Just after the New Year in 1858, John Jaques resurfaced in the newspapers in a story that one paper referred to as ‘one of the most infamous cases ever placed on record.’ He was 34 years old, his wife Mary — in her early 30s, and their eldest child Wealthy Ann — about 13 years of age. Walter, their youngest, was about five. John’s dad, the respected Isaac Jaques of Elizabeth, NJ, was about 67 and long retired after a successful career as a Manhattan tailor and an Elizabeth, NJ, real estate investor. John’s mom (also named Wealthy Ann) had died of consumption some two years prior, in April 1856. Sometime between Wealthy’s death and the 1860 census, Isaac remarried — to Rebecca Robinson, so he could have already been married to Rebecca at the time this ‘infamous’ Brooklyn case was the talk of the town, state, and tri-state area (the story even made it into the Boston Herald and the Philadelphia Press).
As far as John’s siblings go, Wealthy Ann Jaques Angus (my 2nd great grandmother) was married to carriage maker and respected Elizabethtown businessman James Angus, Walter was a dentist, and Charles was in the process of becoming a doctor. I’m not sure about Jane, Christopher, and Isaac Jr., but (provided they were still around–and I know at least Isaac Jr. was) I suspect they were busy living respectable lives. So, John’s propensity for alcohol must have been a source of disruption and great worry for his friends and family, and the third article included in this post states just that. At some point down the road, they may well have washed their hands of him, but it appears that at this point at least some of his friends and family were standing by him. And he had not yet trashed his reputation with the community; one paper described him as ‘a man of respectable standing, except that occasionally he drinks too much.’
But, on with the story of what happened. On the cold winter’s night of January 4, 1858, John was discovered lying unconscious and near death in a pond in Brooklyn’s 9th Ward. The incessant barking of a dog, whose master eventually came outside to see what the fuss was all about, is the only thing that saved him. Allegedly he was severely beaten and left there to die by two shady characters who were trying to prevent him from testifying at a trial taking place the next day in New Jersey. I’ll let you do your own reading of the tale as it unfolds. Suffice it to say, you’re going to get some background on John (residing in Newark, NJ, at this time) and his own recounting of the events, and you’re going to ‘hear’ courtroom testimony from John’s long-suffering wife Mary F. (Briggs) Jaques and his daughter Wealthy Ann. There are twists and turns, and things are not always what they seem. Is he a victim, or is there more to the story? The last clipping included contains the verdict which came in mid-February 1858; this clipping is a bit hard to read, so I am including a transcription of the most illegible section below it. (As an aside, those interested in Brooklyn of that era will enjoy the website Whitman’s Brooklyn: A Virtual Visit Circa 1850) There are some views of old Brooklyn from about this period which help set the scene for this story. Worth a look, if you have time.)
Thanks to the generosity of the Fulton History website’s lack of copyright restrictions, I can post the articles here. And that’s a great thing because, just like the previous post’s article about John (the ‘Prodigal Son’ returns), these articles are (naturally) written in a way that reflects the tone of that era, something I’d find impossible to convey should I be forced to paraphrase or re-word. So enjoy the read. This post will be followed by 1-2 more as we are still in the 1850s, and John lived another 37 years. As always, comments, thoughts, corrections, and additions welcome.
Jamaica, NY, Long Island Farmer, January 7, 1858
The New York Evening Express, 7 Jan 1858
The New York Times, 7 January 1858
Brooklyn, NY, Daily Eagle, Friday evening, 8 January 1858
Trenton State Gazette (8 January 1858): Mr. John B. Jaques, of Newark, New Jersey, was found insensible in a pond in the Ninth Ward of Brooklyn, on Wednesday morning. It appears that he had been inveigled from New York by a man named Smith, the keeper of a saloon, and against whom a charge was pending for selling liquor without license, and Jaques was the principal witness for the prosecution. Arrived in Brooklyn, Smith was joined by one Myers, the keeper of a saloon on Fulton Avenue, when they robbed and threw Jaques into the pond where he was found.
Brooklyn, NY, Daily Eagle, 9 January 1858
Brooklyn, NY, Daily Eagle, Monday evening, 11 January 1858
The New York Times, Friday, 15 January 1858
The New York Herald, 18 January 1858
New York Herald, 19 February 1858
New York Herald, 19 February 1858: …the defendants were arrested and had a partial examination before Justice Morehouse, when they waived further examination, and were committed to await the action of the Grand Jury. That body indicted Myres and Smith for assault and battery with intent to kill, and also for highway robbery. The present trial was for assault and battery with intent to kill. The evidence of Jaques was substantially as above; that of Dr. Ball went to show the extent of the injuries which were at the time thought to be of a serious nature, although Jaques had subsequently entirely recovered from them. The witnesses for the defence went to show that Jaques could not be believed under oath, and that he had been arrested for various offences in New Jersey, and that indictments were there pending against him. They sought to prove that Myres and Smith separated from Jaques on the night of the affair, and that the injuries were the result of his falling while intoxicated. The trial was concluded yesterday afternoon and the case given to the jury, who, after a long absence, returned a verdict of “not guilty.” The defendants were then discharged, their own recognizances being taken to appear and answer the other indictment.
Resources: Those interested in Brooklyn of that era will enjoy the website Whitman’s Brooklyn: A Virtual Visit Circa 1850.
David Rumsey Historical Map Collection, Full Title: Map Of The Country Thirty Three Miles Around The City Of New York. Published By J.H. Colton, No. 86 Cedar St. New York, 1853. Drawn by G.W. Colton. Engraved by J.M. Atwood, N.Y.
Full Title: Plan of New York and Brooklyn. (Atlas of New York and vicinity by F.W. Beers published by Beers, Ellis & Soule, New York, 1868)
Currier & Ives image from Eric Homberger: The Historical Atlas of New York City: A Visual Celebration of Nearly 400 Years of New York City’s History. Holt Paperbacks, 1998, page 72 (see Wikimedia Commons link) – ‘This media file is in the public domain’ in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923. See http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm this page for further explanation. This image might not be in the public domain outside of the United States; this especially applies in the countries and areas that do not apply the rule of the shorter term for US works, such as Canada, mainland China (not Hong Kong nor Macao), Germany, Mexico, and Switzerland.