Saturday, March 14, 2015

March 14, 1891: Manuel Pol(l)ietz, Pietro Mastero (Monasterio), Aneonio (Antonio) Scoffedi, Joseph P. Macheca (Maceca), Antonio Marchesi, Antonio Bagnetto, Frank Romero, Jim Cruso (Caruso), Rocco Gerachi, Charles Trahina (T. Rahini), and Lorreto Comitez (Gomatez) (Comertiz)

Apparently March is a bad month for Italians in the 1890's.  We learn about eleven Italians lynched in New Orleans from The Topeka Daily Capital (Topeka, Kansas) dated March 15, 1891:


The People of New Orleans Take Summary Vengeance on the Assassins of Hennessey.


Incites the Populace to Desperation and Eleven Italians Are Sent Into Eternity.


Three Thousand Men Repudiate the Finding of the Court and Wipe Out the Cutthroats.


From the Terrorizing Rule of Sicilian Cutthroats and the Lives of Americans Made Secure.


And Three Hanged to Lamp-Posts and Trees as a Warning to Bloodthirsty Foreigners.

Eleven Italians Lynched.

NEW ORLEANS, March 14.—Public indignation ran mountain high in this city yesterday afternoon and last night, when news of the virtual acquittal of the Mafia cutthroats, charged with the murder of Chief of Police Hennessey, spread from the court room. Loud and open threats of summary vengeance were heard on all sides, but it was not until one hundred of the leading citizens attached their names to a call for a mass meeting that the public felt that the administration of justice might come from the enraged people. Anger, already hot, was heated to a white pitch by the sight of bunting streaming in the wind from the masts of all the small Italian crafts in the harbor, each emblem seeming to wave in defiance to law and decency.

It became known last night—or was tacitly understood—that those who attended the meeting called by the 100 citizens for this morning at the Clay statue should come prepared to do that which the law had failed.This feeling was heightened in intensity by Chief Hennessey's countrymen who did all in their power to stir the people to the point of desperate action. A feverish excitement prevailed all night and wherever men congregated were to be found those who advocated resort to the plan which justice gained a foothold in Cincinnati eight years ago this month. Determined men waited eagerly for the coming of the hour of meeting. Few declarations of intent were heard; the common purpose was too well understood.


Early this morning thousands of reputable men, unused to scenes of bloodshed, swarmed about the appointed place of meeting. As the minutes passed the crowd grew. Computation as to the size of the crowd was impossible. While decency and good order prevailed, the hum of voices drowned whatever of formality there may have been in the proceedings and soon after the hour for the meeting the crowd, yelling with excitement, started for the parish prison.

What happened there is quickly told. The murderers of Chief Hennessey were disposed of. They are:

Manuel Polietz.
Pietro Mastero.
Aneonio Scaffedi.
Joseph P. Macheca.
Antonio Marchesi.
Antonio Bagnetto.
Frank Romero.
Jim Cruso.
Rocco Gerachi.
Charles Trahine.
— Comietz.

The three other prisoners on trial yesterday for the crime—Incardona, Matranga and the Marchesi boy—were not molested.


The scene at and about the Clay statue this morning brought to mind very forcibly and vividly the popular and ominous uprising of that September day sixteen years ago.

Ten o'clock had not yet struck and a vast multitude was already congregated on Canal street, almost filling up the large space from curb to curb on each side of the boulevard. Just at the stroke of 10 o'clock a shout went up from the people stationed at St. Charles street and a number of gentlemen, among whom were Mr. W. S. Parkerson, Mr. J. C. Wickliffe and others who signed the call, came marching along and began walking round and round the railing of Clay monument.


"Fall in, fall in," was the cry, and amidst the deafening shouts several of the crowd formed the procession, which went around the railing several times.

"Hurrah for Parkerson."
"Hurrah for Wickliffe."
"Get inside the railing and give us a speech."

These and other cries made up a confusion of noises, among which the angry tone was significantly predominant. The space inside the railing was occupied by a dense crowd.

"Come down from those steps," was the request, "and let Mr. Parkerson and Mr. Wickliffe get there."

The crowd complied with alacrity, and soon the speakers held their positions of vantage. A rush was made for the narrow gate, and in a minute there stood a mass of humanity around the statue of the immortal Clay. The view from that altitude was imposing. not a bad word yet escaped the lips of the gentlemen who had mounted the steps. They stood erect, motionless, surveying the surging multitude, from whose serried ranks there gleamed faces full of resolve and determination.

