A Domestic Horror in Greenpoint 1876

A Man Shoots His Wife and Then Takes His Own Life

The parties are well known and have for a number of years been residents of the Seventeenth Ward. Downey was a carpenter by trade, but for many years past had been employed in New York as a cotton sampler. He was known to have been industrious and steady in his habits, and was held in high esteem by his former employers.

He managed to save a small sum of money with which he purchased a handsome two story frame house in which he lived with his wife and family, a son, George, aged 17 years, and two daughters, Mary and Sarah, aged nine and six years, respectively.

Within the past two years he became dissipated, and his quarrels with his wife were consequently of frequent occurrence. After losing his situation, six weeks ago, he apparently gave himself up entirely to drink, and the abuse of his family.

He accused his wife of infidelity and applied to her epithets which were both obscene and untrue, as the neighbors now allege. Less than two weeks ago he had an altercation with his son George in the garden in front of the house, on which occasion they clinched in a fight, and, as the deceased alleged, the youth attempted to strike his father with a hammer.

Mrs. Downey took sides with the son, and this seemed to increase her husband's anger toward her. The son quitted the house after the fight, and went to reside in New York.

Since then the husband and wife have been quarreling almost continuously, and yesterday morning when Mrs. Downey dressed the two girls to attend the picnic of St. Anthony's R.C. Church, he forbade her to permit them to go. When he afterward saw them in the procession parading through the streets previous to the start for Myrtle avenue Park, he became more incensed and went home and threatened to shoot his wife and then himself. As he had often made such threats before, she did not think much of it. However, he became so violent, that she went to the house of Mr. William O'Rourke, adjourning her residence. Returning at half-past four o'clock, she met her husband on the door steps as she was ascending, and he violently pushed her down.

Several neighbors saw the act, but as he went to where she had fallen, apparently to lift her up, they did not go to interfere. Before he reached her she got on her feet, and he quickly pulled a single barreled pistol from his pocket and fired. The ball passed under the jaw and lodged near the spine.

Downey next hurried inside the house, when he saw her fall, and Mr. O'Rourke and others summoned the police. In response, Officers Tierrie and McKellup quickly arrived at the scene of the tragedy. They went toward the house and were about entering when they heard the report of a pistol.

They burst in the doors and found the suicide stretched across the bed in the back room, on the first floor, with a bullet in his heart. The single barreled pistol which lay at his side told the story of his death. So near his breast did he place the pistol that his clothing was scorched.

Physicians were immediately on hand, and Mrs. Downey received all the assistance that medical aid could render. She remained unconscious for some time, and when she came to her senses she said: "Oh, he has troubled me so much." By advice of her physicians she was not allowed to converse with anybody.

At about eight o'clock in the evening the daughters returned from the picnic, and the scene which followed, when they heard of their father's death, was heartrending.

In Downey's room, Coroner Nolan found two letters. One was addressed to Father Gould, in which he charged his wife with infidelity. Mrs. Downey's relatives indignantly deny the accusation, and attribute the charge to partial craziness on the part of the husband.

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: A Domestic Horror in Greenpoint 1876
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


Brooklyn Daily Eagle June 15, 1876
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