Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No Stranger to the Law: Henry Harrigan

You may recall in an early post about using newspapers I described how Henry Harrigan was arrested in New York City in 1889 for fatally injuring a man. To refresh your memory, Henry had been touring New York on the horse racing circuit. One night, after leaving a bar, Henry scuffled with a man he claimed he didn't know, despite rumors to the contrary. [1,2,3,4] Henry whacked Patrick Reedy over the head with his silver-headed cane, fracturing his skull. [2,5] Days later after refusing a trepanning procedure to relieve the swelling of his brain, Reedy died. [5] Meanwhile, Henry, after being released on bail for the assault, lost the then huge sum of $6000 on a single horse race. [2,4,5] According to the rumors, Harrigan and Reedy were acquainted and “the fatal blow was struck during a quarrel,” contrary to Henry's testimony that he was the victim of a robbery attempt. If I had to guess I would speculate their argument had to do with money and horse racing. [3] Apparently, Reedy's father worked as a hostler (a man who tended the horses) at the Saratoga race track, a place Henry certainly would have been to bet on the races. [2] Coincidence? Luckily for Henry, the coroner's jury quickly exonerated “the tall, muscular, well dressed young man” with the “blonde mustache and keen blue eyes.” [2,6]

You may also remember reading about Henry in connection with the violent death of his father, John Harrigan, ostensibly of suicide. I posted a photograph of Henry's flowing signature written just hours after John's death. Even if Henry had nothing to do with his father's death, his perfect signature at the inquest indicates to me that he didn't appeared at all bothered by his father's death (Who Done It?).

What I now refer to as “the Reedy incident,” however, was not Henry's first brush with the law. In May of 1876, less than a year after his father's death, Henry (then eighteen) was in serious trouble. The Kalamazoo Telegraph reported “Henry Harrigan was arraigned before Justice Davis today for assault and battery, he having been a prominent actor in forcibly entering a woman's house, to get a ball that had been knocked through the window. The woman was treated with violence, during the act of recovering the ball. Harrigan was sent up to Detroit for ninety days.” [7] Henry was presumably honing his baseball skills, a pastime he took up shortly before his father's death, when the above assault occurred.

Also in 1876, Henry was involved in a criminal case that I can find no record of other than a single line in the Kalamazoo Gazette. The committee on claims of witnesses in criminal cases submitted their report. In the case of Roland C. Maley, People vs. H.D. Harrigan, claims were made in the amount of $217 and were recommended to be allowed. [8] A search of criminal court cases in Kalamazoo county during this period turned up nothing and I can find no other newspaper references to Roland Maley so I am left to wonder if it related to the May 1876 assault or something entirely different.

A couple of years later, Henry actually hopped a train in a vain attempt to evade arrest. When he heard he was to be arrested for larceny, Henry caught a train leaving Kalamazoo. The pursuing officer, Travis, discovered him in the baggage car. “Harrigan jumped off and Travis after him, the train all the time flying south. As the hind car came along Harrigan again got on and Travis after him. Finally Travis caught hold of H. just as the latter's coat was pretty well shattered; he surrendered. By this time the train was over the Portage, but it stopped, and Travis came back with his prisoner.” [9]

In 1883, Henry discovered what it was like to be on the other end of things when Henry Giddings attempted to shoot him after the two “had some words.” [10] Giddings was sent to Ionia for ninety days. [11] I have found nothing to indicate what this argument was about and as in the 1876 case, no court records were found. I wouldn't be shocked to learn it involved money.

Three years later, another incident came before the courts and again Henry was in the middle of it. A prominent physician, Eugene Southard, charged Henry and three others with “winning money of him at a game of chance in violation of” the gambling acts. [12] Southard claimed that he had lost about $400 “and that faro is the seductive game of chance by which he lost it.” [12] The case was eventually discontinued. [13] According to Henry's account it was only a coincidence that he was closing up his gambling house in Kalamazoo in search of “green pastures and longer grass” mere days after the Southard case was over. [14] The actual reason he was moving on, he claimed, was that he felt bad for the families of the “poor devils” who earned but $1-2 per day and gambled away $12-15 at a time, leaving their wives and children without sufficient food for the week. [14] “Gentleman Hank” alleged “it's many a dollar I have given back after having fairly won it – when I knew the loser to be a worthless, improvident cuss.” [14]

Henry asserted that he had been in the gambling business for about fifteen years and been “tolerably successful.” [14] He said “probably if I had devoted as much attention and study to some other profession as I have to gambling I would be respected a good deal more and be just as well off. I was drawn into it, however, and will probably always stay at it.” [14] He ended his little speech by saying “There is no one who holds his word more sacred than a gambler and no one in whose promise one can put more implicit trust.” [14] I suspect that “gentleman Hank” could have had a successful career in politics.

  1. New York Times, 8-31-1889
  2. New York Herald, 9-6-1889
  3. New York Times, 9-6-1889
  4. Kalamazoo Gazette, 9-7-1889
  5. New York World, 9-6-1889, P2, col7
  6. Kalamazoo Gazette, 9-10-1889
  7. Kalamazoo Telegraph, 5-4-1876, P4, col3
  8. Kalamazoo Gazette, 10-28-1876
  9. Kalamazoo Telegraph, 6-10-1878, P4, col3
  10. Kalamazoo Gazette, 4-20-1883
  11. Kalamazoo Gazette, 4-27-1883
  12. Kalamazoo Gazette, 5-15-1886
  13. Kalamazoo Gazette, 5-21-1886, P4
  14. Kalamazoo Gazette, 5-23-1886

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