It was during the 1890s that Gophers street gang had been formed. Since this gang after performing a particular misdeed used to hide in various cavernous neighborhood cellars for avoiding arrest, it derived such a name. Their territory during the initial days was from 7th – 11th Avenues, which is from 14th Street – 42nd Street. However, with time they expanded their territory till 57th Street. With each passing day, they increased their numbers, which at its height reached to about 500 members, of whom all were murderous hooligans.
Few leaders of the gang
Their initial operation base was Battle Row, a notorious saloon, owned by Mallet Murphy, a thug. This gang throughout its operational days had several bosses, with one of the most well known being Owney Madden, also called ‘The Killer’. However, in 1913 his reign ended with his killing of ex-boyfriend of his girlfriend named Little Patsy Doyle, who also vied to become the gang’s leader.
One Lung Curran was another boss and is known to have originated a particular practice, determining the gang’s fashion wear. He had presented his girlfriend with a winter coat, stolen from a police officer, which she had modified to make it a fashion symbol of the Gopher gang, who followed the trend.
Happy Jack Mulraney was another Gopher boss. He had this name, since his faced appeared to have a permanent smile, which was rather caused due to quirky paralysis of his face muscles. Being a psychopathic killer, his cohorts used to enrage him by stating of someone having made fun of him. Having shot a bar owner, he got sentenced to life imprisonment.
In August 1908, few Gophers when wandering around found themselves in between a shootout between the gang of Monk Eastman and Five Pointers of Paul Kelly. Just to have fun, the Gophers also joined the shootout to take shots at both the warring groups.
For several years, plundering train depot and freight cars belonging to Central Railroad of New York was the source of income for the gang. To protect its assets, the railroad had organized its very own ‘special police force’ comprising of those ex-cops who were at some point of time, had become victims to the Gopher gang. This special force with great satisfaction started to fight the Gophers into submission using brutal force.
It was only in 1917 after the arrest of Curran and with both Madden and Mulraney in prison for life, the Gophers dissipated gradually and by 1920 ceased to exist.