#52 William Pease

William G. Pease (Abt. 1840-??), aka William Pierce, William Gerrish, Frank Stewart, William Carter, William Clark–Boarding house thief, store thief

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-five years old in 1886. Born in United States. Slim build. A painter and sailmaker by trade. Married. Dark complexion, dark blue eyes. Height, 5 feet 5 inches. Weight, about 135 pounds. Dark brown hair, sharp face; has a scar near the crown of head. Has a cross and the letters “C. I.” in India ink on right arm ; also dots on left arm and near left thumb.

RECORD. Billy Pease is an old and very expert burglar and boarding-house thief, and is well known in the principal Eastern cities. He was arrested in New York City on June 8, 1876, for having burglars’ tools in his possession, and sentenced to one year in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island. He was shortly after discharged, and robbed a boarding-house at No. 22 Irving Place, with one George Harrison. He was arrested again on September 16, 1877, by the same officer, in New York City, for an attempt at burglary at No. 12 Avenne A, for which he pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to two years and six months in State prison on September 27, 1877, by Judge Gildersleeve, in the Court of General Sessions, New York City. Nothing further that is authentic appears upon the record to date. Pease’s picture is a very good one, taken in 1877.

Billy Pease Criminal Mug Shot Portrait David Birkey
Billy Pease. Illustration  by David Birkey  http://cargocollective.com/dbillustration

Chief Byrnes muddied the waters quite a bit in his 1886 recitation of the record of William Pease. None of the arrests and convictions mentioned in the 1886 edition for Billy Pease were made under the name “Pease,” complicating the matter. Byrnes cites Pease being involved in a September, 1877 burglary at 12 Avenue A; but the three men arrested and convicted for that crime do not match Pease’s physical description, criminal record, age or background.

Fortunately, Byrnes’ 1895 edition left out all mention of Pease’s earlier record and gave accurate accounts of his 1883 arrest and jailing and his subsequent arrest, jailing and escape in late 1888 and early 1889. Byrnes is also correct in stating that that is where all trace of Pease ends.

Pease hailed from the whaling port area of Massachusetts, and though he used many different aliases when arrested, always seemed willing to give his birthplace as that region. His parentage has not been identified, but those ports were full of many members of the Pease family (and also the Gerrish family, which is one of the first aliases used by Pease).


Pease’s more accurate arrest record–thanks to the good record-keeping at Sing Sing admissions–includes:

  • Sent to Sing Sing in October 1866 as William Gerrish
  • Sent to Sing Sing in November 1867 as William Pierce
  • Sent to Sing Sing in January 1877 as Frank Stewart (and likely was still in Sing Sing at the time of September 1877 burglary that Byrnes cited)
  • Sent to Sing Sing in October 1878 as William Carter
  • Sent to Sing Sing on an eight-year sentence in March 1883 as William Clark
  • Arrested in Troy NY in December 1888 for a burglary in South Shaftsbury, Vermont. Escaped from a Bennington, Vermont jail in July, 1889 while awaiting trial.

During the early-1870s, Pease had a wife and two children living with him in New York: wife Louisa Tyler, daughter Louisa (b. 1872), and son Alfred E. Pease (b. 1875). The wife and children can’t be found after the mid-1870s; one possibility is that they gave up on William Pease after all his jailings, changed their name, and moved away.



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