No. 653
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
May 27, 2024

Breaking Up a Bagnio.

November 18, 2012
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The archives of the Humble Oil & Refining Company are about the last place where you’d expect to run across a first-rate poltergeist account, but it just goes to show that we live in a funny old world.  In 1948, a folklorist and historian was browsing through the company’s papers when he came across a letter that had absolutely nothing to do with oil.  It read:Jan [illegible] '
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Strange Company - 5/27/2024
Included in yesterday’s trip to Fall River was a stop at Miss Lizzie’s Coffee shop and a visit to the cellar to see the scene of the tragic demise of the second Mrs. Lawdwick Borden and two of the three little children in 1848. I have been writing about this sad tale since 2010 and had made a previous trip to the cellar some years ago but was unable to get to the spot where the incident occured to get a clear photograph.  The tale of Eliza Borden is a very sad, but not uncommon story of post partum depression with a heartrending end. You feel this as you stand in the dark space behind the chimney where Eliza ended her life with a straight razor after dropping 6 month old Holder and his 3 year old sister Eliza Ann into the cellar cistern. Over the years I have found other similar cases, often involving wells and cisterns, and drownings of children followed by suicides of the mothers. These photos show the chimney, cistern pipe, back wall, dirt and brick floor, original floorboards forming the cellar ceiling and what appears to be an original door. To be in the place where this happened is a sobering experience. My thanks to Joe Pereira for allowing us to see and record the place where this sad occurrence unfolded in 1848. R.I.P. Holder, Eliza and Eliza Ann Borden. Visit our Articles section above for more on this story. The coffee shop has won its suit to retain its name and has plans to expand into the shop next door and extend its menu in the near future.
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 2/12/2024
When these photos from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York were taken at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery at the end of May in 1899, Memorial Day didn’t exist. “Decoration Day,” however, was an established holiday celebrated every May 30. The idea was to visit the final resting places of thousands of […]
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Ephemeral New York - 5/27/2024
An article I recently wrote for the British online magazine, New Politic, is now available online. The article, “The Criminal Origins of the United States of America,” is about British convict transportation to America, which took place between the years 1718 and 1775, and is the subject of my book, Bound with an Iron Chain: […]
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Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
John Wesley Elkins.11-year-old John Wesley Elkins was slight of stature—four feet eight inches tall, weighing 73 pounds. He was intelligent and well-spoken, and he had never caused trouble until the day he murdered his parents. At 2:00 am, on July 24, 1889, while his parents were sleeping in their Iowa farmhouse, he shot his father in the head and then beat his mother to death with a club.
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Murder By Gaslight - 5/25/2024
CHIEF OF CONSThe Morning Times(Cripple Creek, Colorado)February 15, 1896Courtesy of Mitch Morrissey ig Ed Burns robs a dying man?      Mitch Morrissey, a Facebook friend and historian for the Denver District Attorney’s Office, found and published an interesting newspaper piece on "Big Ed" Burns, one of the most notorious characters in the West. Burns was a confidence man and
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 4/2/2024
Youth With Executioner by Nuremberg native Albrecht Dürer … although it’s dated to 1493, which was during a period of several years when Dürer worked abroad. November 13 [1617]. Burnt alive here a miller of Manberna, who however was lately … Continue reading
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Executed Today - 11/13/2020
The Grand Saloon. | Rogues & Brawlers.

Breaking Up a Bagnio.

Bagnio

The White Hat of Lafayette, Ind., is burst up by a mob of women. [more]

A little before dark on the evening of Sept. 9, a crowd of indignant women, numbering about forty; reduced the bagnio of the notorious “White Hat,” on Sixteenth street, Lafayette, Ind., to a complete if not picturesque ruin. It was a quiet but determined vigilante committee, and they did their work well. White Hat’s dive has long gloried in the reputation of the hardest place in Lafayette. It was a free for all. Race, color or previous condition of servitude was no bar. It was a cross between an old woman’s home and a pest house, and a stench to the nostrils of the neighborhood. The place has long been under police surveillance, and on the night mentioned above it was raided. The male guests scaled the back fence and fled, but four women, including White Hat, were run in. Next morning they were given thirty days apiece in jail. This episode left the establishment, for the time being, tenantless.

At a little after 4 o’clock the women of the neighborhood began to congregate on an adjacent corner. The news that the ranch was to be demolished spread like wildfire, and the crowd soon numbered two score. When it reached these dimensions the onslaught was made. A few determined women led the van and the rest streamed after, over the front yard. The house is a double brick, and the dive proper was in the south side. Here attentions were directed.

One of the women had an axe. She was about forty-five years old, tall, strong, and when she brought the blade against the panels they went in with a crash. A few more blows sent the door of its hinges. Almost a dozen of the boldest rushed in and began to demolish the interior, while the timorous contented themselves in throwing stones on the outside.

For a few moments it sounded like a fusillade of artillery, and in that length of time there wasn’t a piece of glass the size of a half dollar in any window in the establishment. Meanwhile several other axes had been brought into play and all the window frames and door cases splintered. Even the floor did not escape and was badly backed, while big chunks of plastering were knocked bodily out of the ceiling.

In the course of the afternoon most of the effects of the White Hat outfit had been removed on a dray, so there were but few household goods for the crowd to wreak their vengeance on. A cooking stove was the most conspicuous object, and this was speedily reduced to junk iron. Their work of ruin occupied in all about half an hour and the crowd then quietly departed. They did not stop to talk the matter over, but went straight home, and the demoralized house was the sole evidence of what had occurred. The work was viewed by a large crowd of men but none offed to interfere. They knew better.

The end of the trouble was not, however, in the event described above. At 9:10 in the evening an alarm of fire came in and called the department to the vicinity. Flames were seen braking through the roof of the dismantled edifice and rapidly spreading along the woodwork. The fire was obviously the work in an incendiary, as there had been no fire about the premises during the day. A little brisk work soon extinguished the blaze with a big hole burst through the shingles and considerable damage to the interior. It will take quite an outlay of money to put the property in anything like a condition to rent again. The fire is generally accepted as a final notification to the outfit that their presence will be no longer tolerated in Linnwood. It was said on the ground that the parties who fired the house are well known and will use dynamite the next trip if it is occupied again by the same kind of cattle.

 

 

Reprinted from The National Police Gazette, September 26, 1885.