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.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Shocking Crime at Jackson Avenue and Peace Street in Pelham Manor on October 27, 1896

The intersection of Jackson Avenue and Peace Street in the tiny Village of Pelham Manor was a quiet and secluded area in 1896.  There was only one home on Peace Street.  There was a section of old growth woods adjacent to the area.  Records reflect that area residents carried firearms after dark and kept loaded firearms close at hand when in the comfort of their homes.  

Pelham Manor resident Josiah M. Bertine, his wife, their son and their beautiful daughter, Mary Bertine, lived in one of the few residences in the area, on Jackson Avenue near Peace Street.  Mary had suffered a tragic bout of scarlet fever as a child and had been left deaf and mute.  

On the evening of Tuesday, October 27, 1896, the pair was targeted by a group of four men who ambushed them in their carriage from behind a stone wall near the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Peace Street.  The thugs shot Mr. Bertine and the horse pulling the carriage.  

The crime shocked Pelham.  It received sensationalized coverage in New York City papers.  Mary Bertine saved her wounded father's life!  Deaf and mute Mary Bertine was so frightened that her ability to speak was miraculously restored!  Such assertions made the Extras in New York City and appeared in print across much of the land.  

Mystery enveloped the crime.  Reports suggested that every citizen in Pelham promptly became a detective dedicated to solving the crime.  

Some believed the crime was not an attempted robbery but an attempted murder.  It was the second attempt on Josiah Bertine's life in three weeks.  Soon, an "attempted" murder mystery that seems nearly worthy of an Agatha Christie novel unfolded.

Josiah M. Bertine was a "printer and dealer in stationery" with a shop on Fulton Street in New York City.  He and his wife lived on Jackson Avenue in Pelham Manor with their two children, including their beloved teenage daughter, Mary.  Mary had suffered a severe case of scarlet fever as a child.  She was a deaf mute.

After Mary's illness, her parents doted on her.   Her every wish was gratified according to at least one report.  She was educated at a special school in Manhattan. She began painting classes in the City.  

Late in the day on Tuesday, October 27, 1896, Josiah M. Bertine picked up his daughter from her art class.  He took her to 129th Street and Third Avenue where the pair caught the Branch Line suburban commuter train and traveled home to the Pelham Manor Depot.  There they were picked up in a small two-seater carriage.  Their driver was a new coachman named John Royal whom Mr. Bertine had only hired a few weeks before.  

Mr. Bertine had hired Royal after a "violent" confrontation with a previous coachman that led to blows.  Bertine fired that coachman who, in turn, vowed revenge.  

The circumstances of the crime led to speculation.  Jackson Avenue, where the Bertines lived, was being repaved at the time.  Thus, John Royal drove the carriage with Josiah and Mary in the two passenger seats that night along an odd route that approached the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Peace Street from along Peace Street.  When the two-seater was bouncing along Peace Street and was only twenty feet from the intersection with Jackson Avenue, the four men sprang forth from behind a wall.

How did the thugs know the carriage would approach along Peace Street?  

Various accounts of what happened next, as should be expected, are muddled.  There seem to be a few common threads, however.

The four men sprang forward.  Two  grabbed the bridle of the horse to stop the carriage.  The other two leveled revolvers at the heads of Bertine and his daughter.  The horse wheeled in terror and one of the thugs screamed "shoot him!"  Two shots rang out and bullets tore into the poor horse.  

What happened next set Pelham tongues wagging for weeks.  The new coachman, John Royal, leaped out of the carriage and plunged into the underbrush, not to be seen again for hours.  He happened to be from New Rochelle -- just like the previous coachman who had been dismissed and vowed revenge on Josiah Bertine.  

A struggle ensued.  More shots resounded.  One passed through Josiah's overcoat.  Another struck him in the neck and he collapsed.  The mute, Mary, shrieked "Papa's shot!" .  The gunmen fled into the underbrush.  

Mary leaped from the carriage and ran for help.  Her father lay bleeding there.  She enlisted help from the first house she reached.  The homeowner grabbed a lantern and ran along the road toward the carriage.

