#57 Daniel S. Ward

Albert C. Ward (1841-1912), aka Daniel S. Ward, Capt. Dan Ward, N. W. Page, A. C. Wood, V. C. Ward, Andrew J. West, Colonel Sellers, William H. Morgan, H. W. Keller, etc. — Swindler, Forger

Link to Byrnes’s entries on #57 Daniel S. Ward

Chief Byrnes’s entry on Daniel S. Ward wastes no time in making the sensational claim that Ward was a suspected Confederate agent involved in the attempt to burn New York City on Election Day in November, 1864. However, after tracking Ward’s activities during the Civil War and for the forty years following the war, a pattern emerges of a boastful, homeless, friendless alcoholic dedicated to one purpose in life: swindling others. No sane military authority would have trusted Ward in any capacity. At most, Ward might have heard gossip of the incendiary plot, and in turn blabbed about it while in his cups. He was sent to jail at New York’s Fort Lafayette on Election Day, 1864, but was released soon afterward.

Albert C. Ward was born in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1841 to David S. Ward and Martha Ann Wood. Martha was the second wife of David S. Ward, and Albert was her first child with Ward (she had also been married earlier). David S. Ward died in 1851 (when Albert was 10); Martha then married for the third time to wealthy carriage-maker Thomas W. Harding in 1858.

At the onset of the Civil War, Albert C. Ward joined the Indiana Volunteers of the Union forces. In January 1862, while in Washington, D.C., Ward found a like-minded young soldier from a New York regiment to carouse the town with, and they wandered from bar to bar. Finally, when both were drunk, Ward knocked his companion down with a stick, grabbed his pistol, and fired it near the man’s face while he was on the ground. Then he stole $280 the soldier was carrying. Ward was traced to Baltimore and arrested. He was tried and convicted, and sentenced to eight years in prison. However, Albert’s mother and step-father interceded on his behalf, and he was granted a pardon by President Lincoln.

By the following year, 1863, Albert C. Ward was in Louisville, Kentucky (perhaps with relatives, since his mother was originally from Kentucky). He was arrested in June of that year for “obtaining $10 by false pretenses.” He was detained for trial for four months on $500 bail. Finally, when his case came up in January 1864, it was decided not to prosecute him, and he was discharged.

Ward later claimed to have been a member of Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s raiders, who harassed Union forces along the northern Kentucky border. There is no evidence this was true; or that he was ever a member of any Confederate unit.

After the effort to start fires at several New York hotels failed in late November, 1864, newspaper reports surfaced that General Dix, the military commander in charge of defending New York, had been warned of such a plot early in November by information from a man named Ward. Ward was briefly detained at Fort Lafayette, and then released. This claim has not been officially documented, so once again it may have been nothing more than an idle boast by Ward.

On April 5th, 1865, Ward was arrested as a suspicious character in Baltimore. He admitted to being a former rebel soldier, but said he had deserted. In 1866, Ward was found in Bergen County, New Jersey and in New York City, defrauding hotel keepers and soliciting loans that were never repaid. He was still at it in 1871, in a typical Ward adventure:


Ward was sentenced to 2 and a half years in Sing Sing in 1895. He was jailed again in Indianapolis in 1898 and in 1907 in Chicago. He tried passing forged checks again in Boston in 1908, and was sentenced to another three years. Afterwards, he returned to Indianapolis and died there in 1912, at age 71. To the end, he insisted he had been a member of the “Confederate Army of Manhattan” that had tried to burn down the city in 1864.





