Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Dastardly Assault At Day Street

This is one of the earliest articles I've posted on the site. Although West Roxbury had just been annexed in 1874, Day street was already part of Boston, being just inside the border of old Roxbury. This would be why the police from Station 13 were not involved. Besides the dramatic nature of the crime, we also have interest in a few historical items. First, the area was considered, at least by the Globe, as the Highlands. Second, we have an appearance of Mr Hyde, who would later give his name to the square mentioned in the article. Third, there were still orchards nearby. We know from other sources that fruit was a favored crop in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain going back to pre-revolutionary times. Makes me wonder when the last fruit tree was cut down for a new street - a more pleasant topic to consider than attempted murder.

Boston Daily Globe September 30, 1874

A Startling Crime!

The Slung-Shot, The Gag and the Bullet.

Assault, Robbery and Attempted Murder of an Old and Respected Citizen of the Highlands at His Own Door-step - Full Account of the Affair - Another and Striking Evidence of the Lack of Sufficient Police Force at the Highlands.

The comparative peace and quiet which has rested upon this community for some time past was rudely broken, last evening, by one of the most bold and brutal acts of ruffianism which it has been the province of the newspapers to chronicle since the murder of Bridget Laudergin and the shooting of Mr. Lane on his doorstep. This time, it is an old and respected citizen of the Highlands, who, on returning to his home from the day's business in the city, is suddenly set upon by two ruffians as he is entering the gateway, knocked down by slung-shots, his mouth closed with an iron gag and his pockets rifled of their contents; the family, alarmed, rush to the rescue of their father, and are received by two bullets from the pistol of the villains, one of which enters the wrist of one of the sons; the would-be murderers then make their escape.

The details of the case are these, as narrated by the principal actors in the affair: At 7 o'clock, last evening, Mr Otis Gray Randall, sixty-five years of age, a respected citizen of the Highlands, where he has resided for many years and a banking and bond broker and notary, doing business at 16 State street, took the Jamaica Plain car on Tremont street for his house, at 65 Day street, Boston Highlands. He got out at the square from which Day street leads, and went into Mr Gibson's store on Centre street, where he brought some pepper. He then went on his way down Day street. The night was very dark, although it was then only about 8 o'clock in the evening and there was a thick mist. Mr Randall had an overcoat on his arm and an open umbrella in his hand. He had just reached the gateway of his residence, a dark and gloomy spot, shadowed by trees on each side, when he was set upon by two men who had been crouching, one behind the post and the other behind the gate; they attacked him from both sides at once with slung shots, striking him nine times over the head; they then gagged him with some sort of an iron instrument, threw him down and proceeded to search for the money, which they evidently knew he carried about him, and for which they had waylaid him. Meanwhile, the family, consisting of Mrs. Randall, two sons and a daughter, had become alarmed by the noise and the scuffle. One of the sons, Charles, who was in his chamber at the time, was the first to hear the disturbance; he immediately seized a loaded revolver, which, by good chance, he happened to have near him at the time, and, opening the window, fired in the direction of the noise.

Almost at the same time the rest of the family rushed out to the rescue of their father. The robbers stood their ground, and the other son, Walter, a young man about twenty-one or twenty-two years of age, seized an iron skillet, and rushing forward hurled it at one of the villains, who immediately raised his left arm and fired, the bullet taking effect in the young man's wrist; the other robber fired at the same time, but bullet narrowly missing the aged mother, who was standing near. The ruffians then ran down Day street towards Heath street, and the family carried the old gentleman into the house in an unconscious condition. The neighbors, who had been aroused by the disturbance, came in at once and rendered what assistance they could. The police were notified at the Tenth Station and word was dispatched from thence to the Central Station. Dr. Martin was called, who dressed Mr. Randall's wounds, and gave him some quieting mixture, and at a late hour, last evening, he was quite comfortable. The right side of his head about the temple is badly swollen and the marks of the slung-shot are distinctly seen; his mouth and throat were badly affected by the gag and he was unable to swallow; the robbers took an overcoat and two pocket-books from the inside pocket of his coat, one of which was of black and the other, a smaller one, of red leather, placed inside the larger. They contained photographs of different members of his family, fifty or sixty cents worth of car tickets, and notes and papers of no value save to their owner. A large sum of money which the assailants evidently expected to find in his pocket-book, but which Mr Randall carried in an inside vest pocket, fortunately escaped the hands of the robbers. However, they took the package of pepper.

The men are described as being stout, thick-set, about five feet eleven inches in height, and dressed in dark clothes. One of them, in his hurried flight, left behind his hat, which will, doubtless, afford a valuable clue to the discovery of the perpetrators of this bold robbery. It is a high crown, dark Mackinaw straw hat of six and seven eighths inches size. It afterwards appeared that a Mr Atwood, a gentleman residing close by, saw the assault committed, and instead of giving an outcry and rushing to the man's assistance ran in the opposite direction for help.

