A Story of the Mafia; Showing How it's Influence Was Once Exerted in New York 1891


There are yet several hundred veteran policemen and police pensioners and a few citizens who recall a crime which cost a police officer his life, a singular condition of municipal affairs, and a very strange murder trial whenever they pass old Odd Fellows' Hall at Centre and Grand Streets. At 4 A.M. on the 21st of July, 1857, Officer Eugene Anderson of the Fourteenth Precinct was patrolling his post there. He may have been thinking of the stirring events of the time, the Quarantine war, the two battling Mayors, Wood and Powell, the "German" riots, or the hanging of the negro murderer, John D'Orsay, at the Tombs four days before.

He moved along until in the basement under Nelson Sammis's shoe store, 162 Grand Street, he came upon a burglar who was holding back a man and woman who lived there, at the point of a pistol. In a few moments Anderson had seized the fellow, received a charge of slugs in the throat, and died in the arms of a brother officer.

The burglar, the instant he discharged his pistol, dashed to Howard Street, pursued by several policemen and a number of Centre Market butchers, and, in his flight, he threw away a velvet jacket, such as Italians wear. He was not caught until he was racing up the stairs at 120 Worth Street. He was with difficulty saved from the fury of the butchers, who prepared to lynch him. He proved to be Michaele Cancomi or Francois Pellissier, a bookbinder, who lived in the house in which he was caught.

He was a noted member of the Mafia, and in his rooms, besides a vast amount of plunder was a quantity of ammunition and arms. Officer Anderson's funeral was witnessed by 20,000 persons. His brother was made a policeman so that he might support Eugene's children, who were motherless, and a pension of $120 a year was given to his sister, Josephine. Cancemi had three trials. At each the influence of the Mafia was marked. John W. Ashmead, his lawyer, consented at the first trial to go on with eleven jurors, but when they found his client guilty he had the verdict set aside because a juror was lacking. At the next trial the temper of the public was sorely tried because of rumors of bribing and Mafia intimidation, and at the third trial the verdict was one that only sent Cancemi to prison for twenty years.

There was a storm of indignation against it, but Cancemi served his term and went to Italy to become a Captain in the army, and some say that he bore a title when he died. Ashmead became notorious afterward through the disposition of the property of Fanny White, one of the queens of the day.

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Article Name: A Story of the Mafia; Showing How it's Influence Was Once Exerted in New York 1891
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


March 28, 1891 New York Times
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