Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
December 13, 2019
Rogue's Corner: JOHN LARNEY (11)
Forty-seven years old in 1886. Born in United States. Married. No trade.Stout build. Height, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches. Weight, 160 pounds. Brown hair, hazel eyes. Wears a No.7 shoe, and generally wears a full dark beard. He has two upper teeth out on right side; also a small India-ink mark between thumb and forefinger of left hand. Straight nose. Part of an anchor on one arm.
"MOLLIE MATCHES," or JOHN LARNEY, which is his right name, although a talented thief, was always an outspoken one. He makes his home in Cleveland. 0.; wears fine clothes, which is his weakness; seldom indulges in liquor, never to excess; he has an aversion to tobacco. When he settled down in Cleveland, in 1875, he said he was going to live honestly if the police would let him. For some reason or another he failed to do so. The great fault with Mollie was the freedom with which he talked of his affairs, to which failing he ultimately owed his downfall. The act that made Larney notorious and gave him his alias was on the occasion of a large celebration in New York City, when he was a boy. He disguised himself as a match girl, and, basket in hand, mingled with the crowds in the streets. Being slight in form and having delicate features, the boy had no difficulty in carrying out the deception. His day's work, it is said, netted him over $2,000, and the nickname of "Mollie Matches." During the war Mollie attained great eminence as a bounty jumper. He says that he enlisted in ninety-three Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York regiments. Being of a frugal disposition, and having an eye to comfort in his old age, he invested in property in Toronto and Silver Creek, Canada, which he still holds under the name of John Dolan. Later he bought real estate in Cleveland, O. Mollie Matches has become pretty well known all over the United States. At the age of thirty-three years he had served eleven years in various reformatories and penal institutions, and was still indebted twelve years' time to others from which he had escaped. He still owes six years to a Massachusetts State prison where he was sentenced to for seven years. He staid there just nine months; he had the freedom of the jail-yard on account of his eyesight failing him; he finally recovered his liberty and eyesight both. About seven years after his escape he was again sent to the same prison, which was in Salem, and served a sixteen months' sentence without being recognized. The adventures through which this man passed are wonderful. He is believed to have realized by his tricks about $150,000, a large portion of which he has paid out lately to lawyers.
Mollie was convicted at Galesburg, Ill., for robbing the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank of that city. and was sentenced to ten years in State prison at Joliet, Ill., on July 17,1882. At a trial in Cleveland, 0., on January 14, 1885, the above bank obtained a judgment of $12,000 against Mollie, An associate of his, Eddie Guerin, testified on this trial as follows: "After I had concluded that the Galesburg Bank was an easy one to work, I sent for 'Mollie Matches' and two others. They agreed with me. One of them went to a neighboring town and hired a horse and wagon containing a large dry goods box. We hitched the team near the bank about noon. 'Mollie' watched the president and treasurer go out of the bank, and immediately entered it and went to the cashier and proceeded to buy a New York draft, with small silver, making much noise. Another man stood near by holding up a paper that screened the third man, who sneaked in and took $9,600 off the desk alongside the cashier, while Mollie was arguing with him about the draft. Mollie admitted to the cashier that he had made a mistake as to the amount of money he had with him, and gathering up what he had, said he would go for some more. Once outside, the 'look-out,' the sneak and Mollie (the 'stall') jumped into the wagon, and were driven by the fourth man to the railroad depot, and all escaped. It was months afterwards that Mollie was arrested in Cincinnati, 0., on December 21, 1881, and taken back to Galesburg for trial.