Interred In A Cellar: Remains of A Child Are Found 1885


In the rear of 654 Atlantic avenue is an old tumble down shanty, divided into two rooms, underneath which is a small cellar. Two months ago this miserable dwelling was occupied by a mulatto girl about twenty-two years old, who was known as Annie Harris. She supported herself by washing and by doing housecleaning anywhere when her services were required. She did not bear a very good reputation among her neighbors, most of whom are colored people, and it was remarked that she had a good many male visitors. One of those who called most frequently was James Mahon, a colored man of middle age, who lives with his wife and three children at 595 Baltic street. He was formerly a sailor, but of late years has worked in restaurants and occasionally he went out as a private waiter.

About four months ago a colored midwife who was acquainted with Annie Harris called on her and asked if it was true that she had given birth to a child. The girl said that there was no truth in the rumor, and that it had merely been gotten up to injure her. Two days afterward the midwife called again and asked her the same question. This time the young woman did not deny the charge, but said that as the child had been born dead she wanted to keep the matter secret and thought there was no harm in doing so. She showed the body to the midwife, and according to the statements made by her subsequently it was that of a fully developed child. Meeting the Harris girl about a week afterward the midwife asked her what had been done with the body, and was told that James Mahon buried it in the cellar. She was asked to say nothing about it and did not until a short time since, when, on an occasion on which she had a quarrel with the girl, she told the whole story before several witnesses, and concluded by charging the young woman with murdering her newly born child.

 The affair has been widely talked about and commented upon by the colored people living in the vicinity, but it did not come to the ears of the police until yesterday morning, when the midwife called at the Tenth Precinct and told to Captain Jewett the story substantially given above. The police, for good reasons, refuse to divulge the name of their informant. Detectives Curran and Reynolds went to work on the case at once, and at 11 o'clock arrested Annie Harris at 688 Atlantic avenue, where she has been living for the last three months. She was taken to the station house and questioned, and for a time denied any knowledge of the affair, but when she saw that the police were already in possession of too many facts, she gave way and admitted that she had had a child, but claimed that it had been born dead. She also said that Mahon was the father of it, and that he had buried it in the cellar. She was locked up, and the two detectives proceeded to the shanty of 654 Atlantic avenue, where she had formerly lived. It is now occupied by a family of colored people, who were very much surprised when the officers make known their errand. The cellar is not more than five feet and a half in depth, and when the officers commenced to dig they found they had no easy task before them. After more than an hour's steady work and when nearly all the ground had been turned over they discovered, wrapped up in a newspaper, all that was left of the infant which had been buried there four months before, consisting of the entire skull and a few of the bones of the arms and legs.

A large crowd had gathered on the outside of the building, and when it was made known that the remains had been discovered a good deal of feeling was manifested by the colored people present, and many were heard to say that lynching would be none too good for both the woman and her supposed partner in crime. The bones were put in a box and taken to the station house, where they will remain until after the inquest. About twelve o'clock Detective Curran went to Mahon's house for the purpose of arresting him, but found that he was not at home. He told Mrs. Mahon that he wanted to engage her husband's services for the evening and would wait for him outside. When Mahon returned the officer followed him into the house, but was stopped by his wife, who, throwing open Curran's coat and evidently looking for some badge of authority, said: "Who are you, anyway?" Mahon heard the disturbance from where he was in another room and endeavored to escape by the rear way, but the detective was too quick for him, and ten minutes afterward he was also locked up in the station house. He admits having buried the child, but, like the woman, says that it was born dead. They will both be arraigned before Judge Walsh tomorrow morning on a charge of infanticide.


Website: The History
Article Name: Interred In A Cellar: Remains of A Child Are Found 1885
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle October 18, 1885
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