#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.





#37 Albert Wilson

Albert C. Wilson (Abt. 1842-1894), aka Al. Wilson, Edward R. Marshall, W. H. Hall — Counterfeiter, Forger

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-four years old in 1886. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 6 1/2 inches. Weight, 170 pounds. Brown hair, slightly bald on top of head; wears light brown mustache and whiskers, generally cut short. Prominent nose, which is inclined to be hooked. Has a gunshot wound on back of left fore-arm; also a small scar half an inch long on lower lip, which runs down from corner of mouth, left side. Speaks in a calm, easy tone. Born in State of Louisiana.

RECORD. Al. Wilson is well known in many of the Eastern cities as an expert burglar and shoplifter, and has served two terms of imprisonment for the above offenses. He afterwards became an expert negotiator of forged paper of every description, and was known to the authorities of several cities as a member of “Brockway’s Gang of Forgers.” He also was identified with George Wilkes, George Engles (deceased), and Charley Becker, with whom he left for Europe in the spring of 1880, for the purpose of negotiating forged circular notes. This scheme failed, and he returned to America about August 15, 1880.

Wilson was arrested in New York City on October 18, 1880, and delivered to the police authorities of Baltimore, Md., charged, in connection with Henry Cleary, George Bell (193), and Charles O. Brockway (14), with forging and uttering checks amounting to $10,051 on the Merchants’ National Bank and the Third National Bank of Baltimore, Md., on July 16 and 17, 1880. One check for $2,160, another $3,901, and another of $1,300, were drawn to the order of J. Hunter and others, and, with the forged signature of J. H. Fisher, were presented at the Merchants’ National Bank; and a check for $1,394, and another for $1,296, drawn to the order of J. W. Kimball, and bearing the forged signature of Middleton & Co., of Baltimore, were presented at the Third National Bank. All five of these checks were paid on presentation. Wilson pleaded guilty to two cases of forgery, and he was sentenced to two years on each indictment (making four years in all), on November 3, 1880, by Judge Pinkney, at Baltimore, Md.

Shortly after his release from prison in Maryland he was arrested in Milwaukee, Wis. (June 26, 1884), under the name of Edward R. Marshall, charged with attempting to pass forged fifty-pound Bank of England notes. As he had failed to get rid of any of them there, he was delivered over to the Chicago (Ill.) authorities, who wanted him for disposing of some of the same notes. He was taken to Chicago, and escaped from a police station there on July 5, 1884, and went to England, where a gang was organized consisting of George Wilkes, George Engles, Charley Becker, Shell Hamilton, William Bartlett, Edward Burns, Edward Cleary, George Bell, and himself ; and, as above referred to, they entered into a gigantic scheme to flood France, Germany and Italy with forged circular notes, full particulars of which appear in the record of George Wilkes. A reward of one hundred dollars was offered for his arrest by the chief of police.

Al. Wilson, alias W. H. Hall, registered at St. Lawrence Hall in Montreal, Canada, on May 18, 1885, and on May 19 he went to the Bank of British North America and asked the manager of the bank to cash him a letter of credit for fifty pounds on the Union Bank of Scotland. He said that “he had fifteen hundred pounds more which he would like to have cashed in a few days.” The manager became suspicious and detained him, and sent for an officer, who arrested him when leaving the bank. One Robert Fox, a Scotchman, was arrested with him. He is about fifty-five years old. Height, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches. Weight, about 190 pounds. Stout build. Gray hair. Side whiskers and mustache, generally dyed black. Very bald. Sharp features. Round shoulders, and slightly stooped. Fox did not attempt to pass any of the letters of credit, but when arrested a large package of the letters was found on his person. He tried to destroy them, but was prevented by the officers. Wilson claimed that all the letters belonged to him, and that Fox had nothing to do with them. Wilson pleaded guilty on June 6, 1885. Fox was tried and found guilty on June 9, 1885. On June 13, 1885, Wilson was sentenced to twelve years in St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary, and Fox was sentenced to six years. Wilson’s picture is an excellent one, taken in 1880.

