The Attack on Webster Finger

from the Syracuse Daily Journal April 5, 1871


Yesterday afternoon upon the arrival of the Day Express train, from the west, complaint was entered by the brakeman, Webster Finger, at the police office, to the effect that an attempt had been made to kill him during the stoppage of the train at Jordan. The facts as stated by Finger, are substantially as follows: - As the train was coming east, and when this side of Port Byron, Finger discovered five young men upon the platform of the express car. Upon the train stopping at Jordan he went to the platform of the express car and ordered them off, remarking to one of larger persons of the party that he was "big and old enough to know better than to be stealing rides, and that he ought to go to work and earn an honest living." At this the rascal sprang at the brakeman, swearing he would "cut his heart out," and began cutting and slashing Finger, who defended himself as best he could, and finally escaped aboard the moving train, he having received several cuts about the hand, a stab in the cheek and one over the left eye. His wounds were cared for as well as could be until the arrival of the train in this city. On learning the facts Superintendent Lapham dispatched an engine and car westward, having on board the Chief of Police, Detective McCall, Depot Policeman Kelly, the brakeman, conductor and several others. As the special was going westward, and when half way between Jordan and Memphis, the villains and would-be murderers were discovered coming east on the track. When near them the train was suddenly stopped, and before the scoundrels recovered from their surprise, they were all under arrest and confined in the car.

On searching them, in their pockets was found upwards of two hundred pocket knives, a quantity of chewing tobacco, some keys, pipes, etc., evidently the proceeds of some burglary in Port Byron, Clyde, or elsewhere, or the booty of a raid on a freight car. The appearance of the boxes would lead to the conclusion that the goods had been on sale in some village store. On reaching this city they were arraigned before Justice Corbett, and gave their names as Charles Brown, John O'Neal, John McMahon, Daniel Cory and Patrick Mullins, and all plead not guilty to the charges of assault and battery, assault with intent to kill, and burglary. They were tried on the charge of an assault and battery on Webster Finger, and convicted, and each sentenced to pay a fine of $50 and go to the penitentiary for six months. They were also examined and held for trial on the charges of an assault with intent to kill, and of burglary. They refused to give any account of themselves, but stated that they found the cutlery in a bag on the railroad. It is probable that the owner of the stolen property can be found before the expiration of their sentence, when it will be possible to convict them on both charges yet untried.

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