Tag Archives: Crime and Justice

Crossing Broadway, Washington Heights and the Promise of New York City


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Crossing BroadwayIn Crossing Broadway Washington: Heights and the Promise of New York City (Cornell University Press, 2014), Robert W. Snyder explores New York City in the 1970s.

When the South Bronx burned and the promise of New Deal New York and postwar America gave way to despair, the people of Washington Heights at the northern tip of Manhattan were increasingly vulnerable.

The Heights had long been a neighborhood where generations of newcomers — Irish, Jewish, Greek, African American, Cuban, and Puerto Rican — carved out better lives in their adopted city. But as New York City shifted from an industrial base to a service economy, new immigrants from the Dominican Republic struggled to gain a foothold. This was followed by the crack epidemic of the 1980s,  and the drug wars. Continue reading

Converting A Historic Jail To Women’s Activism


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Women exchanging ideas. Photo:Kathleen HulserArt deco murals, decorative brick work, mosaics – not quite what you expect to encounter at a women’s prison. The Bayview Women’s Correctional Facility at 550 West 20th Street in Manhattan was built in 1931 as a YMCA for merchant sailors. Converted to a prison, it was closed after Superstorm Sandy flooding and is now being converted to a Women’s Building. As an adaptive reuse, the main building will be preserved with some elements that reflect the history, even as the site is re-purposed as a women-focused community facility. Continue reading

Murder In Western Sullivan County (Part II)


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TheodoreRooseveltOn a bitter cold Sunday morning in December of 1880, Jacob Gerhardt struck his sister-in-law over the head with a crowbar, crushing her skull and setting the stage for one of the most sensational murder trials in Sullivan County history.

The proceedings, held at a special term of the Sullivan County Oyer and Terminer Court beginning on June 13, 1881, featured District Attorney James I. Curtis and former D.A. John F. Anderson for the prosecution and Monticello law partners Arthur C. Butts and Joseph Merritt and former county judge Timothy Bush for the defense. People came from far and wide to view each day of the trial, and major newspapers from New York City, as well as the local weeklies, reported on the case. Continue reading

Crime And Justice In Sullivan County


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arthur c butts(1)Jacob Gerhardt was a quiet Cochecton Center farmer who was quick to help his neighbors until a fateful day in December of 1880, when his life changed forever over a case of unrequited love.

Gerhardt worked in the fields every day to support his wife, while his brother Adam and his wife, Mena farmed nearby. When Adam Gerhardt died suddenly in 1879, Jacob went to live with Mena, “to work her farm on shares.” Continue reading

Moses Terwilliger: Criminally Insane In Ulster Co


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Auburn-State-Prison-NYSAThe Terwilliger farm was located near Bruynswick in the town of Shawangunk in Ulster County. It was there that Sarah Terwilliger age 87, widow of J.L. Terwilliger, lived with her son Moses, age 57. According to neighbors, the two argued frequently, and her son made threats that he intended to kill his mother. One thing was for sure, Sarah was not going to see her 88th birthday. Continue reading

Sullivan County: The Milkman and Murder, Inc.


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AshkenasNewsAs the summer of 1936 faded into fall, New York State Police and local authorities in Sullivan County were trying desperately to uncover new leads in what had turned out to be a particularly perplexing murder investigation.

It had begun just before six o’clock in the morning on Saturday, September 5, when a young milkman from Hurleyville was making a delivery to the Paramount Manor hotel, just a short distance from the hamlet on the road to Liberty. As Dave Margolin neared the main gate, he came upon a stopped car, blocking the long driveway to the main house. Even in the faint early morning light he could make out that the driver’s side door was open. As he left his truck and approached the car, he noted it was a taxi, a dark-colored Lincoln sedan, New York license plate number 034-657. And then he saw something that he would never forget. Continue reading

Sullivan County’s Honeymoon Murder


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PittsburghPhilLoch Sheldrake, or Sheldrake Pond, as it was known before many of the ponds in Sullivan County became lakes overnight as part of the late 19th century tourism boom, is one of the deepest bodies of water in the region.

It was a favorite dumping ground for Murder, Inc. when the enforcement arm of organized crime plied its trade in the mountains, and it is believed that at least one of the bodies deposited there has never been found. Continue reading

Soviet Leaders’ Drownings in Long Lake Being Recalled


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Leon Trotsky and Ephraim Sklyansky Red Square review of Moscow troops October 14 1918On Saturday evening, August 22, 2015, at 7:30 pm, at the Long Lake Town Hall, Abbie Verner, Long Lake Town Archivist and President of the Long Lake Historical Society will present a program with slides and music about two men from the Soviet Union who drowned in Long Lake in 1925.