Chief Byrnes was attuned to the fact that there were two men using the name “Al Wilson” active as forgers in the 1880s, and correctly assigns crimes to the older man, born about 1842. In his 1895 edition, Byrnes mentions that this Al Wilson was discharged from the Montreal prison in November, 1893, returned to New York City, and died a short time later.

This aligns with the death of one Albert C. Wilson, a Civil War veteran, hospitalized at Ward’s Island, and later buried at Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn. This soldier enlisted at Albany in 1861 at age 19. His first term of service was as a private; he ended the war as a Second Lieutenant in command of African-American troops in the 3rd Regiment of the Colored Heavy Artillery.

While the above is mainly speculation, an earlier reference to Al. Wilson appears to fit the character of man described by Byrnes. In 1871, in the aftermath of an escape by several prisoners, the New York Sun looked into the state of the management of Sing Sing prison:

“It is well-known here to-day that for nearly the full term of the present agent’s administration, the real governor of the prison has been Casper C. Childs, the chief clerk, who has made a fine fortune out of the pick–I mean perquisites of his office. Agent Russell is looked upon as a nonentity, as far as the management of the prison is concerned, but is thought by most of the good citizens to have been shrewd enough to feather his nest at least as warmly as his subordinate.

“Another fact equally patent to the people here who have dealings with the prison authorities is that the business of the institution is conducted in a great measure by Al Wilson, a convict who has served five years, and hopes to be released in 1874. This man is a sharp fellow, of good education and excellent address. He was sentenced in 1866 to eight years for counterfeiting.

“Since his entrance into the prison he has been a pet, and has been subjected to but few of the mortifications and hardships which fall to the general lot. Wilson smokes fine cigars, wears a fine mustache and a head of elegant black curly hair. The cigar, the mustache, and the hirsute adornment are  strictly prohibited by the prison rules, but Mr. Wilson has somehow been enabled to override the rules and indulge his sartorial tastes to their fullest extent–except, let me say, in the matter of trousers. The agent requires him to wear the regulation stripes; and Mr. Wilson, in return for the favors granted him, accepts the trousers as a compromise.

“He is assistant to the chief clerk, and by means only known to himself, but guessed at by others, since his incarceration, made a larger fortune than he could have possibly secured by his clumsy evidences of want of respect to the legalized currency of the country. He is the happiest man in the prison, except the chaplain and the chaplain’s clerk, of whom more hereafter.

“A short time ago a citizen of Sing Sing called at the office of the prison to collect a bill due him on account of services rendered or goods furnished. He inquired of the attendant: ‘Where is Agent Russell?’ ‘Gone to New York.’ ‘Where is Tom Croton, the head keeper?’ ‘Gone off.’ ‘Where is Casper Childs, the chief clerk?’ ‘He’s away.’ ‘In heaven’s name, then, who is in charge of the prison?’ ‘Al. Wilson.’

“And to Mr. Al. Wilson, the convict clerk, the citizen paid his respects and presented his bill. The claim was duly examined, and the citizen received a check for the amount, drawn on the Sing Sing Bank, and signed ‘C. C. Childs, per Al. Wilson.’

“‘Is this check good?’ said the citizen, glanced at the striped integuments of the clerk. ‘Present it at the bank and see,’ said the convict. “My signature is as good there as anybody’s.’

“The check was presented and paid.”

For reasons unknown, Al. Wilson is one of the few criminals profiled by Byrnes that had “wanted” bulletins produced that have survived:






#62 John Mahaney

John Mahaney (1844-19??), aka Jack Sheppard, John H. Matthews, James Wilson, John Mahoney, etc. — Thief, Escape Artist

Link to Byrnes’s entry for #62 John Mahaney

John Mahaney would have been a much more notorious criminal, had he not been saddled with the nickname “Jack Sheppard,” in honor of the 18th-century English thief. That original Jack Sheppard had started his thieving career in 1723, and was arrested and imprisoned five times in 1724 before being held and executed. Since his death, many thieves in England and America were called the “new Jack Sheppard,” but with John Mahaney, the name stuck throughout a career spanning sixty years–long after the American public had lost memory of the original Jack Sheppard.

