Thursday, June 12, 2014

99 Years Ago in Philadelphia: Middle of June, 1915

Hero Gives His Life to Save Children, Can't Stop Joking About It

           Early on a Wednesday morning, 42-year-old William H. McClellan was about to start hauling a bunch of shit for Peter Coyle's operation at 16th and Sansom Streets when he heard the ruckus from two runaway horses-- panicked and careening down 16th Street. McClellan then noticed that a large group of little kids were crossing 16th at Locust on their way to the Hollingsworth School at 15th and Locust. McClellan then jumped from his wagon and grabbed the bits of the horses, only to get trampled by them.
           Despite them stepping on his chest and FACE, he got back up, ran after the horses, grabbed their bits, and stopped them in their tracks. When police arrived, McClellan was laughing his ass off about the whole situation, wiping blood from his eyes and asking if anyone was hurt. They carried him into a patrol car and brought him to Hahnemann Hospital. He continued to joke with the officers about losing an eye in the ordeal shortly before dying on his hospital bed.

The Hollingsworth School, where the children were headed.

"Cleaner" Disposes of Body, Gets Caught By Bragging About It

               Off-duty cop W.C. Miller was just trying to get drunk at his favorite bar when he started getting annoyed at the boasting of one John Allen, who kept going on and on about how he could get rid of any dead body without anyone finding out. Miller then realized that a 28-year-old woman named Frances Carter had been missing for 6 months and was last seen in that neighborhood.
              Miller struck up a conversation with Allen's drunk ass and figured out that he had disposed of Frances Carter's body. Allen was arrested the next day. He did not admit to disposing of Frances Carter, but did admit that he and his wife shared a house with Walter and Nellie Wilson, the couple that Frances Carter had been seen with prior to her disappearance. Police went to that house, but got the address wrong. They were supposed to go to 1917 Webster Street, but ended up busting down the door at 1927 Webster Street and giving up after a search. 
             Just as police were leaving, neighbors came out of their homes and told the cops that they had seen a ghost walking down the 1900 block of Webster Street late at night for the previous 6 months. Apparently, this was something you could tell police back then and they'd be like, "Shit, let's keep looking!". There were also reports of a bad smell coming from 1917 Webster Street. "Murder Squad" Detectives William Mahoney and William Geonotti entered the home with "Special Policemen" Gibson and Dornick and started digging up the basement by candlelight. After 10 hours of exhaustive digging, the mangled, decomposed body of Frances Carter was found, along with the remains of a newborn infant.
           Frances Carter had been bludgeoned to death and buried half alive. Her body was so fucked up-looking that one of the coroners handling her body fainted twice. Another was sent home after puking his brains out. Walter Wilson was found hiding in a storeroom of a general store in New Rochelle, New York and arrested. The occupant of 1917 Webster Street, Levi Peters, explained that he was leased the house in January 1915, right after Carter's disappearance, by John Allen on Wilson's behalf. Allen had explained to him that Wilson and his wife needed to get out of town right away.
        The whole 1900 block of Webster Street was demolished in the 1980s, and was just re-born with a row of G-Ho specials in 2009-10. If you're going to bury a body there, don't go bragging about it. Also, the ghost of that body will tip people off.

Since the house where the body was found is long gone, here's John Allen's house at 1226 Reed Street from Google Streetview. Check that basement.
Bear Sighted In Tacony

               With all these bear sightings in the news lately, you should know that this is nothing unusual. On this week in 1915, a big, lumbering bear was seen on Longshore Street (now Longshore Avenue) in Tacony, which was then mostly a dirt path into a swamp... only the houses near Disston Park were built at that point. It wasn't just any old black bear that gets seen often around these parts-- it was a fucking brown bear!!
              Local residents found the closest cop they could find, an Officer Flick. Flick readied his weapon while the locals gathered up their own guns from their homes. Flick was the first to approach the bear, and nearly pissed his pants upon finding that the bear had men's shoes on. The night before, a Joe Small, an actor and stuntman, had gotten shitfaced drunk in Tacony and attempted to walk all the way to his home miles away, which meant crossing creeks, swamps, and bogs to Tacony's north and west.
              Small had been traveling all night and had passed out in the mud numerous times along the way. Officer Flick got a broom and brushed all the mud and clay off of Small, then brought him down to the station, where he was hosed off. When brought before Magistrate Borie, the judge couldn't stop laughing about the incident and let him go.

 Cherry Hill Is Closing!!

                Not Cherry Hill Mall, silly, Eastern State Penitentiary! Back then, the ESP still carried the old name of its pre-city grid encroachment location in the minds of local residents. Though still officially called Eastern State Penitentiary, it was colloquially known as "Cherry Hill". This week in 1915, Governor Brumbaugh signed the "Hess Bill", which consolidated Eastern and Western State Penitentiaries in a new prison in a centralized location in Centre County, which was already under construction.The then 86-year-old ESP would be shut down
               Those who worked for the local prison were PISSED. They didn't want to move to boring-ass Bellefonte, PA in order to keep their jobs! Also, it was claimed that the cost and effort to move the 1600 convicts from Eastern and the 800 from Western to this new place was going to be enormous. They pushed to get the convicts at Moyamensing Prison transferred to the old ESP to keep the place going.

Eastern State in 1913.
                 Well, you know how stubborn Philadelphians can be... Rockview, as it came to be called, ended up just taking on minimum security overflow from Western State Penitentiary. Eastern ended up staying open until 197fucking1! Rockview is still in use as a men's medium security joint. I'm sure it'll be on Lock-Up soon enough. Just keep checking MSNBC on a Saturday and you'll catch it.

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