#89 Frank McCoy

Frank McCoy (Abt. 1843-1905), aka Big Frank McCoy, Frank McDonald, Francis H. Carter — Bank Robber

From Byrnes’s 1886 edition:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-seven years old in 1886. Born in Troy, N.Y. Medium build. Cabinet-maker by trade. Married. Height, 5 feet 11 3/4 inches. Weight, 176 pounds. Dark-red hair, light-gray eyes, full face, sandy complexion, bald on front of head, dimple in point of chin. Has letters “F. M. C.” in India ink on right fore-arm, a cross and heart on left fore-arm. Generally wears long, heavy red whiskers and mustache.

RECORD. Frank McCoy, alias Big Frank, is a famous bank burglar, and a desperate criminal. He is one of the men who originated the “butcher-cart business,” robbing bank messengers and others in the street, and quickly making off with the plunder by jumping into a butcher cart or wagon.

He was arrested with Jimmy Hope, Ike Marsh, Jim Brady, George Bliss, and Tom McCormack, in Wilmington, Del., for an attempt to rob the National Bank of Delaware, on November 7, 1873. They were convicted on November 25, 1873, and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, one hour in the pillory, and forty lashes. McCoy and McCormack made their escape from New Castle jail, with tools furnished by Bill Robinson, alias Gopher Bill.

McCoy was associated with Jimmy Hope in the robbery of the Beneficial Savings Fund and other savings banks in Philadelphia, and several other robberies. He is said to have stolen over two million dollars during his criminal career. He is well known all over the United States, and is a treacherous criminal, as several officers can attest. He owes his nickname, “Big Frank,” to his stature.

He was arrested in June, 1876, near Suffolk, Va., a small town between Norfolk and Petersburg, in company of Tom McCormack and Gus Fisher, alias Sandford. A lot of burglars’ tools was found concealed near the railroad depot there, and suspicion pointed to them as the owners. The citizens armed themselves and tracked the burglars with bloodhounds to their tent, which they had pitched in a dismal swamp near the village. They were arrested, taken to the Suffolk jail, and chained to the floor. McCoy was shortly after returned to Delaware prison, from where he afterwards escaped. Fisher, alias Sandford, was sent to Oxford, N.J., and was tried for a burglary. McCormack managed to regain his liberty through his lawyer, in October, 1876.

McCoy was arrested again in New York City on August 12, 1878, charged with robbing C.H. Stone, the cashier of Hale’s piano-forte manufactory. The cashier was knocked down and robbed at the corner of Thirty-fourth Street and Ninth Avenue, New York City, on his return from the West Side Bank, on August 3, 1878. In this case McCoy was discharged, as Mr. Stone was unable to identify him.

McCoy was arrested again in New York City on April 12, 1881, charged with robbing Heaney’s pawnbroker’s establishment, on Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, on March 8, 1875, of $2,000 worth of jewelry, etc. He was arrested for this robbery in 1879, and upon an examination before Judge Terry, of Brooklyn, he was discharged. The grand jury afterwards indicted him, and he was arrested again as above, and committed to Raymond Street jail. He afterwards gave bail, and was released.

He was finally arrested again in New York City on May 26, 1885, on suspicion of being implicated in a conspiracy to rob the Butchers and Drovers’ Bank of New York City, in connection with one Gustave Kindt, alias French Gus, a notorious burglar and toolmaker. No case being made out against him, he was delivered to the Sheriff of Wilmington, Del., on November 6, 1885, and taken back to the jail that he had twice escaped from, to serve out the remainder of his ten years’ sentence.

McCoy has killed two men during his criminal career, one on the Bowery, New York, and another in a saloon in Philadelphia, Pa., some years ago. Frank’s picture was taken in August, 1878.

From Byrnes’s 1895 edition:

He was pardoned by Governor Reynolds of Delaware on November 18, 1892. His time would have expired in February, 1893. Since his release he has been trying to live honestly. He was employed in the pool-rooms in New York—when in existence—and on the race-tracks by book makers.

Big Frank McCoy had a rich criminal history long before Byrnes picks up his story, as can be seen from this summary from an 1885 New York Herald story:

The “West Garden National Bank” referred to in this article appears to be the Beneficial Savings Fund Bank, robbed in April 1869. Jimmy Hope was involved in this job, and helped return the plunder to the needy families whose savings were stolen.

The Wilmington, Delaware bank robbery debacle was one of the most notable crimes of the 1870s–not because it succeeded, but due to the fact that it involved five of the most skilled bank robbers of the era: Jimmy Hope, Frank McCoy, Jim Brady, George Bliss, and Tom McCormick–and that they were punished not only with imprisonment, but with a public flogging, followed by a daring escape.

McCoy was quickly recaptured, but escaped a second time. After being caught in a failed bank robbery in Suffolk, Virginia, McCoy was sent back to Delaware to serve out his sentence–and escaped a third time.

Despite being wanted in Delaware, McCoy lived openly in Long Island City, Queens, from 1881 to 1885, operating a pool hall. McCoy was far from remaining honest, though, as this story about how he and Red Leary stole $5000 by cheating a gambling hall attests:

In 1885, McCoy was arrested in New York on suspicion of planning a job with Gus Kindt; he was discharged by the court, but Inspector Byrnes conveniently chose to send him back to Delaware to serve out the sentence he had escaped from three times. McCoy later maintained that Byrnes did so to apply pressure on Jimmy Hope to cough up the bonds stolen from the Manhattan Savings Bank.

McCoy finally paid Delaware the time he owed, and was pardon by the Governor there in 1892.