Mahaney was first jailed years before the Civil War started; he was last jailed (as far as is known) in 1915, as a member of a ring of auto thieves. Most of his adult life was spent in various prisons, but he still committed a remarkable number of crimes.

Moreover, more anecdotes exist concerning Mahaney’s youthful exploits than any other criminal in Chief Byrnes’s book. Mahaney’s childhood was both appalling and enthralling. He related his career to a reporter from the New York Sun shortly before escaping from the Central Station of the New York Police Department in April 1872 [Note: ethnic slurs made by the reporter have been edited out]:

“This notorious criminal, whose exploits have almost surpassed those of Jack Sheppard, was born in this city of Irish parents in the year 1844. Jack’s father died when Jack was quite young. Jack’s early care and training devolved upon his mother. He was sent to school, but proved such a mischievous urchin that he received more floggings than any other boy in his class. On a certain occasion Jack says one of the schoolboys played a trick on the master. Jack was suspected. He and three other boys were made to kneel down and were allowed 15 minutes in which to confess the deed. Jack was really innocent, but one of the boys promised to give him a tin box with six cents in it to say that he had done it. He got a severe flogging, but never got the box nor the pennies. He ran away from this school so often that his mother sent him to a boarding-school at Jamaica, L.I.

“The teacher at this school had a son about twenty years old. This young man and Jack became chums, and any mischief that was done was invariably laid at Jack’s door. While attending this school Jack manifested the old disposition to play hookey. The master made him wear nothing but a frock, which gave him the appearance of a girl. One day Jack got out of a window, and, catching hold of the gutter on the roof, worked his way to the room containing his clothes. He then swung himself into the room, and, dressing himself, escaped from the school and returned home, only to be taken back the next day by his mother.

“One day Jack stole some gunpowder. He put it into a large ink bottle, then put a piece of lighted paper into the bottle and stood over it, expecting it to burn like a Fourth of July blue light. The powder exploded the bottle, and a piece of glass was driven into his leg. He was crippled from the effects for a long while, and carries the mark to this day.

“On another occasion he took a loaded rifle from the teacher’s closet. Holding it above his head he pulled the trigger. The recoil stretched him on the floor. The slug went through the ceiling floor overhead, and in close proximity to the servant girl, who was making the beds in the rooms upstairs.

“Jack was so wild that his mother took him home and sent him to a private school near his residence. He played truant so often that his mother, acting under the advice of friends, sent him to the House of Refuge, at that time located in Twenty-Third street. When Jack entered that institution he was a wild but innocent boy. He remained there but nine months. During that time he was forced to associate with boys from eight to twenty, chiefly from the Five Points, Water street, and the slums of New York City. Among the inmates of the House of Refuge at that time was Jerry O’Brien, who was executed in 1868. When Jack left that institution he had become schooled in every kind of wickedness. He was taken home, and placed in the Juvenile asylum, under the care of Dr. Russ. From there Jack ran away so often that they placed shackles on his legs; but he managed to saw them off with table knives, which he would nick like a saw. One night he made his escape, but was recaptured and taken back. Dr. Russ then put a chain around his waist, and attached it to another boy. One day Jack took the boy on his back and started for the city, but was recaptured.

