Byrnes’s text: #74 William O’Brien

Link to the REVISED entry for #74 William O’Brien

From Byrne’s 1886 edition:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-six years old in 1886. Medium build. Born in Boston. Married. Printer. Height, 5 feet 5 1/2 inches. Weight, about 145 pounds. Black curly hair, dark eyes, dark complexion. Has fine set of teeth. Has the following India ink marks: Sailor, with American flag and star, in red and blue ink, on right arm; star and cross on outside of same arm; crucifixion of Christ, woman kneeling and man standing up, on left arm. He is a bright, sharp-looking fellow. Dresses well, and has plenty of nerve. Generally wears a black mustache.

RECORD. This celebrated criminal is well known all over America as the partner of Johnny Irving, who was shot and killed by John Walsh, alias “John the Mick,” during a fracas in Shang Draper’s saloon, on Sixth Avenue, New York City, on the morning of October 1 6, 1883. Walsh was killed at the same time, and Porter was tried for killing him, but was acquitted by a jury on November 20, 1883.

Porter, or O’Brien, the last being his right name, began his criminal career early in life, and has been arrested in almost every city in the Union, and is considered second to no one in his business. The following are a few of the cases in which Porter has figured:

He was arrested in New York City on October 11, 1877, for the burglary of E. Tilges’ warehouse, No. 487 Broome Street, on September 1, 1877. Joe Dollard, Johnny Irving, and George Howard, alias Leslie (the last mentioned two are now dead), were with him. They succeeded in carrying away about $2,000 worth of silk hat linings. Porter was committed in default of $4,000 bail by Justice Morgan, but was subsequently released.

Porter and Irving were arrested in New York City, June 5, 1878, and delivered to the police authorities of Brooklyn, N.Y., where they were wanted for the robbery of Mr. Betterman’s dry goods store, in Williamsburg, of $5,000 worth of silk and $1,400 in money. They were not fully identified in this case, and were discharged.

Billy Porter, Johnny Irving, and Gilbert Yost (the latter a notorious burglar, was sentenced to fourteen years in the Northern Indiana State prison at Michigan City on April 25, 1883, for robbing a jewelry store at La Porte, Indiana), were arrested in Brooklyn, N.Y., on August 11, 1878, at Porter’s residence, No. 152 Patchen Avenue, for the burglary of Martin Ibert’s Sons’ flour and grain store, at No. 148 Graham Avenue, on August 10, 1878. Porter was tried twice for this burglary, and each time the jury failed to agree. He finally escaped with Irving from Raymond Street jail, in Brooklyn, on June 1, 1879. They both went to Boston, and from there to Providence, R.I., where they were joined by Joe Dollard, and on June 27, 1879, the party burglarized the safe of C. R. Linke, a large jeweler, at No. 77 Westminster Street, securing watches and silverware of the value of $15,000.

On the night of June 30, three nights after this robbery, an attempt was made to arrest them in New York City by some private detectives, but it failed. On July 23 following, Porter and Irving were chased by the police authorities in Passaic, N.J., and again escaped. Porter was finally captured in New York City on September 28, 1879, and delivered to Sheriff Reilly, of Brooklyn. He was again tried, convicted, and sentenced to five years in the Kings County Penitentiary by Judge Moore, of Brooklyn, on October 23, 1879.

Porter’s mother died in Massachusetts during his confinement at “Crow Hill,” and left him $12,000. After Porter’s release he remained quiet, and finally sailed for Europe in February, 1884, in company of Michael Kurtz, alias “Sheeny Mike” (80), where they had considerable luck.

They returned to America in January, 1885, with $25,000 each, realized from many burglaries in England, France, and Germany. Porter was arrested in New York City on Tuesday, January 19, 1885, charged with robbing the jewelry store of Emanuel Marks & Son, at Troy, N.Y. The robbery occurred on February 24, 1884, and the burglars carried away some $14,000 worth of jewelry. He was taken to Troy and committed for trial.

If not convicted in this case, he will probably be taken to Brooklyn, N.Y., where he is wanted for robbing Haydn’s jewelry store in 1884. Michael Kurtz was also arrested for this robbery in Jacksonville, Fla., on January 19, 1885, returned to Troy, tried and convicted. See No. 80.

Billy Porter also obtained a great deal of notoriety as being one of the men suspected of the murder of the noted burglar, George Leonidas Leslie, alias George Howard, whose remains were found on June 4, 1878, near Tramp Rock, Westchester County, N.Y., with a bullet through his head. He was shot on the night of May 29, and carried to where he was found in a wagon. Porter’s picture is a good one, taken in September, 1875.

From Byrnes’s 1895 edition:

After Porter’s discharge for the Marks jewelry robbery in Troy, N.Y., in September, 1886, he went to Europe. The following is an account of some of his doings there.

Billy Porter and Frank Buck, alias Bucky Taylor (27), was arrested in London, Eng, on June 21, 1888, charged with having burglarized a jewelry store at Munich, Germany, on April 29, 1888. Buck was taken to Germany, convicted and sentenced (see record of 27). The English authorities refused to surrender Porter as he was an English subject.

He was arrested again at Toulouse. France, in March, 1890, in company of Horace Hovan, alias Little Horace (see No. 25). They attempted to burglarize a bank there. When discharged in France (date not authentic) he was reported to have been rearrested and taken to Munich for the jewelry store robbery, and sentenced to twenty years imprisonment and banishment to one of the South Sea Islands, where it is said he died. This advice is dated London, Eng., October, 1890.