on the front door, even in the attic room and on the very steps leading to the scuttle in the roof.

The spirit of murder seemed to have staiked through the house, leaving everywhere the gory traces of its fingers.

At the Coroner’s inquest, which was held in the house, medical experts testified that the strokes of the dagger had been delivered by a left-handed person. Mrs. Cunningham was left-handed. The verdict charged Mrs. Cunningham and Eckel with the murder, and they were conveyed to the Tombs.

The case against Eckel was dismissed, but Mrs. Cunningham was placed on trial on the 6th of May. She was ably defended by Henry L. Clinton. District-Attorney A, Oakey Hall conducted the prosecution, but was unable to establish anything against the accused except the existence of a motive. The trial lasted three days, and the jury, after deliberating for an hour and a half, returned a verdict of “not guilty.”

Mrs. Cunningham, who had assumed the name of Burdell, immediately returned to her home at No. 31 Bond Street. Not satisfied with having escaped the penalty of the crime, which there is little doubt that she committed, and having become entitled by right of dower to a third of the murdered man’s wealth, she determined to gain possession of the whole of it, and in furtherance of this object conceived the remarkable idea of palming off on the authorities an infant heir to the estate.

A Dr. Uhl was taken into her confidence, with the understanding that he was to receive $1,000 for his share in the transaction, but the doctor promptly acquainted the District Attorney with the particulars of the widow’s ingenious little plan.

Mr. Hall entered eagerly into the spirit of what appeared to him a huge joke and actually undertook to supply the necessary infant. In due time Mrs. Cunningham announced that all was ready for the interesting denouement.

Disguised as a Sister of Charity she went to a house in Elm Street, where the infant, borrowed by Mr. Hall from Bellevue Hospital, was delivered to her by Dr. Uhl, and carried it to Bond Street in a basket. The next day the arrival of the heir was duly announced, and then Mr. Hall and a policeman stepped in and arrested the “mother.”

She was soon afterwards, however, set at liberty. The little girl who was used in carrying out this remarkable fraud was named Matilda Anderson. She and her real mother were placed on exhibition at Barnum’s Museum.

Mrs. Cunningham soon afterwards went to California. Eckel was imprisoned in the Albany penitentiary for complicity in some whiskey frauds in Brooklyn and died there.

The house in Bond Street, which is but little altered in appearance, is frequently shown to strangers as the scene of the “mysterious Cunningham-Burdell murder.”



THE most celebrated, and certainly the most mysterious, murder that has ever been perpetrated in New York City was committed on the night of July 28, 1870, during the fitting accompaniment of the most terrific thunder-storm that ever visited the city. While the thunder rolled, the lightning lit up the heavens with blinding flashes, and the rain fell in torrents, Mr. Benjamin Nathan, a wealthy stock-broker, was foully murdered in his handsome mansion, No. 12 West Twenty-third Street.

Mr. Nathan’s family, with the exception of his two sons, Frederick and Washington, whose business kept them in the city, were at the time absent at his country seat in Morristown, N. J. Mr. Nathan was in the habit of coming into town every day to go to his office in Broad Street. On the evening of Thursday, July 28, he left the house of his brother-in-law, in Nineteenth Street, at seven o’clock, saying that he intended to spend the night with his sons in Twenty-third Street, instead of going out to Morristown. His son Washington was then with him, but parted with his father in the street.

The old gentleman went directly home. A bed had been fitted up for his use in the centre of the front parlor on the second floor. Adjoining this room was the library, which was connected with it by a short passage. In the front room was a writing-desk and a small safe, in addition to the ordinary furniture.

A few minutes after six o’clock next morning, a policeman who was patrolling Twenty-third Street heard screams of murder near the corner of Fifth Avenue, and running in that direction, saw two young men standing in their night-dresses on the stoop of the Nathan mansion.

One of them presented a ghastly appearance, blood covering the front of his white night-dress, and even his bare feet were smeared with blood.

“Come in!” they shouted. “Father’s been murdered!”

He hurriedly entered the house, and going up-stairs, was shown by the distracted young men the mangled form of their father stretched on the floor of the front room, close to the door leading into the library.

The corpse presented the most horrifying appearance. It lay on its back, clad only in a white night-dress, with arms and legs outstretched. The head lay in a great pool of blood which flowed from numerous gaping wounds in the skull.

Blood was spattered over the door, door-posts, and adjoining furniture. Close to the body lay an overturned chair, also smeared with blood, which had been placed in front of the writing-desk.

The door of the safe stood wide open. The key was missing. On the bed lay a small drawer taken from the safe. It contained nothing but a few copper coins. On the floor, near the desk, lay a small tin box containing papers, also taken from the safe.

The policeman hastened to summon assistance, and a thorough search of the premises was made. On the desk lay a partially-written check to the order of H. Lapsley & Co., on the Union National Bank. The “stub” in the check-book was marked “July 29—$10,000 subscription for 100 shares German-American Bank.”

From the position of the corpse and the chair, it seemed evident that the old gentleman had been stricken down from behind while writing this check. The first blow must have been insufficient, for there were evidences of a struggle in the overturned furniture and the blood-stains that were distributed in every direction.

In addition to this, it was found that two of the fingers of the left hand had been fractured, evidently in warding off a blow. No less than fifteen wounds were counted on the head, most of them being on top and on the back of the skull. Brain matter, mingled with small splinters of bone, exuded in half a dozen places.

So much did the injuries vary in character, some having evidently been made with a blunt and others with a sharp instrument, that it was at first believed that they must have been inflicted with two weapons, and this led to the theory that more than one person had been concerned in the murder.

This view of the case, however, was disposed of when one of the policemen picked up, between the inner and outer doors of the front hall, an instrument known as a carpenter’s “dog,” covered with blood and hair. It consisted of a bar of iron about eighteen inches long, turned down and sharpened at each end, somewhat in the shape, of a staple.

It was readily seen how with the sharp end of such a weapon the incised wounds -could have been inflicted,while the other injuries were caused by blows from the blunt angle.

Simultaneously with the discovery of the weapon a bloody trail of naked footprints was found leading from the chamber of death, down the main staircase, to the front door and out on the stoop.

The discovery made a tremendous sensation among the searchers until Mr. Frederick Nathan explained that on being roused by the cry of his brother Washington, who discovered the body, he had rushed into the room and knelt beside it, thereby smearing his night-dress and feet with the blood. Finding that life was extinct, he had run down stairs to give the alarm, leaving the trail of blood with his naked feet.

