Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Rogers Murder.

The morning stillness on East 12th Street, New York City, was shattered on December 31, 1869, by cries of “Murder!” Charles M. Rogers lay bleeding on the sidewalk in front of his house as two men were seen running from the scene.

Charles M. Rogers, 60 years old, was the proprietor of a boardinghouse, and that morning he was sweeping the sidewalk in front of the house. The servant who usually swept was sick in bed, so Rogers did the job himself. Around 7:00, two strangers approached, and one of them, without provocation, accosted Rogers. In the fight that followed, the stranger stabbed Rogers in the abdomen and fled. Rogers, severely wounded, was carried into his house. 

Charles Rogers clung to life, but he was clearly on his death bed. Coroner Flynn was summoned to take Rogers’s dying declaration:

I am proprietor of the boarding house No. 42 East twelfth street; about 7 o’clock I went  out to sweep the sidewalk; while sweeping two strange men came along; one of them took of his coat and handed it to the other when the other said, “Don’t Jim,” and went across the street; the short man the returned and attacked me brandishing a large knife; he made several strokes of the knife at my head which cut my hat through; I then clinched with him; while struggling he seized my watch and chain and my wallet from my pantaloon pockets; while he was robbing me I cried “Murder!” and then he stabbed me in the left side and went across the street and got his coat; he then ran away, and I a saw him throw something away at the time.

With Rogers still in critical condition, the police began their investigation. They had very little to go on; the killer had fled, leaving behind his hat, the leather sheaf of his knife, and the tail of his suit coat torn off in the scuffle. And they knew his name was Jim. One witness, a boy named William Gloucester, had seen the fight but could not say who the men were. The police began looking for known criminals in the area; particularly members of the Nineteenth Street Gang named Jim.

Around 1:00 a.m., on January 1, a man named James Tallent went to the Fifteenth Ward Station House and told the desk sergeant that he understood that the detectives were looking for him on suspicion of murder. He said he was innocent, and he wanted to clear his name. They took him before Charles Rogers, who was clinging to life but still in full possession of his faculties. Rogers confirmed that Tolland was not the man who assaulted him. However, the witness, William Gloucester, identified Tallent as one of Rogers’s assailants. The police held Tallent in custody to await further developments.

Charles Rogers died soon after seeing Tallent. The crime became murder, and the police offered a $500 reward—raised at the mayor’s request to $1,000—for the apprehension of the killer. A coroner inquest commenced on January 6.

Though James Tallent was still in custody, the police were looking for a different Jim. Inside the torn piece of coat found at the scene was an empty envelope addressed “Jim Logan, city” followed by “This will be delivered to you by Tom.”

When it was reported in newspapers, another man came to the police station and said, “This ‘ere article in this newspaper was shown to me this evening, and as that is my name and description, I came to give myself up. It is a very serious matter to have one’s name in the newspaper.”  

Jim Logan denied any knowledge of the murder but thought the letter might have been intended for him. He had been in Sing Sing prison, and the letter looked like the kind they would sneak out of the prison through canal boats, visitors, or released prisoners. But he had not received the letter and had no idea who Tom was. The police kept Jim Logan in custody.

On January 11, the police arrested George “Butch” Johnson, another Nineteenth Street gang member in the St. Bernard Hotel’s barroom where he was drinking with a group of men. The police believed that Butch was in possession of certain undisclosed facts regarding the murder, but he had nothing important to tell them and was released after a night in jail.

The following day, the police arrested another Jim Logan along with his brother Michael. The brothers had been absent from their home since the murder, raising suspicion. The killer’s hat fit Jim, but beyond that, there was no evidence to connect Jim or his brother to the murder. Nevertheless, Jim was locked up in the police station, and Michael was sent to the House of Detention and held as a witness.

Coroner Flynn traveled to Sing Sing Prison, 30 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River. After consulting with the warden, Flynn believed that the killer was an escaped convict (name withheld “for prudential reasons”) who was an associate of the first Jim Logan. He had intended to hand the letter to someone on the sloop docked at Sing Sing but saw an opportunity to escape on board the boat. He tore up the letter but, for some reason, kept the envelope.

Not everyone in the police or the public accepted this theory. A private citizen in the Fifteenth Ward learned that another James Logan was living in Hoboken, New Jersey. He took the information to the police, who rushed to New Jersey, grabbed the man, and brought the man to New York. The third James Logan proved to be an honest man with no criminal record and no connection to the crime. He was released after spending a miserable night in a stationhouse cell.

Another theory, floated by a police detective, said the murder was committed by “…some lawless boatman or river pirate, returning from a debauch with his companion…his bad passions inflamed by the effects of the previous night’s frolic.”

Meanwhile, the escaped prisoner (name still withheld) sent word, through his friends, that he was innocent of the murder. Had he been guilty, he was sure one of his companions would have sold him out for the reward. He offered to give himself up and prove his innocence, provided he not be sent back to Sing Sing. The police did not accept the offer.

