Michelle Ann Kratts

Posts Tagged ‘New York’

Stories of a Lewiston Desperado

In Crime, Lewiston Interviews, Old Lewiston on August 7, 2014 at 8:31 pm

By Michelle Ann Kratts

Although Lewiston, New York, often boasts of a peaceful landscape …that wasn’t always the story back in the early 1900’s. Our latest historical interview from Lewiston’s past mentions a story that I just couldn’t dismiss. (It is briefly mentioned on page 11.)

Interviews with Phil Pitts and Herb Vaughan

Once Phil Pitts mentioned that “there was quite a write-up in the paper…” I had to look into it myself.

Brace yourself. This story will take you back into the lawless days of old Lewiston…

Lovely Liz Creighton (formerly Elizabeth Murphy)  had been a resident of Lewiston her entire life. Hard-working and well-respected, she probably never imagined she would find herself fighting for her life at St. Mary’s hospital, Niagara Falls, one fall morning, following a brutal assault.

The story begins in early September of 1907. Liz was merely going about her own business, keeping house in Lewiston, with only her little boy and her aged father to keep her company. Her husband, Thomas, was often away in Toronto as he worked as a baggage man on a steamer. On this particular day, Burt Carpenter, well known across the area for his drinking problems and offensive behavior, a desperado, found himself at her front door.  It is believed that the Creighton house was located on Sixth Street near Onondaga.   He attempted to effect an entrance but Liz made every effort to keep him away. As she barred her doors, he went for the windows, smashing them to pieces and damaging the house to a great extent. She screamed for her life and several neighbors responded. They were able to hold Carpenter down until the constable arrived. Liz called upon the Justice of the Peace and swore out a warrant for his arrest on charges of disorderly conduct. Carpenter was then taken away. But the story does not end happily ever after. The following day Elizabeth Creighton appeared at the hearing. Carpenter was found guilty and sentenced to 60 days hard labor. As Liz attempted to remove herself from the court room the court attendant came out with the prisoner in his charge. As they passed Mrs. Creighton, Carpenter suddenly drew a revolver and fired two shots at the woman. One bullet lodged itself within the woman’s body.  Great excitement prevailed throughout the court room and in the confusion Carpenter escaped. He ran out into the street but not without flourishing his revolver in the faces of the innocent bystanders. He stopped to reload at one point and then took off down Fourth Street in the direction of Niagara Falls.

Mrs. Creighton was gravely wounded. She was placed aboard the New York Central train that left Lewiston at 10:00 and arrived at the hospital in Niagara Falls by noon. The bullet that had entered her body passed through her left side just below her heart.  For several weeks, Liz lingered between life and death. She eventually survived the ordeal. Remarkably, Carpenter was not apprehended until the following year after being arrested in Charlotte, Michigan, on suspicion of complicity in a safe cracking job in that city.  Somehow he had evaded the authorities for a very long time.  In the end he was sentenced to twenty years in the State prison at Auburn for his assault upon Mrs. Creighton.  Below is the notation revealing his prison term.

woman shot down by lewiston desperado

From New York, Governor's Registers of Commitments to Prisons, 1842-1908

From New York, Governor’s Registers of Commitments to Prisons, 1842-1908

                                                                                                                                  Click on images to make larger. 

Carpenter was not new to a life of crime.  In fact, he had quite a personal history of acts of violence. Just about ten years before the incident involving Lizzie Creighton, “half drunk and in an ugly mood,” Carpenter met with Constable James Townsend on the hill leading from the boat docks and up into the village and without warning drew a revolver and “blazed away at him.” The officer drew his own weapon and was able to strike Carpenter at least once (in the eye). Both men survived the ordeal.

During this most interesting time Lewiston was the scene of mayhem and lawlessness.   It was written in the local papers that  a terrible rash of burglaries, petty thievery and highway robberies had become the norm. “A gang seemed to have organized among the tougher element, who had complete control of and held in terror the entire community.” Burt and his brother, Charles, had been under close surveillance for some time.   They were considered possible leaders of this gang of criminals.  The brothers, who lived with their parents east of the village, were thought to be responsible for several local crimes. Charles Carpenter had been arrested following a Lewiston post office robbery in which marked bills were found in his possession. Burt had been arrested following the burglary of Clapsaddle’s store (out in the country).


