Sure, crime rates have been dropping in Sheepshead Bay for several decades, but the nature of crime has changed as well. These days, we mostly deal with bank robberies, burglaries and… well, wheel and rim theft. But can you imagine trying to pull the rims off a horse-drawn wagon? No, I bet you can’t.
Well, to get an idea of the variety of crimes committed in our neighborhood through history, we sent Samantha LoSapio back in time – or at least into the New York Times archives – to dig up a few crimes, large and small, over the past 150 years or so. Here’s what she found.
Some 19th Century bling
In a “bold attempt” to steal the Woodlawn Vase from the Sheepshead Bay racetrack in 1881, the would-be thief was caught the next day. Nineteen-year-old Joseph Gill found his way into the club through a window leading into the billiard room. He removed the vase, then worth a paltry $2,000, as alarms blared. So who cares about a vase? Well it’s only the trophy given to the winner of the Preakness Stakes! It’s made out of approximately 30 pounds of silver. It was designed by Tiffany’s. I wouldn’t be filling that with train station convenience store flowers!
Although when I hear “Murder Inc.” I think of the intro to Ashanti’s “Foolish,” some of us may remember the early days of organized crime, replete with mobster nicknames and Tommy Guns in stow. Some of these exploits took place in our very own Sheepshead Bay. Philip Mangano, right-hand man to his crime boss big bro Vincent, met his untimely demise under the orders of Albert Anastasia – then leader of what is now known as the Gambino Crime Family. While Vincent was never found, Philip’s body was discovered on April 19, 1951. As described in Havana Nocturne by T.J. English, “Philip Mangano was the first to go. He was shot symmetrically in each cheek and in the back of his head, his body found in the wetlands of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, fully dressed except for his pants.” What a way to go.
A mysterious ship, and its two missing immigrant girls
Quite a mystery surrounds the next story. A clipping from November 18, 1856, reveals that a Mr. Peter Morrison was arrested on a bench warrant for “spiriting away” two immigrant girls. There is a further mention of “Jackson and Dixson” who had committed a “terrible outrage” against the two girls. A deeper investigation finds a September 16, 1856, article that notes Jackson and Dixson had been arrested after taking the two girls “at the foot of Pike Street” from a ship named “City of Brooklyn.” It further states that Morrison paid the girls to leave, with one returning voluntarily and the other found at a relative’s. Trying to impair justice may in fact be punishable, but this story isn’t without anomaly. According to this site, The City of Brooklyn was built in 1868 – several years after the incident. Another mention here tells of another ship that also ran between Liverpool and New York, but its earliest mention is 1859.
Before you send me seaworthy, SB readers, I welcome a clarification here!
Now that’s a party!
Even before the promise of a Brighton Beach-themed Jersey Shore style show, Sheepshead Bay was entertaining its own brand of hooliganism. A September 2, 1879, article in the New York Times tells of a “chowder party” of 36 young men who came over on the ferry and down to Mrs. Lindeman’s hotel, where they continued their drunken debauchery. They later stole clams from a John Lundy (wonder if there’s any relation to the clamming Lundys of the turn of the century), and struck his younger brother Jerome, rendering him unconscious.
He was initially expected to die, but recovered, while the “ruffians” were fined $5 a man. Five bucks to nearly kill a guy? That’s nearly as much as it is to ride the bus out of here now!
The hunt for Munn
On September 26, 1884, an article ran about the disappearance of Frank Munn – an assistant secretary at the Farmers’ Loan and Trust Company. A later article notes that a Miss Nellie Cole, a “dashing brunette” thought to be in league with Mr. Munn and carrying a handsome sum of government bonds, also disappeared roughly at the same time. His was to board a boat from Whitehall to our Sheepshead Bay, though an on-board clerk claimed to see no one who fit his description. It’s not as if he could have GTL’ed and went on his merry way. His superior, VP Searls, claimed there was no bad blood and needn’t go to Europe if he had become “enamored” with a ladyfriend. That’s highly specific if you ask me. The news bite begs the question if he stayed behind in Sheepshead Bay… who knows…