The two men, Isaiah Khurgin, and his colleague Ephraim Skliansky, were prominent Soviet citizens and active in the politics of Soviet Russia. The program outlines their backgrounds, their family information and the possible reason for their visit. Continue reading

The Dannemora Prison Break of 1928


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dannemora prison before 1930sOn July 29, 1928, Herbert R. Mackie, an inmate at what was then known as Clinton Prison (today called the Clinton Correctional Facility) in Dannemora was being escorted to a practice session for the prison’s band. He told an officer that he had forgotten something, and asked for permission to return to his cell. He was not seen again by prison staff for six weeks.

He was not at liberty during most of that time, however. He was still within the facility, busily digging a tunnel that would be a key part in what seems to have been a carefully planned plot for Mackie to escape the prison with fellow inmate Otto Sanford. Continue reading

Prison History Lectures Planned For Adirondacks


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moriah-prison-600x381The freedom education and human rights project John Brown Lives! (JBL!) is sponsoring a series of summertime lectures by prison historian C. Jefferson Hall on the historical backdrop, the role of nature, and some of the broader implications of the June 2015 escape of Richard Matt and David Sweat from Dannemora’s Clinton Correctional Facility.

Hall’s talks are part of The Correction, JBL!’s ongoing series of programs and events designed to engage North Country communities in conversation about the impacts of mass incarceration and the need to re-imagine the criminal justice system and local economies. Continue reading

Charles M. Dickinson: Lowville Poet and Diplomat


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CMDickinson02Among the foreign issues America has dealt with many times is hostage taking. Kidnappers have claimed various motives, but it was frequently done to extort money in support of a cause. Extortion kidnappings have often involved seizing of American missionaries and threatening to kill them unless ransom was paid. More than a hundred years ago, there occurred what is referred to as “America’s First Modern Hostage Crisis,” which is actually the subtitle of a 2003 book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Teresa Carpenter.

“The Miss Stone Affair” is the title, referring to Protestant missionary Ellen Maria Stone. A North Country man was a key player in her story, which riveted the nation for half a year. Continue reading

1861: Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth in Albany


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The Delavan House on BRoadway in AlbanyFollowing his election as President in 1860, Abraham Lincoln undertook a train ride to Washington that took him through Albany. He arrived in the city on February 18, 1861 with his wife and three sons.

As their train passed the West Albany railroad shops, an electrical switch was turned off at the nearby Dudley Observatory, causing an electromagnet mounted on the roof of the Capitol in downtown Albany to release a metal ball that slid down a pole, signaling to military officials to start a 21-gun salute in Capitol Park. Continue reading

Aaron Burr Revised: Conspiracy, Treason and Justice


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Aaron Burr by John Vanderlyn in 1809. Courtesy of New-York Historical SocietyWho remembers Aaron Burr as anything more than Quick Draw McGraw shooting down the near-sighted Alexander Hamilton at dawn in 1804? But there is much more to the man, as Gore Vidal revealed in his intriguing 1973 historical novel, and other subsequent scholarship.

Two aspects of Burr’s varied career stand out in today’s world. First, his treason trial that closely examined issues of what counts as an act of war against one’s own government. And second, his relationships with a series of highly intelligent and accomplished women, reflecting his high opinion of the female sex and its potential. Continue reading

Ben Affleck and Credit Mobilier: Hidden Secrets Revealed


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1280px-Keppler_Credit_Mobilier_Hari-KariThe media was all abuzz recently over the revelation that actor Ben Affleck requested that producers of the PBS show ‘Finding Your Roots’, hide the fact that one of his ancestors owned slaves (going back six generations). When the news was leaked, Affleck responded by posting to one of his social media sites: “We deserve neither credit nor blame for our ancestors…”

I agree with him. But what I find more intriguing is his eagerness to hide the information from the public to begin with. Why hide the family skeletons? If anything, isn’t he impressed that the producers were able to uncover so much information about his ancestors? Continue reading

Life At Night In The 18th Century


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Highwaymen rob carriageNighttime in the past was different than today-far darker and more hazardous.  In the Middle Ages night was seen as a sort of anti-time, the very negative of day, when all things bad happened and only people with evil intent were found on the street.

All this began to change in the 18th century. Street lighting in big cities became more common and medieval curfews were abandoned.  Less a source of fear than in the past people were more likely to see beauty in a starry sky and to seek out nightly entertainment instead of hiding behind locked doors.  Yet the 18th century was still very much a period of transition. Continue reading