The mayor issued a proclamation that was posted in all parts of the city. It included a facsimile of the envelope:

Below the picture, it asked for information about the writer of the letter, the carrier, the handwriting, or the identity of Tom, offering a reward of $250 to $1,000 depending on the value of the information.

The people of New York were horrified by the coldblooded murder and were appalled by the ineptitude of the police—a sentiment echoed in the press:

“The search for the murderers of Charles M. Rogers is still prosecuted by the police with unrelenting vigor, but with rather indifferent success,” said the New York World. “The police evidently will not rest satisfied until every person bearing the fatal name James Logan has been arrested and examined.” 

“The history of the case is made up, thus far, of doubts, suspicions, speculations, vague reports, and contradictory statements, leaving the public mind in a feverish condition of suspense and excitement,” said Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.

“Have the police caught the murderer of Mr. Rogers, or have they not?” asked the Journal of Commerce. “They act as if they wanted to make people think they have the murderer locked up; and yet we understand that the detectives are pushing fresh scents in every direction.” 

The investigation appeared to be stalled until mid-March when William C. Cunningham, a prisoner in jail for bigamy in Westchester County, claimed to have information on the murder. His long and rambling story essentially said that James Logan (No. 2) and James Tallent plotted to murder Charles Rogers because he testified against Logan in an 1859 robbery case in Patterson, New Jersey. Cunningham offered to provide evidence against Logan if he was assured immunity from prosecution. The story proved false; no James Logan was tried in Patterson that year, and Logan No. 2 would have been 12 years old at the time. It was considered a hoax, either contrived by a reporter to excite attention or by the Nineteenth Street Gang to further muddy the waters.

Though Cunningham’s story was discredited, suspicion around Logan No. 2 continued to grow. It was reported that the police were ready to take Logan to the Grand Jury, but there was no movement until Logan’s attorney, William Howe, filed a petition with the Supreme Court to either indict his client or set him free. On March 19, the District Attorney filed papers to indict James Logan No. 2 for the murder of Charles Rogers. The Grand Jury failed to find an indictment, and on March 31, James Logan No. 2 was released. 

The investigation of the Rogers murder was effectively over. In April, the remaining prisoners and witnesses were released.

The case remained dormant until January 1870, when James Logan No. 2 was shot in an affray on Houston Street. As Logan lay dying in Bellevue Hospital, Coroner Flynn and his deputy hurried to his bedside to take his antemortem statement in which they hoped he would confess the murder. Logan dictated this statement:

I, James Logan, believing that I am about to die this night, and having no hopes of recovery from the injuries I have received, do hereby declare that the charge that was made against me last year, of murdering Mr. Charles M. Rogers, on December 21, 1869, in Twelfth street, was false, and that I am entirely innocent; I did not know the party who committed the deed, nor have I any knowledge whatsoever of it.

"James (X) Logan.”

Five minutes after making his mark on the statement, James Logan passed away.

The murder of Charles M. Rogers will remain forever unsolved.

“Another Cold Blooded Murder,” Boston Herald, January 1, 1869.
“City Intelligence,” New York Journal of Commerce, January 2, 1869.
“Crimes and Casualties,” Times, December 4, 1869.
“Death of James Logan,” Evening Post, January 7, 1870.
“Local Items,” World, January 6, 1869.
“The Murder Of Charles M. Rogers,” Evening Post, March 11, 1869.
“News Article,” New-York Atlas, January 9, 1869.
“Release of Logan No,” New York Tribune, March 31, 1869.
“The Rogers Murder,” New York Herald, January 4, 1869.
“The Rogers Murder,” New York Tribune, January 6, 1869.
“The Rogers Murder,” Boston Herald, January 11, 1869.
“The Rogers Murder,” World, January 13, 1869.
“The Rogers Murder,” New York Journal of Commerce, January 14, 1869.
“The Rogers Murder,” Evening Post, January 15, 1869.
“The Rogers Murder,” World, January 15, 1869.
“The Rogers Murder,” Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, February 13, 1869.
“The Rogers Murder,” New York Tribune, January 18, 1869.
“The Rogers Murder,” Herald, March 11, 1869.
“The Rogers Murder,” New York Herald, March 19, 1869.
“The Rogers Murder-Another Logan Arrested,” New York Tribune, February 7, 1870.
“The Rogers Outrage,” New York Herald, January 2, 1869.
“The Sequel to the Rogers Murder,” Herald, January 6, 1870.
“The Twelfth Street Murder,” Evening Post, January 5, 1869.
“Will Murder Out?,” Daily National Republican, April 26, 1869.


Venks says:
February 13, 2021 at 11:14 PM

The murderer might have killed Mr. Roger mistaking him for the servant because he was suppose to sweep the sidewalk (the day might have been foggy) why the cops didn't investigate in that angle?

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