Saturday, June 4, 2011

Looking for John McNally

William McNally's father was named John McNally (maybe spelled MacNally or a Macanally or...) and his mother was Mary. These two extremely common names have made it difficult to find anything about them in the public records as there are so many.

I have a pen pal (an e-pal?) in New York City who has offered to do genealogical research for me while working on other projects and she reports on all the John McNallys she's discovered living in New York in the 1890s. None of these John McNallys she's found in the newspapers seem to be our John McNally but the stories do offer a slice of late-19th-century life in the big city (illustrated by pictures of the Dead End Kids or the Bowery Boys)

Young John McNally was identified as a member of the "Gashouse Gang" in Brooklyn and got into a shooting scrape which started when young John & other gang members made fun of a male passerby's black and yellow scarf and the passerby went after them. Shooting ensued.

John McNally in Manhattan was arrested as part of a sting operation (literally like the movie The Sting where McNally was the sting perpetrator, not the cops) in which telegraph lines were diverted into a basement of a house on the West side of Manhattan where the group, including McNally, were intercepting telegraph messages about sports, the races, etc. and passing them on to win at or fix the odds on bets. A fascinating aspect of this case is that the cops also arrested the man who lived upstairs who was a "bookmaker" who said he just lived upstairs and knew nothing about this operation. Amazing to me, but the bookmaker was exonerated and let go by the court the next day, his story found to be credible. Ya think the judge was a client????

Meanwhile John McNally in Sing Sing (not what you think -- the town, not the prison) is a pillar of the community and a fine up-standing man whose name appears in various laudible political and charitable notices.

John McNally in Manhattan gets arrested because there was a fight on the roof of a house on the West side between him and another guy with two friends around as well. On the roof, the guy goes after John to toss him off the roof. John pulls a gun and shoots the guy in the leg. They all run down the stairs to the street including the guy with the gunshot wound. Meanwhile a resident of the building summons the cops. By the time the cops get there, John and the guy are rolling on the ground beating each other up. Upon arrest the guy with the gunshot wound claims he wasn't shot.

My favorite (actually its a tie with the wiretapping story): An unemployed young mother jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge. She's weighted her legs with sand in her pantlegs so she doesn't "flip over" before hitting the water(?)and has taken other precautions. She is dragged out the of the water by cops and sent to the hospital unconscious with a broken bone or two but she survives (for that day and age, pre CPR, a bona fide miracle).
Meanwhile John McNally and another man are standing by the bank of the East River at the scene when the cops pull her out of the river. When asked if they know the woman, they reply, "She's the same woman that tried to jump off the bridge 10 days ago." Apparently that was an incident that hit the papers. Finding it more than coincidental that these guys knew her from before the jump and also knew that she's the one who had tried it before, the cops arrest the two and learn from another bystander that John and friend were paid by someone to drag her out of the river after she landed and that's why they're there. They were there doing the same thing 10 days ago.

All go to jail. The charge against the woman is attempted suicide and she is convicted and get a heavy sentence and the charge against John & friend is assisting attempted suicide. They have different stories in court, but the consensus is that the woman was in need and she or her husband made a deal with a man who agreed to pay her and her husband $300 if she jumped off the bridge as some kind of stunt. I really don't get it, but that's the story. John & friend admitted they had been paid to stand by and haul her in after the jump(s), their defense apparently being that it wasn't part of the plan that she could die.

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