#58 Hugh L. Courtenay

Sydney Lascelles (1856-1902), aka Sidney Lascelles, Hugh Leslie Courtenay, Marcus LaPierre Beresford, Charles Pelham Clinton, John Reginald Talbot, Robert Raymond Arundel, Harry Vane Tempest, Charles J. Asquith, Lord Dennison, etc. — Impostor, Swindler

Link to Byrnes’s entries on #58 Hugh L. Courtenay and #344 Sid. Lasalle (1895)

Sydney (Sidney) Lascelles (a name as good as any of his aliases) spent his whole life fooling people–a trait that continued for years after his death. Either through sloppiness or doubt, Superintendent Byrnes profiled Lascelles twice as two different people: once in his 1886 edition, under the entry for Hugh L. Courtenay; and again in 1895, under the name “Sid. Lasalle.” Biographies that linked these identities had been published in newspapers in the 1890s; and also revealed in Lascelle’s very rare published autobiography, From wealth and happiness to misery and the penitentiary by “Walter S. Beresford.” However, because later writers and editors relied heavily on Byrnes as a source , many accounts of the exploits of Sidney Lascelles begin in the 1890s, missing the first sixteen years of his remarkable career.

Lascelles first appeared in San Francisco in February, 1875 as “Lt. Harry Vane Tempest, Royal Navy” accompanied by another young man named Park, a member of the British army. They attended social affairs and racked up a large hotel bill, but apparently received a letter with enough money to settle their bill. Continuing eastward by ship, Lascelles was next heard from in Cuba, where he went by the title “Lord Hay.” As would become his pattern, Lascelles always assumed names that could be found in Debrett’s Peerage. Little is known of his activities in Cuba, other than that he did not conduct himself honorably.
The New York Times later published his subsequent movements [note that the year 1878 should read 1875]:
After a hiatus of three years, Lascelles reappeared in America still engaged in his same act:
Lascelles was sent back to Utah, where he was tried and acquitted for lack of evidence. However, he was brought back to New York to face charges of forgery in England. He was put on a ship to cross the Atlantic, and was convicted in an English court in June, 1881. He was sentenced to three months hard labor at Clerkenwell prison, then shipped to an West Indies colony.
In 1887, Lascelles reappeared in America as John Reginald Talbot, and insinuated himself in society circles in Newark, New Jersey. This time, he condescended to admit his finances were low, and obtained a job at the Westinghouse Electric factory. However, within a short time, they fired him for laziness. By March, 1888, he was found in Troy, New York, working in a dye factory as “John R. Temple.” He was recognized while attending theater, pickup up by police, and told to leave town.
Lascelles turned his luck around over the next eighteen months, and by December 1889 was headed back to England aboard The City of Paris ocean liner, quartered in the richest stateroom, wearing the finest clothes, and dining with the captain. For the first time, he used the name Sidney Lascelles, son of the Earl of Harewood. He soon went broke at the ship’s poker table, and was saved by a Brooklyn businessman who covered his check. Once ashore, the Brooklynite discovered Lascelles’ check was bogus, but by chance spotted him in a hotel and confronted him. Lascelles broke down in tears and begged for mercy, handing over all the jewelry he had.
The next year, 1890, found Lascelles in Algiers, where he met an American widow, Susannah Lilienthal, and her 22-year-old daughter Maud. Mrs. Lilienthal was the heiress of C.H. Lilienthal, a tobacco magnate. Maud was entranced by the dashing Sidney Lascelles, with his soft tenor voice, his gaiety, his singing, and his quick wit. Though equally charmed at first, Mrs. Lilienthal suspected something amiss with Lascelles, and took Maud back to New York. Sidney followed. Upon learning Lascelles was in New York, Mrs. Lascelles took Maud and fled west to Sewickley, Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh. Lascelles followed them, got in touch with Maud, and convinced her to elope. They were married on February 2, 1891.
At around the same time, Lascelles had forged a check in order to buy into a Georgia mining operation. He was arrested and taken to Georgia to face trial, and was eventually convicted. He was released on a $5000 bond during appeal. During that period he broke up with his wife, despite the fact that she had provided his bail. Eventually his conviction was upheld, and he began serving a seven year sentence in 1892. During his time at a prison lumbering camp, Lascelles penned his autobiography, which was published in 1893.
He was pardoned in 1897, and promptly married another wealthy young woman, Clara Pilkey. He was well-liked in Georgia despite his crimes, and found a position with a town handling their utility contracts.
There were rumors that his dishonesty drove him out of Georgia, and that he went to Mexico and Texas with his new wife, burning through her money.
He turned up in Asheville, North Carolina in 1902, seriously ill with tuberculosis. He died within a few weeks. Lacking funds from anyone for a funeral and burial, Sidney then began his strange afterlife, becoming a local legend as a funeral home prop.
After many years, Lascelles body was claimed by his first wife, Maud Lilienthal, who had the remains cremated and spread in the Potomac River. Maud later settled in Asheville.
There are many references, beginning in the 1870s, suggesting that Lascelles started his life as the son of a gamekeeper on the estate of the Earl of Devonshire. Other suggested that he was the illegitimate son of a lord. In his autobiography, he claimed to have been born in Australia, and had lived in both India and China. Nothing concerning his origins has been verified.

