Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Assassination of Corlis.

Charles G. Corlis kept a bowling saloon on Broadway between Leonard and Franklin Streets in New York City. On the evening of March 20, 1843, several bowlers saw a woman wearing a veil and a straw hat, enter the saloon. They saw her leave the place with Henry Colton, owner of the Colton House hotel, a few doors away on Leonard Street. Sometime later, witnesses saw Charles Corlis talking with the unidentified woman in the doorway of the Colton House.

Around 7:00 a pistol shot rang out on Leonard Street. Witnesses saw someone running from the scene—maybe a man, maybe a woman, maybe a man dressed as a woman. Lying on the ground in front of the Colton House was Charles Corlis, with a bullet wound in the back of his head. Next to him lay a five-barrel pistol with one shot fired. Corlis was carried into the hotel where he died about three hours later.

Suspicion fell on Henry Colton for the murder of Charles Corlis. Corlis had been having an affair with Colton’s wife Hannah, and the two had planned to sail together to New Orleans, along with about $2,000 of Colton’s money. Henry Colton learned of their plans, and on March 10, he accosted Corlis on the street and tried to shoot him. The pistol misfired, and Colton was arrested for attempted murder. He was released on $5,000 bail.

Henry Colton had an alibi for the March 20 murder, but Hannah was known to be out at that time. There were two theories as to what occurred that night—either Colton had hired someone else to kill Corlis and Hannah had helped by luring Corlis out of the saloon, or Hannah had shot him herself to prove to her husband that she did not love Corlis. The police arrested both Henry and Hannah on suspicion of murder.

Both the bowling saloon and the Colton House had terrible reputations in the city—the bowling saloon was a meeting place for sporting men of all classes and the hotel was also a well-known gambling house. The murder and subsequent inquest prompted several editorials in New York newspapers. The New York Herald said, “It is very difficult to teach any community the humiliating lesson of its own rotten condition.” The paper hoped that the murder would open some eyes to the deplorable state of the city’s virtue and morality. The Herald also pointed out that the night watchmen took their posts at 8:00 and since it was dark at about 7:00, “…thieves, burglars, highway robbers, and murderers have one full hour in which they can commit their depredations with scarcely a chance of being arrested.” Regarding the possibility that Colton had hired an assassin the Evening Post said, “…if parties can be procured— hired—or engaged to commit murder for the sake of gain, to gratify the revengeful feelings or malice of another, there will be no security for life in this city." 

The coroner held an extensive inquest over the murder of Charles Corlis, including testimony from medical examiners, gun salesmen, and dozens of witnesses who heard the gunshot or saw the activity on Broadway and Leonard. Most were convinced that a woman had committed the murder, but none were able to say conclusively that the woman was Hannah Colton.

The coroner’s jury concluded that Charles Corlis had been shot by a person or persons unknown. Henry and Hannah Colton were released from custody.

“The Assassination of Corlis,” New York Herald, March 26, 1843.
“Assassination of Corlis,” New York Herald, March 29, 1843.
“Attempt to Kill,” Boston Post, March 13, 1843.
“City Intelligence,” Herald, April 3, 1843.
“The Coroner's Inquest,” Boston Post, March 24, 1843.
“Dreadful Murder In Leonard--street,” Evening Post, March 21, 1843.
“Investigation into the facts of Murder of Mr. Charles G. Corlies,” New-York daily tribune, March 22, 1843.
The Murder of Mr. Corlis, The Library Company of Philadelphia
“The Murder of Corliss,” Public Ledger, March 23, 1843.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

“A Romance of Crime.”

Jimmy Logue was a professional thief whose life of crime spanned more than forty years. He was born in Philadelphia in 1835 and was arrested there for larceny at age 10. After his release became an apprentice to Joe Keyser, a noted Baltimore pickpocket. He eventually graduated to bank robbery and became quite accomplished at it, when he wasn't caught. Logue spent much of his time living a life of prosperity, the rest he spent behind bars.

His personal life was just as erratic. At age 23 he married Mary Jane Andres and left her after two years. Without the formality of a divorce, he married Mary Gahan soon after. She already had an illegitimate son who took his father’s name, Alphonse F. Cutaiar. Logue mistreated Mary, so she left him, went home to her father and died in 1869. Before Mary Gahan left him, Logue had taken up with her sister Johanna. Jimmy Logue and Johanna Gahan were married in the dock of the Central Police Station in 1871 as Logue was preparing to serve a seven-year sentence at Cherry Hill Prison for burglary. 

Johanna waited for him, and after his release, they went to live at the Occidental Hotel in New York City. Logue had plenty of money in bank accounts throughout the city, and with his partner Peter Burns he resumed his career of robbery and burglary.