The only persons in the house at the time were the two sons, who slept on the floor above their father; a servant-man, who occupied an adjoining room, and the housekeeper, who slept in the basement. None of these persons heard any noise during the night. Absolutely no trace could be discovered of the manner in which the assassin had gained access to the premises.

The announcement of the murder caused an excitement absolutely unparalleled. For days Twenty-third Street was fairly blocked with dense masses of people, who came to gaze at the windows of the room on the second floor. Stage-drivers either drove slowly past the house or pulled up altogether to give their passengers a chance to stare at the spot. Even private carriages drove slowly through the street all day, forming a long procession, their occupants leaning out of the windows to catch a glimpse of the scene.

Next day the Stock Exchange offered a reward of $10,000 for the arrest of the murderer, and Mayor Hall issued the following circular:


The widow having determined to increase the rewards heretofore offered by me (in my proclamation of July 29th), and no result having yet been obtained, and suggestions having been made that the rewards were not sufficiently distributive or specific, the offers in the previous proclamation are hereby superseded by the following:

A reward of $30,000 will be paid for the arrest and conviction of the murderer of Benjamin Nathan, who was killed in his house, No. 12 West Twenty-third Street, New York, on the morning of Friday,. July 29th.

A reward of $1,000 will be paid for the identification and recovery of each and every one of three diamond shirt studs, which were taken from the clothing of the deceased on the night of the murder. Two of the diamonds weighed, together, 1, 1-2, 1-18, and 1-16 carats, and the other, a flat stone, showing nearly a surface of one carat, weighed 3-4 and 1-32. All three were mounted in skeleton settings, with spiral screws, but the color of the gold setting of the flat diamond was not so dark as the other two.

A reward of $1,500 will be paid for the identification and recovery of one of the watches, being the gold anchor hunting-case stem-winding watch, No. 5657, 19 lines, or about two inches in diameter, made by Ed. Perregaux; or for the chain and seals thereto attached. The chain is very massive, with square links and carries a pendant chain, with two seals, one of them having the monogram, “B. N.,” cut thereon.

A reward of $300 will be given for information leading to the identification and recovery of an old-fashioned open-faced gold watch, with gold dial, showing rays diverging from the centre, and with raised figures believed to have been made by Tobias, and which was taken at the same time as the above articles.

A reward of $300 will be given for the recovery of a gold medal of about the size of a silver dollar, and which bears an inscription of presentation not precisely known, but believed to be either “To Sampson Simpson, President of the Jews’ Hospital,’’ or “To Benjamin Nathan, President of the Jews’ Hospital.”

A reward of $100 will be given for full and complete detailed information descriptive of this medal, which may be useful in securing its recovery.

A reward of $1,000 will be given for information leading to the identification of the instrument used in committing the murder, which is known as a “dog” or clamp, and is a piece of wrought iron about sixteen inches long, turned up for about an inch at each end, and sharp, such as is used by ship-carpenters, or post·trimmers, ladder-makers, pump-makers, sawyers, or by iron-moulders to clamp their flasks.

A reward of $800 will be given to the man who, on the morning of the murder, was seen to ascend the steps and pick up a piece of paper lying there, and then walk away with it, if he will come forward and produce it.

Any information bearing upon the case may be sent to the Mayor, John Jourdan, Superintendent of Police City of New York, or to James J. Kelso, Chief Detective Officer.

The foregoing rewards are offered by the request of, and are guaranteed by me.

(Signed)EMILY G. NATHAN, Widow of B. Nathan.

The following reward has also been offered by the New York Stock Exchange:

$10,000.—The New York Stock Exchange offers a reward of Ten Thousand Dollars for the arrest and conviction of the murderer or murderers of Benjamin Nathan, late a member of said Exchange, who was. killed on the night of July 28, 1870, at his house in Twenty-third Street, New York City.

J. L. BROWNELL, Vice-Chairman Gov. Com.

D. C. HAYES, Treasurer.

B. O. WHITE, Secretary.


MAYOR'S OFFICE, NEW YORK, August 5, 1870.

Great importance was attached to the blood-stained “dog,” and every effort was made to discover where it came from, but without success. It was a tool that is often used in building, and might have been left in the house years before by workmen. It certainly was not the kind of weapon that a deliberate assassin or professional burglar would have carried with him, and this suggested the theory that the murder had been committed by one of the inmates of the house.

Of one thing the police were perfectly sure—that the assassin, whoever he was was thoroughly acquainted with the premises. No one else, they argued, could have so completely covered up his tracks.

Tremendous was the sensation when it began to be whispered that Washington Nathan, then one of the handsomest and most popular young men in the highest New York society, was perhaps not free from the stain of his father’s blood. The idea seemed too monstrous for belief, but there were not a few people who clung to it. There was some mystery about the young man’s movements during the fatal night that he seemed indisposed to reveal. Then, too, he had been the first to discover the murder and the last one to see his father alive. In addition it was darkly hinted that Washington had much to gain by his father’s death. The unhappy young man was closely cross-examined at the Coroner’s inquest and fully accounted for every moment of his time from the hour he parted from his father up to a quarter-past twelve o’clock in the morning when he came home. His testimony was corroborated by that of Clara Dale, a young woman in whose company he had passed a portion of the night.

The day after the murder Patrick Devoy, a man employed to take care of the house of Prof. Samuel P. Morse, No. 5 West Twenty-second Street, told the police that at half-past ten o’clock on the night of the murder, a closed carriage had driven up to the entrance of the Nathan stables, which adjoined Professor Morse’s house, and had remained there all through the furious storm, until nearly two o’clock in the morning, when it suddenly drove rapidly away.

A gentleman who had come in from Morristown with Mr. Nathan told a story of a rough-looking man who was said to have been seen loitering the evening before about the Nathan country-seat, and who occupied a seat in the same car near Mr. Nathan, and watched him closely until the train reached Hoboken. Nothing ever came of either of these clews.

To enumerate the hundreds of theories propounded would be impossible. While many detectives clung to the belief that the murder had been committed by a member of the household, others insisted that it was the work of a burglar who had secreted himself in the house, and being found by the victim, had slain him to prevent an outcry, while others again held such wild theories as that the deed had been done by some fellow broker who was a rival in business, or that some escaped lunatic had entered the house.