#122 Bertha Heyman

Bertha Schlesinger (Abt. 1853-1901), aka Bertha Heyman, Bertha Kerkow, Bertha Stanley, Big Bertha, etc. — Swindler

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Thirty-five years old in 1886. Born in Germany. Married. Very stout woman. Height, 5 feet 4 inches. Weight, 245 pounds. Hair brown, eyes brown, fair complexion. German face. An excellent talker. Has four moles on her right cheek.

RECORD. Bertha Heyman’s maiden name was Bertha Schlesinger. She is a native of Koblyn, near Posen, Prussia. Her father served five years in prison there for forging a check. She was married twice, first to one Fritz Karko, when she first came to this country in 1878. After living in New York a short time they went to Milwaukee, where she was afterwards married to a Mr. Heyman, although her first husband was still living. She has been concerned in a number of swindling transactions, and has the reputation of being one of the smartest confidence women in America. In September, 1880, she was sued in the Superior Court of New York City for obtaining by false pretenses $1,035 from E. T. Perrin, a conductor on a palace car, whom she met in traveling from Chicago. She was arrested in London, Ontario, on February 8, 1881, in company of one Dr. J. E. Cooms, charged with defrauding a Montreal commercial man out of several hundred dollars by the confidence game.


Bertha, in her last years, preferred to be known by her nickname, Big Bertha, and used it to publicize her stage appearances and the honky-tonks that she managed in Spokane, Butte, and other cities. One reason for that decision is that it eliminated the necessity of having to explain the many married names she had accumulated. She was born in Kobylin, Prussia (now Poland), not far from Breslau. On one marriage record she listed her parents as David Schlesinger and Ernestine Frankel. She once gave an interview that offered a version of her early career, much of which can be verified:


“Fred” was Friedrich Kerkow, a partner in a very small bank in New York that served German-speakers. Fred’s story is that he first saw Bertha working as a cleaning woman, and was entranced by the pretty young girl. They married in November, 1870, when Bertha was still a teen. The marriage lasted many years; they moved together to Milwaukee in 1875 to open a millinery store–likely an ambition of Bertha’s more than Fred’s. Did Fred abandon her in Milwaukee? He never offered his version of events. In 1877, Bertha remarried to a traveling suspender salesman, John Heyman. They maintained the millinery store in Milwaukee for a short while, but Bertha and Heyman moved to a more expensive residence, where Bertha soon gained a reputation for entertaining young German actresses and the men wishing to meet them. Unpleasant rumors caused Bertha and Heyman to decamp to New York City in the spring of 1880.

On the way to New York from Chicago, Bertha struck up conversation with a Pullman palace train car conductor, and convinced him that she had many wealthy assets in need of management, and enticed him to quit his job and take over as her estate manager–but first she needed $1000 in cash to settle some matters. The conductor, Mr. Perrin, thought it was a good opportunity, and lent her the money. Upon arrival in New York, Bertha encamped in a series of luxury hotels and ran up bills, retaining a respected lawyer to advise her. Soon both the conductor, Mr. Perrin, and the lawyer, Mr. Botty, were forced to take legal action to recover the money and services they had invested in the pretend-millionairess. Mr. Botty was the person that Bertha later claimed had informed her that she was an heiress; while Mr. Botty claimed that she was the one that first contacted him.

