Limerick Roughs: the Political Killing of young John Hubbel

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John Philip Hubbel, son of a German snuff maker and roughly nineteen years old, was shot and killed at a half-past ten o’clock the night of 12 October 1859 in front of Jackson Hall. “The ball entered near the right ear and came out on the left side of the head.” (DE, 14 October) He died only “one hundred and fifty feet from his father’s house” on Constitution Street (Sun, 14 October). Living in Limerick (8th Ward Baltimore), Hubbel made the brash decision to vote the Know-Nothing Ticket in the stronghold of the Democratic Party.

  • Frank Shaw [Francis Sholl], a youth, living on Somerset street, between Chase and Eager streets, met the deceased on Wednesday at the Central police station, and proposed to go to the 11th ward polls; deceased said he was afraid to go there; witness left him and went there, but had not been there long when [Hubbel] came up; heard him say that he had voted in the 11th ward, also saw him at the 10th ward polls; did not know whether he voted there (Sun, 14 October); leaving the latter place after 5 o’clock, deceased going off by himself; heard that he had voted the Know-Nothing ticket; deceased had said that he was almost afraid to go in his own neighborhood, as there were some who had a grudge against him.” (BAnC, 14 October)

  • Miss Chrysenthia Constance of No. 7 McElderry; around 3 pm, a slightly intoxicated Hubbel: “first stopped at the house next door, and called to witness at an upper window in the rear, and told her that he had voted the American ticket;… and like to have been killed, that a young man named Philip Davis offered him a reform ticket at the 8th ward polls, which he refused to take, and then Davis told him that he would kill him on the first opportunity (Sun, 14 October); had not intended to have got tight, but meeting some of his companions they had induced him to drink. [H]e took supper at witness’s house (BAnC, 14 October); witness induced him to remain at the house until 8 o’clock [Sun gives the time as half-past ten]; he told witness that he was afraid to go home (DE, 14 October); witness asked deceased to stay all night, but he said he could not (Sun, 14 October); he had not been [home] since morning, and his mother would be in misery” (BAnC, 14 October); before going he remarked that the man Davis was watching for him, and he expected to be killed” (Sun, 14 October)

  • “Mrs. Catherine Miskelly, …Lives at 55 Front street; heard hallooing, and on looking out of the window saw deceased running; also saw the flash of a pistol and deceased fell; at the time there were four men standing on the corner of Centre and Front streets (DE, 14 October), under the lamp post from whom the deceased was running; when he was shot; they immediately ran away down Centre and back by High.” (BAnC, 14 October)

  • “Mrs. Mary Cox of 46 French street: “the report [of the gun] did not excite any surprise, as they had been shooting in the street all night.” (Sun, 14 October)

  • “Sarah Ann Cape, resides at the northeast corner of High and French streets… was sitting with her daughter awaiting the return of her son, when she was aroused from sleep by the report of firearms from the direction of Centre street (Sun, 14 October); when she went to the door, saw a party of men coming from the tannery toward High; saw three others pass from Front street down High; witness heard some screaming at the house of Mrs. Rock’s (BAnC, 14 October); She saw the deceased lying on the pavement opposite, when she exclaimed, ‘My God, there lies a man dead!’ When she used the expression a man dressed in light clothing passed her house, stopped, gazed in her face, and although she repeated the exclamation he passed heedlessly on. (DE, 14 October)” Cape owned a grocery and the same corner store was the site of Jourdan’s death two years earlier.

  • “Philip [Daley] visited the house of a Mrs. Slee, on Forrest street, near Eager” (Sun, 14 October); Coroner Sparklin with officer Talbott went to Mrs. Slee’s where they learned he lived in Willow Street. Arriving there, “his mother stated that he was not at home” (DE, 14 October).

The next day on the 13th, at his mother’s house, “Thomas alias Philip [Daley] was arrested between ten and eleven o’clock” (DE, 15 October). Thomas Daley was only eighteen years old and born in Ireland. The police arrested Samuel Donohue, nineteen years old, as a witness and at his bail-hearing Nativist politics surfaced. Samuel’s bondsman was James Donnelly, “‘who said he owned eight houses in the eighth ward.’ Judge Henry Stump responded, ‘In Limerick? (Laughter.)'” I have found nothing indicating this case went to trial. Thomas is listed in his father’s household in the 1860 census. This is the last record I have for him.


  • Other witnesses to Hubbel’s murder included: Mrs. Ellen Houseman [Howser], resides no. 44 Front street; Mary Smith, 12 years old, of the corner of Front and Lefferman’s alley; Miss Elizabeth Jackson, daughter of Mrs. Cape; and Eva Bunce of Lefferman’s alley.
  • Judge Stump was removed from office in 1860 because of routine intoxication on the bench, and the frequent laughter from the gallery was cited as an example of the contempt he held for the court.
  • In 1870, Thomas’s brother Hugh Daley was sentenced to six months in jail with John alias Dixon Woods and Barney Barnes, and levied a fine of $50 and costs each, “for assaulting officer James E. Roberts, on Saturday night, 20th instant, on Monument street” (Sun, 29 August 1870).