There were fully 3,00 people within ear-shot and more could be seen struggling, pushing and running here and there on neutral ground. Street cars were unable to pass through. Carriages, carts, wagons, cabs and vehicles of all descriptions were halted. Mr. Parkerson spoke first.

. . .


It was simply a sullen, determined body of citizens who took into their own hands what justice had ignominiously failed to do.

 The chief of police was slain October 15, and that very night the evidence began to accumulate showing that his death had been deliberately planned by a secret tribunal and carried out boldly and successfully by the tools of the conspirators.

The trial lasted twenty-five days and though the evidence seemed conclusive, the jury, currently charged with having been tampered with, failed to convict.

Last night a body of cool-headed men, lawyers, doctors, merchants and political leaders, all persons of influence and social standing, quietly met and decided that some action must be taken and that people's justice, swift and sure, must be visited upon those whom the jury had neglected to punish.

This morning a call for a mass meeting at Clay square, on commercial street appeared in the papers which editorially deprecated violence. The significant closing sentence was:  "Come prepared for action."

Down in a large room on Bienville and Royal streets, there was an arsenal which had been provided by the citizens. The call was answered by the populace.

. . .

When the vanguard of armed citizens reached the prison, which is many squares from Canal street, the grim old building was surrounded on all sides.

Sheriff Villere, when he heard that a movement was on foot to take the prisoners, armed his deputies and then started on a hunt for Mayor Shakespere. The counsel and Attorney General Rogers joined in the pursuit, but his honor does not reach his office until noon, and he was not to be found at any of his regular haunts. The governor had not heard of the uprising and had no time to act, and the police force was too small to offer much resistance to the army of avengers. Superintendent Gaster had ordered  one extra detail of officers to be sent to the jail, and this small crowd kept the sidewalks around the old building clear until the great multitude surged around the door and crowded the little band of blue coats away. Captain Davis was on guard at the main entrance with a scant force of deputies. They were swept away like a chaff before the wind and in an instant the little ante-room leading into the prison was jammed with eager, excited men.

Meanwhile the prisoners were stricken with terror, for they could hear distinctly the shouts of people without, guilty alike were frightened out of their senses. Some of the braver among the Mafia  wanted to die fighting for their lives, and they pleaded for weapons with which to defend themselves, and when they could not find these they sought hiding places. The deputies, thinking to deceive the crowd by a ruse, transferred the nineteen men to the female department, and there the miserable Sicilians trembled in terror until the moment when the doors would yield to the angry throng on the outside.

Captain Davis refused the request to open the prison and the crowd began the work of battering in the jail doors. Around on Orleans street there was a heavy wooden door, which had been closely barred in anticipation of the coming of the avenging mass. This the crowd selected as their best chance of getting in. Neighboring houses readily supplied axes and battering rams and willing hands went to work to force an opening. This did not prove a difficult task to the trembling, but determined throng. Soon there was a crash, the door gave way and in an instant many citizens were pouring through a small opening, while a mighty shout went up from 10,000 voices in glad acclaim. There was more resistance for the intruders, however, but it too was soon overcome with the huge billet of wood which a very stout man carried.

Then the turnkey was overpowered and the keys taken from him. By that time the excitement outside was intense, none the less so when a patrol wagon drove up with a detachment of policemen, who were driven away under a fire of mud and stones.

When the leaders inside the prison got possession of the keys the inside gate was promptly unlocked and the deputies in the lobby rapidly got out of harm's way.

The avengers passed into the ward of white prisoners. Peering through the bars of one of the cells was a terror-stricken face, which someone mistook for Scoffdi. A volley was fired at the man but none of the shot struck him, and it was subsequently found that he was not one of the assassins.

The inmates of the jail were ready to direct the way to where to Italians were. "Go to the female department," some one yelled, and thither the men with their Winchesters ran. The koor [sic] was locked. In a moment the key was produced, and then the leader called for some one who knew the right men. A volunteer responded and the door was thrown open. The gallery was deserted save by an old woman who, speaking as fast as she could said the men were upstairs.

A party of seven or eight quickly ascended the staircase and as they reached the landing the assassins fled down the other end. Half a dozen of the attacking party followed. Scarcely a word was spoken. It was time for action. When the pursued and pursuers reached the stone court yard, the former darted towards the New Orleans side of the gallery, and crouched down beside the cells, their faces blanched. Unarmed they were entirely defendless [sic]. In fear and trembling they screamed for mercy.