In the meantime, Josiah Bertine regained his sense and struggled to stand up in the carriage to look for his daughter.  Not seeing her, he believed she had been shot and fallen out of the carriage.  He screamed "murder!"  Once he screamed, a hail of bullets exploded from the nearby underbrush where the thugs had fled.  Bullets struck the carriage, but no more struck Bertine.  As the neighbor with the lantern approached, the thugs fled for good.  

Bertine's neck wound was superficial.  Once dressed, he and his daughter guided the carriage home, entirely unaware the horse had been shot twice.  Once they arrived, their horse collapsed and died, having completed service.

Soon the Bertine family's possessions were packed and ready for a move.  The shooting was the second attempt on Bertine's life in only a matter of weeks.  A few weeks before, Bertine had heard his outside guard dog make an odd noise in the middle of the night.  He opened his bedroom window and looked out.  He saw men outside just as a fusillade of gunfire sprayed his home.  He ducked inside, grabbed his loaded shotgun and took off after them.  As he ran downstairs, he saw that his downstairs was ransacked and had been burglarized.  The bandits escaped, although later Bertine found much of his silverware where it had been left behind by the bandits in their hasty departure.  

At first, the police and Pelham residents suspected Bertine's new coachman was in cahoots with Bertine's old coachman who had threatened revenge after he was fired.  The police noted that there was no evidence of a robbery -- no demand for money or valuables and no actual theft even after Bertine had been shot.  Additionally, they noted, when Bertine stood in the carriage and screamed, he was met by a hail of bullets apparently intended to finish the job.

The Bertine shooting was so notoriously brutal that it received widespread, sensationalized coverage in the press.  Police throughout the New York metropolitan area were on alert.  A massive police dragnet extended throughout the region in an effort to identify the culprits and bring them to justice.  It turns out that good old-fashioned detective work may have solved the crime.  

A day or so after the crime, police in Manhattan observed three suspicious men in Grand Central Depot trying to board a train to White Plains.  They detained them for questioning.  All three gave their name as "Joe."  Eventually, two were released for lack of evidence while the third was held on another charge of stealing a bicycle.  Once the third was released, the police put all three under surveillance, trailing them all over the City until they knew their habits.

One of those "habits" was a large gathering at a saloon frequented by a large group of German-speaking men who gambled and drank until the wee hours of the morning, apparently led by a man named Szantho and his wife.  The couple was added to the surveillance detail and, eventually, were tracked back to a pair of dingy rented rooms.  Questioning of the landlord established that the couple had filled a room with items that they claimed they planned to use to stock a new local business the husband would be opening.  That was enough for the police.

Detectives raided the rooms and found loot from suburban burglaries in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.  Detectives next went to the saloon where the group was drinking -- including the three men they had originally detained in Grand Central.  They arrested them essentially without incident and found pawn tickets on many of them for additional items that had been stolen in suburban burglaries and pawned in New York City pawn shops.

Though there does not seem to have been explicit evidence in support of the conclusion, the police concluded that members of the group had attempted the burglary at Bertine's home and had returned at the time he was shot.

Several of the news stories about the crime are transcribed below.  Further research may eventually provide final answers to the outcome of the entire affair.  Amazingly, however, several of the news reports included engravings of the area along Jackson Avenue and Peace street where the crime took place, the plunder discovered by the police, and images of Josiah and Mary Bertine, the new coachman (John Royal) and even a few of the thugs eventually arrested by the police.  Those images appear below, followed by the transcriptions of the news articles.

Source:   Victim of a League To Kill, N.Y. Herald, Oct. 29, 1896, p. 5, col. 6 & p. 6, col. 1. 

Source:  Victim of a League To Kill, N.Y. Herald, Oct. 29, 1896, p. 5, col. 6 & p. 6, col. 1. 


Source:  Robber Band Slyly Caught, N.Y. Herald, Nov. 20, 1896, p. 5, col. 1.

Source:  Bien's 1893 Atlas of Westchester County (Plate 3 Detail) - Showing
the Area Including the Intersection of Jackson Avenue and Unlabeled Peace
Street Where the Crime Occurred.