Interest in the murder of the banker was revived by the confession of the notorious burglar, John T. Irving, and the subsequent arrest of Billy Forrester and several other professional cracksmen. Irving in 1873, during a fit of remorse and while in San Francisco, delivered himself up to the authorities for the Nathan murder. He was brought on to this city and made a confession, and promised to produce the necessary corroborative evidence if the District Attorney would consent not to prosecute him for two burglaries—one at Green’s pawnshop, No. 181 Bowery, where he had stolen diamonds worth $200,000, and the other at Casperfield’s jewelry store. The agreement fell through, and the evidence of the crime was not forthcoming. Irving’s confession ran as follows:

“On or about the 15th day of May, 1870, I was passing through Madison Park with Daniel Kelly and Caleb Gunnion, otherwise known as George Abrahams, when our attention was called by Kelly to a man standing in the Park. We advanced towards him, and on reaching him the following conversation ensued, Kelly addressing the man:

“‘Well, McNally, what are you doing here? I have not seen you for a long time.’

“‘That’s so,’ responded McNally, ‘and you are the last person I expected to meet. You have not been home long, have you?’

“‘ No—a few months. What are you doing now?’

“‘ I am at the old business again.’

“McNally took Kelly to one side, about six feet from ourselves. I never knew what transpired at that time; however, a portion of that conversation was overheard by both Gunnion and myself. I give it as follows: Kelly was standing with his back towards Twenty-third Street, McNally facing him. ‘Where does your mother live, Mac?’ Mac answered, ‘Down Twenty-third Street,’ pointing with his fingers towards Sixth Avenue. I had almost forgotten to explain how I came to call this man McNally. I and Gunnion were introduced to him by Kelly, at the time when we first came up to where he was sitting. Kelly, turning around toward us, said: ‘Come, boys, let us go through Twenty-fourth Street and we will have a drink.’ McNally refused, saying at the time that he was going home. We parted and went through Twenty-fourth Street to Eighth Avenue, taking an Eighth Avenue car, and leaving it at the corner of Hudson and Christopher streets. We went into a large hardware store on the same corner that we got out at, which was the northwest corner, and there purchased a bar of steel about four feet long, to be made up into tools. Taking the steel we started through Christopher Street for the Hoboken ferry, and passed over. While on that trip Kelly told me that he had made arrangements with McNally about a job which would turn out well. Nothing further was said until June about the matter, and then, for the first time, I was made aware of this job. I was then told by Kelly that the family was not at home, and that access to the premises could be readily obtained, as we would be let in, and work the safe without any further trouble. Gunnion was also present at this meeting, and it was decided that we work the place. In a very short space of time after this meeting I was arrested at my residence, No. 37 Garden Street, Hoboken, in connection with one Charles Carr, now in Sing Sing, for a robbery in Lispenard Street, where it was alleged that I had broken into and taken laces valued at $5,000; I had no connection with it, so I was discharged, but re-arrested for an attempt at burglary on Wilson & Green’s pawnbroking establishment, corner Delancey and Bowery, and held to bail, which was procured, and I was released in the —— part of July, a day or two before the murder of Mr. Nathan. During my stay in the Tombs everything was arranged, so that when I came out all that was to be done was to get our tools and proceed to work. We agreed to meet at eight o’clock, in Madison Park. The evening previous to the morning of the murder we met, according to appointment, and found McNally awaiting us. Kelly took McNally aside, and, after about twenty minutes’ conversation with him, he left, going towards Sixth Avenue. Kelly told us that we would have to wait for about ten minutes. He instructed us to follow one after another, a short distance apart, and if everything was right we were to move up close together, by a signal from the man at the gate by wiping his face with a pocket-handkerchief. All was clear, the man was at his post, and we entered the house by the basement door, Gunnion and myself going to the cellar, as we had been previously instructed to do. Kelly went up-stairs, and when all was ready he was to call us. I should judge, from the length of time that elapsed, we must have been in the cellar about four or five hours. It was a very stormy night out, which made the time drag along very slow. At last Kelly made his appearance, telling us to take off our shoes, which we did, and made our way up-stairs (three flights), entering at the side door at the front of the building. I think there was a taper burning. I noticed a person lying on the floor, about three or four feet from the door. In the small room things were scattered about. I stepped on something which at that time appeared to me like a pocket-book, and on picking it up it proved to be a memoranda, or Jewish calendar, with the following names:—Albert Cardozo, Dr. Leo, Samuel Lewis, corner Fourteenth Street; also papers, or rather —— stock, which had been ——; also Pacific Mail and some —— bonds. I think the Pacific Mail has the name of J. Coke or —— endorsed on them. Am not positive, but that name appears on some of the stock. In the aggregate the amount is $6,000; $273 in money was also obtained. The safe had been opened before we went up-stairs. There appeared to be a peculiar kind of odor in the house; something like kerosene or turpentine. Altogether I don’t think we were in the rooms occupied by Mr. Nathan more than fifteen minutes, and about five of the time was spent by Kelly washing his hands off. I think he said he went to the bathroom. We stood waiting inside the room door for him, and I noticed finger-marks on the jam of the door, as if it were blood.

“Our next step was to descend to the lower part of the house, and there await a favorable opportunity to get out, knowing that we had to contend with more on the outside than on the inside. We waited at the foot of the basement stairs until halfpast five o’clock in the morning, and then went up to the front door, Kelly looking out of the door to see if all was clear. He passed us once, and we reached the street without being seen, but just as we were about to direct our steps toward Fifth Avenue, a man came along on the opposite side of the street with a dinner-pail in his hand; this man stooped down and picked up something like an envelope. As yet we had not made a start, and on looking at Kelly I observed blood on his shirt bosom, and told him of it. He went inside of the railing to adjust his vest so as to hide it, when Gunnion saw a young woman coming toward us from Fifth Avenue. Just then we made off toward her. I think I saw a person come toward one of the windows in the Fifth Avenue Hotel, on the third story, and look toward Sixth Avenue. We walked pretty fast, so as to get away as soon as possible, keeping on Twenty-third Street until we reached Third Avenue, knowing that would be our best policy, as the streets running east and west in the morning are never so closely watched at that time as the ones running north and south in that neighborhood. Third Avenue was reached in time for a car, and, without hailing it, we jumped aboard on the front platform, leaving the car at Houston Street. It was now after six o’clock, and people were coming and going in all directions. We went into a house on Street, and then and there, in the presence of two women, divided what we had got. Kelly seemed to be somewhat excited, and all at once said: ‘You know that dog I got from Nick Jones. Well, I left it behind. Do you think it will cost us any trouble?’ I said: I don’t know. I believe Nick is all right. You had better see him, anyhow, in time.’ He asked the elder of the two women to give him a shirt, which was done, and he told her to wash the one he had just taken off as soon as possible, and adding at the same time, ‘Here is $20, and I will go see Nick Jones.’ I left the house and went to my home in Rivington Street. I returned to wait for Kelly. He came back about ten o’clock the same morning. I believe Nick Jones was very much afraid of Kelly or his friends. I never knew of the exact amount of property taken, as Kelly denied all knowledge of the diamonds, which caused a rupture between us. Have had nothing to do with him since. Have heard since I came to New York that he was in Auburn prison; also heard that Gunnion was in prison. In October of the same year I visited Nick Jones at the Brooklyn Navy Yard by permission of the naval commander, he granting me a permit, as during working hours nobody is allowed to hold any communication with those who are employed therein. On this occasion Jones acted rather green, and when I spoke to him about Kelly he upbraided me for having introduced him to Kelly, saying-that I had destroyed his peace of mind. I asked him in what respect. All that he said was by placing his mouth to my ear and whispering ‘Nathan,’ trembling violently at the same time. I did not make any reply, as I saw it might cause him pain. This ended my visit. I intended when I went over to see if he had received anything from Kelly; but then, when I saw how he became affected, I never mentioned it. The conversation I had with Kelly about the killing of Mr. Nathan occurred in the house in Suffolk Street. He said the return of Mr. Nathan was wholly unexpected, and when he found out that he had come home he thought that he would try and get the key of the safe. He got into the room without disturbing any one, got the key, and was ransacking the safe, when the old man awoke and said, ‘Who’s there?’ On the party coming toward him, as if to lay hold of him, he raised the ‘dog’ as if to strike him. The old man threw up his hands to protect himself, and received the blow on one of them. He then screamed, and was struck several times on the head. He (Kelly) then ran into the entryway, and in going down stairs he found that no one could have heard the noise, as all was quiet. He waited in the hallway some time, and then got us to return to the room with him to see what we could find.”

