BLOOD ON THE SNOWBALL: THE GUN (1888)

As the snow piled up during the Blizzard of 1888, Brooklynites began to experience countless fights.

Snowball fights, that is.

Most were lighthearted and fun, romps in the snow bringing joy and relief from the endless shoveling and the stress of everyday life with the white stuff.

But sometimes these snowball fights turned ugly, exposing the more unsavory side of Brooklynites. They showed how quickly a snowball fight could evolve from a joyful game into mayhem-filled terror.

Two cases, in particular, made the pages of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle during the week of the historic blizzard.

Bklyn Daily Eagle, 15 March 1888.
Bklyn Daily Eagle, 15 March 1888.
Yesterday’s story involved a razor. Today’s involves a gun.

THE GUN

Seventeen-year-old James Fallon of Flatbush, Brooklyn, a “very quiet lad” who was working two jobs at the Hunter’s Point docks (as a plumbers’ apprentice and as a telegraph operator), fell in with a youth “of his own age,” one Joseph Woods, on the way to work two days after the Blizzard of ’88 struck.

James Fallon's trek from Hunter's Point to Red Hook - with a bullet in his head.
James Fallon’s trek from Hunter’s Point to Greenwood – with a bullet in his head.
At the dock, the two boys noticed a “great pile of snow” – likely carted there by city contractors who were attempting to clear the streets. The two “for some time pelted each other with snowballs,” having great fun together.

At one point, though, James managed to strike Joseph in the mouth with a snowball. This particular snowball “made him angry, whereupon he drew a revolver” and firing it at James, “struck him over the left eye.”

James fell in the snow. Joseph ran away.

THE TREK

Most 17-year-old’s shot in the head would have continued to lay where they fell, but James, revived by the snow, and with blood streaming from his head, “made his way to the ferry.”

At this point in our story, two questions must be upon the minds of our readers: “Why did this 17-year-old boy have a revolver in the first place?” and “How does a boy, shot in the head, get up and start walking towards a ferry to take a trip?”

Fallon was carried from where he fell on 31st Street, to a druggist in this building near the corner of 3rd Avenue and 9th Street.
Fallon was carried from where he fell on 31st Street, to a druggist in this building near the corner of 3rd Avenue and 9th Street.
But a trip he would take, as he boarded the ferry and took it down the East River to Greenwood – likely a trip of at least an hour in those days.

THE ARRIVAL

By the time he arrived at Greenwood he was “almost exhausted, but still staggering desperately along.”

He would manage to make it to Third Avenue and 31st Street where “he fell unconscious upon the sidewalk.” He was likely heading for home, as he lived at 122 East 32nd Street, but a party of citizens diverted him, carrying his body about 22 blocks northwards to Gowanus where Brimlow’s pharmacy sat at 456 Third Avenue.

At this point the police became involved and he was removed to Bellevue Hospital on Manhattan where, the surgeons said, he “will probably die from his wound.”

POSTSCRIPT

The New York Sun had a slightly different take on this story. In theirs, entitled “He Played Indian Too Well,” the two boys had been “boon companions for a long time.”

The New York  Sun, 14 March 1888.
The New York Sun, 14 March 1888.
“They read every dime novel they could buy or borrow, and finally concluded that they cuold never be happy until they had bathed in the blood of the Indian.”

The Sunday before the shooting occurred, the two “stole a pocketbook containing $30 from a woman during a celebration of the 11 o’clock mass at St. Stephen’s church.”

With this money, The Sun went on to state, they purchased “revolvers and Bowie knives with which they proposed to slay the gentle savage.”

After they exhausted the remaining part of their funds, Joseph convinced James that the two should head over to Hunter’s Point to “get work at $2 a day shoveling snow for the Long Island Railroad. There, playing cowboys and Indians Joseph’s revolver went off and “the ball struck Fullen (as The Sun spelled his name) over the left eye, glancing from the skull, and embedding itself between the skin and bone at the side of the head.”

From this story, if it is to be believed, James’s wound seemed much less lethal, leading us to expect that he probably recovered.

Interestingly, in the 19th century accuracy was less important than telling an exciting tale with newspapers, so the details are often quite different from paper to paper.

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The Brownstone Detectives

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Post Categories: 1880-1890, Gowanus, Greenwood
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