Bowery Boy Gang – The civilian mobsters who took on other gangsters

The Bowery Boys had been formed during the 1840s. They were anti Catholic as well as anti Irish and had fought the other gangs, especially the Dead Rabbits coming from Five Points Area. However, unlike that of the other gangs that existed during that era, who were mostly crooks, plain thugs, murderers and robbers, the Bowery Boys were said to rule Bowery area which lay north to Five Points.  This gang comprised mostly of mechanics, butchers, small entrepreneurs and bar bouncers. The members of the gang wore different types of uniform like black trousers and red shirts and pants that got shoved within the calf-skin boots. Majority of its members had black stove-pipe hats and oil slicked hair.

Their activities

Originally, this gang had volunteered as firemen and aligned towards American Political Party or Know-Nothing, lasting from 1849-1856, after which they supported the Democratic Party. The gang got itself attached to different firehouses having names like Black Joke, White Ghost, Red Rover and Dry Bones. They competed with the other gangs when it came to appearing first after a fire took place. They loved their fire-engines very much.

Famous boss of the gang

Bill Poole or ‘Butcher’ as he was called popularly was among the most well known Bowery Boy. By trade, he was a butcher and volunteer at the Red Rover Fire-Engine Co.  He was also a wonderful fighter and faced his arch opponent John Morrissey, who was an Irish immigrant. Poole was known to have a huge hatred for Catholics and Irish.

On 26th July 1854, both the bosses met each other near Christopher Street at Amos Street Dock and almost had crushed Morrissey to death, when the wiser heads had intervened to separate them. This incident had Morrissey injured severely, leaving him incapable to walk the New York Streets on his own for about 6 months. But this did mean Poole had to face the wrath of his gang. Morrissey’s friend Lew Baker, on 25th February 1855 had shot Poole at a bar to which the latter succumbed and died on 8th March 1855.

Its downfall

After the death of Poole, the Bowery Boys slowly started to lose hold and kind of reputation they had. During the 1863, 3 Day Drafts Riots saw the gang to get involved the riots with the other gangs, which made thousands of people to get injured and many killed, until the State militia of New York intervened to have the riots quelled. After three days, the armed forces had the men of the city to be drafted into its forces, which also saw several Bowery Boys to register themselves. By 1860’s this gang ceased to exist.