#104 Charles Ward

Charles W. Hall (Abt. 1833-19??), aka Charles E. Stewart, Charles E. Ward, Charles Vallen, J. C. Massie, William Edwards, William Hall. E. C. Stewart, Charles D. Stewart, etc. — Swindler, Check forger, Hotel Thief, Sneak Thief

From Byrnes’s 1886 edition:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-two years old in 1886. Born in United States. Book-keeper. Married. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 9 inches. Weight, 159 pounds. Brown hair, mixed with gray, wears it long; blue eyes, light complexion. Generally wears a full, heavy gray beard and mustache. Dresses well, and has an extraordinary gift of the gab.

RECORD. Charley Ward, whose right name is Charles Vallum, is one of the most noted confidence operators in America. He enjoys the distinction of being the only man in his line who can play the confidence game successfully on women. His principal forte, though, is collecting subscriptions for homes and asylums.

He was arrested in New York City on April 6, 1877, for collecting money for the Presbyterian Hospital of New York City without authority. For this he was sentenced to five years in State prison, on April 12, 1877, by Judge Sutherland. He was pardoned by Governor Cornell in 1880.

He was arrested again in New York City on August 4, 1881, for collecting considerable money, without authority, in aid of the “Society for the Relief of the Destitute Blind,” of New York City, and appropriating it to his own use. In this case, owing to the efforts of a loving wife, he escaped with eighteen months’ imprisonment in State prison, on September 7, 1881, being sentenced by Judge Cowing. Ward’s picture is an excellent one, taken in April, 1877.

From Byrnes’s 1895 edition:

Ward was arrested at Cincinnati, 0., in August, 1889, charged with having stabbed a woman that he was boarding with. For this offense he was sentenced to four years in the penitentiary at Columbus, 0. He was discharged from there on April 15, 1892.

Arrested again at Rochester, N. Y., on July 26, 1894, for the larceny of a satchel from the N.Y. Cen. & H.R.R. Depot. For this offense he was sentenced to three months imprisonment in the Munroe Co., N.Y., Penitentiary, by Judge Chas. B. Ernst, on July 27, 1894, under name of Wm. Edwards.

He was arrested again at Niagara Falls, N.Y., under the name of Wm. Hall, alias, E. C. Stewart, on November 28, 1894, charged with passing a worthless check on the proprietor of the Prospect House; he refused to prosecute him. He was, however, sentenced to twenty-five days imprisonment in the Niagara County Jail at Lockport, N.Y., for the larceny of a satchel from the New York Central Railroad Depot, by Judge Piper, on November 30, 1894.

Arrested again on January 31, 1895, at Dunkirk, N.Y., under the name of Wm. E. Miller, charged with defrauding the Hotel Gratiot out of a hotel bill. He sold his overcoat, settled his bill, and was discharged.

Ward was arrested again at Philadelphia, Pa., on October 28, 1895, for the larceny of an overcoat containing valuable papers from a guest of the Waldorf Hotel, New York City. He was brought back to New York, and was sentenced to three years and three months on this charge, on November I5, 1895, by Recorder Goff.

While detained by police in Cincinnati in May of 1889, the criminal popularly known as Charles Ward spoke with a reporter and offered a confession of his criminal career. He claimed to be sixty-three years old, though other records indicate he was only fifty-six. Still, by appearance he looked like a man living his final years. Neither Ward nor the reporter could have predicted that Ward’s confession was a bit premature, for many arrests and jailings were still to come.

“My life has a tinge of romance in it,” said Ward, as he chatted with the reporter last evening. “It’s no matter what my right name is. But one man knows, and he is my brother, a prosperous merchant in a South American country.

“Years ago I went wrong. What led me to a life of crookedness I can’t say, for I believe I was cut out for something better than a thief. Some dozen years ago I landed in St. Louis with a mob of crooks. We put up at the Lindell Hotel, but our headquarters we made at a well-known house of ill-fame. We were flush, and spent our money like princes for two weeks. Then a big trick was turned, and we scattered. My share was $4,000. At the house mentioned I became infatuated with a girl named Doris Meyer. She told me her story. When scarcely seventeen years old she had been brought to this country by her aunt, a Madame Schimmel, who then kept a den of infamy at 537 Race street in Cincinnati.

“This innocent, pretty girl’s honor was deliberately sold by her aunt to the highest bidder. Subsequently Doris married a captain in the army name Bookwood. The husband went wrong, and was dismissed from the army in disgrace. He was no better than the relative who had ruined the girl, for he forced his wife to return to a life of infamy, and lived on the proceeds of her shame.

