Our Police Protectors
History of New York Police
Chapter 16, Part 1

By Holice and Debbie



The Late Inspector Thorne -- A Veteran Officer, whose Experience Was Coeval with the Existence of the Police Department -- Intelligence, Energy, and Zeal--A Notable Record -- Fifth precinct; Captain Eakins -- Eighth Precinct; Captain McDonnell -- Ninth Precinct; Captain Copeland -- Fifteenth Precinct; Captain Brogan -- Sixteenth Precinct; Captain McElwain -- Twentieth Precinct; Captain Washburn -- Twenty-fifth Precinct; Captain Garland -- Twenty-seventh Precinct; Captain Berghold -- Twenty-ninth Precinct; Captain Williams.

The Second Inspection District includes the Fifth, Eighth, Ninth, Sixteenth, Twentieth, Twenty-fifth, Twenty-seventh, and Twenty-ninth Precincts, and the Jefferson Market Police, known as the Second District Court. Until recently it was under the command of a veteran officer, the late Inspector Thomas W. Thorne.

THE LATE INSPECTOR THORNE was born in Ulster County, in the town of Marlborough, this State, on June 10, 1823. He came to New York when he was a boy, and remained in this city until 1837, when he went to Newburgh, Orange County, in this State. He there learned the trade of a carpenter, and returned to New York in 1840. He gained the position of master carpenter at the Arsenal under the late General John Stewart during the time the arsenal was being built in Central Park. He was appointed on the Police by the first Commissioners, to wit: Mayor Westervelt, Recorder Tillou, and City Judge Beebe. In 1853 he was made Sergeant, in 1857 Captain, and in 1861 Inspector. On April 20, 1872, he was admitted to the bar at General Term of the Supreme court. He did duty in the following precincts: Patrolman, Roundsman, and Sergeant in the Thirteenth; sergeant in the Seventh and Eleventh; Captain in the Fourth, Sixteenth, Twenty-first, Twenty-sixth; Inspector in the First, Second, third, and Fourth Districts. He was made Inspector in 1872, and had charge of the Street Cleaning Department for two years and a half. During his whole time on the force he shows but two days sick time. During the Astor Place riots he had charge of the magazine used there. He was in the dead rabbit riots, the draft riots, and also had charge of the force that went to assist Superintendent Walling during the Orange riots. He commanded the force of the Fourteenth Precinct to intercept the Communists' gathering at Tompkins Square.

The identity of the murderers of the peddler in Lydeck's woods, neat West Farms Village, in 1875, would in all probability have never been revealed but for the active services rendered by Inspector Thorne, who, at the time, was District Inspector in the Twenty-third Ward. His handling of the case led to the arrest of three Negroes who were, in time, convicted of the murder, and hanged.

Inspector Thorne was only two or three days on the force when his Captain detailed him on a watch stealing case. He recovered the property, and the Captain, who was highly gratified, said: "You have done enough of work for one day, and you had better go home and rest yourself."

He was made Captain just at the beginning of the war, and was stationed at the Fourth Precinct, and continued there for one year. He was then sent to the Twenty-sixth Precinct (City Hall) and was there during the draft riots, and was on duty the night that the mob made a demonstration to sack the Tribune office. He had only fifty men under his command, and with these he dispersed a mob of seven thousand who had collected on the City Hall Square. The mob was armed with hay-sticks and pistols; the Police had only their clubs.

In 1853 there was a gang of thieves known as the butcher cart or hog thieves, who had their headquarters at the corner of Tompkins and Rivington streets. Their business was to steal for stores or trucks anything that could be carried by two persons--such as a tub of butter, put it into a cart and go off with it. They changed from that to assaulting paymasters and clerks in banks, and robbing them. The original gang consisted of Warmsby, Ingram, Burke, Goody, Mannix, Cosgrove, Purcell and McDonnell. They pretended to be butchers, and sold what is called, in butcher shops, parlance, small meat, around the streets. Inspector Thorne had cause to arrest these thieves several times. One night, being on post in Grand Street at the corner of Columbia, and not being observed, he saw five of the gang place themselves near by, and heard them hold a conversation about twelve tubs of butter they had stolen, and how they had to dispose of them. The next morning the Inspector proceeded to the place where he suspected the butter was concealed, found it, and arrested the five thieves, who were completely surprised, as they could form no idea how their secret had leaked out. The prisoners were bailed, but after the owners of the butter were found, Judge Walsh, who was then Police Magistrate, ordered the Inspector to re-arrest the prisoners.

