In 1870, the New York Herald proclaimed that Ulster County was New York’s “Ulcer County” due to its lawlessness and crime. The columnist supported his claim by citing that in only six months, “it has been the scene of no less than four cold blooded and brutal murders, six suicides and four elopements.”
Hannah Markle—the bane of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union—ran a Kingston saloon where murder and violence were served alongside the whiskey. John Babbitt confessed on his deathbed to murdering Emma Brooks, and Wille Brown—reputed member of the Eastman Gang—accidentally shot his best friend. The infamous Big Bad Bill, the “Gardiner Desperado,” lashed out more than once and killed in a drunken rage.
A.J. Schenkman and Elizabeth Werlau present the mayhem and murder that these and others wreaked on one of New York State’s original counties in Murder & Mayhem in Ulster County (History Press, 2013).
A.J. Schenkman, a regular contributor to The New York History Blog, is the author of the popular Wicked Ulster County: Tales of Desperadoes, Gangs and More (The History Press) as well as Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh (Arcadia Publishing) and Washington’s Headquarters: Home to a Revolution (The History Press). He has published numerous articles in Ulster Magazine, the Times Herald-Record, Chronogram, and on his website, Ulster County History Journal (www.ucnyistory.com). Mr. Schenkman also serves on the Friends of Senate House Board of Trustees in Kingston, New York.
Elizabeth Werlau is the author of Images of America: Plattekill and Hallowed Grounds: Historic Cemeteries of the Town of Plattekill, NY (coauthored with Shirley Anson). She has published numerous articles in the Hudson Valley Business Journal and on her website, Ulster County History Journal (www.ucnyhistory.com). Ms. Werlau currently serves as president of the Plattekill Historical Society, as a member of the board of directors of the Ulster County Historical Society and as a writer for the Wallkill Valley Land Trust’s annual Houses on the Land tours.
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