Byrnes’s text: #16 Frederick Elliott

Link to REVISED entry on #16 Frederick Elliott

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-one years old in 1886. Born in United States. Married, No trade. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 3 inches. Weight, about 115 pounds. Black hair, black eyes, dark complexion. Generally wears a black mustache, sometimes a full black beard, not very heavy growth.

RECORD. “Joe Elliott,” or Joe Reilly, which is his right name, is well known from his connection with Charley Becker, the notorious forger and counterfeiter. In 1873, when Reilly was a boy, he was taken to Europe by Becker, who, in company With Joe Chapman and Ivan Siscovitch, alias Adams, a Russian, and others, flooded Turkey with forged sight drafts. All of them were arrested and sentenced to three years and six months each in prison at Smyrna, in Turkey. Becker, Elliott and the Russian made their escape, went to Europe, and lived with Joe Chapman’s wife in London. One day Mrs. Chapman was found dead, and all her money and jewelry were missing. The escaped forgers were suspected of the murder, and left for America shortly after.

Siscovitch opened a drinking saloon under Booth’s Theatre, New York City, which place was headquarters for all the noted forgers in America. The following interesting account of Elliott, which was published, has been corrected, and is here given:

“Little Joe” Elliott, forger and bank robber! Who would ever imagine that such an inoffensive-looking little man as he could ever be guilty of crime? And yet “Little Joe’s” face is one of the best known in the Rogues’ Gallery. He started in at shoplifting when he was only a boy; advanced from a position of sneak thief to the rank of bank robber, and finally was graduated as an expert forger. He has committed crimes all over this continent and in half the countries of the other, and has seen the inside of at least a score of prisons.

“There is nothing wicked in the appearance of “Little Joe.” He has proved himself a desperate man when actively engaged in professional work, but away from it he was polite and gentlemanly. He dressed well, was quick-witted, a ready conversationalist and withal quite a dashing young fellow. He kept company with many of the most aristocratic young bloods about town and could set up as much champagne in a night as any of them. He always had money. Very few knew him to be a thief, most of them looking on him as a well-to-do sporting man.

“This was “Little Joe” as he was when he first met Kate Castleton, the actress, and won her affections. It was about ten years ago, and she was playing at the time with the San Francisco Minstrels in this city. “Little Joe” was a regular patron of the theatres, and in one of his nightly tours he heard Kate sing. She was then a fresh, rosy-cheeked girl, a trifle younger than she is to-day, and the bad little man was charmed with her. He was introduced to her by a young blood, courted her three days, and then was married to her at the Little Church Around the Corner. It was one night after her customary performance had taken place. She wore her stage clothing, and every member of her company went with her. There were a number of young men about town present also, and after the wedding there was a great dinner at Delmonico’s.

“The couple made a wedding tour, which lasted a month, and then settled down in elegantly furnished quarters in Twenty-first Street. Miss Castleton was aware of her husband’s true character when she married him, but he promised to give up his unlawful profession and lead an honest life, assuring her that he had enough money to support them both for a while, and that when that had gone he could earn more. He insisted on her leaving the stage and for a while they lived happily. Then Kate went back to the stage once more against her husband’s will, and a cloud darkened the domestic horizon. It arose and increased in blackness until “Little Joe” became tired of his quiet life and went back to his old tricks.

“In the early part of April, 1877, he was arrested for forging a draft for $64,000 on the New York Life Insurance Company. While on the way to the Tombs, on June 9, 1877, he made his escape. He was re-arrested on February 21, 1878, and identified as having been concerned in an $8,000 robbery from a Boston jeweler. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in State prison, on November 13, 1878, for the $64,000 forgery. Becker turned State’s evidence and secured immunity for himself.

“Kate’s affection for him was renewed with his trouble, and she visited him as often as prison regulations would permit. Indeed, it is said that she won the hearts of his keepers in the course of time, and was permitted to visit him more frequently. She also tried in many ways to have him pardoned, and went so far as to pay the governor a personal visit and intercede in his behalf. All her efforts, however, were futile, and “Little Joe” was obliged to serve out his time, less a generous commutation for good behavior.