Irving was afterwards placed on trial for the burglaries, and being convicted of the two charges against him, was sentenced to State prison for seven years and a half. He is at present residing in this city.




NICHOLAS and Mary Ryan, brother and sister, both unmarried, on November 28, 1873, engaged furnished lodgings from Mrs. Patrick Burke, who rented apartments on the fourth floor of the tenement No. 204 Broome Street. Ryan said that he was a shoemaker, and that his sister, who seemed to be a modest, well-behaved young lady, was a “gaiter-fitter,” employed at the establishment of Burt & Co., in Thomas Street. Mrs. Burke sub-let the front room of her apartments to the Ryans. The place was immediately occupied by the young pair, Nicholas and Mary cooking and sleeping in the single chamber. The room, which was about sixteen feet square, was well carpeted and comfortably furnished with a walnut three-quarter bedstead in the southeast corner and a new black horse-hair sofa at the rear and centre of the apartment, against the wall. The walls were decorated with framed prints representing the “Crucifixion,” the “Last Supper,” the “Immaculate Conception,” and other pictures. The door of this room led out on the front part of the landing of the fourth floor, and had a catch lock or bolt which could be pulled back from within, but could not be opened from the outside excepting by a key made especially to fit the lock.

Although the brother and sister lived in the same apartment, they did not sleep in the same bed. Nicholas Ryan slept regularly on the bed—a very comfortable one— while Mary Ryan slept on a large mattress, which was disposed of nightly in this way: the mattress, or one side of it, was placed on the horse-hair sofa, and the outside part of it was supported by two chairs. The brother and sister appeared to live happily together, working in the daytime and rarely going out of an evening. The young woman always seemed to be in a melancholy mood, and her brother was dark and distant. Nothing unusual transpired to attract attention to the Ryans until Monday morning, December 22, 1873. A policeman who was passing the house between halfpast two and three o’clock on that morning heard a window raised with a sudden crash, and, looking upward in the direction of the noise, he saw the head of a man protrude from a window on the fourth story of the six-story brick tenement house No. 204 Broome Street, which gave shelter to twenty-four families. The man was shouting “Murder!” and “Police!” violently. The officer ran into the house, giving an alarm rap at the same moment, to which there was a response in a few moments by three other members of the force. They lit matches and held them above their heads. The policemen found streams of blood pouring down the stairs and banisters, but discovered no human body until they came to the landing of the second story, and on that part of it toward the rooms fronting on the street there was discovered by the officers a most woful and terrible sight. A young man, apparently in the full flush of manhood, wearing nothing but his drawers and undershirt, was stretched, life just extinct and his throat across the jugular vein severed by an awful and deep gash. He had bled, even on this floor, three or four quarts of blood, and the worn and soiled oilcloth presented a smoking, red, ghastly spectacle. The head of the slaughtered man rested against the panels of the door of a German named Charles Miller, whose family occupied rooms on the second floor. On examination long rivulets of blood and pools of the same ghastly fluid were discovered all over the stairs and walls of the third and fourth floors, to which the policemen ascended as rapidly as possible. The face of the man, not long dead, lay downward.

Patrick Burke, who occupied three rooms and let the fourth of his suite to the Ryans, was met on the stairway. He was in his shirt-sleeves and was very much excited. Burke directed the officers to the room in which he said there was another dead body. All entered close after one another, with that expectant gait and bated breath that comes of an unknown terror. And there on the mattress, cleanly covered, and in a dark night-robe, lay a young girl, her head thrown back, her throat cut by a deep gash almost from ear to ear, and her tongue almost lolling out of her mouth and slightly black on the surface. The neck—a fair, white one—was marked with the deadly press of fingers, indicating that the assassin had strangled his victim perhaps into an insensible state before cutting her throat. The improvised couch was in itself very clean, tidy, and not at all disturbed. The fingers of the hand were slightly closed, and the face, bearing marks of considerable intelligence and refinement, had an expression of pain and sudden fright. The mattress was fully soaked with the poor girl’s blood, and her skirts and underclothes, of remarkably fine texture, were found placed smoothly and in regular order upon an adjoining chair. A little further on was a small lady’s gold open-faced watch, with a black composition chain, a lady’s gold lead-pencil, and inside the door was a night-key and a small white-handled penknife, the blades shut and the handle spotted with gouts of blood. The blades, on being opened, had not a stain upon their bright surfaces, but were sharpened in that peculiar way noticeable among shoemakers, the heart of the blade being eaten away by grinding on a whetstone.

The bed which had been occupied by young Ryan was tossed about and looked as if something violent had taken place on it while occupied. The sheets and quilts were thrown in a heap, and on an adjoining chair were discovered a pair of pantaloons belonging to the dead man, a white linen shirt, with two small gold imitation studs in the bosom and having short cuffs. This shirt was spread out in an orderly fashion, as was the trousers. There was besides the shirt a pair of linen cuffs and a pair of gold sleeve-buttons. A razor case, made to hold two razors, was found, and but one razor was in the case; the other could not be discovered on the premises.