“He became a constant visitor at the theaters, with which he was so infatuated that he resorted to thieving and dishonesty to obtain the means requisite to gratify his passion. He usually slept in hay barges and wagons, and would steal all day to raise “pit money.” One night his mother found him snugly stowed away in a dry-goods case on the sidewalk. He was taken home and supplied with a new suit of clothes. He was at home but a short while when the temptation to visit the theater came over him, and he ran away and returned to the Five Points. Being well-dressed and smart-looking for a boy his age, he was picked up by a notorious thief and villain known as “Italian Dave.” Jack was known as Dave’s “kid.” Every morning Dave and his pal would go down to rob the large stores which were just opening. While Dave would buttonhole the porter, Jack would sneak into the store and help himself to the valuables. The afternoons would be devoted to robbing dwellings in the upper part of the city.

“Sometimes Dave would take Jack with him to the Battery, where he would waylay gentlemen who were wending their way to the Brooklyn ferryboat. Jack’s part of the job was to go through their pockets and take all the valuables from their persons. For the work he performed he was remunerated with a few shillings.

“One night Dave armed himself with a long knife, and started across the street to a den to kill another thief, who it seems had done him some injury. Dave was drunk, and while reeling across the street was set upon and beaten with clubs until he was almost dead. The following night Jack was arrested while at the National Theater by a detective who had been hired by his mother to hunt him up. Jack, while on the road home, told the detective all that he had done, and instead of being taken home, was taken to the station house. He was afterward taken in custody by three officers, who wanted him to show them the thieves’ den. With a revolver at his head, Jack led the way through an old building in the Five Points. The house was searched and a large quantity of jewelry found. The receiver was arrested, and Jack put in the House of Detention as a witness. Jack was an unwilling witness, and one night set fire to his bed and escaped during the confusion. He then made his way to Newark, where he robbed a jewelry story of six gold watches, which he sold for $15.

“After this robbery he returned to New York, where he was arrested and confined in the Tombs. One day he picked the lock of his cell and got out in the hallway. Being small, he crawled through the bars of the window facing Franklin street. He went home, and his mother dressed him in his sister’s clothes, and sent him to a relative who lived on Ling Island. He remained there but a few months. One day, being sent on an errand, he broke into a house and stole the silverware. He was caught with the plunder, but managed to escape. He next went to Jersey City. While there he was arrested and committed to jail. He made his escape and returned to New York, where, after committing a series of crimes extending over a period of two years, he was finally arrested and sentenced to Sing Sing for two years [age 16, year 1860]. At the State Prison he was confined in a cell with an old criminal who initiated him into the mysteries of a “cross life.” On leaving Sing Sing he returned to his wicked career, and was arrested for robbing a gentleman on Grand street. For this he got off with six months in the penitentiary [Blackwell’s Island].

“While there he attempted to escape, but fell on an iron picket fence. One of the spikes passed through his right wrist, and in the fall he broke his arm and sprained his ankle. He was found in this condition by the guard and taken to the hospital. Before he had thoroughly recovered he escaped from the hospital and went to New Orleans. That city did not offer a good field for his peculiar line of business, and he returned to New York after a stay of only three weeks. One morning after his return he stole a case of silks and was arrested. The informant in this case was known as Morris. Morris gave the information to Captain (later Superintendent) Jordan, and a watch was set on the house in which the goods were concealed. Jack was arrested while examining his booty.

“In order to get rid of this charge, Jack enlisted [in the Union Army] and was sent to camp on Riker’s Island [then a boot camp for new enlistees]. While there he picked a man’s pocket of $100. Capt. George Washburn, now captain of police, was provost marshal of Riker’s Island. He suspected Jack, and tied him up until he confessed where the money was hidden. A short time after this occurrence Jack escaped from the island. He was recaptured and sent to Castle Williams on Governor’s Island [a garrison and prison]. From there he made an unsuccessful attempt to escape, but was caught and tied up by the thumbs as punishment.