Bertine's Four Highwaymen, Who Tried to Murder Him in Pelham Manor, May Have Been Allies of a Secret Enemy.
Three Joes Arrested on Suspicion Are Coachmen, Too, and Each Was Armed with Two Revolvers.
Once Before Burglars Tried to Kill Mr. Bertine, and One Was Not a Stranger.
When Royal Fled She Went for Assistance, and Her Power of Speech Was Marvellously Restored.

Two attempts have been made to take the life of Josiah M. Bertine, of Pelham Manor, within the last three weeks.  The last occurred on Tuesday evening, when his carriage was stopped near his house by four highwaymen and ten bullets fired at him, some of them at close range.  A slight wound in the neck, however, is the only mark he bears of the fray.  

Three young men, ranging from twenty to twenty-five years of age, were locked up in Mulberry street headquarters yesterday afternoon on suspicion of being the highwaymen.  Detective Michael McDonough, of Captain O'Brien's staff, noticed them in an Eighth avenue pawn shop, where one of them was disposing of a lady's emerald ring, worth $50, for $10.  They seemed to answer the description of Mr. Bertine's assailants, and the detective kept his eyes on them.  

He followed them to the Grand Central Station.  On the way he picked up Detective Alfonse Rheaum.  The men seemed to know the detectives, although their features are not in the Rogues' Gallery.  When McDonough sat down near them one of them said something in a low voice, and they quickly moved to the ticket office, where they bought three tickets for White Plains.  

When the trainman called out the local they started for the door, but the detectives got there before them, and McDonough invited them to visit Captain O'Brien. 

They refused to tell anything about themselves when taken to Headquarters, other than that they were Joseph Chambers, Joseph Arlington and Joseph Ferguson, coachmen.  Mr. Bertine had a violent quarrel a discharged coachman a short time ago, but of that more soon.

When searched each man had two revolvers, one empty and one loaded, and although they wore stiff derbys [sic] the detectives found three soft slouch hats in their pockets of the pattern that may be turned down to hide the face.

They Are Three 'Coachmen.'

The men admitted that the names given were fictitious, but stuck to the story that they were coachmen, although in the pocket of the man who called himself Arlington Captain O'Brien found a paper, upon which were written the addresses of every prominent bank in New York city.

The Captain is confident that the men are Mr. Bertine's highwaymen, and he has asked that gentleman, his daughter and the coachman who drove him Tuesday night to come to Headquarters to-day to identify them.  They will come.

Mr. Bertine was held up by four highwaymen.  These three say they are coachmen.  The police incline to the belief that the fourth coachman-highwaymen [sic] is still in Pelham Manor.  They have called the men the 'Three Joes.'

Mr. Bertine is a printer and dealer in stationery at Nos. 81 and 83 Fulton street.  He has two children -- William, who is just approaching manhood, and a daughter Mary who is a pretty girl of fifteen.  His life is bound up in that of his daughter.  Several years ago she had a severe attack of scarlet fever.  She recovered from the disease, but it left her deaf and dumb.  Since then her every wish has been gratified.  She was educated at the deaf and dumb institution where Professor Eglau was killed, and was his favorite scholar.  After his death she ceased to go to the school, but this fall she began to develop a talent for painting, and went three afternoons a week for instruction in art.

Mr. Bertine called for his daughter Tuesday afternoon and took her to 129th street and Third avenue, where they caught the suburban train for Pelham Manor, which leaves a few minutes before seven o'clock.

Mr. Bertine's Pelham Manor residence, where he and his family have lived for six years, is about a mile from the station and is called Echo Lawn.  John Royal, a smug faced young man, who has been his coachman for only six weeks, received word Tuesday to meet his employer at Pelham Manor.  He harnessed one of the horses to an open two seated wagon and started for the station.  He had forgotten the revolver which he usually carries when he is out after dark and drove back to the stable for it.

Held Up by Four Highwaymen.

Mr. Bertine and his daughter got into the carriage.  He sat upon the left side, she upon the right.  Jackson avenue, the street which is the direct route from the station at Pelham Manor to Echo Lawn, is being repaved, and the coachman drove a roundabout way and approached the house through Peace street.  This is a short thoroughfare and is almost unoccupied.  It is flanked on the west side by a low stone wall, which is surmounted by a row of bushes.  The horse trotted along slowly until within about twenty feet of Jackson avenue and one hundred yards of Echo Lawn.  