He found them in a slaughter house in Tompkins Street, and took them to the court in their own cart, by making them believe it was for the purpose of closing the case. When they got there and were arraigned, one of their number said: "Thorne, this is a shame. The idea of bringing us in our own cart tot he station house and charging us with robbery!" They were al sent to State Prison.

The depredations of thieves on the North River created great consternation among the inhabitants who lived on the river front. Officer Smith and Inspector Thorne were detailed to look after them. The task was a most dangerous one. Five men had broken open the cabin of a vessel lying at a North River pier, and stolen money and other property. When discovered, they took to a boat, followed in like manner by the Police, who chased them over to the Brooklyn side, the fugitives firing on their pursuers several times. In the morning they were in the middle of the river, and the Police boat was at the side of the wharves, a circumstance not known to the thieves, who were again chased, this time to the foot of Third Street, East River, where they were captured.

While Inspector Thorne was Captain in the Fourth Precinct there was there a notorious gang, all of them having done time. They were the brothers Dobbs (two), Harry Craven, -------Barclay, the man who was supposed to have killed Gefferts in Sing Sing, Sam Madden, Big Brady, Dan Kelly, Aleck Harrington, English Harry, and "Big Doyle," who were committing at that time all the burglaries in warehouses in New York.

Dan Kelly and young Jack Wright, in company with another, entered the offices of the New Haven Steamboat Company, and after breaking open the safe, succeeded in getting twenty thousand dollars. They were captured, and upon examination Wright told Inspector Thorne, that on the third floor, counting off so many bales, he would find the stolen money secreted in that bale. This led to the recovery of the money. Kelly was send to State Prison for three years. Jack Wright jumped his bail. Four years later the Inspector arrested Dan Kelly, Aleck Hampden, Big Harry, Pete Doyle, and others. Dan Kelly was again sent to State Prison, Aleck Hampden and Big Harry got bailed. Pete Doyle had judgment suspended, and about two years afterwards he picked pockets and got two years in State prison.

In the year 1867 a young man named James Brown complained to Inspector Thorne that he had been robbed of his valise and some other property by a man who had got into his good graces at the ferry. The man who had robbed Brown was arrested. Brown remained at the station in the night time because he had no home. On being sent back the next night to the station house, he deposited some Government bonds with the Inspector. Brown was put in a back room to sleep. About three o'clock in the morning he came out in the office and complained that he had been robbed of his pocketbook and some four hundred dollars in money. The Sergeant told him he must be mistaken. Previous to this, a seafaring man of apparently respectable appearance had come into the station house for lodging, and was given permission to remain in the sitting-room till morning. On Brown's complaint that he had been robbed, the Sergeant went back, searched the seafaring man and the room, and not finding anything, the Sergeant made up his mind that Brown had made a mistake. Shortly after this the sailor came out and thanked the Sergeant for his night's lodging, and said that if it was now daylight he would go. The sergeant jumped over the railings, searched him again, and found Brown's pocketbook, containing four hundred dollars. The question then came into the Inspector's mind, "How did Brown come by so much money and property?" He, thereupon, began to look over the papers, and by this means found that tow months previously a house at Saddle River had been robbed of bonds of the denomination of one hundred dollars each, giving the numbers of the bonds. On examination, I was further discovered that these numbers corresponded with the numbers on the bonds taken from Brown. Without making any further bother in the affair, the two men who had robbed Brown were convicted and sent to State Prison. The following morning the Inspector took Brown along, and started, as he (Brown) supposed, for the German steamer in Hoboken, but, in reality, to Saddle River, N. J. About three miles up the mountain, they came to the house that had been robbed, and the inmates immediately recognized Brown as the thief. Brown had treated them with base ingratitude. They had taken him into the house out of pity, for he said he was destitute. During their absence at a festival the young scoundrel robbed them. The last the Inspector saw of Brown was when that worthy was tied to an ox cart which was followed by a constable, with a heavy club swinging in his hand.

One afternoon a young fellow came to the station house and said that the second mate of the ship Lady Bohn had stolen some three hundred dollars worth of nautical instruments from him. This was on Friday night. The vessel was to sail at one o'clock on Saturday. The boy had some on hundred and fifty pounds sterling due him as apprentice, and as the vessel was going to sail, he had either to abandon his money or his property. The Inspector took the case before Judge Hogan, and asked him to give the prisoner an examination, and he did it right then and there. It was now nine o'clock in the morning. The case was immediately explained at the District Attorney's office. That official ordered an officer to go to the Tombs and bring down the prisoner. The indictment was drawn; the Inspector took the prisoner before the Grand Jury; he was indicted, tried and convicted, and as the clock struck twelve, was sentenced to three years in State Prison. The boy got his property, and sailed in the good ship Lady Bohn on the same day.