Out on the landing, and all the way up from the fourth to the sixth story were found pools and clots of blood on the oilclothed stairs, and the walls were discovered to be covered with finger-marks and clots of livid red blood. It was a slaughter house, this tenement, which contained over one hundred souls, hived together in such a small breathing place.

But how to explain this horrible slaughter? Who had done it? Where was the weapon? Had young Ryan been followed home and killed for his money, and had his sister been strangled and her throat cut by the assassin? Was the assassin a resident of the house, full of Poles, Germans, Italians and a curious and mongrel mixture of people whose avocations are uncertain? The latter theory has its possibility. Or had young Ryan, who was said to be a peaceable and temperate man, in a moment of mad insanity, killed his sister and then cutting his own throat rushed out, not knowing where he was going—anywhere into space and eternity?

There was a small rosewood lady’s box in the room full of trinkets and which contained a bank book on the Bowery Bank, indorsed by the depositor, Miss Winifred Stapleton, while in Mr. Ryan’s trunk was discovered two bank books on the Emigrant Savings Bank, Nos. 64,522 and 97,121, indorsed in the name of the deceased Nicholas Ryan. The Miss Stapleton was said to be a niece of the dead brother and sister. The depositors in the three bank books were accredited with a total of over $700. In the bottom drawer of the rosewood case a small revolver, looking quite new, was observed.

Patrick Burke, who rented the room for nine dollars a month, the first month’s rent having been paid in advance by Nicholas Ryan, when questioned stated that he had been awakened by some strange noise about half-past two o’clock on that Monday morning. He jumped out of bed instantly and ran out in the hall, but all was dark. Then he listened for a moment and heard a noise which sounded to him something like the wheezing of a cat. As he was hastily clothing himself he heard the cries of his children, who were sleeping in a hall bedroom adjoining the front room occupied by the Ryans, and his daughter, Jennie Burke, aged eleven years, cried to him, “Come here, father; there is something the matter on the landing.” Then his wife said, “Go, Pat, and see what’s the matter.” He did so, and carried a lamp with him through the hallway, when he saw streams of fresh blood on the oilcloth and walls, and this frightened him and he went back and told his wife that murder must have been committed in the house. Then he went to Ryan’s room and saw the door open, and on entering he discovered Miss Mary Ryan with her face downward on the mattress and her throat cut. Then he ran to the front window and gave the alarm to the police, whereupon they entered and discovered the body of young Ryan on the second floor and afterwards saw Miss Ryan lying dead in her room.

Patrick Ryan, a married brother of the murdered pair, was sought out in the hope that he might furnish some clew that would lift the bloody veil. He resided in South Brooklyn, and was employed as foreman in the shoemaking establishment of T. Kalliske & Co., No. 34 Warren Street in this city. He said that his brother Nicholas, who had worked under him, was a sober and peaceable young man, and had supported his sister, who was also employed in Burt’s shoe factory. Mary was an affectionate girl, and the brother and sister had lived together previous to their removal to Broome Street at No. 3 Canal Street, since the death of their mother. They kept house for the mother; Nicholas loved his sister dearly, and if there was any little disagreement it never amounted to anything more than is usual in any family, and would be forgotten. Nicholas and his sister were brought up too religiously to think of suicide or of any other similar crime. Nicholas had attended St. Mary’s Church, in Grand Street, and St. Bridget’s Church, in Avenue B. He took tea with a married sister and his own two children at the room of Nicholas and Mary on Sunday evening, and all seemed happy, laughing and joking. All six persons then left the house in Broome Street to go out. His sister Mary and brother Nicholas accompanied as far as the corner of Suffolk and Broome streets and there—it was then seven o’clock Sunday evening—Nicholas left them, and he (Patrick Ryan) said to his brother, “Nicholas, you might tell us where you are going and introduce us to the girl that you are going to see.” This was in a joke, and Nicholas left and I did not see him again until I was sent for to see him dead. Mary, my sister, left her married sister’s in Lewis Street at or before nine o’clock to go home on Sunday evening, and that is all I know, excepting that my brother had a silver watch valued at $15, and a gold chain attached, valued at $35. Would not know the maker’s name or what amount of money he had in his pocket. He always carried money and made good wages.

Several hours after the discovery of the double tragedy a girl named Jenny Burke, the daughter of Patrick Burke, discovered Ryan’s vest on the roof-top. There were also bloody footprints on the top of the house and on the stairs leading to the roof. There was no trace, however, of the missing watch, or, most important of all, the weapon with which the deed had been committed.

The deputy coroner carefully examined the bodies, and found on that of the sister a cut on the throat nine and a half inches long, beginning at the back of the neck on the left side and terminating at a straight line from the left jaw. The carotid artery and jugular vein were cut, which must have resulted in almost instant death. Blue marks, as if made by fingers, were on the throat, as if tightly pressed against it, causing the tongue to protrude between the teeth. The medical examiner was of the opinion that the young woman was first strangled until she became nearly unconscious, when a knife or some other sharp instrument was used with the right hand, while the throat was clasped by the left hand of the murderer. The autopsy also revealed something wholly unexpected. It was that Mary Ryan was enciente at the time of her death, and that three lives instead of two had perished at the hands of an assassin. An old shoe-knife, upon which there was not the slightest trace of blood, was found in the room of the Ryans several days after the murders, and was said to be the weapon with which the crime had been committed. The accepted theory in the case, outrageous and inconsistent as it was, was that Nicholas Ryan was the father of his sister’s unborn child, and to conceal his sin he had murdered the young woman and afterwards committed suicide. There were facts, however, which proved the absolute falsity of this conclusion. The murders were not committed by a robber, but the watch and other articles missing were carried off by the assassin to create such a suspicion. Had he left the weapon he had used behind him the scoundrel well knew that it might prove a tell-tale piece of evidence against him, so he carried it off. All the facts go to show that Nicholas Ryan and his sister Mary were cruelly butchered by a young man who had been keeping company with the latter. Having ruined the young woman he refused to marry her, and when threatened with arrest and exposure he resorted to murder to conceal his sin. He was seen in the vicinity of the Broome Street tenement on the night of the tragedy, and after his brutal work he purchased a drink of whiskey to brace up his shattered nerves at a saloon in the vicinity of the house of blood. The bartender noticed that the customer looked wild, and also that his cuffs were stained with the crimson fluid of his victims. There the trail ended, and although nearly thirteen years have elapsed since the slaying of the brother and sister, the whereabouts of their murderer is yet unknown.




