Life Span: 1869-1871
Location: Franklin, Van Buren, Monroe, Wells
Chicago Evening Post, May 25, 1869
ANOTHER VIOLENT DEATH.
A Little Boy Shot by a Woman, in “Conley’s Patch.”
Yesterday afternoon another fatal affair occurred at “Conley’s Patch,” on the corner of Franklin and Jackson streets and the scene of the late murder of Buckhardt. This place is beneath the very towers of the Armory and the commission of a crime in such a locality renders it peculiarly exciting for its very boldness. The unfortunate victim this time is a little boy of seven years named Thomas Conley, son of the owner. The crime seems to have been rather accidental than otherwise, though the circumstances leading to it make this excuse less receivable. It seems that a little son of Mrs. Hines had bought a pistol from Mrs. Taylor, a colored woman, for 75 cents. His mother found it under his pillow, and took it back to Mrs Taylor to demand the annulment of the sale, when Annie Gibson or Judson a low wretch and the paramour of a colored man named Gibson, snatched it from her hand and as is rumored, deliberately aimed it at William Chambers, colored man, who was working in the yard at a trough, and fired. The bullet grazed his cheek and struck the little boy in the abdomen as he was running home, causing him to fall and faint from the loss of blood.
A crowd gathered at once and after diligent search the woman was found shaking with fear. She was partially intoxicated at the time, enough to make her reckless in her acts. After some delay a surgeon was called could but the bullet could not be found. Ii is thought that the boy cannot possibly survive. No one about the place professed to know anything of the affair and accordingly the arrest of Mrs. Taylor, Mrs. Hines and a couple of others who were in some way connected with the case was necessitated. The inhabitants of this hole are Dutch, Irish, French, negroes and “half breeds.” The place is an abomination in the nostrils of the public, “et Defenda est.”
Chicago Tribune, May 29, 1869
Ellen Conley, the “patch” owner, was fined $100 for not cleansing the outhouses thereon; $50 for not making proper sewerage connections, and $25 for havinh dirty premises generally.
Chicago Evening Mail, August 6, 1873
Ante-fire Chicago had numerous ‘rookeries” within a few minutes’ walk of the business heart of the city. In fact it resembled a target for rifle practice; the business portion of the city was like the bulls-eye surrounded by band of hovels and low dens in every degree of shabbiness and villainy, and outside of these was a broad band of respectable dwelling houses, shading off into small cottages and the cheerless homes of the day laborer. Here and there in these outer circles were plague-spots, where were congregated the scum of the city being as distinct from its surroundings as is the bullet hole made in the outer ring of the target by some wild marksman in a former tournament.
This crime-infested belt, which in all its and outlawry lay just under the eaves of the stone and marble palaces of trade where diamonds, jewelry, silks, laces, and costly fabrics of every description were displayed profusion, was an eye-sore to the merchants; but so totally blasted was the whole region that notwithstanding the inclosed district was crowded and bursting for more room there seemed no way in which to disinfect the frightful region. At the time of the fire business had succeeded in driving off the enemy from La Salle street but there it stopped powerless and the region where lived a population that had no regular avocation was evinced by the numerous signs of the three golden balls, held its own along Wells street now Fifth avenue.
David Alfred Sanborn did not include Conley’s Patch as part of his survey of Chicago in 1869. The streets associated with the patch only appears in the Index page, as a white area of “vacant lots,” despite the fact that the Armory and First Precinct Police Court was located on the SW Corner Adams and Franklin Streets.
The presence of the lower orders of vice is as surely indicated by a close proximity of pawn-broker shops, as that a low barometer indicates rain. In fact they may be taken as an unfailing sociometer. Wherever they most do abound it is very certain that the surrounding inhabitants are living contrary to the fiat: “In the sweat of his face shall man eat bread.” Idleness, Ignorance, and Crime are Siamese triplets and when Idleness “spouts” her clothing Ignorance and Crime stalk naked through the streets. Though they are all shameless they never like to go far for the wherewithal to buy whisky, because that means exposure to arrest; so the scarlet woman lives on one side of the broker and the burglar on the other. This crime-belt ran south on Fifth avenue veering east after it had reached Monroe street and cutting square across at Van Buren. Here dwelt the rag-tag and bob-tail, those who committed every character of crime from the stealing of a handkerchief to the bursting open of a bank-safe, and in the dark alleys, hovels, and cellars they found sure concealment among friends within a minute’s run from the scene of operations. With this state of affairs it was almost impossible for the police to do any thing toward bringing the offenders to justice. The great fire came along, however, and solved the problem. It scattered the hordes of darkness in every direction and before they could become rehabilitated respectability moved forward and occupied the position.