It was at the onset of this imposture and legal woes that husband number two, John Heyman, left Bertha. As Chief Byrnes mentions, there always seemed to be a shadowy male con man feeding Bertha’s ambitions by providing forged checks and phony bonds offered in security for cash; in New York, this figure had the name of “J. E. Cooms” (aka Coombs, Combs). When the pleas of Mr. Perrin and Mr. Botty were joined by a Mrs. Schlaarbaum of Staten Island, who claimed that Bertha had stolen jewelry from her boarding house, Bertha and Cooms fled to Canada. They were arrested there for perpetrating a fraud and retreated back to New York.

Once again in New York, Bertha took rooms in a boarding house on Staten Island, where she was arrested for stealing a watch from her landlady. She was tried and convicted in October, 1881 for the watch theft, a term she served in the New York Penitentiary. She was freed in June of 1883. Bertha was then put on trial for her earlier swindles in New York, and was returned to prison on August 30, 1883. Finally, the time she owed New York authorities expired in April, 1887.

Within a year, Bertha reappeared in San Francisco as “Bertha Stanley,” accompanied by a young man she introduced as a son, William H. Stanley (who may have been the same person as Dr. J. E. Cooms). In San Francisco, she approached a leader among the Jewish community, Rabbi A. J. Messing, whom she had known as a child in Prussia. She explained to the Rabbi that she had married a gentile, a Mr. Stanley of LaSalle, Illinois, now deceased. Mr. Stanley had left her a fortune, but she now desired to marry within her faith and asked the Rabbi’s help in finding a suitable husband. Messing introduced her to members of the Beth Israel synagogue, including his unmarried brother-in-law, Abraham Gruhn. Gruhn was entranced by Bertha, despite her now-ordinary looks and heavy girth.

Within days, Gruhn and Bertha were heading a lavish engagement party, at which Bertha’s fake son “Willie” asked Gruhn for $500 to overcome his objections to his mother remarrying. Bertha wore a great quantity of diamonds, which were paste; but their display gave “Willie” the opportunity to suggest to several women that he could take their jewelry and reset the stones in the latest fashion, such as those Bertha wore. Gruhn also presented his betrothed with more jewelry. Within days, Bertha and Willie had pawned all the jewelry they had received, along with Gruhn’s cash, and headed south toward Los Angeles. Gruhn and Messing, after a day or two, slowly realized they might have been swindled. They approached the San Francisco police, who showed them Bertha’s picture in Byrnes’ book.

Detectives traced Bertha and Willie to San Antonio, Texas, where the pair was arrested. They were brought back to San Francisco to stand trial for larceny. Gruhn, who still had a soft spot for Bertha, tempered his testimony against her, forcing the prosecution to focus their efforts on Willie Stanley. The court proceedings attracted overflow crowds–a fact not unnoticed by Bertha. In the end, after prevailing in both a civil and criminal suit, she was acquitted; while Stanley was found guilty of obtaining goods under false pretenses, and was sentenced to just six months.

Bertha considered opening another millinery shop, but instead accepted an offer to appear on the stage of a low-brow opera house.  Her act consisted of posing in scenes recreating her scandals in San Francisco; followed by her posing in classical scenes in flesh-colored tights. She attracted larger-than-usual crowds eager to see “Big Bertha.” Over the next year, she took her act on the road throughout the West Coast, sometimes adding an appearance as a collar-and-elbow wrestler, willing to take on any comer. As she traveled, she attracted new admirers who presented her with gifts and offers of marriage.

During this period, reporters tracked down her first husband, Fritz Kerkow, who was now operating a popular cafe in Los Angeles. Bertha went to the cafe to meet him, and later only said that Kerkow had broken down in tears.

By 1893, Big Bertha was not only appearing on stage, but also managed honky-tonk theaters in Spokane, Washington; Bakersfield, California; and Butte, Montana. These dives presented entertainments that are hard to imagine today:


Bertha died in Chicago in May, 1901, while managing a similar type of dive in that city.