Teaching Cleveland

Lesson 26

Handout 3



by E. Arthur Roberts

Old Haymarket soon will be a memory, a memory of pioneer days, of the fragrant aroma of hay that gave the district its name, of the founders of Cleveland's industry and commerce, of political bosses and gangsters.

The Public square passenger station and terminal facilities call for complete elimination of the Haymarket district. It gives Cleveland a much needed public improvement, but it wipes out an area that fills perhaps the most eventful chapter in the city's history.

To this day there are farmers who haul their hay to "the hill," as older residents still speak of the crest of Commercial road, S.E. The old livery stables in the alleys of Race avenue S.E. and the dead end of Central avenue S.E. sometimes are used for their original purpose and lodging houses that have done the same duty for a half century still are abodes of the men who work in the valley.

But the old Haymarket, immortalized in the fiction of Alfred Henry Lewis, the police prosecutor who secured most of the characters for his "Field Notes of a Reformer" from "the hill," has been a passing memory these many years.

"Twas a Hard District

That was the Haymarket of twenty, thirty, and forty years ago, the time when policemen patrolled "the hill" not in twos but threes---

When "Blinkey" Morgan and "Johnny" Coughlin's gangs had their rendevouz on what is now "the White Way" of E. 9th street and terrorized the whole downtown section ---

When every second house on "the hill" was a saloon or bawdy house---

When two quarts of beer could be bought for a nickel and the populace used to sit on the curbstone drinking from pails---

When "Paddy the Tough," otherwise Patrick McKenna, used to stride up the hill dragging his coat behind him and daring anyone to step on the trailing garment---

When "Big Mike's place," the saloon and grocery store run by Michael Lukascko, father-in-law of Councilman James J. McGinty, was the post office for the Slavish settlers of the district---

When the Wren House, famous in Civil War days was presided over by Mrs. Wren---

Sheriff had Straight Left

When Ed J. Hanratty, now sheriff, took over the Wren House and called it the Newburg house and when the present sheriff had a far-famed "straight left" that helped make him the political boss of "the hill" for nearly thirty years---

When Samuel Nash, father of S.C. Nash, president of the Cleveland Provision Co., had a little grocery at the foot of Commercial hill---

When Johnny Ray was one of the stars at the old White Elephant theater at Bolivar Rd. and E. 4th street---

When "Gypsy" George ran a regular western bar room and dance hall sometimes referred to in those days as "Cleveland's first cabaret"---

When mule drivers were "skinners" and laborers were "dirt movers" and employers used to recruit their help in the saloons and lodging houses of "the hill"---

When Tom Oakes, the Englishman with the big bushy beard, kept the London House at the foot of Ontario street. In the days when the dead end of Central was called Ohio street and Tom used to squander the savings of his legitimate business betting on a sorrel trotter which Police Inspector John Rowlands says was "just fast enough to lose him money"---

When "Bonsey" Morris pawned his overcoat to buy a revolver with which he killed James Handy, a Factor street saloonkeeper---

When Italian "hurdy-gurdy" and "hokey-pokey" men ground out "music" and sold ice cream slabs at a penny apiece on "the hill"---

When the police emergency was a wheelbarrow and obstreperous prisoners or helpless "drunks" were wheeled to Central police station---

When William F. Newcomb, who built the Newcomb Building on the corner of Ontario street and Eagle avenue S.E. and left nearly a million dollars, frequently had no more than 25 cents as his share after paying the molders at his foundry their weekly wages---

When the old Horse Show, the Sailor Boy, and the Three Stars were the best known saloons in Cleveland---

That was the Haymarket of the old days. Its passing is more than the severance of a link with old Cleveland. It takes a large slice out of the city's life. It leaves a void in the hearts of men and women to whom "the hill" was home.

"A man had to be tough to live there, but Haymarket produced and housed some very good men as well as some very bad ones," Councilman McGinty said yesterday.

"Jimmy" McGinty has represented the Ninth ward, which includes the Haymarket for ten years. "The mayor of Haymarket" is a title bestowed on him by his constituents. For several years Councilman McGinty organized popular concerts on "the hill." They were a feature of Haymarket life until changing conditions caused their abandonment.

Sheriff Hanratty, who preceded Councilman McGinty as representative of the Ninth had served on term as councilman longer, says, "some of the biggest hearts this city have ever known were to be found in the Haymarket stores and lodging houses."

The Haymarket district does not cover more than three or four acres. It is bound on the north by Race avenue S.E., on the west by Harrison avenue S.E., on the east by Ontario street, and on the south by the Central viaduct.

Cleveland histories pay scant attention to Haymarket and none apparently, tell of the origin of the name. Leslie's history, published in 1887, has the following mention of the district:

"For many years the city had no market house. All marketing was done on the streets, principally on Ontario street, including Michigan and Prospect intersections, and along the south side of the square. There was, however, a small wooden building in the middle of Michigan street, called the hay market, around which congregated farmers with small jags of hay, the aroma of which is still a memory."

"The council had resolved to take a new departure, purchase market grounds, and build a suitable market house. Commissioners were appointed to select the ground for a central market and on seventh of December, 1856, they reported in favor of the present market grounds at the junction of Pittsburgh (now Broadway) and Bolivar roads. The ground was immediately cleared but the building of the market house was postponed until the following spring."

Yet not withstanding the slight of historians, a volume could be written around the Old Haymarket, its characters, its landmarks, its crimes, and its influence on Cleveland life.