Suddenly four men sprang out from behind the stone wall on the right side of the wagon.  Two of them rushed to the horse's head and seized the bridle.  The other two sprang for the wagon and levelled [sic] revolvers at the heads of Mr. and Miss Bertine.

The horse plunged and wheeled, trying to escape the hands which held him.

'Shoot him,' said one of the highwaymen.  Two revolvers sounded.

Royal jumped from his seat over the wheel and made his way into the underbrush toward Pelham Manor at top speed.  The injunction to shoot the horse was the only word spoken by the four men.  

Mr. Bertine jumped as the shot was fired and, turning toward his daughter, saw four revolvers pointed at her head.  She was between him and the men.  He uttered a loud cry for help, and, without a moment's hesitation, leaned over and grabbed for the pistols.  

Two of them spoke at once.  One bullet passed through his coat, close to his stomach, but inflicted no wound.  The other went through his overcoat, his low, turned down line collar, and ploughed a furrow in his neck.  He fell forward with a groan, and the men, thinking their aim was accomplished, fled.

Mary saw her father's condition, jumped lightly from the wagon, and ran to the house of James Corson, about 150 yards away, and the only house in Peace street.

Her Speech Restored.

'Papa's shot!' she ejaculated, the excitement restoring for the moment her powers of speech, which had lain dormant for so long.  Mr. Corson took a lantern and started for the wagon on a run.

Mr. Bertine was only suffering from a flesh wound.  He recovered his senses in a moment and looked around for his daughter.  Her seat was vacant, and he thought she had been shot by the assassins.  The horse, which had two bullets in its body, at this time started up and Mr. Bertine grabbed the and brought him to a halt.  The he found his voice.  

'Help!  Murder!  Murder!' he shouted, and the words could be heard for blocks.  'They've killed my daughter, and they're killing me!'

The only answer was a fusillade of shots from the underbrush toward Pelham Manor, where the highwaymen had gone.  Their aim was good, and three of the four bullets found lodgement in the wagon in which Mr. Bertine was was standing.  He says he counted eight shots in all, and he is certain he could hear the men running toward him as they fired.

Mr. Corson, who by this time was on his way to the scene, set up an answering shout and waved his lantern franctically [sic] in the air.  This frightened the men, and they stopped firing.

Miss Bertine was the coolest one of the party which soon surrounded her father.  She examined his wound, saw that it was not deep, and then dressed it with handkerchiefs by the feeble rays of the lantern.

The old horse stood stanchly [sic] in the shafts and no one thought he was wounded.  Mr. and Miss Bertine got in the wagon again and drove home.  The horse took them safely to the house, was taken to the stable by William Bertine, and fell to the floor as soon as he was released from the shafts.  He died a few moments afterward.

The Pursuit Abandoned.

In the meantime a crowd had gathered at the scene of the shooting.  It was known that the highwaymen had gone toward Pelham Manor.  J.B. Holmes, a Justice of the Peace, James Donlon, F.J. Mulligan and James Bryan started in pursuit.  As they ran down Jackson avenue they were stopped by Mrs. Reilly, who lives about a quarter of a mile from Echo Lawn.  She had heard of the shooting.

'Four men just ran back of my house,' said she in great excitement.  'They fell into the ditch, but scrambled out quickly and made for the woods back there.

The pursuing party made all speed for the woods, but when they were confronted by the big trees and the dense blackness which intervened between them they came to a halt.  It was found that not one of the party was armed, and the highwaymen were known to have weapons and to be willing to use them.  The pursuit was stopped.  

Pelham Manor is guarded by two night watchmen, who did not think it was necessary to make any report to the neighboring police.  The police at Mount Vernon were notified yesterday afternoon of the shooting, and Chief Foley began an investigation.  

Two Attempts at Murder.

It seems clear to the police that this is not an attempt at highway robbery, but a deliberate plan to kill Mr. Bertine.  The fact that the men made no demand for money and began to shoot again as soon as they found their first bullets were ineffectual shows this.  Naturally the police go back to the attempt made on Mr. Bertine's life three weeks ago and connect the two.