“After his release from prison, on November 12, 1881, the brilliant young swindler made a second vow to reform and became his wife’s manager. He became jealous, however, because of her many admirers, and secured a divorce, only to re-marry her again within a year. He was her manager for a time three years ago, while she was starring in ” Pop” at the Bijou. Jealousy made trouble for them once more and they parted forever. The last straw which broke the back of their domestic happiness was a young man of wealth and position who became infatuated with Kate. “Little Joe” thought that his wife returned the young man’s affection, and decided to end matters. He found that his rival was in the habit of seeing Kate home when he failed to call for her, and one night he “laid in wait for them.” He met them, arm in arm, at the junction of Broadway and Sixth Avenue, just as the crowds from the theatres were going home. His rival was at least three sizes larger than he, but he hit him under the ear which dropped him, after which “Little Joe” proceeded to walk on him. He left him fearfully bruised and mangled, and quietly slipped away just in time to escape the police.

“Thereafter he refused to recognize his wife and deserted her. Kate has since married Harry Phillips, the manager of “Crazy Patch,” in which she is now playing. “Little Joe” had been abroad a short time previous to his first marriage to Miss Castleton, and he was suspected of having a guilty knowledge of the murder of Mary Chapman, in London, which occurred about ten years ago. Mary Chapman was the wife of Joseph B. Chapman, the famous American forger and counterfeiter. “Little Joe” had a short time previously been convicted of forgery in Constantinople, Turkey, and was sentenced to imprisonment. Chapman and Carlo Siscovitch, alias “The Dago,” were sentenced with him. Mrs. Chapman learned of her husband’s imprisonment while she was in London, and went at once to Constantinople to see what could be done. She visited the prison, and found that her husband was confined in a dark cell for breach of discipline, and could not be seen. She had an interview, however, with “Little Joe” and “The Dago,” and furnished them with tools to break jail, with the understanding that they should bring her husband out with them. The men promised, and were supplied with saws and files which the woman took to them concealed in her clothing. As a matter of precaution she started back to London before they broke out. A few months later the two men made their escape, leaving Chapman behind, and returned to London.

“Mrs. Chapman was very angry when she learned of their treachery, and threatened to expose them to the police. A few weeks later her body was found in bed, having died suddenly, and was not murdered, as has been heretofore reported. “Little Joe” and Siscovitch shortly after sailed for America, arriving in July, 1876.”

Joe Reilly, alias Elliott, Gus Raymond and George Wilkes were arrested in New York City on March 16, 1886, for forgeries committed in Rochester, N.Y. Raymond was discharged, and Elliott and Wilkes were delivered to the police authorities of Rochester, N.Y., and taken there. The following is a newspaper account of their transactions in that city:

“Rochester, March 18, 1886. — Much interest is felt here over the arrest in New York of Wilkes and Elliott, the forgers. They came to Rochester during the races last August (1885). Wilkes remained a night at the new Osborne House, under the name of Gordon. He is believed to have prepared the draft with three signatures, which was very carefully drawn, and purporting to have been issued by the Bank of Montreal on the Bank of the Republic at New York. Elliott, under the name of Edwards, worked with a confederate who went under the name of James W. Conklin. These two rented offices near each other, and each hired a clerk. Conklin opened an account at the Commercial National Bank, and Elliott, alias Edwards, opened one at the Flour City National Bank. Edwards deposited the draft, and on August 10, 1885, sent his clerk, a young man named Blum, to get $2,500 on a check, which was paid. Conklin tried the same tactics at the Commercial Bank, but his clerk was told to have him call, which he failed to do. Two weeks later they turned up in Dayton, O., and tried to work the same game, after changing names. President Hathaway, of the Flour City Bank, says that Elliott can positively be identified as the man who left at that bank the forged $2,500 draft.”

Elliott was tried and convicted, on May 11, 1886, and was sentenced to fifteen years in State prison, for forgery on the Flour City Bank of Rochester, N.Y., on May 14, 1886, by Judge Morgan, County Judge of Monroe County, N.Y. One David Lynch, alias George Edwards, was arrested in New York City on April 30, 1886, in connection with these forgeries. He was taken to Rochester, pleaded guilty, and was used as a witness to convict Elliott. He was sentenced on the same day with Elliott to five years in State prison, by Judge Morgan. See records of Nos. 18, 26, and George Wilkes. Elliott’s picture is an excellent one, taken in April, 1877.