“He was subsequently sent [on active duty] to Alexandria, and from there to the front. Jack, while at Brandy Station [Battle of Brandy Station, Virginia, June 9, 1863], about seventy miles south of Alexandria, took an observation of the state of the army, and not being favorably impressed with the condition of things, managed to elude the guards and escape. He hid himself in a car containing the bodies of embalmed soldiers, and arrived safe at Alexandria at two o’clock the following morning. He tried to escape from Alexandria, but was picked up by one of the night patrols and was placed in jail. While in jail his head was shaved. The next day Jack broke out of the jail. He tied a silk handkerchief around his head and started for New York City, where he arrived without further molestation [at age 19].

“After leading a life of dissipation and crime for a long time, he was arrested again for burglary. He was convicted and sentenced to Sing Sing for four years and six months. He had been in State Prison but a few weeks when he escaped through the roof. He was re-arrested on the same day on the Harlem railroad, twelve miles from the prison. His captor started with him to the city to have him remanded to Sing Sing. Jack had made up his mind to run any risk to escape. While passing through Thirty-fourth street tunnel, he suddenly struck the constable between the eyes, then jumped from the train and escaped. Jack then made the acquaintance of some safe operators and went with them for a few weeks, until one of the party was arrested. While operating on a safe, the store was surrounded, and the burglars were fired upon by the night watchman. One of the burglars was captured, tried, convicted, and sentenced to Sing Sing for three years.

“After this, Jack went to Boston. While there he stole $6000 worth of goods, which he expressed to New York to dispose of. While on his way to this city [New York] he was arrested and remanded to Sing Sing. The authorities of the prison then put a ball and chain on his left leg and kept him sitting in the prison hall under the eye of the keeper. When Jack had worn his jewelry about five months he became tired of it. One day he asked the warden to remove the shackles and let him go work in the shops. ‘I could take them off myself if I wanted to,’ said Jack, ‘but if you will take them off for me, I promise you I will not attempt to escape.’

“The warden laughed at the idea. On the following day Jack managed to get an old coat and the keeper’s spectacles. He played sick and remained in his cell. While the rest of the prisoners were at dinner, he took the ball and chain off and walked to the end of the shoe shop where the contractor had his horse in the stable. He harnessed the horse to a light wagon, and got through just as the convicts were leaving the mess-room for their shops. Jack put on the spectacles, wrapped the horse blanket around his prison pants, jumped into the wagon, and started. He had to pass about twenty guards armed with muskets, and was discovered before he got half way. The guards opened a fusillade on him, but he whipped up his horse and escaped without a scratch. He rode about seven miles, when he let the horse go, and entered a barn where he concealed himself in a haystack. While in the barn, a gentleman drove in with a horse and sleigh, which he left in the barn. Scarcely had the owner of the sleigh left when Jack jumped into the vehicle and started for New York. He reached the city on the following morning. From New York he went to Boston, and thence, in company with a notorious criminal, to Philadelphia. In the later city his companion committed a crime, and the house where they were concealed was surrounded by police. Jack escaped by jumping from a second-story window.
“He returned to Boston and stole $3500 worth of broadcloth, which he expressed to New York. Jack started to follow the goods, but was arrested at Yonkers by Detective Baker, and taken back to Boston. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to the Charlestown State prison for five years [in April 1866, when he was 22]. While there he made three ineffectual attempts to escape, and finally concluded to serve his time out. At the expiration of his term of service he went out West and remained quiet until recently.”

The writers of this Sun article were not aware that after Jack was discharged from Massachusetts in January 1871, he returned to New York and in March, 1871, married shoplifter Ellen Rodda, alias Ellen Darrigan. He then went to Illinois, but was hardly quiet. He was arrested in that state and sentenced to four years in Joliet State Prison, and returned to New York in the spring of 1875.

This summary has covered only the first twenty years of Jack’s sixty-year long career, but should suggest the pattern of the remainder his resume. John Mahaney put the original Jack Sheppard to shame.

