Thursday, February 7, 2008

Home Invasion - 1853 Style

I found these three articles in the New York Times. The Times published articles taken from Boston newspapers by citation and over the telegraph lines. Colonel Fessenden was a graduate of West Point, first and foremost an engineering school, and a logical place to look for men to plan routes for railroad tracks. I knew I had seen the name before, and I found him mentioned in the Annals and Reminiscences of Jamaica Plain, 1897, by Harriet Manning Whitcomb, which you can read here.

We don't get the end of the story, but we do get the dramatic bits below.

New York Daily Times January 7, 1853

Daring Burglary At Jamaica Plains(sic) - Courageous Attack Upon The Robbers.

At about 2 o'clock on Tuesday morning, the dwelling of Col Fessenden, the well known Railroad Engineer, was the scene of a burglary of a most unexampled character. The house of Mr Fessenden is situated in a secluded lane, Green-st., Jamaica Plains, at a considerable distance from any other house, and in the vicinity of woods. The house was entered by four burglars, through the lower windows. The lower part of the house was thoroughly ransacked, and silver plate and other articles, all to the value of several hundred dollars, were gathered together.

The robbers then proceeded to the chambers, probably with the object of obtaining the money of the sleeping inmates. They first tried the door of the chamber of the eldest son of Mr Fessenden, 17 or 18 years of age. The young man was awakened by the noise made by the robbers in entering, jumped out of bed and cried out for help, but the robbers immediately seized him, and without any unnecessary violence, securely tied him.

The first noise from the son had, however, awakened the father, who came out of his room and confronted and courageously attacked the robbers, although there were four to one, and were also armed with pistols. A melee ensued, in which a pistol was fired, without however, injuring Mr Fessenden, and no trace of a ball could afterwards be found, it is doubtful if the pistol contained anything but powder. Mr Fessenden succeeded in wrenching a pistol from one of the robbers, but was afterwards knocked down, trampled upon and bruised, though not seriously injured.

The wife of Mr Fessenden and his two daughters were standing on the stairs, spectators of this deadly struggle between the husband and father, and his ruffianly opponents, but were not, of course, capable of rendering material assistance. It is stated that the wife raised a window and cried out for help, and was only silenced by a pistol placed at her head by one of the robbers, with a threat to blow out her brains if she did not keep quiet, but our informant, who had the facts from one of the family, does not confirm the statement.

After the robbers had by main force subdued Mr Fessenden, leaving him bruised and bleeding upon the floor, they gathered their plunder an decamped.

The robbers, it is supposed, came from this city. They probably could not be identified, as in the hurry and terror of the movement no thorough sight of them was had by any of the family.

A man servant of Mr Fessenden slept in an adjoining building, detached from the house, and was not aroused in season to assist his master or prevent the flight of the robbers. - Boston Traveller.

January 18, 1853

News By The Mails

The Boston Police have succeeded in arresting three individuals who are believed to be the party who entered the house of Colonel Fessenden, at Jamaica Plains(sic) - the particulars of which we published a few days since. Their names are Wm. McGee, Michael Doyle and Michael Lavery. It appears that the store of Wm. Pope, in Dorchester, was robbed of Saturday night of $500 worth of goods. The goods were found secreted in a hog pen. Officers were stationed to see who would come for the goods, when the three above named individuals came for them. Two of them were arrested: the third, Lavery, escaped. He was arrested, however, the next day in the Court House. Upon one of the party a pistol was found, which Col. Fessenden has no doubt belongs to his son.

May 4, 1853

The trial of Scott, Doyle, Lavery and Magee, for burglary in the house of Col. J.M. Fessenden, at Jamaica Plains, in January last, was commenced before the Court of Common Pleas at Dedham, on Saturday last. Col. Fessenden was the only witness examined, and the defence, so far as Magee is concerned, will be an alibi, by attempting to prove that he was in New York city on the evening next preceding the morning on which the burglary was committed.

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