Inspector Thorne arrested two thieves one afternoon at the corner of Chambers and Chatham Streets, with an officer who had been wounded and was considerably under the influence of liquor, and took the two thieves to the station in suspicion that they were trying to rob the officer. On examining the prisoners at the station house there were found on one of them a watch valued at four hundred and fifty dollars, and a gold chain with Masonic emblems on it. The property was advertising very largely, but no owner could be found, and it was suspected that the man to whom the watch and chain had belonged had probably been made away with. Meantime it was ascertained that one of the emblems attached to the chain belonged to a Masonic society. There being no evidence against the prisoners, they were then discharged. The day that they were discharged a naval officer appeared in front of the Police desk, and said that the Inspector had his watch, and the man described it. He said he had been off a China station; on the right of his return home he went to the Bowery theatre, came out between the acts, and remembered nothing after that until he awoke the next morning, and found himself sitting in a doorway with his property and money all gone. When, on his return, he went to visit his Chapter at Philadelphia, they told him he had lost his mark and his watch, and that Inspector Thorne has the property. The man got his watch and chain, and the thieves were re-arrested, and were sent to State prison for five years.

While Inspector Thorne was Captain in the fourth Precinct, in the early part of 1863, a sailor came in and threw down a handkerchief containing twelve hundred dollars in gold on the desk, and said: "I want you to keep that for me." The Inspector took the money and gave the owner a receipt for it, and told him to come when he was sober and he would return it to him. The sailor left, and not returning, a search was made by the Police for the old fellow. He was found at the end of the week in a dance house, having had what he called a good time of it. When he returned to the station house he said: "I am going home, I live in Sullivan County. The last time I was in New York I had seven hundred dollars, and I was cleaned out in one night. I have had all the fun I wanted now, and I will go home to my poor old Mother and gibe her my money." The Inspector advised him to get a leather belt and to put his money into it. He did so and went on his way rejoicing. About a fortnight afterwards a man was brought into the station house so drunk that it was thought that he was dead. On looking at him the Inspector recognized his old friend, the sailor. Upon opening his clothes, the leather belt was found with some four hundred dollars in it. He had given all the money to his mother with the exception of that sum.

When the leading agitators of the trades union called a mass meeting to convene at the hall of the Cooper Institute shortly after the bloody Cincinnati riots, to pass resolutions of sympathy with those rioters, Inspector Thorne, who, in the absence of Superintendent Walling, was the acting Superintendent, took such prudent precautions in suppressing any riotous, demonstrations, that the meeting passed over without any breach of the public peace.

Inspector Throne's death took place unexpectedly on March 21, 1885. He had been, as usual, attending to his official duties, when he was taken suddenly ill, and before his wife could have been summoned, he breathed his last. His funeral was largely attended by contingents from the Police force, private personal friends, and his grief stricken family and sorrowing relatives.

The vacancy caused by his death was filled the day after his interment by the appointment of Captain Steers as Inspector. This appointment was made solely on the ground of merit, in recognition of the services of a brave and efficient officer. Inspector Steers' appointment was made provisional, pending the decision of the question whether the Civil Service rules required that he should be subjected to an examination, which he subsequently passed.

THE FIFTH PRECINCT--The Fifth Precinct is bounded by Warren Street, west track of the West Street Railroad, Canal Street, and Broadway. The station house is at Nos. 19 and 21 Leonard Street. It is one of the oldest in the city, and was originally dwelling houses. The chief officers of the command are: Captain, Joseph B. Eakins; and Sergeants, Miles DeShays, Patrick H. Doran, Edward B. Delamater, and A. J. Thompson. De Shays became a Policeman in 1862, a Roundsman four years later, and was made Sergeant next year. Doran's dates are: Patrolman, 1864; Roundsman, 1869; and Sergeant, 1873. Delamater came on the force in 1862, was made Roundsman in 1864, and obtained rank in 1868. Thompson is the senior Sergeant. He donned the uniform in 1859, was made Roundsman in 1864, and was promoted to his present tank in 1866.

