No. 479
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
July 14, 2020

"Four Aces."

September 25, 2012
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Patrick Eugene Joseph Prendergast, a madman who assassinated the mayor of Chicago, was hanged on this date in 1894. Prendergast seems to have been a mentally unbalanced character from his early childhood; one might speculatively attribute it to a youthful head injury, or the very early death of his father, or the strains of an […]
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On the morning of March 19, 1875, Charles K. Landis entered the office of the Vineland Independent and demanded to see the paper’s editor and publisher, Uri Carruth. When Carruth entered the room, Landis approached him, waving a newspaper clipping. “Mr. Carruth, did you write that?” Landis shouted. “I did, and I will do it again,” said Carruth. “Will you promise not to attack my wife
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In 1976, the 92 acres of landfill that would one day become Battery Park City was in place and ready. Unfortunately New York City—which hoped this new development would help revitalize the lower West Side of Manhattan—was too broke to get construction started until 1980, according to bpcparks.org. So until the early 1980s, an actual […]
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[Editor’s note: Guest writer, Peter Dickson, lives in West Sussex, England and has been working with microfilm copies of The Duncan Campbell Papers from the State Library of NSW, Sydney, Australia. The following are some of his analyses of what he has discovered from reading these papers. Dickson has contributed many transcriptions to the Jamaica Family […]
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Early American Crime - 2/7/2019
Serpent and Dove. | Love in a Railroad Car.

"Four Aces."

Four Aces

[more]

“Baffled”” hissed “Little Jake,” alias “The Ace of Hearts,” alias Jacob Girrbach, of No. 354 Port avenue, Elizabethport, N. J.

The train had swept on relentlessly, almost ruthlessly, in spite of the efforts of the “Four Aces,” who had leagued themselves together to wreck it.

“But I will have revenge!” cried the leader of the band as he and his followers turned back in their tracks.

“Revenge!” chorused the others, making the sign—that mystic sign that meant blood.

For weeks the “Ace of Hearts,” and the other aces—of Diamonds, John Decker, of No. 411 Pine street; of Clubs, William Dobson, of No. 449 Bond street, and of Spades, Hugh O’Brien, of No 412 South Park street, of the frontier town of Elizabethport—had plotted to hurl a train to destruction, loot the combination-car, and massacre the mangled passengers, all except four beauteous maidens of high degree. These they would carry away to the fastnesses of the Orange Mountains, the defiles of which were known only to the members of the band, all young, but, oh! so devilish.

The day set for the slaughter was last Tuesday, and the “Four Aces” came by devious ways to the junction of the Long Branch Railroad and Broadway, in the very heart of Elizabethport. Their daring was superb.

In the distance the low rumbling of an approaching train could be heard, while the sun hung red in a Sandy Hook mist, that half obscured the surroundings as well as the deep, dark waters of Newark Bay.

“’S’ death!” ejaculated the “Ace of Hearts,” stamping his feet impatiently. “Will the monster never come?” He held a two inch plank in his good right hand, brandishing it disdainfully as if it were but a toy.

“Hist!” cried the “Ace of Clubs.” “The time is near!”

The Ace of Diamonds” and the “Ace of Spades” crouched expectantly, like beasts ready to spring on their prey. I the cab of the engine was Michael J. Kennedy, known all over the Jersey flats as the “King of the Lever.” The train flashed over the rails like lightning out of a clear sky. Its onslaught was terrible—it was the best “come-on” that ever was.

The “Ace of Hearts” simply said, “Ha!” But one could see how cool and self-possessed he was. Hot a tremor swept over his well-knit frame—in some circles the “Ace of Hearts” was “Ice of Hearts.” But let that pass.

Just as the engine crashed over the crossing the A of H, raised the plank in his good right hand, and was about to hurl it under the tremendous grinding wheels, when—

The “King of the Lever” saw him.

The A. of H. drew back. The train swept on in safety.

And Engineer Kennedy called on Old Sleuth Matson, who ran the band to earth. This morning Judge Hatfield, who sits in the Elizabeth Police Court, will pass sentence on the “Aces.” I will likely go hard with the leader of the band because once before, in September, he hurled a stone at Engineer Kennedy, and was soundly lectured by Justice Hatfield.

 

Reprinted from the New York World, December 2, 1897.