Monthly Archives: April 2015
A battle over a church pew
A couple of stories down, I wrote about a court case in Maine’s York County from the 1700s, a story that came to me courtesy of the Maine State Archives. This story also came from the Archives,and also happened in York County in the mid-1700s. Yes, people were arguing over petty BS 300 years ago, just as they do now.
By ARTHUR FREDERICK
AUGUSTA, Maine (UPI) – The church in what is now Falmouth was only 13 years old, but it was already overcrowded with local worshippers on Sunday mornings, and the church elders realized that something had to be done.
Although it was more than 20 years before the start of the American Revolution, the church leaders dealt with the overcrowding in the same way that a modern church might be expected to handle a similar problem; they formed a committee to study the overcrowding, and to recommend solutions.
The committee looked over the building, and talked to people in the community who wanted to join the church, which then was known simply as a “meeting house for public worship.” The members decided to recommend that an addition be built, and that 28 new pews be added for additional parishioners.
That seemingly simple decision threw the congregation into a bitter dispute that was not settled by the early courts of York County until more than seven years later.
The records of that case, heard more than 200 years ago in York County’s Inferior Court of Common Pleas, were uncovered recently by researchers at the Maine State Archives, who have been sifting through ancient records from York County’s courts.
The records indicate that the people who built the public meeting house in 1740 were given the right to build their own pews, and to have them permanently placed inside the building.
One of the builders had been Jeremiah Riggs. And for more than 15 years, Jeremiah and his family had spent part of each Sunday in the six-foot pew that he had built and placed inside the meeting house. Joseph Cox sat up front, and Joshua Freeman and his family sat behind.
The Meeting House Committee decided the new parishioners would build an addition to the building and, like the original, would be allowed to build their own pews. The original pews would be moved to the new section of the meeting house, and the new pews would be placed where the old pews had once stood.
The original members would sit in their pews in the new location, the committee members decided. If they didn’t like the new spot, the members would have the option of taking over the new pew in the old location.
No one seemed to mind that plan. No one, that is, except Jeremiah Riggs.
The new addition was completed in 1759, and the pews were set up in their new locations. But Riggs didn’t like his new spot. It was cold and drafty, he complained. But he also didn’t want to give up the old pew, which he had built with his own hands years earlier.
He complained and argued, but the church leaders stuck to their decision.
When words did not work, Riggs broke into the meeting house when no one was around one November day, perhaps to try to forcibly move the new pew from his pew’s former location. He was found in the meeting house, however, and the congregation brought trespassing charges against him.
Public Enemy #1 Al Brady dies on the streets of Bangor, Maine
Crime stories weren’t exactly common in Maine. But back in the late 1930s, Public Enemy #1 Al Brady came to Maine to hide out. And he might never have been found had it not been for his longing for the true badge of an American gangster of the time, a Thompson submachine gun. When he tried to pick one up at a Bangor gun shop, the FBI was waiting. He died in a shootout that was so bloody that the Fire Department had to be summoned to wash the blood from Central Street.
By ARTHUR FREDERICK
BANGOR, Maine (UPI) – The stolen eight-cylinder Buick glided to a stop outside Dakin’s Sporting Goods store. Alfred Brady, the FBI’s Public Enemy Number One, slouched in the back seat while another man went in to see if the Thompson submachine gun they had on order had come in.
It was Oct. 12, 1937. Brady’s blood was about to be splashed over Central Street, and the story was about to be splashed across the front pages of newspapers around the world.
It was the most exciting thing to ever happen in Bangor. Now, 50 years later, the Bangor Daily News hopes to raise enough money to buy a small granite marker to memorialize the gunfight between the Brady Gang and the FBI.
“We’ve put out an appeal to raise $650 for a marker to commemorate the spot,” said Richard Shaw, a Daily News copy editor and amateur history buff who is involved in the project. “So far we have raised about $100, and the readers are really responding.”
The heat was on for the Brady Gang in 1937. Brady and his two henchmen had begun their crime careers in Indiana, and had robbed a string of banks and jewelry stores, killing three people along the way. J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI had launched one of its famous manhunts for the trio, and had named Brady Public Enemy Number One.
The gang found a place to hang out in Connecticut, and began to put together an arsenal.
Brady thought that Maine would be a great place to buy guns. It was fall, and hunting season was about to start. People buying guns shouldn’t raise an eyebrow in Maine, Brady reasoned.
The gang made several trips to Maine in the shiny Buick they had stolen earlier in Baltimore. On one trip they bought a number of handguns, and an obliging merchant at Hussey Hardware in Augusta innocently wrote a letter of introduction to the owner of a hardware store in Bangor when he couldn’t provide the guns the gang had asked for.
Even though Brady had accumulated a number of pistols and rifles, he dreamed about obtaining the true badge of the 1930s gangster, a Thompson submachine gun. When the gang got to Bangor, they went to the hardware store and then to Dakin’s, and Brady asked a clerk about the prospects for obtaining one of the weapons.
The store clerk, Shep Hurd, apparently realized a Thomason submachine gun was not the weapon of choice for most deer hunters. His suspicions aroused, he told Brady he might know where to get a submachine gun, although delivery would take a week.
When the gang members left the store, Hurd went to the police.
Brady and the other two men hung around Bangor for a week, waiting for the gun to arrive. At midday on Oct. 12, they drove back downtown and parked on Central Street near Dakin’s.
The gang didn’t know it, but downtown Bangor was crawling with FBI agents. Hurd, the store clerk, had been replaced by an agent. FBI sharpshooters were at the second floor windows of the buildings across the street. Others were stationed at other strategic spots along the street.
One of the gangsters, James Dalhover, got out of the Buick and entered the store. Brady and Clarence Shaffer Jr. stayed in the car.
Dalhover asked about the Thompson submachine gun and was immediately arrested. Shaffer finally left the car to see what was taking so long, and saw through the window that Dalhover was being handcuffed. He opened fire and was immediately hit with 25 rounds from FBI guns from inside the store and from across the street.
“That was when the FBI opened fire, and hit him with about 25 bullets,” Shaw said. “He twisted around like a top and collapsed in the street.”