CAPTAIN JOSEPH B. EAKINS is less heard of in public or in the newspapers than any Captain on the force, notwithstanding the fact that he is in command of one of the most important precincts in the city, which includes the greater part of "the dry good district." This is because Captain Eakins is a very modest man, he is popular, energetic, and stands high in the estimation of his official superiors. Appointed on the force, March 1, 1866; made Roundsman, December 6, 1868; a Sergeant, March 21, 1872; and was promoted Captain October 19, 1876.

This precinct has nineteen day posts and thirty-eight night posts. Its full complement is ninety-seven men, but details and sickness reduce it to eight men. Edward Handy and James Dunn are the Precinct Detectives. Thomas Foley is detailed to special night duty; Dermott Farley to Ordinances; Thomas Garland, Frederick Gilbert, and George A. Phillips to the Chambers Street Ferry; T. A. Moore to the Desbrosses Street Ferry; Cornelius Sullivan to West Broadway and Chambers Street, one of the worst crossing in New York; Charles S. Pike to the Laight Street Depot, Dennis McCarthy tot he West Streets cars, to prevent blockades and regulate the enormous stream of traffic there; Thomas Carlin to squad duty; and Antonio Perazzo to the Central Office on confidential duty as Italian interpreter and detective.

AS an illustration of what a fire, getting headway in this command, can do in the way of depleting the pockets of underwriters, take the remarkable conflagration of the seventeenth of January, 1879, when business interest in Worth, Thomas, Duane, Church, and Leonard Streets suffered to the extent of one million nine hundred and seventy-six thousand seven hundred and thirty-four dollars and seventy-eight cents. Another fire, on the eleventh of April, 1875, at Nos. 57 and 59 Worth Street, swept away property worth two hundred and forty-seven thousand dollars.

In a mercantile sense, the Fifth precinct is almost as important as the First Precinct. It embraces nearly all the dry goods district--the quarter so dreaded by firemen--the southern terminus and depot of the Hudson River Railroad, the large grocery houses, the public stores, Chamber Street Hospital, much of the produce business, and several bonded warehouses. At one time no precinct was so overrun with burglars as this, and some of the depredations were serious, but Captain Eakins has been singularly fortunate since he has been here, and a burglary is a rare occurrence. The annals of crime in this command furnish the example of the miserable, hopeless sot, thief and vagabond, Jack Reynolds, and his idle board, "Hanging is played out." Thanks to Father Deranquet, before Reynolds, on the sixth of April, 1870, met his fate for murdering the poor shoemaker in West Broadway, he saw his error and died a repentant sinner.

THE EIGHTH PRECINCT.--The Eighth Precinct is bounded by Canal Street, Broadway, Houston Street, and the west track of the railroad in West Street. The station house at No. 128 Prince Street covers historical ground, and the walls enclose old structures. One was a watch-house, and the other the quarters of engine company No. 11, Volunteer Fire Department, of which "Jack" Wildey was foreman. The building has never been a healthy one, and a more substantial and better built house is solely needed. The cells underground are dungeons, both damp and noisome. The officers are: Captain, Charles McDonnell, and Sergeants, Thomas H. B. Carpenter, William H. Chrystie, Patrick McNally and Frank W. Robb. Carpenter joined the force in 1861, was Roundsman in 1864, and was promoted next year. Chrystie has been a Policeman more then twenty years; he became Roundsman in 1864; and Sergeant in 1867. McNally was appointed in 1864, waited six years to be a Roundsman, and some years later attained rank. Robb's dates are: Patrolman, 1866, Roundsman, 1869, and Sergeant, 1870.

CAPTAIN McDONNELL.--"Lightning charley," of the Eighth Precinct, was born at No. 130 Anthony (now Worth Street), and went to school in City Hall Place. At a very early age he tried to earn his own living by selling newspapers. The late sheriff, Matthew T. Brennan, Judge Dowling, and other prominent Democrats, took a great interest in the young lad when they saw that he was so industrious and bright, and he was appointed to the Police force in January, 1863. He as detailed for duty to the old Twenty-eighth Precinct (now part of the Eighth), under Captain Steers, where he remained for two years. In 1870 he was appointed Captain to the Eighth Precinct, and was shortly afterwards transferred to the Twenty-eighth Precinct. While here a man named Sheridan killed a German in a mysterious manner, at the corner of Thirty-seventh Street and Second Avenue, and within two hours he was captured by "Lightning Charley."