Baltimore American and Commercial. 14 October 1859. GoogleNews. 

Baltimore Sun. 14 October 1859; 29 August 1870. Proquest.

The Daily Exchange. (Baltimore, Md.), 14 October 1859, 15 October 1859. Chronicling America.

The Removal of Baltimore City Criminal Court Judge Henry Stump, 1860, Maryland State Archives, Govpub Image No: 821075-0001. MSA SC 5339-41-8.


Limerick Roughs: John McDevitt, Vagabond of 8th Ward

In 1855, a simple gardener in Baltimore found it necessary to take space in the Baltimore Sun advertising his innocence of what the neighborhood gossips were spreading:

“TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN.—Mr. & Mrs. McDevitt, arrested July 20th, for assaulting and beating each other, is not John McDevitt, Gardener of Old Town.  It is hoped that this notice will satisfy a certain portion of the community who have spoken in an insulting way of said arrest.” (Baltimore Sun, 30 July 1855, p. 2)

In 1850, the gardener John McDevitt’s family resides in the 6th Ward, another resides in 8th Ward: an extended family with three John McDevitts (born 1842, 1833, and 1820) in a motley household of family and boarders. It is difficult to tell which John or if several John McDevitts committed the crimes listed here, but he came from the 8th Ward and I think it likely that it was John McDevitt born 1842 because of the 1870 census showing him in the penitentiary. [Of curious note the Gardener John McDevitt mentioned above had a son, James Aloysius McDevitt, who would achieve considerable renown as a Washington D. C. detective; including, being the first detective called to investigate Lincoln’s assassination.]

John McDevitt intimidated police and committed arson (common crimes committed by the rival Know-Nothings and other gangs); he also drunkenly stumbled into a variety of beatings and thefts making his  relationship to the political gang of the 8th Ward, the “Limericks,” difficult to fully establish. The strongest evidence for partisanship during the Natives’ violence is his arrest for the attempt to kill officer William Kid during the 1857 Election Riot.

Election Riot

On the same day that Jackson Hall faced Police and the Natives, a few blocks down, near the 8th Ward Polls, an officer was viciously attacked:

“In the eighth ward all was very quiet during the forenoon and up to half-past four in the afternoon. At that time police officer Wm. Kidd was passing the polls and when he reached the corner of Eager street turned and again started down Ensor street.  A young man of his acquaintance was sitting on the cellar door near the window where the judges received the votes. To him Mr. Kidd spoke and they started down the street together. They had proceeded as far as the corner of Webb street, when there was a cry to rally, and immediately an assault was made on the officer and he was badly beaten on the head and face with revolvers, and one of the skirts of his coat was torn off.  In the melee he was knocked down, and while he was on the ground a young man ran up, placed a revolver to his head and pulled the trigger. The cap snapped, and before he had the opportunity to make a second attempt the weapon was wrested from him by a citizen who was present. Mr. Kidd then got up and ran for the open door of a house in Webb street, but the inmates became alarmed and closed the door against him.  At that moment a pistol was fired at him, which entered his clothing in the back without touching his person.  A second shot was then fired, when Kidd put his hand on his back and staggered forward. He then ran down Ensor street as far as Chew, one of his assailants hanging on to him. There he fell, and was taken up and carried to a house near by, where Dr. Damman attended to his injuries. It was found that the ball had penetrated the spinal region and touched the kidneys. The charge from the first pistol, a large slug, was found on the removal of his clothing. His condition is said to be critical.”  (Baltimore Sun, 15 October 1857, p 1).

A few days later, Kidd would be in an improving condition. Police arrested Edward Keelan and John Millen on the charge of shooting Kidd. Police gathered John McDevitt, along with Patrick Ready and Michael Murphy on the night of 17 October 1857, and charged them with participating. Patrick Ready, already a veteran club rough, had a scar on his face from a bullet wound received in the 1856 riots. (Baltimore Sun, 15 September 1856, p. 1; 16 October 1857, p. 1; 19 October 1857, p. 1)

The Fires

Charge of Arson—Watchmen Eccleston and Hackett arrested on Saturday night last Albert Clark and John McDevitt upon the charge of setting fire to the stable of Mr. Riley, on the Bel-air commons.  The fire was timely discovered by the neighbors and extinguished without causing an alarm.  Justice Mearis committed them to await further examination.” (Baltimore Sun, 21 April 1856, 4).

