A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

African-American Series: Robbery, Flight, and Capture in Matawan (1893)

The 5 Aug 1893 edition of The Matawan Journal carried this front page story about a young African-American man who robbed a local store, was pursued by the authorities, caught, and taken to jail in Freehold.



Her Loss Soon Learned and the Thief Pursued and Captured - Lodged In Freehold Jail

On Monday morning a colored boy, who gave his name as James F. Johnson, visited Miss Mary McDoal's store and bought a pair of socks. He left them there after paying for them and made a circuit of several other stores, making small purchases in some and inquiring for goods in others which he knew they did not keep. All the time he was making observations and revolving in his mind which store would yield him the most money by stealing. He seemed to fancy Miss MoDoal's as he went there a second time to get his socks and make another purchase, but what he wanted Miss McDoal was out of. He then inquired if she kept ice cream and when told that she did he said he wanted a plate. Miss McDoal went in a rear room to get the cream and the colored youth remained in the store part. When she went to appraise him that it was ready he could not be found, and thinking everything was not just right she went to the place where she generally kept her money and found it was gone. There were two boxes of it and he took both of them. She gave the alarm immediately and a number of small boys started after him. He was seen to go down the ally past Mr. Schock's store and over the white bridge. He was followed that far and disappeared in Mr. Hankinson's grape vineyard, where he evidently made for the railroad track. Marshal Thompson was notified and he was soon after him with Constable Winterton. Together they ran him down and captured him near Avery & Bushnell's brickyard. He was brought back to Miss McDoal's, who identified him. Mr. Winterton had taken the money away from him and put it on the counter. It was in a handkerchief securely tied up and made a heavy load. He had thrown away the boxes in which the money originally was, as they loaded him down too much and hindered his progress.

Miss McDoal was uncertain as to how much money she had, but thought somewhere about $40. After the handkerchief was untied, the bills, silver and pennies were soon overhauled and while this was being done Johnson said 32 cents of that money was his and Miss McDoal counted out the money and gave it to him. When asked what made him do such a thing, he replied, "I am in tough luck." Whether he meant it was "tough" to be caught after getting away with the money, or that his luck had gone back on him and he was induced to steal to secure the means to get along is unknown.

Constable Winterton took Johnson to Esquire Bissell's office, where Miss McDoal made the necessary complaint and he was soon on his way to Freehold. Johnson gave several places as his home, Chicago being the principal one. He afterward said he was from Indiana, but just what place was not learned. He gave his age as 17 years old last April. In appearance he was undersize, but had a pleasant face and was very fairly dressed. He had been down to Asbury Park for some time and had been in Matawan but a few hours when prompted to commit the robbery. The amount he returned was $43.70, $23 being in bills and the rest in silver and pennies.

If his demeanor before the upper Court is as bold as before Justice Bissell, Johnson will very likely get a long sentence. He has had considerable experience in this world and in actions is somewhat older than his appearance would indicate. His early capture reflects credit upon the officers as in a very short time he would have been beyond their jurisdiction.


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