He also was instrumental in the arrest and conviction of the three Negroes, Thompson, Ellis and Weston, who murdered a peddler named Weisberg, in Westchester County. The three Negroes were hanged.

A man named Hamilton murdered his mistress in Centre Street by inflicting several horrible stab wounds on her hand and body. He was arrested the same evening by Captain McDonnell.

When he returned to the Eighth Precinct, Capt. McDonnell made a vigorous war on the several dens of infamy in that locality, and made a great clearance of them. He also arrested Hester Jane Haskins, a notorious abductor of girls for infamous purposes.

Charles Augustus Manning, Henry Williams, and George Williams, who burglarized the residence of Mr. Sewell, a lawyer of West Forty-fifth Street, were hunted down by Captain McDonnell after a four days' search. He had them arraigned the next day, and the day after they were each of them sentenced to eighteen yeas in State Prison.

One afternoon a poor woman, who lived in South Fifth Avenue, was discovered murdered and lying in a pool of blood in her miserable garret. The Captain put his wits to work, and that very night arrested her unnatural son, who was proved afterwards to be the murderer.

A free fight, in which razors, daggers, and pistols were used, occurred on Saturday night between rival Negro clubs. After great difficulty Capt. McDonnell quelled the disturbance. He made several arrests, and among others, a Negro named Saunders, who was sent to State Prison. After his release he met Capt. McDonnell in the street, and, with an oath, attacked that officer. Several other Negroes joined in the assault on Capt. McDonnell, but he managed to keep them at bay with his club and some white men came to his rescue.

A few nights after the shooting of Ned O'Baldwin, the Irish giant and pugilist, a man came to the Police station, and delivered himself up to Capt., McDonnell, saying that it ws no use to conceal anything from him, as he (the Captain) would be sure to find the murderer out.

A very amusing occurrence took place on evening while the Captain was sitting in his office. The door was suddenly opened, and a big black bear sauntered slowly in. He stood on his hind legs, and looked wistfully at the Captain. The bear belonged to an Italian who was under arrest, and the animal had, by a strange coincidence, strayed in as if in search of his master. The bear was locked up in the cell with his master, to the great delight of both.

During a drunken quarrel at 57 Thompson Street, a Negro named "Jim" Jackson killed two white women. He was arrested and convicted. After his release from prison he opened a disreputable saloon in the same street. Capt. McDonnell made a raid on the place. Jackson resisted his arrest so savagely that he had to be clubbed into submission. He was subsequently convicted, and sent a second time to prison.

This precinct has nineteen day posts and thirty-six night posts. The quota of men, eighty-seven, is reduced by details and average sickness to seventy-five.

Thomas Moran and John A. Savercool are the Precinct Detectives. Augustus Browning is detailed to ordinance duty, and Louis McCord to inspector Murray's office.

The Eighth Precinct takes in a most important Broadway front, necessitating unceasing vigilance to prevent burglaries; hardly less important interests in Mercer, Greene, Wooster, and Canal Streets, and South fifth Avenue, the French colony, the bulk of the colored population, the Spring Street Market, mercantile marine interests on West Street, some squalor, less iniquity and vice than in former years, and the homes of many of the better class which are in the streets that run east from Varick Street. It is not many years since that the mantle of the "Bloody Sixth" appears to have fallen on the Eighth Precinct for mighty risks, immoral resorts which made one street a by-name for vicious Negroes, and resorts for sporting men and politicians, notably Mitchell’s at the corner of Broadway and Houston Street, furnished many a story that set tongues wagging. Now nearly all has changed. The district has been so far as is possible or can be reasonably expected, purged of the vicious classes, the resorts have moved up-town and the colored element is under control. It is rare that any event which might not occur in the best regulated precinct crops up, and the commercial and mercantile of the district is increasing daily. The dry goods district is spreading north from the Fifth Precinct, and at no time within the past few years have not builders been at work erecting substantial stores where once stood frame houses, which, in nine cases out of ten, were immoral resorts. One of the stirring incidents of late years was the fall of the old "rookeries" at Nos. 53 and 55 Grand Street, and the killing of eight persons. On the first of February, 1883, Pier No. 36, North river, used by the Inman Line, was burned, with a loss of two hundred and twenty thousand dollars. A substantial structure replaced it. Fireman's Hall, in Mercer Street, is in this precinct.



Our Police Protectors, History of the New York Police, Published for the benefit of the Police Pension Fund, by Augustine Costello, Published by Author, 1885.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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