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.

Friday, June 06, 2014

More on an Infamous Crime: The Masked Bandit Robbery of the Kemble House on Shore Road in 1873

On December 23, 1873, Richard J. Emmett and his family were sleeping peacefully in their home on Shore Road overlooking Long Island Sound.  The quiet of the evening was shattered when six masked men armed with revolvers burst into the home and raced to the bedroom of Emmett and his wife.  They bound and gagged the couple, then awoke the couple's nephew and two servants.  Those occupants of the home were bound and gagged as well.  

The robbers "proceeded to ransack the building from cellar to garret, and secured a large quantity of valuables."  They found a safe and cut a hole in it large enough to admit a hand and removed much of the safe's contents as well.  After a terrifying hour of thievery, the robbers fled.

The young nephew, Charles Emmett, was able to free himself first.  He then released the others.  The nephew then notified local police and the search for the thugs began.

The home in which this infamous crime occurred still stands.  In fact, a portion of the historic home pre-dates the Revolutionary War and is either the oldest or one of the two oldest structures that still stands in Pelham.  It has been known variously as the Kemble House, the Emmett Mansion and even the home in which the first native-born American canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, spent the summers of her youth.  It is located at 145 Shore Road (partially in Pelham Manor and Partially in New Rochelle).  

The Kemble House, 145 Shore Road, in 2005.
Photograph by the Author. 

I have written before about the December 23, 1873 home invasion of the Kemble Mansion.  For examples, see:  

Tue., May 17, 2005:  The Masked Burglar Robbery of the Emmett Home in Pelham on December 22, 1873 (Part I).  

Wed., May 18, 2005:  The Masked Burglar Robbery of the Emmett Home in Pelham on December 22, 1873 (Part II).  

No expense was spared to bring the six masked robbers to the bar of justice.  The robbers were identified, tried and convicted.  Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes an article about the trial, the guilty verdict and the "heavy sentence" received by one of the robbers, Larry Griffin.

Larry Griffin Tried and Found Guilty -- A Heavy Sentence.

The trial of the third masked robber, Larry Griffin, on an indictment for robbing Judge Emmett's residence near New Rochelle, on the 23d of last December, was begun yesterday in White Plains.  Before the trial began Col. Fellows stated to the Court that he was not retained by Dan Kelly as his counsel; that he appeared at the preliminary examination for Kelly at his request, and was spoken to about appearing at the final trial, but he said none of Kelly's friends had employed him.  The Court accepted the Colonel's explanation of his absence, and at the request of District Attorney Briggs, Judge Gifford assigned Col. Fellows to defend Griffin.

A jury was obtained without a challenge.

Mr. David Blizzard, who keeps a hotel near Pelham Bridge, testified:

At 4 o'clock in the afternoon of the 23d of last December three strange men came to my place.  Two of them soon went away.  One remained until 9 o'clock. That man was the prisoner.  

James McFarland, a coachman for Mr. Hickey, testified:

Near Mr. Emmett's house, on the road, I met the prisoner with six others.  He spoke to me.  I identify the prisoner positively.  

Mr. William Baxter testified that the prisoner was one of the men that he ferried from City Island to Great Neck dock on the morning of the 23d of December.

Mary Lyon, cook of the Seawanhaka, told the same story as on Conroy's trial, positively identifying the prisoner as one of the seven men who took passage on the steamer from Great Neck dock to New York.  

Col. Fellows, who was asked to cross-examine her, said that after Mr. Townsend's experience with her he would ask no questions.

The prisoner had no defence.

Col. Fellows told the jury that the testimony did not warrant a conviction of burglary, because there was no testimony that the prisoner participated in the burglary.  

District Attorney Briggs, in a brief summing up, said that if the prisoner was one of the party who planned the robbery, or went to the place with instruments prepared to perpetrate a burglary if necessary, he was just as guilty as though he had broken and entered the house, and the Court so charged the jury.  

The jury retired, and after an absence of three minutes rendered a verdict of guilty as charged in the indictment.  

The prisoner was then sentenced to twenty years at hard labor in Sing Sing.  He received the sentence with stolid indifference.  

Conroy, who was convicted on Wednesday, received the same sentence.  Both were taken to their new homes last evening."

Source:  THE MASKED ROBBERS -- Larry Griffin Tried And Found Guilty -- A Heavy Sentence, The Sun [NY, NY], Feb. 21, 1874, Vol. XLI, No. 149, p. 3, col. 5.  

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