“It was then I met her. I pitied Doris, and loved her as man ever loved woman. Well, I took her with me to Chicago. She did not know I was a crook, for I led her to think I was a gambler. Leaving her in Chicago, I went east; in Buffalo I ‘fell.’ I telegraphed Doris, and she came on. It was a bad case. Grover Cleveland was my lawyer, and although we made a vigorous fight, I went up for five years. Doris went to work,and, after I had spent half my term at Auburn, she secured my pardon.

“I found that Doris had become a city missionary in New York. The graduate of a St. Louis den had become an angel of mercy. Well, I married her in Brooklyn. Through her influence I secured work as a collector for a charitable institution. I received only $12 a week, but it was honest, and I felt better than when I had thousands I had stolen. Frequently  have turned over at then end of a week as much as $2000. That shows how easy it is to get money from the rich, and it was this fact that accomplished my final ruin.

“I was given a prominent position under the society, and my annual income was between $4000 and $7000. I seemed to have a peculiar faculty for the work. Through my own exertions the contributions had increased nearly $50,000. My besetting sin has been drink. I began to squander my money for wine, and, forgetful of my faithful Doris, I became infatuated with a shameless woman. In the mean time, my wife and I had made a trip to Europe. I had a comfortable bank account, and nobody was better thought of. But the climax came. I remained away from the office for an entire week. I was permitted to resign.

“My money went fast in dissipation, until I awoke one morning and realized that I hadn’t a dollar in the world. Then the idea seized me that I would work the collection racket. My success astonished me. Soon thousands of dollars were pouring in on me…and so it went on for weeks. I had returned to my old life and was again the associate of thieves and one of them.

“One day I called on wealthy Miss Catherine Wolf…I represented myself as from a prominent institution and left my book. Unfortunately for me Miss Wolf was on friendly terms with the president of the concern, and when he called the next day she broached the subject and showed the book. When I called three days after recovering from a spree a servant handed me the book with the ends of several bills sticking ut. The next instant a detective laid his hand on my shoulder and I was a prisoner. This time I also got five years for forgery.

“My wife again went to work and finally, after I had served nearly three years at Sing Sing, she secured my pardon from Governor Robinson. New York was now closed to me; I was too well known. I went to Baltimore with several crooks. One night while playing billiards we were pinched. Some gilly had been robbed. He identified all of us, though on my word we were innocent. Again I went to the Penitentiary, and again my wife began to intercede for me. She was finally successful, but before the doors opened, I received a letter announcing the death of my devoted Doris. She had caught cold while at her missionary work, and death had quickly followed.

“I began to drink, and, within a week, was again pinched.I had attempted a little crooked business at a hotel wand was caught. Again I went up. Doris’s death made me desperate and despondent. I cared for nothing. A year ago last February I was released from the Maryland Penitentiary.”

It appears that Ward was being very honest in his account: he did marry Doris Meyer, who had been married to a Charles Bookwood. Ward was pardoned out of Auburn Prison in 1874, after entering it as Charles W. Hall in March 1872. He was also pardoned from Sing Sing in October 1879 after entering as William H. Hall in April, 1877. Doris Ward roomed for many years at the Bible House, the mission of the American Bible Society.

Ward went to Cincinnati in 1879 to seek out Madame Schimmel, who was running a sketchy boarding house under the name Helene Krolage. They got along together at first–and in fact helped her con another woman in town that was her enemy. However, by July, Ward confronted her about her ruination of 17-year-old Doris, and became enraged. He tried to stab her with a penknife; she survived, but Ward was arrested and convicted of assault, sending him to the Ohio State Penitentiary for five years.

Upon his release, Ward wandered through upstate New York, committing small robberies of coats, satchels, etc. from train depots and hotels.  In Niagara Falls, when an officer attempted to arrest him in his hotel room, he tried to put a gun to his own head and commit suicide. Later that same year, 1895, he was arrested in Philadelphia for a hotel robbery he had committed in New York and sent back there. This episode earned him another three year sentence in Sing Sing as Charles Vallen.

Again regaining his freedom, he joined a gang of forgers led by an interesting figure, former timber magnate, lawyer, and State Senator, Alonzo James Whiteman.

The last reference to Ward dates to 1906, when he was arrested by a Manhattan hotel detective for stealing into someone else’s room.

In his last decades, Ward was often confused by amateur sleuths for another criminal in Byrnes’s book, the horse-trainer and sometime-forger Lewis Martin. They were similar in appearance when both were wearing long, gray beards.

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