Of course in this belt there were various spots especially noted for the lawless character of their inhabitants—just as disease has its center of action where the impurities of the blood gather and break forth into pustulent sores One of these places known to all old Chicagoans and having a reputation similar to that of the Five Points in New York, was “Conley’s Patch.” The Patch proper included a collection of about 25 or so shanties and hovels on the southwest corner of Quincy and Franklin streets, under the very shadow of the old Armory. In general terms, however, it spread over a section of three or four blocks in that neighborhood, and included a number of crime-centers.
The Armory & Police Court
SW Corner Adams and Franklin Streets
There are many ways of getting a living but one which bears the stamp of originality is that practiced by old Mrs. (Ellen) Conley, the owner of the Patch. She went about the streets picking up wandering houses, shanties and sheds which the owners wanted to get rid of and were willing to sell for a mere song. These she moved down to her Patch and set down promiscuously, till she had collected some 25 or 30 houses. They were of all sorts and sizes, many of them with cracks in them through which the light of a tallow dip shone out late at night, or the driving rain and snow beat in during storms. This curious collection of ancient architecture was rented to the worst off-scourings of God’s creation: pick-pockets, sneaks, burglars, cut-throats, the lowest class of prostitutes, negroes and those who kept miscengenation dives.
The Mail Man has been getting hold of tbe history of the Patch, and of some of those who inhabited it.
Tony Picket was one of the lowest of the lot. He bad a hump on the back of his neck and though a white man kept a black dive.
Long John Doyle was another character. He kept a saloon and grocery store in the Patch. He is now driving a car on the South Side.
Bridget Smith, Kate Regan, Jenny Riley, and Black Bill kept well-known resorts for thieves and blacklegs. The fire broke up their business and Kate, her occupation gone, has made it her business to pass her time in that refuge for broken-down criminals, the Bridewell. She is residing there now.
Another place well known to the police was “Shinbone Alley,” which occupied the ground from Adams to Quincy, between Wells and Franklin.
“Ticklebelly Row” was a block of frame tenement houses on Franklin street running from Adams to Quincy.
“Perry’s Patch” was another noted place on tbe north side of Adams street opposite the gas house.
From Adams to Quincy, between Clark and Dearborn streets, was filled with tenemei tenements, in which crime ran riot.
The “Chain-locker” saloon was on the corner of Sherman and Jackson street. It was given that name by Charley Newland, then on the police force because men were enticed in, the door locked and the victim held up while they “went through” him for his valuables
“Under the Willow” was one of the most noted places in this section. It was a two-and-a-half story rickety warped and weatherbeaten frame building on the southeast corner of Fifth avenue and Monroe street. A willow tree bent over it, giving it its name. Roger Plant was the keeper of it. Of course the first floor of it was a saloon; but it was understood that a policy shop was run up stairs. The policy game was of the same nature as bunko. Roger Plant afterward left the city and is now running a varieties den in St Louis. Soldiers were enticed in here during the war drugged and robbed frequently of a earnings.
Jim Males and Steve Stamp were a couple of well-known policy men who kept shops near the Willow.
Levi J. North built a kind of amphitheater near Roger in which he combined the beauties of the circus and the stage. For this service he was elected Alderman in ’57.
On the east side of Fifth avenue George Eager kept a saloon and a low female dive. He Is the same man that now runs the Winter Garden on South Clark street.
“Cap.” Hyman and Annie Stafford, his “woman,” used to keep a maison de joie at No 159 Fifth avenue and the “Cap.” used to buck the festive “tiger;” but he has completely reformed now, and is fighting a hard fight for respectability. The other partner of the firm has not shown the same effort a improvement but has moved into more gilded quarters elsewhere.
Next door lived a noted cracksman, Buck Holbrook, and his “woman.” Buck was killed some years ago at Hennepin, Ill., while attempting to do some “work.”
Josephine Ayers kept one of the worst places in the city on the southeast corner of Jackson street and Fifth avenue. She was a fearless and powerful woman, and when occasion demanded did not hesitate to “strike from the shoulder,” and he must be a very stout man that would not go down before the blow. When any disturbance was raised in her house and the police made a raid on it, it generally took about four men to arrest her and take her to the station.
May Brown and Mollie Scotten kept vile dens on Quincy street and got “pulled” occasionally; but May has since learned how to manage things and notwithstanding one or two culling affrays during the past year she has avoided being pulled. It is said that she “stands in the heads”—that is, keeps open house and free wine for influential members of the police department. The fact of her immunity would seem to give color to the assertion.