#102 Edward Lyman

Edward J. Lyman (1844-1917), aka Boston Ned, Frank E. Parker, Edward Lovejoy, George Atkinson, George Ackerson, Edward Keenan — Pickpocket

From Byrnes’s text:
DESCRIPTION. Forty-two years old in 1886. Born in Boston, Mass. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 8 inches. Weight, 180 pounds. Light hair, blue eyes, light complexion, full face. Married, Painter by trade. Has “E.L.” in India ink on his arm; scars on three fingers of right hand and on under lip.
RECORD. Ned Lyman is probably one of the cleverest general thieves in America, and is well known in all the principal cities East and West, especially in Boston, where he makes his home. Lyman, under the name of George Ackerson, was convicted in the Superior Court of Boston, Mass., on January 17, 1863, for larceny from the person, and sentenced to the House of Correction for four months. Discharged May 15, 1863.
He was convicted again in the same court on May 19, 1864, for larceny from the person, and sentenced to the House of Correction for six months. He was discharged September 14, 1864.
Again convicted in the same court on May 25, 1868, for assault and battery with a knife, and sentenced for two years in the House of Correction. Discharged December 23, 1870.
There is evidently some mistake in the date of Lyman’s discharge from the House of Correction in Boston, as the record shows that he was arrested in New York City on July 22, 1870, for till-tapping, and committed in $1,500 bail by Judge Cox.
The records also show that he was arrested and convicted of larceny from the person in Philadelphia, Pa., and sentenced to four years in the Eastern Penitentiary on March 27, 1880. Again, in the Superior Court of Boston, Mass, April 17, 1884, he was convicted of an attempt to commit larceny from the person, and sentenced to the House of Correction for twelve months. Discharged March 12, 1885. This last time he gave the name of George Ackerson.
Lyman was arrested in Boston again in June, 1885, for larceny from the person, and gave bail, which was defaulted. In August, 1885, he was arrested in Providence, R.I., for larceny from the person, and was sentenced to one year in prison there. When his time expires, he will be taken back to Boston and tried on the complaint he ran away from. Lyman’s picture is an excellent one, taken in Boston in 1884.
What is it that causes a hardened criminal to reform? Fear of dying in prison? The love of a family that encourages them to be better? An old promise to a dead parent? Something made Ned Lyman reform, against all odds, given his record.
Byrnes begins the recitation of Lyman’s record at an early year, compared to most of his other entries, which usually started in the late 1870s. Byrnes begins his account of Lyman in 1863; but Lyman had already made a mark three years earlier, at age 16, when he was arrested in Boston for rioting (a charge usually leveled at street gangs fighting among themselves). He was given the choice of a fine of $60 and court costs or six months in jail. Lyman was the only son of an Irish widow, so he likely served the time.
In May, 1861 he enlisted for a year’s duty in the Navy. He was aboard the USS Colorado, which saw blockade duty in the Gulf of Mexico.
By 1862, Ned Lyman had embarked on his career as a pickpocket. He was arrested on October of that year, and sentenced to four months in the house of detention. As Byrnes indicates, he was right back at it when released, but was caught immediately, sending him back to confinement until May 1863. Ned was caught picking pockets again in May 1864. He was discharged in September.

After a gap of several years in his known record, he was arrested for stabbing a man in a knife fight in May, 1868. The disagreement was over a woman. This incident put Lyman on ice until December, 1870.
In February 1871, Ned married a Boston Irish girl, Catherine Scanlon, aka Kate Moran. They started working crowds together as pickpockets. Ned was arrested several times later that year: in July, August, and November. His August arrest was under the name Frank E. Parker, and he was found to be carrying a ledger book which supposedly showed his criminal income and expenses. Kate was arrested with him in November, and again on her own in December.
In January 1872, Ned and Kate were arrested for picking pockets on the Fitchburg Railroad. They were indicted and let out on bail of $1000 each. They defaulted and took a ship to London and then on to Paris, where they resumed their crimes. They were both caught while in France, and Kate was given two years while Ned was given three years. Kate returned to Boston after her sentence expired, and while waiting for Ned to be set free, she died.
After Ned was released in France, he returned to the United States and was soon arrested for picking pockets in Brooklyn. He was sent to the Kings County prison at Crow Hill on a sentence of two years. Boston authorities heard he was there, and he was sent back to Boston in March, 1878 to face charges dating back to 1872.
In March 1880, Ned was arrested in Philadelphia for picking pockets and sentenced to four years at Eastern State Penitentiary. While in his cell in Philadelphia, stories appeared in newspapers suggesting that he took part in bank check forgeries in Vermont; however, these accounts were confusing him with a different man, a well-known forger named William H. Lyman.

