Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pelham Residents Threatened to Storm the Jail and Lynch a Notorious Attempted Kidnapper in 1900

In 1900, a Village of North Pelham Constable captured a "desperate criminal" who tried to kidnap two local youngsters.  The event was widely reported after Pelham residents gathered at Town Hall and threatened to remove the prisoner and lynch him.  The Mount Vernon News of May 17, 1900 reported the matter as follows:

Edward Keller, who is known to the Mount Vernon and Westchester County police as a desperate criminal, is locked up in North Pelham, charged with attempting to kidnap two boys from this city.

The boys who Keller attempted to kidnap are Peter and John O'Connor, of Monroe street.  Keller was captured by Constable Marks of North Pelham, after an exciting chase through the woods.  Marks did not capture his man until after he emptied the contents of his revolver at him.  The residents of North Pelham who gathered at the Town Hall, last night, to get a look at Keller, were intensely excited and there was some talk of taking the prisoner out and lynching him.

Peter and John O'Connor, who are well known in East Mount Vernon are aged ten and twelve respectively.  They live with their parents on Monroe street.  Yesterday afternoon the lads were at play near their home.  Keller walked up to the boys and started to talk to them, and, finally, enticed the boys to take a walk with him.  He gave the lads candy and other delicacies.  The boys followed Keller through East Mount Vernon to the woods.  While in a secluded place it is alleged Keller attempted to choke Peter because he refused to follow him.

The kidnapper also left the imprints of his fingers on young John's throat.  The boys' cries for help attracted the attention of Constable Marks who happened to be near at hand.  A moment later Marks saw Keller attempt to lead the boys across the Hutchinson River.

When Keller saw the Constable he fled in the direction of the woods.  Marks followed his man emptying the contents of his revolver at him.  When Keller saw that escape was impossible he threw both hands above his head and surrendered.  He was taken to the Town Hall in Pelham, and locked up.

Keller is one of the three convicts who escaped from the Westchester County Jail at White Plains in 1892 by sawing away the bars.

At the time Keller was awaiting trial for horse stealing.  He had not been heard from until his capture.  Keller is the same individual who was arrested in this city in 1897 for stealing a cow belonging to Alderman Reynolds, of the Seventh Ward, of Yonkers.  While waiting at the police station for examination Keller attempted to cut his way out of jail by sawing the bars.

His scheme was detected in the nick of time.  A woman by the name of Wiseman had furnished Keller with the file.  Keller was sentenced to the Elmira Reformatory for this offense.

The prisoner attributes his capture to being drunk and unable to run.  After his escape from the county jail Keller went to work in the coal mines in Penn.  He returned to this section of the country yesterday.

The prisoner was arraigned before Judge Lyon in North Pelham last night and held to await the action of the Grand Jury."

Source:  Kidnapper Captured in Pelham, Mount Vernon News, May 17, 1900, p. 2, col. 1.

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