AS a flower girl Annie Downey started out in life, and the acquaintances which she formed while peddling bouquets along the Bowery doubtless led to her ruin. Small in stature and possessed of a shapely form and a handsome face, she soon made hosts of friends. In time she became a degraded creature, and was entered upon the books of the filthy dens in which she lived as “Curly Tom” and “Blonde Annie.” She was naturally a brunette, but was in the habit of dyeing her hair to a light blonde. All her relatives were respectable people, and to save them from the shame of her disgrace she passed under the name of Annie Martin. She was found dead in the house kept by a woman named Smidt, at No. HI Prince Street, on January 17, 1880, under circumstances so mysterious as not to give the faintest clue to her murderer.

During the day preceding the night of her murder she remained in the house and received a number of visitors, none of whom were known to the proprietress. The young woman seemed to be in unusually gay spirits. On retiring to her room, the second floor front, at eleven o’clock, she called out over the banisters to Mrs. Smidt, saying that she expected a visit from an old friend before midnight, and asked to be called as soon as he arrived. She was never seen alive again.

Up to half-past twelve o’clock no one entered the house, and at that hour Mrs. Smidt’s husband locked the front door and went to bed, taking the keys with him, according to custom. The back door was always left unlocked.

The Smidt bedroom was on the first floor in the rear. Rosa Schneider, the cook, and a colored chambermaid, whose rooms were in the attic, were the only other persons who slept in the house that night.

Bertha Levy, a hair-dresser, called at ten o’clock next morning to dress Annie Downey’s hair. She attempted to open the door to the girl’s room, but found it locked. Being unable to get any response to her repeated knocks she called Mrs. Smidt, who, becoming alarmed, called a policeman.

There were three doors leading into the room, one from the hall, one from the adjoining hall bedroom, and the third from the rear room. The two former were locked. The bed was placed against the latter.

Going into the rear room the policeman forced open the door, pushing the bed back with it, and entered the room. Lying on the bed, face upward and drenched in blood that had flowed from several ghastly wounds in the head, he found the body of Annie Downey. It was cold and stiff.

Tied so tightly around the neck as to blacken the face and force the eyeballs from their sockets, was a thin pillow-slip taken from the bed. The fingers of the left hand clutched one end of the slip with a death grip. The limbs were extended straight along the bed, and the attitude of the body did not suggest that a struggle for life had taken place. The only other marks were two small cuts over the left eye that looked as if they had been inflicted with a blow of a fist.

Everything about the apartment was in perfect order. The girl’s clothing was neatly arranged over a chair by the bedside. In the ears of the corpse were a pair of handsome amethyst earrings and a diamond ring flashed on her finger. Evidently the murderer’s motive had not been robbery.

The only thing missing was a watch and chain of little value, but it was soon remembered that the girl had disposed of them a few days before.

Search was made for the key of the door, but it could not be found. All the inmates of the house were strictly interrogated, but no information that could throw a ray of light on the mystery could be elicited. No unusual sounds had been heard during the night.

Smidt was positive that no man was in the house when he locked the door for the night. Annie’s last visitor had gone away long before eleven o’clock, the hour at which she went to her room. The only theory of the case was that the murderer had entered the house during the evening without attracting attention, and secreted himself in the room until the girl entered, when he surprised and killed her before she could make any outcry.

This view was supported by the condition of the body, which indicated that the murder took place at least ten hours before it was discovered.

By way of the back door the assassin could easily have made his way to an alley running along the eastern side of the house to the street. The padlock which fastened the door of this alley was found to have been twisted off.

The coroner’s examination showed that death had been caused by strangulation, and that the wounds on the head were merely superficial and had been inflicted after the pillow-slip had been knotted round the throat, evidently in an effort to still the girl’s struggles for life.



IN a little underground shop, with the evidences of his careful thrift about him, within hearing of customers in the store overhead and almost in sight of passers by on the walk without, a man was, on November 2, 1885, in broad daylight, hacked to death.

The horrors of murder were in his case intensified by dreadful mutilations, which happily are rare in the domains of civilization, and the extent of ferocity expended in the deed pointed at once to people of semi-barbaric instincts as the authors. Like most assassinations of this kind it was involved in mystery, and investigation for the truth required to be carried on among people with strange secrets and unfamiliar tongues.

“Antonio Soloa” was printed on the cards of the little eating-house that burrowed under the southeast corner of Wooster and Spring streets, with its single window admitting only such dreary reflections of daylight as straggled down to it through an iron grating. Antonio Soloa had a Spanish flavor about it, and it rather unsatisfactorily indicated a man with unmistakably Mongolian features, who was often seen bustling about there in the dual capacity of cook and waiter. Soloa was a Chinaman, and, according to the words of a countryman, had brought from home the more characteristic name of Ching Ong. But it was not from the West but through the Indies that he had come to New York, and while in Cuba he acquired a Hispano-American name. His occupation, too, had been learned in the South, and he at first went to work in this city as a cigar-maker. As such he had been brought into contact with a lot of West Indian coolies, native Cubans and Spanish speaking negroes of the Caribbean Islands. He went from one quarter of the city to another and finally found engagement in Chio & Soona’s factory, in South Fifth Avenue. There he lived, too, in the heart of the district which has of late years become marked above all others as a foreign quarter. There Spanish, French and Italian were commonly spoken and were not unfamiliar to the Chinese who herded among the hybrid population of the place, and through Ching Ong’s knowledge of them as Antonio Soloa he became a person well known among them.

He had the aptitude of his race for money making, and several years before his tragic death gave up the drudgery of the workroom for a little shop near the Catherine ferry, whence he removed to No. 81 Thompson Street and No. 51 Wooster Street. At these he catered for the cigar-makers, often bringing their lunches to the factories for them. Later on he removed to the basement where he met his death. Stockelberg, Chio & Soona and other tobacconists have factories on South Fifth Avenue, and some of the workmen used to go to Soloa’s place. Nearly all were men of his own race or of Cuban extraction, and the dingy little den, with its cleanly linen and dishes attuned to the palates of its patrons, gained favor among them all. About $10 a day was believed to be the' extent of the host’s receipts, and out of that he was supposed to comfortably run his establishment and save a snug little penny besides.