Ned returned to Boston in 1884 and was arrested as George Atkinson for his usual crime, and spent the next eleven months in jail. He repeated his offense in May as Edward Keenan; and in Providence, Rhode Island in August 1885.
In 1887, he went roving with two other well-known pickpockets, Ned Lyons and Shang Campbell. The three were captured in Kent, Ohio. Ned received a sentence to the State Prison in Columbus for five years.
After getting out of prison in Ohio, Ned returned to Boston, now nearly fifty years old. It was then that he turned his life around. He married for the second time, to Mary A. Murphy, and started to raise a family. Ned got a job as a clerk at the Edison Electric Works, a job he held for many years. He and Mary had four children, a last being a son, George, born in 1906 when Ned was sixty-two. Ned passed away in 1917 at 73.

#90 Peter Ellis

Peter Ellis (Abt. 1844-1919), aka Banjo Pete, Long Pete, Luthey, Pete Emerson/Emmerson, John J. Smith, Jack Welch — Bank robber

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-one years old in 1886. Born in New York City. Slim build. Height, 5 feet 11 inches. Weight, 160 pounds. Light complexion, brown hair, stooped shoulders, thin face, high cheek bones, dark eyes. Generally wears a brown mustache.

RECORD. Banjo Pete, the name he is best known by (Peter Ellis being his right name), was formerly a minstrel, but drifted into crooked channels about eighteen years ago. He was considered a good man, and was generally sought for when a job of any magnitude was to be done. He was an intimate associate of all the great bank burglars in America.

He was arrested with Abe Coakley in Philadelphia, Pa., on April 28, 1880, charged with robbing the Manhattan Bank in New York City, on October 27, 1878. It was claimed that Emmerson was the man who carried out the tin boxes from the vault, and sorted the bonds, etc.; that Coakley was the man who wore the whiskers, and dusted off the shelves in the bank while Johnny Hope and his father were in the vault with Nugent; that Billy Kelly stood guard over the old janitor; and Johnny Dobbs, or Kerrigan, and Big John Tracy, who was a friend of Shevelin, the watchman of the bank, were supposed to be the men who planned the robbery; while Old Man Hope was the man who did the work. Johnny Hope (19) was convicted, and sentenced to twenty years in State prison for this robbery. Kerrigan, alias Johnny Dobbs, was arrested while negotiating one of the stolen bonds in Philadelphia, and was turned over to the Sheriff of Wethersfield, Conn., who took him back to Wethersfield prison, to serve out an unfinished term of seven years. John Nugent was tried and acquitted. Patrick Shevlin, the night-watchman, was used to convict the others, and was finally discharged. Jack Cannon was also arrested in Philadelphia trying to dispose of some of the stolen bonds, and was sentenced to fifteen years there. Old Man Hope (20) went to California, and was sentenced to seven years and six months for a burglary there.

Pete Emmerson was discharged from the Tombs, in the Manhattan Bank case, on October 4, 1880. He traveled through the country with John Nugent and Ned Farrell, a notorious butcher-cart thief, and was finally arrested in the Hoboken, N.J., Railroad depot, on Saturday, July 28, 1883, for an attempt to rob Thos. J. Smith, the cashier of the Orange, N.J., National Bank, of a package containing $10,000 in money. Nugent and Farrell were arrested also. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to ten years in Trenton State prison, on July 30, 1883. Emmerson stood trial, was convicted,, and sentenced to ten years also, on October 30, 1883.

