#127 Annie Reilly

Kate Foley (Abt. 1841-????), aka Annie Reilly/Riley, Annie Wilson, Kate Manning, Kate Connolly, Kate Williams, Kate Cooley, Mary Ann Riley, etc. — Dishonest Servant

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-two years old in 1886; looks younger. Born in Ireland. Married. Medium build. Servant and child’s nurse. Height, 5 feet 1 inch. Weight, 113 pounds. Brown hair, gray eyes, fair complexion. Round, full face. Speaks two or three languages.

RECORD. “Little Annie Reilly” is considered the cleverest woman in her line in America. She generally engages herself as a child’s nurse, makes a great fuss over the children, and gains the good-will of the lady of the house. She seldom remains in one place more than one or two days before she robs it, generally taking jewelry, amounting at times to four and five thousand dollars. She is well known in all the principal Eastern cities, especially in New York, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia, Pa.
Annie was arrested in New York City, for grand larceny, on complaint of Mrs. A. G. Dunn, No. 149 East Eighty-fourth Street, and others, and committed for trial, in default of $6,500 bail, by Judge Ledwith. She was convicted, and sentenced to four years and six months in State prison, by Judge Sutherland, in the Court of General Sessions in New York, on April 23, 1873, under the name of Kate Connelly.
She was arrested again in New York City, on August 3, 1880, for robbing the house of Mrs. Evangeline Swartz, on Second Avenue, New York. She was convicted of this robbery, and sentenced to three years in the penitentiary on Blackwell’s Island, on September 8, 1880, by Judge Gildersleeve, under the name of Kate Cooley.
After her release, in January, 1883, she did considerable work in and around New York. She robbed the guests of the New York Hotel of $3,500 worth of jewelry, etc., while employed there as a servant.
She then went to Brooklyn, N.Y., and was arrested there, under the name of Kate Manning, on June 5, 1884, for the larceny of a watch and chain from Charles A. Jennings, of Macon Street, that city. At the time of her arrest a bronze statuette was found in her possession, which was stolen by her from a Mr. Buckman, of Columbia Street, New York City. Annie pleaded guilty in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Saturday, June 27, 1884, and was sentenced to four years and six months in the Kings County Penitentiary. Her sentence will expire June 27, 1887, allowing full commutation.
This woman is well worth knowing. She has stolen more property the last fifteen years than any other four women in America. She has served terms in prison in Pennsylvania and on Blackwell’s Island independently of the above. Her picture is an excellent one, taken in August, 1880.
Inspector Byrnes ended his profile of Annie Reilly with her incarceration in the Kings County Penitentiary (and he had no update in his 1895 edition). While at that prison, the warden, John Green, offered this statement about her:
“Kate Manning [aka Annie Reilly] is the most remarkable woman in the prison. Who she is or where she came from are mysteries which no detective has been able to unravel. Ella Larrabee and Nellie Babcock, about whom pages have been written, are pygmies alongside of her. She does not seem to have a relative, friend, or acquaintance in the world, and she lives completely within herself.”

While Annie’s mystery remains unsolved, a bit more can be said about her than was known by Warden Green and Inspector Byrnes.
Annie first came to the attention of authorities in 1866 under the name Kate Foley. While Byrnes says she was born in Ireland, other sources indicate she came from the Hudson Valley: Ulster County, New York; or Poughkeepsie. She was then about 15 years old. She engaged as a domestic servant with several wealthy families, but only stayed a day or two, taking with her whatever valuables she could carry. She took the articles to pawnshops. Caught in May 1866, she was sentenced to five years in Sing Sing.
She was enjoying freedom by late 1867–which is too early a date for a commuted sentence; so it may be that Annie made one of her legendary escapes from Sing Sing sometime in late 1866 or 1867. In December 1867, she took a position with the household of Mrs. and Mrs. Joseph M. Johnson of Rivington Street in lower Manhattan. She stole items, then went to work for a family in South Bergen, New Jersey; followed by another household in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She was arrested in January 1868 by Detective Keirns in Manhattan under the name Mary Ann Riley, but sentenced to two years at Sing Sing under the name Annie Riley.
In May 1869, she escaped from Sing Sing (probably for the second time). She crawled up to the roof through a skylight; then slid down a lightning rod; and went unmissed until the next morning.

In July 1869, a “dishonest domestic” named Ann Riley was caught and sentenced to one year at Blackwell’s Island–but this was likely a different woman. However, Detective Keirns knew his suspects, and in November 1870 arrested Kate Foley, alias Gordon alias Bliven alias Annie Wilson for stealing clothing from a household at which she had been hired. She was sent to Blackwell’s Island for six months. Upon her release, she went to Connecticut, where she committed a string of house robberies there using her familiar methods before being caught and sent to the Connecticut State Prison in Weathersfield for one year.
In the Spring of 1873 a new spate of servant robberies struck the wealthy abodes of New York City, culminating with a robbery of the house of the military secretary of Governor Dix. The entire detective force of New York was assigned to trap her, but only one man knew her methods so well as to set a trap:
This time Annie was sentenced to four years in Sing Sing. She was assigned to assist the nurses. After being there just a month, Annie went to an upstairs room to get something for a patient, closed the door, and jumped out the window to a bell rope hanging outside. She slid down to the ground and was soon at large.
Once again, Detective Keirns was assigned the job of tracking her down. It took a year, but he knew her habits and found her again in June 1877–but not before she had victimized many households. She was sent to Blackwell’s Island under the name Kate Williams for two years–and this time did not escape.
Her history then follows Byrnes’s narrative: arrested again in August 1880, and given another three years on Blackwell’s Island. Then she went to Brooklyn and was arrested there as Kate Manning, resulting in a term of four and a half years.
Annie was not heard of again after her release from Kings County, adding to her mystery.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s