Alfred Henry Lewis found material for many absorbing romances and thrilling stories that were published in Pearson's magazine and in book form. Thoroughfares like Champlain, Superior, Seneca, Ohio, Michigan, Ontario, Factory, Commercial, are frequently mentioned although Cleveland becomes "Smoketown."

People with whom he associated are but thinly disguised. For instance, "Judge Lung" is easily recognizable as Judge Peter Young, who presided over the court when Mr. Lewis was police prosecutor. Old residents will also recognize "the Rev. Mr. Sounding-board," "Alderman Lawler, who kept the White Horse Saloon," "Patrick Cram," "Madame Gray," and "Madam Hamilton."

Capt. Hoehn is mentioned by name. He is the same Capt. Hoehn who was knocked senseless when "Blinkey" Morgan killed Detective William Hilligan with a coupling pin on the train at Ravenna in 1887. Capt. Hoehn later became police superintendent.

The crimes of old Haymarket alone would fill a volume. Another might be written around the pioneers of industry in the Haymarket or their interests in the valley below.

Many members of the police force have had "the hill" as their beat, but only one in the old days had any real influence with the tough element of the neighborhood. Henry Brunner was a match for the toughest, but also he was the children's friend. Where two or three other policemen would hesitate to go, Patrolman Brunner also could go alone. If Brunner wanted a man, he would walk right into a crowded saloon and get him. Any other officer would precipitate a riot, but a beckoning finger was all Brunner needed. That was after he had demonstrated his courage and prowess, after "the hill" knew him to be as kind and gentle as he was fearless. The Haymarket and its environs teem with pioneer history. It was Cleveland's earliest business section. The right of way of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, formerly the Cleveland Terminal and Valley Railroad, formerly was the old canal and the canal came to the foot of Commercial street hill. Here it was that the canallars, as the boatmen were called and the lake seaman, had their lodging spaces.

Years ago, some of the finest residents of Cleveland were in this locality and Bolivar, Huron, Eagle, Garden (now Central avenue), and Hill streets were the high-classed thoroughfares of the city.

A British sociologist, looking over the Haymarket district a few years ago, said he thought the worst slums in the world were in London until he saw the Haymarket. "The hill" surely has fallen on evil times. Its day had passed.

If anyone is interested to know what the new terminal building will look like when completed they can visit the gray-white brick plant of Armour and Co. at the corner of Ontario street and Eagle avenue S.E. When the terminal buildings are completed, the Armour warehouse will be part of them. It was built to fit in with the scheme. Armour's warehouse is the site of the old Wren House, which in Civil War days was a stopping place for Union officers.

Mrs. Wren, the proprietor,was a member of the English colony of "the hill" which included the Nashes and Tom Oakes and his family. Sheriff Hanratty estimated that Mrs.Wren had owed to her not less than $200,000, which represented the unpaid lodging and board bills of valley factory workers, that she tided over periods of unemployment during the many years she ran the Wren House.

The Kavanaughs, Martin and Stephen, William, John and Joseph Mawby, were other old residents of "the hill." Martin Kavanaugh became a paving contractor and Stephen joined the city fire department.

Farmers who used to bring their hay into the market, parked their wagons mostly on lower Central avenue or Ohio street, where the thoroughfare comes to a dead end at the Wheeling railroad tracks. Until seven or eight years ago, the stables in alleys around Central Avenue and Race court was where farmers used to swap horses and trade hay.

"Big Mike," father-in-law of Councilman McGinty, was well named. He was six feet four inches tall, and weighed about 300 pounds. He was responsible for the Slavish community on "the hill." "Big Mike's" place was at the corner of Commercial road and Minnion street, the later named after one of their earlier settlers and property owners of the district.

"Gypsy" George's place was at the corner of Commercial road and Berg avenue. The proprietor played the violin and he and a pianist used to furnish the music for the dances in the saloon. There were seven entrances to "Gypsy" George's place, and a number of underground passages. One of the Haymarket's most grewsome [sic] murders was committed in one of these underground passages, the victim being a man suspected of being a "stool pigeon."

Charles McGill, the last man to be hanged in the old county jail, in Public square, was one of the most notorious of Haymarket's murderers. McGill shot and killed Marty Kelley in a house on Cross street near Hill street, December 22, 1877. Frank, alias "Bonsey" Morris shot and killed James Handy, a saloon keeper, on Factory street hill, now Eagle avenue, November 24, 1888. He was paroled a few years ago, but not until after the death of Mrs. Handy, who opposed each application Morris made for a parole.

Stephen Hood, on July 17, 1873 committed a particularly brutal murder. He regarded his six-year-old stepson as an encumbrance, and took him to the woods and beat him to death with a club.

Andrew Doig murdered Molly Knapp in her room at 39 Central viaduct, November 27, 1900. Doig, a stone mason, was intoxicated and quarreled with the woman about money. He knocked her down and jumped on her until his clothing and shoes were covered with blood. He was in that condition when police found him the next day. He died in the penitentiary a few years ago, while his application for parole was being considered.

Police have a record of six murders on "the hill" within the last four years. Old Haymarket still clings to its worse traditions, although the "clean-up" instituted by Mayor Farley some years ago did much to relieve the district of some of its worst terrors. A chapter of faithful social service and religious effort was written in the story of the old Haymarket, by Father John Moran, priest for many years at St. Bridget's Church before he moved to Youngstown. One wonders where the crowded tenement dwellers of "the hill" will go when the steam shovel and wrecker drives them from their wretched homes. Cleveland can spare the old Haymarket district in its present condition. It has played its important part in the city's life and the big hearts and sterling qualities of hill pioneers when the evil has been forgotten.

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