McCoy died poor in Bellevue Hospital in 1905, but not before giving a few deathbed interviews to several New York newspapers. He regretted his life of crime and wished he had gone into politics instead. He recalled his adventures with Jimmy Hope fondly.

“I’ve never killed a man…,” Frank stated, “That thought is my one consolation.”

Perhaps what Frank meant to say was that he had never killed a man except that deserved it, for he had shot dead John Steiger in 1867 over the proceeds of a burglary they had committed; and also killed Philadelphia thief Patsey Williams in a saloon in 1870.

 

#201 Thomas McCormack

Thomas Joseph McCormick (1844-1897), aka Tom McCormack — Bank Robber

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-three years old in 1883. Born in United States. Married. Machinist. Medium build. Height, 5 feet 8 inches. Weight, 150 pounds. Hair black, turning gray ; dark gray eyes, very dark complexion. Looks like a Spaniard. Generally wears a full black whisker and mustache. Dresses well, and is a great wine drinker.

RECORD. Thomas McCormack has had a checkered career and is a desperate man. He was associated from time to time with all the first-class bank burglars, and was implicated in many important bank robberies. Several years ago he shot and killed Big John Casey, another burglar, over a quarrel on the division of the moneys stolen from the Kensington Savings Bank in Philadelphia, which they and others had robbed on February 4, 1871, of a large amount of money. The bank referred to was robbed by McCormack, Casey, Dobbs, Brady, Burns, alias Combo, and three others. One of them during the day went to the president and represented having been sent by the Chief of Police to tell him that information had been received that either that night or the one following the bank was to be robbed. That he must not impart this information to any one, but that the Chief would send three or four policemen in uniform that afternoon, who were to be locked in the bank, and that the president could leave a porter with them. This programme was followed out, and two watchmen were left. When night set in they sent one of the watchmen out for beer, and during his absence bound and gagged the other and tied him up in a back room. On the return of the other they served him the same way, and then proceeded to rob the bank. They secured between $80,000 and $100,000.

McCormack was arrested in New Haven, Conn., by Marshal Hamilton, on Sunday evening, December 9, 1882, for breaking open and robbing a safe in Walpole, N. H., on the night of December 8, 1882. When arrested in New Haven he gave the name James Crandell. He was taken to Keene, N. H., on December 21, 1882, and upon an examination he was committed to await the action of the Grand Jury. He was indicted on April 1, 1883. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight years in State prison on April 12, 1883. Sam Perris, alias Worcester Sam, was with McCormack in this robbery, but escaped after a desperate fight with the officers, who only succeeded in holding McCormack.

Chief Byrnes made at least one mistake in introducing the record of Tom McCormick, i.e. the notion that McCormick shot “Big John” Casey during a dispute over the spoils of the robbery of the Kensington Savings Bank of Philadelphia that took place in February, 1871. The fatal shots exchanged by McCormick and Casey actually took place in New York in August, 1870, six months prior to the Kensington Bank robbery.

In this instance and in other places in the text of Professional Criminals of America, Byrnes confuses facts of two separate Philadelphia bank robberies: the April 6, 1869 robbery of the Beneficial Savings Fund Bank; and the February, 1871 robbery of the Kensington Savings Bank. The perpetrators of both robberies were never conclusively identified, but most sources agree that a core group of men were behind both robberies: Frank McCoy, Jimmy Hope, and Joe Howard aka Joseph Killoran. [Though Hope’s name was often invoked in regard to these two jobs, he was lodged in Auburn prison when the Kensington robbery occurred; and–according to columnist Louis Megargee–denied involvement in the Beneficial Savings job, though he helped to recover the money. See #20 James Hope entry.]

Beyond those names, a plethora of other criminals have been cited as involved with one or the other of these crimes: Albany Jim Brady, John Kerrigan aka Johnny Dobbs; “Worcester Sam” Perris, John “Clutch” Donohue, Ike Marsh, Thomas Burns, Big John Casey, Curly Harris, Tom McCormick and John “Brockie George” Adams.

So while it is possible that McCormick and Casey argued over their shares of the Beneficial Savings robbery, the New York Herald suspected a more traditional explanation:

gunfight

The woman, if there truly was one behind the dispute, might have been Louisa Farley, who was said to be involved with McCormick at around this time.

McCormick was born in Troy, New York in 1844, and went to school to learn the trade of machinist. He became a skilled professional, which brought him to the attention of criminals who required his skills to penetrate vaults.

There is abundant evidence that McCormick was often involved in bank robberies with the most skilled thieves of that era. When McCormick shot John Casey, he was accompanied by veteran robbers Joe Howard (aka Joseph Killoran) and Henry Kelly (aka Charles Gleason.) In November, 1873, McCormick joined Frank McCoy, Jimmy Hope, Jim Brady, and George Bliss in an attempt to rob the First National Bank of Wilmington by holding the bank’s cashier hostage. They were captured before the attempt was made, and quickly tried and found guilty. They were sent to prison, but also suffered a public whipping as part of their sentence. Several of the gang, including McCormick, were able to escape.

In 1882, McCormick was arrested as one of the robbers of a Walpole, New Hampshire store safe. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to eight years at the New Hampshire State Prison.

Upon his release in the late 1880s, McCormick resolved to give up crime. However, trouble still found him; in 1890 he was accused of stabbing a thief/pickpocket named Alonzo Henn, aka Dutch Alonzo, on the street in front of his brother’s saloon. McCormick was reported to have opened his own saloon in the 1890s, as well as playing the horses and bookmaking, and was said to generously give money away as quickly as he earned it. His obituary reported that he dissuaded many young men from a life of crime. He died a poor man in 1897–but a reformed one.