Soloa’s neighbors knew little of him or his guests. John and Peter Waurchus, the German grocers overhead, only occasionally noticed the stream of swarthy visaged men, who, at meal-time, slipped down the stone steps outside and as noiselessly shuffled away. O’Brien & Ryder, the plumbers next door, gave little heed to the Chinaman or his belongings. And probably the children who played about the place only occasionally caught a glimpse through the iron railing of the lamp-lighted snuggery and the dark, strange-speaking people who sat at the tables in it. Soloa himself was a quiet, affable sort of a man. He dressed rather well for a Chinaman, discarding all the native gear, with the exception perhaps of an alabaster bracelet, and he wore his hair like his neighbors’, without a suspicion of its ever having been trussed up in a queue. He appeared to be on the best of terms with his guests, too, and seemed altogether a good-natured and hard-working fellow.

At noon on that fatal Monday he was in his kitchen and bustling about the shop as usual when Julius Dichon, a countryman of his, who had known him for ten years, went down to dine. There were the usual set of men dropping in by twos and threes. The long table by the wall was set for eight. The smaller square table was set for four. There were two tables at one side, to accommodate a couple each. Only one was occupied. The diners at it paid their score and went out. The hand of the clock ticking over the mite of a counter little more than a yard long was drawing to one as Dichon arose to go. The pair of canary birds, whose gilded cages were strangely bright as they swung in the dimness of the place, were fluttering about as he went up the steps. Soloa was standing alone with a can in his hand and feeding them.

Almost an hour later John Waurchus went out of his grocery to drive over to Centre Street. He saw the Chinaman coming up the steps at the same moment. Soloa had turned the key in the door, and as he returned the grocer’s nod he said:

“I am going over to the Bowery to see about my music box.”

As he spoke he went off in that direction and John Waurchus turned to his wagon. He never saw his Chinese neighbor again alive.

It was only a little after that—no more than three-quarters of an hour—when Jim Coughlin, a coal-heaver in the Farrar Company’s yard, had a surprise. He was lounging on a box watching a peddler named Daly trundle a handcart of vegetables along and voice their quality for the good of the neighborhood, and he had his eyes on the man when he left his vehicle at the curb-stone and descended the steps of Soloa’s restaurant. Daly was gone only for an instant. When he stumbled out on the walk his eyes were full of horror and his face pale with excitement.

“My God!” he cried to the coal-heaver; “there’s a man dead down there.”

Coughlin got up and asked, “Where?”

“Down below on the floor,” said the peddler. -

“Let’s go down and see,” said Coughlin, and the other, evidently ill-satisfied with his fortune of first discoverer, lagged at his heels as they descended.

The peddler’s words were true. A man was lying there dead, but so horribly butchered, so disfigured with gaping wounds, protruding brains and untraceable lineaments as to betray no facial evidence of identity. Blood welled from his heart and head and lay in a pool about him. There were clots upon his hands. There were marks upon the floor, and a dripping knife lay upon it beside him.

The place at first sight seemed undisturbed. The tables were covered with clean linen, and the glasses and bottles on them were polished and ready for use. On the wall two of those grotesque Chinese pictures representing an Oriental procession and a Mongolian horseman in the act of leave-taking, turned a blotch of glaring color with threads of tinsel upon the incomer. Between them was the photograph of a well-dressed Chinaman, who was pronounced to be Antonio Soloa himself. A lot of unpainted boards, reaching from floor to ceiling, divided the eating-room from a kitchen and dark hutch of a place that was found to have been used as a bedroom. From nails along this partition hung strings of garlic; on a shelf in front of it were cans of starch and preserved vegetables, with lemons, cheeses and spices, and along the wall some cheap prints were swinging. A white table-cover, suspended on one side, shut out the dismal glimpse of a black opening, sinking lower, and suggesting a sub-cellar, and it cut off whatever fugitive rays might intrude on that side from a second iron grating on the walk.

So dark it was within that the prostrate figure lying between the kitchen partition and a couple of tables was not clearly discernible. And it was only when a reluctant lamp was lighted and threw its yellow gleams on the floor that the details of the fearful assassination made themselves visible. It was the host of the little restaurant, Antonio Soloa, who had been with the Chinaman, Chong Ong, that lay there, so far as figure and attire indicated. But the red lineaments that were spread upon the floor had every semblance of life crushed out of them. Only a bloody mask was turned to the light divided by a great gash at the chin, slashed deeply on the cheek-bone and temple, with one eye gouged out of its socket and lying at the apex of a mass of bone and muscle which a cut into the forehead had raised out of the skull itself. The head was crushed nearly flat. A portion of the face held in position by the bones seemed unnaturally swollen by contrast with the dreadful mass of features that were driven in alongside it. The nose had shrunk into a red hollow. The head bulged out in places, and through the tangle of hair could be seen great gapes where the brain was oozing out. The sight was horrifying. But that was not all. The red shirt falling back from the breast revealed a cut. It was turned further back, and directly over the heart, repeated again and again, were nine great holes, where a knife had been thrust up to the hilt. It had cut the heart in two, and some of the blows had severed a series of the ribs. The knife must have been wielded with demoniac strength and ferocity. It had almost cut the man to pieces.

The knife itself was there. It lay on the floor—a big kitchen-knife, with a blade eleven inches long, fitted in a handle of dark wood by brass rivets. Through the blood that covered it the inscription, “Lamson & Goodnew Manufacturing Company,’’ appeared on the blade, and this blade, heavy though it seemed, was bent by the force of the blows that had been struck with it. To all appearance it was a kitchen-knife, and there was a suggestion in a cut loaf of bread lying on the table beside the corpse that the knife might have been caught up from the table for the bloody work. It was the only weapon found. How the head had been crushed in, the bones of the face mashed to a jelly, the skull beaten into over threescore fragments, as was later on discovered to be the case, there was nothing about to indicate. A dent was noticed on a stone and a fleck of blood was on the floor beneath it, but the light sheet iron could never have withstood the force of a falling man nor beaten in his skull. The pockets of the dead man were turned out. Beside him, smeared with blood, was a fire insurance policy for $500 in the Phoenix company. An empty pocket-book was on the table.

In his disordered garments, in the blood mark at the stove and in a shivered pane of glass in the door were evidences of a struggle. But where the body lay with all its wounds nothing seemed out of place, as though the man had been beaten down suddenly and without resistance. Beyond the body an opening in the partition led into the kitchen and bedroom. In the former nothing was amiss, but the sleeping apartment had been fairly ransacked. The contents of a trunk were scattered about. An accordeon lay on the bed, a watch ticked beside it, an opium pipe had fallen on the floor. Heaps of clothing were wildly tossed around. Outside in the dining-room the drawer from the counter lay underneath it, the papers and dinner tickets it contained mingled with some small coins. Plunder was certainly hinted by all this as the motive of the crime. The watch was the only valuable left behind, and in the scurry of such a moment and the horror of such a scene the murderer’s neglect was natural. That precautions were taken to examine everything was shown in the red smears upon the clothes in the bedroom and the marks of bloody fingers on the counter cards. Nor had need of security been overlooked. The wash-basin on a stand in the dining-room told its tale. It was full of bloody water.