The murderous assault and robbery had evidently been long premeditated, and, from the statement of Mr Randall, it appears that the same men had laid in wait for him before and only by accident failed of success. About a week ago, as he was returning home in the evening, on passing through Day street, he saw two men crouching down by the fence near the house of Mr Hyde, and fearing some foul play he crossed over of the other side of the street and thus avoided them. He afterwards spoke to Mr Hyde and another gentleman of the occurrence, and they came to the conclusion that the men were endeavoring to steal fruit from some of the neighboring orchards. Mrs. Randall and others of the family state that several times during the past week they have heard footsteps on the piazza late in the evening, and felt that somebody was lurking around the house. Mr. Randall does not think that the men followed him out from the city in the horse-car, as he does not remember noticing any suspicious characters in the car on his way out; but, knowing that he frequently carried large sums home with him, they laid in wait for him in the manner described.

This police district is in certain places very lonely and deserted and the police force is far too small to cover it properly; it appears that no officer heard of this affair till long after its occurrence. The beat which includes the scene of the assault is said to be over a mile long and the officer last passed the spot at 7 o'clock. The police in the city proper were on the alert, last night, and one or two suspicious characters have been arrested. One rough-looking fellow was brought into the Second Station about 1 o'clock, who came in from the direction of the Highlands, but although he at first gave a very rambling and disconnected account of himself, he afterwards, as is believed, satisfied the officers of his innocence of any complicity in the affair.

A reward of $500 has been offered by the two sons of Mr Randall for the discovery of the villains who committed the dastardly assault.


  1. Daring Assault in Boston – The Aftermath
    Boston Daily Globe

    A strange story of an apparent attempt at murder and robbery comes from Boston. Mr. O.G. Randall, a middle-aged broker, doing business in Boston and living in the Highlands, had reached his gate on the way home on Tuesday evening, when he was suddenly set upon by tow men who had been crouching, one behind the post and the other behind the gate. They attacked him with slungshots, striking him nine times over the head; then gagged him with an iron instrument, threw him down, and proceeded to search for the money which they evidently knew he carried about him. The family heard the noise with Mr. Randall made in his obstinate resistance, and one of his sons raised a window and fired twice at the robbers with a revolver. Meanwhile, Mrs. Randall and another son, Walter, rushed out of the front door to the rescue. As Walter was running down the driveway he threw an iron skillet, which he had grasped, at the robbers, whereupon one of them turned upon him and fired two shots, one of which struck him on the right hand near the wrist, while the other whizzed past the ear of Mrs. Randall, who was directly behind him. The villains then ran, one of them losing in his flight a dark brown hat.

    By this time the neighborhood was thoroughly alarmed, and people began to flock to the scene of the robbery from all directions. So soon as Mr. Randall was capable of examining, his pockets he ascertained that his wallet was missing, which fortunately contained but little money. Another wallet, containing a considerable amount in the inside vest pocket, escaped the eyes of the thieves. His own injuries were fortunately not serious.

    The police at one took the matter in hand, and the first important step toward the arrest of the assailants was the identification of the brown hat as the property of Charles [Otis] Day, Mr. Randall’s son-in-law. On going to his house the police were refused admission. Day crying out from an upper window as soon as an entrance was demanded, “I am an innocent man.” Even when a warrant was procured the officers had to force their way in. Day stoutly protested his innocence, and as evidence that he had not been out of the house he pointed to his brightly polished boots; but on examination they were found to be damp, and the blacking was so fresh that it would rub off by simply touching it with the finger. When asked if he had such a hat as found, Day said no, but it was proved positively that it was his from a small piece of a picture in the crown, which was torn off by his little girl a few days ago.. The little girl innocently recognized the hat at once.

    Charles Day, the accused, is between 30 and 35 years of age, and has two interesting children—a girl of 7 and a boy of 4 or 5 years. He is a son of Moses Day, one of the most respected citizens and business men of Boston, of the firm of Sewall, Day & Co., but he has borne a bad reputation for some time. He was confined in an insane asylum some months since, and was released only a few weeks ago, since which time, it is said, he has apparently surrendered himself to the influence of intoxicating liquors. He has maintained an unconcealed animosity toward his father-in-law, and members of the family say that he has threatened to take the old man’s life.

  2. A Broker's Dishonesty.
    New York Times - August 22, 1884

    Boston, Aug. 21.— Otis Gray Randall, 74 years old, who for years as done a small brokerage business on State-street, is under arrest, charged by Michael Harford and Nathaniel Maddix with the misuse of money intrusted to him by them. The amount involved in the case of the former is $160, and in that of the latter $1,000. Randall has been under arrest before on other charges. The complainants claim that they were induced by Randall, who pretended to operate a regular "bank of deposit," to leave with him various sums from time to time during the last five years until the aggregate became as above.

  3. Glen

    Thanks for adding to the story.

  4. St. Paul Daily Globe (Saint Paul, Minn)
    August 22, 1884 [Page 4, Around the World]

    Otis Gray Randall, an old broker of Boston, has been arrested for crookedness.