Mr. Bertine was aroused about three o'clock in the morning three weeks ago Sunday by the barking and moaning of his dog.  He keeps a big Siberian bloodhound named Jumbo in his stable, which is the terror of the neighborhood.  He stuck his head out of the window when he was awakened and began to shout to the dog.  Two men suddenly came out of the lower door.  They looked up and saw Mr. Bertine.  They levelled [sic] their revolvers and fired three shots at him, none of which took effect.  Mr. Bertine hastily withdrew his head from the window, and, getting a shotgun, started down stairs after the robbers, but found they had fled.

All the silverware in the house, valued at about $2,000, had been taken, but this was found the next day behind the stable, where it had been left by the thieves.

The strangest part of the affair is that the bloodhound had been enticed away from his usual quarters and tied to a tree more than one hundred yards away from the house.  This could only have been done by some one with whom the dog was familiar, as the animal is so savage that a stranger can do nothing with him.

Trouble with a Coachman.

Every one in Pelham Manor yesterday was a detective and many theories were advanced.  It was called to mind that Mr. Bertine had a violent altercation with the coachman who preceded John Royal.  In the cantroversy [sic] he struck the man, who left the place vowing vengeance.  He has been seen in Pelham Manor lately, but never near Echo Lawn.  This is the only man known to be friendly with have a motive for revenge on Mr. Bertine, and the fact that he was known to be friendly with the dog is regarded as significant.  Then too, the highwaymen were familiar with Mr. Bertine's habits.  Whether he came from the Pelham Manor depot or the station at Pelham he must pass the junction of the two roads where they lay in wait for him.

The two men who levelled [sic] the revolvers at the Bertines were the only ones seen.  Miss Bertine gave the best description of her assailants.  She says they were young men, had, had smooth faces and their features seemed to be regular.  They held their heads down while she was looking at them so she could not get a good view of them.  They seemed to her to be rather under medium size.

Mr. Bertine says he did not hear a word uttered during the attack, though the coachman says the men shouted to him to hold up his hands when they grabbed the bridle.  royal ran down to the Pelham Manor depot giving the alarm, and did not return to echo Lawn till ten o'clock at night.  When upbraided for leaving his employer he frankly admitted that he was a coward.

Narrow Escape from Death.

The attempted murder of Mr. Bertine three weeks ago induced the family to move into town this winter.  They said they were afraid to remain in such a lonely neighborhood.  When I called at the house yesterday all the furniture was packed ready for shipment.  Dr. Weshtern, who attended Mr. Bertine, said his wound was not serious though he was suffering from nervous prostration.  The ball just missed the jugular vein by an eighth of an inch.  

'I cannot give the slightest information in regard to the men who shot me,' said Mr. Bertine, 'except I think they are the same men who attempted to kill me three weeks ago.  Why these attempts should be made I do not know.'

Sergeant Beckwith, of the Mount Vernon police, told me last night that a search was being made for the coachman with whom Mr. Bertine had the altercation.  He thought they would be able to find him to-day.

'Royal's actions are suspicious, too,' said he.  'He is a friend of the former coachman.  They both came from New Rochelle.  It looks to us like a put up job.  Royal's flight was too sudden, and his delay in returning to the house was too long.  I think at least that he knew the highwaymen, and he is now under surveillance.'"  

Source:  Victim of a League To Kill, N.Y. Herald, Oct. 29, 1896, p. 5, col. 6 & p. 6, col. 1.  See also Shot by Highwaymen - They Hold Up Mr. Bertine, Wound Him, and Kill His Horse, The Sun [New York], Oct. 29, 1896, p. 4, col. 1; Extra! Victims of Highwaymen - J.H. Bertine, Daughter and Shot at by Masked Men in a Lonely Pelham Road, The Evening Telegram [New York], Extra!, Oct. 28, 1896, p. 1, col. 1; Held Up By Three Masked Men, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 28, 1896, p. 1, col. 3.    

One Reason Why the Men Who Attempted to Kill Mr. Bertine in Pelham Manor Escaped.