The coroner on his arrival made an autopsy, which revealed that the heart and other organs had been reached by the knife; that the skull had been shattered to pieces, and the brain again and again penetrated. The excessive mutilation could be due only to the body having quivered after the knife thrusts had been delivered, when, to make death a certainty, the skull had been beaten in. It did seem strange that so fearful a death struggle had passed without attracting attention, and the neighbors were closely questioned. No one had heard a cry. Ryder, the plumber next door, had heard a crash of glass, and had sent a boy out to see what was broken. The little fellow did not look into the Chinaman’s basement, and so the pane that had been smashed during the fearful work of that half hour escaped attention. In the place nothing was left that could serve as a clue to the murderer. Not a sign that might serve to indicate his identity or even his nationality or station in life had the slayer of Soloa left behind, except the suggestion that lay in the fearful completeness of his work. A weapon left behind might have betrayed something, but the knife with which the stabs were inflicted seemingly belonged to the dead man himself. The wounds were inflicted with a bread-knife, and such a knife was picked up in the kitchen. The heavy instrument with which the head had been crushed in was not discovered. A deep gash on the brow and some wounds on the head, as well as the traces of sprinkled blood upon the walls and ceiling, suggested a hatchet. A search of the basement and cellar failed to reveal any such weapon, and the assassin was wary enough to carry off his murderous implement lest it should afford a clue. The blood spattered on the ceiling seemed to show that he was upright when the blows were struck. The knife was used to complete the work, and was driven again and again into his heart fairly up to the hilt, a few blows falling upon the face and chin. A slash upon the left arm was doubtless received while that member was raised in defense, but it was as probably inflicted by the murderer in the wild fury of his strokes after it was prone and powerless. The crushing of the bones of the head was, like the excessive stabbing, an atrocity to remove all doubt of dissolution.

There had been a witness to the butchery, but that fact did not become known until long after the discovery of the murder. Then William Schimper, a nickel-plater, came forward with his office boy, who was named George Mainz. Mr. Schimper said that the lad could throw some light on the tragedy. Young Mainz was questioned. He said that he had been sent on a message by his employer, and as he was returning through Spring Street, he saw two men quarreling at the top of the basement stairs on the southeast corner of Wooster Street. “One,” declared the boy, “was a short, thin man, who looked like a Chinaman. The other was a tall, strong mulatto. The men were very angry with each other, and their loud voices made me stop. I thought there was going to be a fight, so I watched. I saw the tall man draw a knife and plunge it into the little man’s breast. He had hard work to draw it out. When he did pull the knife out, the big man ran down stairs out of sight. The little man followed him, but he seemed to fall down, for I heard a crash as he disappeared. I was so frightened that I ran to the office, and did not tell Mr. Schimper till hours after.”

“Do you think you would be able to recognize the tall man if you saw him again?”

“Yes, sir, perfectly well.”


“Because he had a terrible scar on his left cheek.”

The description of the assassin furnished by the lad cleared the suspicion that the brutal crime had been committed by a Chinaman believed to be a “highbinder.” The murderer had been seen at his bloody work, and the witness said he was a tall negro. That was definite enough, and it was subsequently learned that a man answering the description given by young Mainz had been seen on several occasions in Ching Ong, alias Soloa’s restaurant. He was a Cuban negro, and was said to be a member of a Cuban insurrectionary organization known as “Niazzas.” There was a section of that revolutionary society in this city. Its meetings and doings were kept secret, but in a moment of vanity the conspirators, some years before, had had a large photograph of all the leading members taken in a group. A copy of the original picture fell into the hands of the detectives. It was shown to young Mainz.

“There! there!” exclaimed the boy, pointing to a large, dark-complexioned man who stood in the middle of the group, but in the background; “there he is. That is the man I saw stab Soloa.”

The photograph was exhibited to many, and at last a man was found who said, “Yes, I know him, (meaning the tall conspirator). His name is Augustus Rebella, but I don’t know where he lives or works. He is a cigar-maker.” Then for the first time the name of the slayer of the Chinaman was learned. Rebella was sought after, and on November 20, 1885, just eighteen days after the assassination, the tall Cuban negro was traced to the cigar manufactory at No. 161 Pearl Street, and there arrested. Although Rebella had no scar on his cheek, when he was photographed there was the mark of a healed wound on the left side of his face, just as the boy had said, when the suspected man was made prisoner. The scar was very prominent and had been made some eighteen months before by his mistress, whom Rebella had quarreled with at No. 309 Mulberry Street. Rebella said that on the day of the murder of the Chinaman he had been at work in Los Dos Amigos’ cigar factory in Washington Street, Brooklyn. There it was learned that on November 2 the prisoner had only made one hundred cigars, while the usual number he was in the habit of making in a day was two hundred. He admitted that he had known Ching Ong, alias Soloa, and gave his address as at No. 118 West Twenty-seventh Street. Young Mainz positively identified Rebella as the murderer of the Chinese restaurant keeper, and the prisoner was held upon the lad’s affidavit of identification. Subsequently it was ascertained that Rebella had made two attempts prior to the murder to kill Ching Ong.

That he was the slayer of Ching Ong, was well known to the Cuban insurrectionists, and also the fact that he was assisted by two others in the completion of the butchery. The weapon with which Ching Ong’s skull had been battered in was a slung-shot. Still, Rebella’s fellow-conspirators were determined to save him from punishment. Although it was a fact that Rebella had only worked the first half of the day on November 2, and returned to the factory just before closing time, nearly two dozen of the cigar makers made affadavit to the effect that he had not left the shop. The few other workmen in the place, who could not be induced to perjure themselves, were threatened by Rebella’s murderous associates with death, if they ventured to testify against the prisoner. The men, aware that their lives were in danger, were therefore afraid to come forward, and vanished before their testimony could be secured. Thus were the hands of Justice tied, and as the preponderance of evidence, such as it was, was in favor of Rebella, it was impossible to legally convict him on the testimony of young Mainz, and the prisoner was consequently released. It is more than probable that the horrible butchery, owing to the machinations of a secret society, will forever remain unavenged.

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