However, in 1905, a strange turn of events landed Carpenter as the victim–with a blade to the stomach. After a brawl at the Iron Dollar Saloon at Lewiston, in late March of 1905, Constable Butler (who owned the establishment) knifed Carpenter.   The occurrence took place following an earlier incident at the Iron Dollar Saloon in which Butler had had to subdue Carpenter by hitting him over the head several times with a bottle.  It was said that Carpenter was looking for an opportunity to get even with the constable.  On the particular night in question, the Iron Dollar Saloon was the setting for quite a commotion.  Carpenter had caused quite a ruckus…however, the law wasn’t playing around anymore.    Butler did not hesitate to rough up Burt Carpenter when he had the chance.

constable butler stabbed burt carpenter

It appears the Iron Dollar was located at 419 Center Street.  This advertisement was in the Niagara Gazette in 1964.

It appears the Iron Dollar was located at 419 Center Street.

At this time, I am not sure whatever became of Lewiston’s most infamous “desperado.”  I will have to dig a little deeper.  Perhaps he continued his life of crime…or perhaps he made some changes and cleaned up his act.  But that is unlikely, as Carpenter, himself, knew that he was destined for trouble.  He said to the newspaper back in 1897:  “I guess I was born for the electric chair, and all I will live for now is a chance for revenge…”

born for the chair

Niagara Falls–Official Records of Niagara County

In Niagara County Resources, Niagara Falls, Official Records of Niagara County on May 28, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Vital records are available for the city of Niagara Falls for the following years:

Birth, Marriage and Death–“Limited records from 1880’s. More accurate and inclusive from late 1800’s to early 1900’s to present.”

745 Main Street
Room 114
Niagara Falls NY 14301



Bertha Ellen Kane

In Pictures at Niagara Falls on May 10, 2013 at 4:44 pm
Bertha Ellen Kane

Bertha Ellen Kane McGee


Bertha Ellen Kane McGee at Niagara Falls, New York, circa 1936.  Bertha was born January 29, 1910, at Niagara Falls, New York.  She graduated from Holy Rosary in 1923.  She married Earl Deloss McGee on August 29, 1936, in Niagara Falls, New York.  She died on July 2, 1996, in Niagara Falls, New York.  She is buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Lewiston, New York.

Courtesy Beverly McGee Bidak

Earl Deloss McGee

In Pictures at Niagara Falls on May 10, 2013 at 4:34 pm
Earl.009 (3)

Earl Deloss McGee


Earl Deloss McGee, circa 1935, Niagara Falls, New York.

Earl was born May 22, 1908, in Big Run, Pennsylvania.  He married Bertha Ellen Kane on August 29, 1936, in Niagara Falls, New York.  Five children were born to them:  Barbara Jean, Patricia Jane, Robert Earl, Beverly Joan and Catherine Ann.  He died on May 28, 1957, in Niagara Falls, New York, and he is buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Lewiston, New York.

Courtesy Beverly McGee Bidak

Cleveland Avenue School, 1927 or 1928

In School Days on April 12, 2013 at 7:01 pm
Cleveland Avenue School

Cleveland Avenue School, Niagara Falls, New York, 4th Grade, Room 2, 1927 or 1928


Photo Courtesy Patricia DiNieri

Newspapers from Youngstown, New York

In Digital Newspapers, Niagara County Resources, Youngstown on March 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Some great news for Niagara County researchers!  Below is a link to NY Heritage and Niagara County and Youngstown newspapers.  This site is free and contains a great deal of sources for researchers of local history.


This digital collection includes newspapers published in Youngstown, NY, from the following time periods, but unfortunately all issues are no longer available:


In Niagar a River, Old Lewiston on March 19, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Introducing….Lewiston, New York, circa 1920’s…

Lewiston from the Niagara Escarpment, 1920'sClick on the photograph for a fuller view.

Mystery solved!

Just a moment ago, I was stopped by a wonderful woman just about to walk out of the door.  She asked if I was “me” and if I had received all of the “little gifts” she had left anonymously on my desk through the year. How exciting to finally meet her! She went on to tell me that she was the one who left me the beautiful print of the winding river. As the photograph was not labeled, I was hesitant to declare that it was Lewiston. Cynthia said that it was, indeed, Lewiston, and that the picture was taken from her parents’ house, up on the Escarpment, back in the 1920’s.

Quite a different scene than we are used to….but nevertheless…Lewiston.

Virtual Album

In The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York on November 7, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Send me scanned photographs of your Niagara Falls Italians (or stop in the Lewiston Public Library and I will scan them) and we will include them in our virtual album chronicalling the story of the Niagara Falls Italians.  Photographs can be of people, buildings, etc. (including pictures taken in Italy) but must involve Niagara area Italians.  We are also looking for original family recipes.

Please include names of the individuals in the photograph, place and date.