The avengers were merciless. "Bang, bang, bang, bang," rang out the reports of the murderous weapons and a deadly rain of bullets poured on the crouching figures. There were six of the assassins in the group. Their bodies were litterally [sic] riddled with bullets and they were stone dead before the fusilade [sic]was over.

Gerachi, the closest man, was struck in the back of the head and his body pitched forward and lay immovable on the stone pavement.

Romero fell to his knees with his face in his hands and in that position was shot to death.

Monasterio and James Caruso fell together, each pierced with a dozen bullets.

The executioners did their work well, and beneath the continuing fire Gometez and Trahina, two of the men who had not been tried but who were charged jointly with the others accused, fell together.

When the group of assassins was discovered on the gallery, Macheca, Scoffedi and old man Marchesi separated from the other six and ran upstairs. Thither half a dozen men followed, and as the terror-stricken assassins ran into their cells they were slain.

Joe Macheca, who was charged with being the arch-conspirator, was summarily dealt with. He had his back turned when a shot struck him immediately behind the ear and his death was instantaneous. Scoffedi, one of the most villainous of the assassins, dropped like a log when a bullet hit him in the eye. Old man Marchesi was the only man who was not killed outright. He was struck on the top of the head while he stood beside Macheca, and though he was mortally wounded, he lingered all the evening.Pollietz, the crazy man, was locked up in a cell up stairs. The door was flung open and one of the avengers, taking aim, shot him through the head. He was not killed outright, and in order to satisfy the people on the outside, who were crazy to know what was going on within, he was dragged down stairs and through the doorway by which the crowd had entered.

Half carried, half dragged, he was taken to the corner. A rope was produced and tied around his neck and the people pulled him up to the cross bar of a lamp post. Not satisfied that he wa dead a score of men took aim and poured a volley of shot into his body and for several hours the body was left dangling in the air.

Bagnetto was caught in the first rush upstairs and the first volley of bullets pierced his brain. He was pulled out by a number of stalwart men through the main entrance to the prison and from a limb of a tree his body was suspended, though life was already gone.

As soon as the bloody deed was done. Mr. Parkerson addressed the crowd and asked them to disperse.

This they consented to do with a ringing shut; but first they made a rush for Parkerson, and lifting him bodily supported him on their shoulders while they marched up the street. The avengers came back in a body to Clay statue and then separated.

O'Mally the detective, who would have shared the fate of the assassins if he could have been caught, has disappeared and is not expected to return, and members of the jury are in hiding.

The atmosphere has been considerably purged and although there is a big crowd on Canal street tonight the trouble seems all over.

The Italian counsel declined to say what action, if any, he will take.

The prison was surrounded till dark with a motley multitude, but the police found no difficulty in maintaining good order. The bodies of some of the slain were removed this evening.

Caruso was married, but leaves no children. Romero has a wife and children, and Macheca a wife and family, and Cometiz leaves a wife.


Coroner Lemonier and his clerk, Henry Laberre, reached the parish prison at about 12:30 o'clock. The coroner viewed first the bodies lying in the yard. his jury was empanneled [sic] as follows:  W. B. Stansbury, W. J. Leppert, John Hurley, W. J. Graham and Will Porter.

The body of Rocco Gerachi was viewed. he had only one wound in the chest. he died from hemorrhage.

Peter Monasterio, gunshot wound in the back of the head.

Charles T. Rahini, ten gunshot wounds.

Jim Caruso, thirty-two gunshot wounds.

Lorreto Comertiz, gunshot wounds in chest and head.

Frank Romero, alias "Nine-Fingered Frank," many gunshot wounds in head.

This completed the inquest in the yard.

The coroner, the jury and members of the press next went up stairs and in the gallery of the condemned cells an inquest was held on the bodies there lying.

Antonio Scofeddi had a gunshot wound in the brain.

Joseph P. Maceca had a bullet wound behind the right ear.

Marchesi was found to be still alive. He was just as good as dead, though, as evidenced by a hole as large as a silver quarter in his head. he died this evening.

Outside the coroner found Antonio Bagnetto, hanged on the neutral ground. The coroner found that death was caused by strangulation.

Manuel Pollietz was also strung to a lamp post. His body and that of Bagnettos was removed to the police station.

Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder. 


No comments:

Post a Comment