Emmerson’s picture is not a very good one, although recognizable. It was taken in 1880.

If Superintendent Thomas Byrnes had written his book about famous professional crimes rather than criminals, the October 27, 1878 robbery of the Manhattan Savings Institution would likely have been his centerpiece. Not only did it involve several of the most skilled, veteran thieves of the age, but the planning of the crime involved mastermind George Leslie, who was murdered before the attempt was finally made; and the consequences of the robbery had lasting effects on the careers of all involved. It was never fully revealed; and so it was talked about and rehashed for a generation.


Banjo Pete Ellis’s adult life centered around the Manhattan Savings Institution robbery, and he died an old man in the company of others involved in that crime. Byrnes was correct about Pete’s real name, but off the mark about his origins. He was born near Kennebunkport, Maine to Thomas and Sophia Ellis, who maintained a large family that dispersed during the Civil War years. Pete Ellis joined the 1st Maine Volunteers in 1864 as a sharpshooter, and saw nine months of action, rising from a private to a corporal.

After the war, Ellis gravitated toward Philadelphia and New York, and by all accounts he became a minstrel performer, eventually joining a famous minstrel act, Sam Devere’s company. There’s no evidence that Ellis ever rose to the level of being a billed name. Devere happened to have an apartment in New York next to the budding criminal genius, George L. Leslie, and the two often socialized together. It can be assumed that it was through Devere that Pete Ellis was introduced to George Leslie; and through Leslie, to Marm Mandelbaum and other veteran bank thieves, like Jimmy Hope and Abe Coakley.

Pete was said to have been in on the 1869 Ocean National Bank robbery in New York, organized by Leslie and Mark Shinburn, and executed by Jimmy Hope, Abe Coakley, Johnny Dobbs, Shang Draper, and Red Leary. Pete’s name was never associated with this crime until years later.

In Byrnes’ entry for thief Dave Cummings, Byrnes mentions that Banjo Pete and George Leslie joined Cummings for an 1873 robbery of a bank in Macon, Georgia; and that they were arrested in Washington, D.C. and forced to return the $50,000 taken. This event can not be found in any newspaper archives.

Pete and Abe Coakley were arrested by Byrnes in Philadelphia in April, 1880, for the Manhattan Savings Institution robbery of 1878. Byrnes had been under intense pressure to make more arrests in the case, and knowing that elements of the Philadelphia police were protecting Jimmy Hope, he took the drastic measure of making the arrest of Coakley and Ellis himself while in Philadelphia, accompanied by a local officer he trusted. Ellis was identified as the man who carried deposit boxes from the vault; though years later, Sophie Lyons wrote that Pete’s role had been to put on the fake whiskers and imitate the night watchman. When arrested, newspapers commented that Ellis had no known history. After being detained for five months in the Tombs (New York City’s Detention Center), Ellis was released.

According to Byrnes, Ellis committed a string of robberies between 1881 and 1883 with John Nugent (an ex-policeman also involved with the Manhattan Savings job) and Ned Farrelly. However, the only time he was caught was in July, 1883, when he, Nugent, and Farrelly attacked a bank cashier transporting a satchel of money while he was seating himself on a train in Hoboken, New Jersey.


Pete Ellis received ten years in New Jersey’s State Prison for this crime, and the public never heard from him again. After his release in the late 1890s, Pete returned to New York City and in 1898 married Jimmy Hope’s daughter, Ellen “Nellie” Hope. In 1900, he listed his occupation as “dry goods.” In 1910, he was an agent for the water company, and lived in the same house with Jimmy Hope’s sons, Johnny and Harry–a situation that continued for many years, until Pete’s death in 1919 at about 75 years of age. By that time, Pete had been the de facto leader of the Hope family for a dozen years, model citizens all.