“John McDevitt, indicted (together with Peddicord, Graham and others,) for arson, in the alleged setting fire to a house of Mary Ann Lankford, on the 1st of May, was put on trial. […]

Officer Hoover, on Saturday night, the first of May, about 8 ½ o’clock, saw Peddicord at the corner of Bond and Eager streets; he was dressed in dark clothes, with his cap down over his eyes, and passed the officer down Bond street.  The officer followed, thinking something was going on.  Heard the alarm of fire and ran down to the corner of Bond and Abbot Streets, and found the fire in a house on Abbot street.  Amelia Miller gave the alarm first to witness.  They broke open the door and put it out; it had been kindled with spirits of turpentine.  When witness went into the house he saw a person he supposed to be John McDevitt getting over the back fence.  About five minutes after the discovery of the fire Peddicord came into the house in his shirt sleeves, and assisted in putting out the fire.  Did not see any one in the house when he got there, and all he saw Peddicord do was to assist in putting out the fire.

Amelia Miller saw John Gordon, John McDevitt, Andrew Peddicord and John Graham in the second yard from the yard of the house fired, about three o’clock in the afternoon–they were standing there talking.  No one lived in the house to which the yard is attached where they were.  The fire was about 8 ½ o’clock– the house was unoccupied.” (Baltimore Sun, 2 June 1858, p. 1).

They were found not guilty.  Peddicord testified they were in the yard, ,”to quietly drink a half-pint of whisky” (Baltimore Sun, 8 June 1858, 1).

Petty Rogue

McDevitt gained enough of a reputation to be charged on that alone: “John McDevitt, charged with being a rogue and vagabond, was released on $700 bail” (Baltimore Sun, 3 October 1856, 1).

“John McDevitt and Joseph Solder were arrested last night by officers Scarff and Griffin, of the night police.  On the charge of robbing Samuel Folts on the 4 ½ street bridge.  They were held to bail to answer for the charge at court.” (Baltimore Sun, 11 November 1858, 4).

After the Natives

After Nativism faded from the political field, the roughs who waged the political riots found less direction in their drunken sprees, and subsequently the motives for their crimes became mundane.

Charged with Larceny.—George Connolly and John McDevitt were arrested on Wednesday night by policemen Thomas E. Roe, White and Bouldin, charged with the larceny of a silver watch, valued at $7, and 35 cents in money, the property of John W. Jackson, colored, corner of Calvert and Monument streets.  Justice Robinson committed them for the action of the grand jury.  John Ragan, charged with being accessory to the robbery, was arrested at the same time, and committed by the same justice.” (Baltimore Sun, 20 March 1868, 1).

“John Regan, John McDevitt and Geo Connelly, indicted for robbing John W. Jackson, colored, of a watch, &c, at the corner of Monument and Calvert streets, at 2 o’clock in the morning.  McDevitt was tried before a jury and found guilty; Connelly was tried before a jury and found guilty; Connelly was tried before the court and case held sub curia and Regan’s case was postponed.” (Baltimore Sun, 24 April 1868, 4.)

If John served jail time it wasn’t long: “John McDevitt, assaulting John W. Kinnear, fined $20 and costs.” (Baltimore Sun, 9 November 1868, 4).

Charged with Assaulting a Policeman.—John McDevitt, charged with snapping a pistol at, with intent to shoot and kill, policeman John R. Merrick, and Samuel Donahue, charged with being accessory to the assault, were arrested on Tuesday evening by policemen McKewen, Raymo, and Staylor, and, after an examination before Justice Hagerty, were committed in default of security to await the action of the grand jury.— The assault, it is alleged, took place on Gay street, near Exeter, between three and four o’clock in the afternoon.  The officer was on his return from the middle district station, and was followed up Gay street by the accused, one of whom (McDevitt) pointed at his head a pistol, the cap of which fortunately snapped, the other having his hand on the shoulder of the officer, who heard the click of the weapon, without being aware at the time of his dangerous situation.— On subsequently receiving information from witnesses of the occurrence, he had the parties arrested.” (Baltimore Sun, 2 December 1869, 1; 21 January 1870, 4).

The following year McDevitt and Donohue were found not guilty.(Baltimore Sun, 21 January 1870, 4).

In 1870 McDevitt sits in the City jail in the 8th Ward and unfortunately decided to assault its officers as well and sentenced to an additional six months (Baltimore Sun, 21 March 1870, 4).

“John McDevitt, Henry Burns and Wm Stack, larceny of brushes, &c $1.83, from J. McMahon, Burns pleaded guilty, one year in the penitentiary, McDevitt three months in jail, and Stack not guilty” (Baltimore Sun, 25 September 1877, 5).

The criminal, John McDevitt disappears from “Page 4” after 1877.