The fact that Pelham Manor is utterly without police protection rendered the escape of the men who attempted to murder J. H. Bertine easy.  The Mount Vernon police did a little work on the case, but they were called off yesterday, because Pelham Manor is out of their district, and they were wanted at home.

New Rochelle is the only other town of importance near Pelham Manor, and the police of that place have received no official notice of the occurrence.  J. H. Shinn, Supervisor of the town of Pelham Manor, has called a meeting of the Trustees for to-night.  The question will be brought up whether the town should not hire detectives to trace the criminals.  

Mr. Bertine, however, was not satisfied with the tardiness of this mode of action.  He engaged detectives at his own expense, and they were hard at work all day yesterday.  Mr. Bertine is convinced that the four men intended to kill him, but he refuses to say that he suspects any one.

The other members of the family are not so reticent, however, Mrs. Bertine told me yesterday that her daughter Mary thought she recognized one of the assailants as a coachman formerly in their employ.  Just after the shooting she uttered the name 'Philip' in an excited manner several times.

This man had a mania for making things.  One day he showed Mrs. Bertine a razor which he had constructed of tin.  This was in the stable until the burglary, and then it was missed.  Next day young Bertine found that the window through which the burglars had entered could not be opened by a knife.  A piece of tin, however, sprung the lock at once.  

Mr. and Mrs. Bertine went to Police Headquarters yesterday to see the three men held there under suspicion.  Their only hope was that one of them would be the one recognized by Miss Bertine.  They were unable to identify to identify them, however.  The men were remanded until to-day, when another attempt will be made to identify them."

Source:  No Police Protection, N.Y. Herald, Oct. 30, 1896, p. 12, col. 2.  See also Pelham Manor Robbery - No One Able to Identify the Alleged Thieves, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Oct. 30, 1896, p. 2, col. 4.    

Captain O'Brien's Detectives Round Up Six Thieves Who Plundered Suburbanites Last Summer.
Probably the Same Thugs Who Held Up Josiah Bertine and His Daughter at Pelham Manor.
Desperate Leader Showed Fight When Detectives Doran, Barrett and Tinker Descended Upon the Robbers.

Following the robbery last month of the residence of Josiah M. Bertine, at Pelham Manor,, Captain O'Brien's detectives have been hot on the trail of a band of men whom they suspected not only of that burglary and the hold-up of Mr. Bertine and his daughter, which followed it, but also of other robberies at Fairfield, Conn., and Summit, N.J.

Detectives Doran, Barrett and Tinker worked to get these men for many weeks and in the face of many discouragements on clews [sic] that promised poorly at first, but yesterday their efforts were rewarded by the round up of the whole band, including its leader, Ferdinand Szantho, alias Salswarth, alias Sandow, and the recovery of quantities of the stolen property, which the thieves had secreted in a dingy back room of the tenement at No. 26 state street, Brooklyn.

The story of the tracking of these extraordinary thieves presents many unusual and thrilling features.  One of their number is a woman, said to be the wife of Szantho, the leader of the band, and herself a ruling quantity in its councils.  It is supposed that the detectives that acquired direct information of the rendezvous and habits of the band through the resentment of one of its members toward this woman.


Harrison H. Hallett, whose residence at Fairfield, Conn., was robbed on November 15, and Warner C. Bulkley, president of the Whiting Manufacturing Company, whose residence in Summit, N.J. was robbed of a quantity of silverware last September, appeared at Police Headquarters yesterday and identified their property.

The prisoners were arraigned in the Centre Street Police Court and remanded until this afternoon.  They were: - Max Lowenstein, seventeen years old, of No. 39 Bowery; Julius Bollinger, alias 'the Switzer,' twenty-five years old, of No. 39 Bowery; William Werner, alias 'the Berliner,' twenty-two years old, of No. 193 Allen street; Frank Szantho, alias Salswarth, alias Sandow, of No. 26 State street, Brooklyn; Henry Miller, twenty-four years old, of No. 125 Washington street, and Mary Miller, of No. 28 Madison street.