Logue was still in contact with his stepson, Alphonse Cutaiar, and agreed to set him up in business as a barber. He bought a house Philadelphia, 1250 North Eleventh Street, and outfitted the first floor as a barbershop. For a while, he and Johanna lived there along with Cuitaiar and two employees of the barbershop.

In February 1879, Jimmy and Johanna left Philadelphia and returned to New York City. Logue left Johanna there and went on a “thieving expedition” to Boston with his partner George Mason. Upon his return, he was astonished to find that Johanna had disappeared. Cutaiar told Logue that Johanna had returned to the Philadelphia house, had gotten drunk the previous Saturday night, told him “I’m off,” left the house and did not return. It was well-known that Logue frequently beat Johanna, and many believed that she couldn’t take it anymore and left him.

Logue began to search for Johanna and even placed an advertisement in Philadelphia newspapers, offering a reward of $500 for information as to her whereabouts. He thought that she had run off with Peter Burns and traveled to Denver looking for them. Johanna’s brother, Peter Gahan, believed that Logue’s actions were all for show to hide the fact that he had murdered Johanna.

Logue was arrested again for robbery and disappeared after serving his sentence. Nothing more was thought about Johanna’s disappearance until 1893 when workmen were doing repairs to the kitchen of 1250 North Eleventh Street unearthed the skeleton of a woman under the floorboards. Around the bones of a finger was a wedding ring inscribed “J.L. to J.L.” Police soon learned that fourteen years earlier, the house belonged to Jimmy Logue and his wife Johanna who disappeared in 1879. Johanna’s sister, Ella Sides and brother Peter Gahan identified the skull by some peculiar formations of the teeth and were also able to identify other objects found with the body. A handkerchief was tied around the neck of the skeleton; the Police believed that Johanna had been strangled. Suspicion naturally fell on Jimmy Logue, and the Philadelphia Police began a manhunt.

On the evening of March 5, 1895, an old man stopped at the house of Philadelphia Coroner Ashbridge. When Ashbridge answered the door, the man said, “I am Logue—James Logue—, and I want to give myself up, as I understand there is a warrant out for me.”

Logue had spent at least eight of the intervening years in prison. He said he had been in Chicago when he learned of the warrant and returned to Philadelphia as soon as he could get some money. The coroner took Logue to the station house where he was formally arrested. The police decided to keep the arrest secret, so they booked him as “William Casey” and held him on the 6th floor of City Hall. The newspapers soon learned that the “mysterious prisoner” on the 6th floor was none other than Jimmy Logue, charged with murdering his wife.

Logue denied murdering Johanna and gave the police a detailed account of his trip to Boston including hotels where he and Mason stayed and a theater where they saw the play “Robinson Crusoe” while in Boston. The police were skeptical until detectives went to several hotels and found their signatures on hotel registers and verified that that “Robinson Crusoe” was playing in Boston in February 1879. Jimmy Logue’s alibi was true.

Alphonse Cutaiar became the prime suspect in Johanna’s murder. Detectives traced Johanna’s jewels to him, and it was learned that around the time of her death, he had melted gold and silver in crucibles and sold the product. Under questioning Cuitaiar tried to pin the murder on Logue. This story was not believed, and questioning continued until he admitted Logue knew nothing of Johanna’s death.

Cutaiar then made a confession of sorts. He said that on the night of February 22, 1879 he found Johanna drunk. Fearing she might go back to New York where Logue would beat and abuse her, he carried her upstairs, put her on the bed with her clothes on then tied her feet and hands and wrapped a clothesline around her body. He left her there and went downstairs. When he returned he found that she had rolled over on her face and smothered under the bolster. He was afraid to tell anyone what had happened so took her watch and jewels then hid the body under the floorboards in the kitchen.

In April 1896, Alphonse F. Cutaiar was tried for killing Johanna Logue. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to hang, but in June 1897 Cutaiar’s advocates, convinced the Board of Pardons to commute his sentence to life in prison.

“Another Murder Case,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 19, 1896.
“Cutaiar's Wife Goes Quickly to His Side,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 26, 1897.
“Jimmy Logue,” The Cincinnati Enquirer, October 27, 1893.
“Jimmy Logue Locked Up,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 7, 1895.
“Jimmy Logue Surrenders,” Evening Star, March 6, 1895.
“Logue Innocent,” Cincinnati Post, April 29, 1895.
“The Logue Mystery Now Fully Solved,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 29, 1895.
“Logue's Stepson,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 26, 1895.
“A Mysterious Prisoner,” Wilkes-Barre Times, April 15, 1895.
“A Romance of Crime,” Bridgeton Evening News, April 29, 1895.
“A Skeleton Mystery,” Bridgeton Evening News, October 18, 1893.