It will be remembered that at the time of the Bertine robbery three persons were arrested upon suspicion that they knew something about the affair.  These were Werner 'the Berliner,' Miller, and the boy Loewenstein, who, by the way, is a fair type of what is known as the 'degenerate.'  Werner and Miller were subsequently discharged from custody for lack of evidence.  Mr. Bertine couldn't identify any of them as the men who had robbed and shot at him.  The boy Lowenstein, however, was held on another charge, that of stealing a bicycle.  He was tried in General Sessions and acquitted.

The detectives all the time, however, were keeping an eye open for Werner and Miller, but the latter were wary and kept under cover.  The boy Loewenstein was put through his paces, but he at first was equally cautious.  In the end, however, the detectives elicited from the reluctant boy that he and his friends were in the habit of meeting to play pinochle at Gross' saloon, at the corner of Orchard and DIvision streets.  It was only by dint of coaxing and threats that he was induced to tell what he knew, and also to act as a decoy for the others.

Dorian, Barrett and Tinker then resolved to watch Gross' saloon until such time as all the members of the band assembled.  They were particularly anxious to get the chief, Ferdinand Szantho, who is reputed to be a desperado of great nerve and caring.  For more than two weeks the three, attired in rough clothing, frequented the saloon and drank beer at three cents a schooner, and played pinochle with the customers who were so inclined.  Still Szantho did not come.


The woman member of the band, who calls herself Mrs. Miller, but is, as already stated, supposed to be the wife of Szantho, frequently joined the party at Gross'.  They would sit about one of the round tables in the general room, drink beer and talk German.  When the hour for closing arrived all hands would go to the sidewalk, where, after warm good nights, they would disperse in various directions.  

The detectives shadowed different members of the band night after night in the hope of tracking one of them to the place where the booty was concealed, but those followed invariably turned into some cheap lodging house in the Bowery or elsewhere for the night.  But one night Detective Doran followed Mrs. Miller, or Szantho, to the house in Brooklyn.

This house is a plain tenement at the corner of State street and Columbia place, with an entrance on State street.  Underneath is a saloon kept by a man named Garvin, who is also the owner of the building.  Garvin told Doran that about a month ago a couple who gave their names as Mr. and Mrs. Szantho, hired the two rooms on the second floor, in the rear.  They brought a lot of stuff with them, which Mrs. Szantho explained by saying that her husband was going to open a store in the neighborhood.


As soon as these facts were communicated by Doran to his partners it was resolved to arrest the band on Wednesday night, provided its members could be properly rounded up in Gross' saloon.  Very little reliance was placed upon the good faith of the boy, Loewenstein, who was closely watched and repeatedly warned that if he 'blowed' to his 'pals' he would be sent up for life, or words to that effect.  The detectives, however, were in hopes that Szantho would show up, for he has the reputation of being a bad man and one who will fight at the drop of the hat.

All three men accordingly at eight o'clock Wednesday evening were in their accustomed places in Gross' hospitable saloon, and were speedily made happy by the assembling of all the members of the band they were after, with the exception of Szantho.  Bollinger, Werner, Miller, Mrs. Miller, or Szantho, and Loewenstein sat down at one table and conversed earnestly.

They had not been there five minutes when the woman and Bollinger rose and left the saloon.  Doran signalled Barrett to remain on watch in the saloon while he and Tinker followed Mrs. Miller and Bollinger.  The woman and her companion walked through to the Bowery, and then up to Simpson's pawnshop, at No. 181.  She entered and Bollinger remained outside to watch.  Doran and Tinker slouched by carelessly and also entered the pawnshop without attracting more than a passing notice from the lookout.

The detectives walked immediately up to Mrs. Miller, who had just opened negotiations with one of the clerks, and placed her under arrest.  While they were talking to her, Bollinger, who had become alarmed at her protracted absence, pushed open one of the side doors and entered.  As soon as he saw the detectives he bolted and was about one hundred yards down the Bowery before Detective Doran got started in pursuit.  He was caught, however, after a brief but exciting chase.  Both prisoners were locked up at Headquarters, and then the detectives returned to Gross' saloon.  


They were surprised as well as pleased at the discovery that in their absence Szantho, the chief of the band, had arrived, and was seated at the table with the others.  All were apparently waiting with impatience for the return of the woman and Bollinger.  Detective Barrett was leaning nonchalantly against the bar smoking and talking to a diminutive man.  Szantho, who has a forbidding face, appeared to be upbraiding the boy, Loewenstein, who was as white as a sheet and frequently cast appealing glances at Barrett, Doran and Tinker got behind the alleged thieves table and motioned Barrett to join them, which he did without haste and in such a manner as to attract no attention to his movements.  The room was crowded with drinkers and the air thick with tobacco smoke.  

Doran walked up to the table so as to be behind Szantho, and his partners approached on either side.

'We are policemen,' said Doran suddenly, but in a low voice that could not be heard except for whom it was intended, 'and we want you persons; come outside.'

Szantho moved his hand toward his hip pocket and sprang to his feet.  Doran pressed the muzzle of his revolver against the fellow's side and said grimly: --

'Are you going dead or alive?'

Szantho dropped into his seat again.  The others had been frozen to their chairs at the first words Doran spoke.  

'Come easy now,' said the detective, 'but come quick.'

Those nearest the table where this was happening had, however, caught sight of Doran's revolver, and it was enough to send them scuttling for the doors.  The fright spread quickly, and in a moment the saloon was stampeded.  In the confusion Szantho once again attempted an escape, and this time all three detectives drew revolvers and menaced their prisoners.  After that they went quietly enough.  

'We didn't even put the bracelets on 'em,' said Doran.


When Szantho was searched at Headquarters his pockets were found to be full of cartridges.  He also carried two revolvers and a piece of bicycle tire tied into a knot at one end with twine and forming a sort of blackjack, a very formidable weapon.  As soon as the prisoners were locked up, after being deprived of the pawntickets [sic] with which all were well furnished, the detectives went over to the Brooklyn house and searched it thoroughly.

They found a veritable treasure trove in the two dingy rooms.  Between the mattresses in the inner or hall room was discovered a miscellaneous collection of valuable silver plate.

Other articles found were ninety-four keys, a varied assortment of 'jimmies,' seven picklocks, two revolvers, a quantity of acid for testing metals, a heap of dress goods of various materials and patterns, a shotgun, a dark lantern, any quantity of bric-a-brac, including table ornaments, watches, ornaments, &c.

While the search was going on a young fellow walked jauntily into the room with a bicycle on his shoulders.  He was astonished to find the premises in possession, and when questioned said that he had brought the bicycle to get the handle bars plated.  He was arrested and turned over to the custody of the Brooklyn police.  He gave his name as Gus Henckey, sixteen years old, of No. 151 Fifty-second street, Brooklyn.


Leaving Detectives Krouch in charge of the Brookly house, the others returned to New York and went to No. 20 Cherry street, the residence of a Mrs. Kripel, who is a sister of the Miller woman.  They had learned from a source they did not disclose that Mrs. Miller had left a trunk with her sister some weeks ago.

In this trunk were found a quantity of handsome dresses, four silver pitchers, two silver sugar bowls, one silver box, one silver tray, one silver card receiver, one brass teapot, with stand, and two brass candlesticks, twenty-one silver spoons, four silver forks, twenty-one bone handled knives, a bundle of souvenir spoons, one gold backed thermometer of ornamental design and dozens of napkins and embroidered table and bureau covers.  All this stuff, with the property taken from the Brooklyn house, filled Captain O'Brien's room, which took on the appearance of a department dry goods store.  

From pawn tickets found on Szantho the detectives recovered at the pawnshop of M. Phillips, at No. 157 Bowery, a quantity of the property stolen from Warner C. Bulkeley, including four silver pitchers, two sugar bowls, one silver tray, one silver card receiver, and a set of brass candlesticks, besides a quantity of silver spoons and bric-a-brac.  From Mrs. Szantho was taken a pawn ticket for $145 for a diamond ring, the property of Harrison H. Hallett of Fairfield, Conn.  Pawn tickets for property of various descriptions were found upon all the other prisoners and these goods will be recovered as speedily as possible."

Source:  Robber Band Slyly Caught, N.Y. Herald, Nov. 20, 1896, p. 5, col. 1.

See also Held Up By Three Masked Men, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 28, 1896, p. 1; Did They Rob the Bertines?, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 29, 1896, p. 3.    

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