Town Crier

An encounter with a con artist in Boston led to a broken leg for a Wilmington special policeman, 100 years ago.

The story appeared in the Boston Globe after Otis Ellis told a municipal court judge of his misfortune. He was on crutches, and wore a special policeman’s badge.

Ellis, a plumber, lived off Grove Avenue with his wife and daughter. He was a special policeman at Silver Lake for about eight years. On May 21, 1919 he went to Boston to buy materials for renovating his house. After buying shingles and window shades, he left them in a saloon to go to another store to buy more materials.

In the saloon, he met a man wanting to gamble, la­ter identified as Howard Sin­clair. He wanted to guess El­lis’ weight on a $1 bet. Ellis said he did not want to take the man’s money, but the man persisted. Sinclair’s guess was off by 30 pounds.

“Then he wanted to bet me I could not break an egg be­tween my two hands by pres­sing both ends. He picked up an egg from a glass jar and gave it to me to break,” Ellis told a judge.

“I pressed it hard and did break it. The man was not satisfied after I broke the egg in my hands, saying I turned it around sideways. I told him that the theory that people advance that an egg cannot be broken by pressing both ends was all wrong, that I could break any egg in that manner.

“I left the saloon and he followed me to the sidewalk. He kept saying I turned the egg, that I never broke it right. He went back into the saloon, bought an egg for five cents and took it outside. There was another bet.

“‘Break this egg, but put your $10 on the sidewalk,’ said the man. So I put $10 on the sidewalk. Sinclair threw a bill on the sidewalk to co­ver it, but it was all crumpled up and proved to be only a $1 bill.

“No sooner did I lay the mon­ey on the sidewalk, and I took the egg from Sinclair, than he picked up the money and ran away. I’m a pretty fast runner myself. I chased him through a tunnel which runs from Haverhill Street to Canal Street and caught him just as he was reaching Canal Street, but he broke away. I chased him again but fell, fracturing a leg. I went to the Relief Hospital.”

Policeman John D. McLaugh­lin testified he heard Ellis yelling, “Stop, thief!” and saw a crowd cha­sing somebody. He joined in the chase and caught Sin­clair. Ellis identified Sinclair as the man who stole his $10.

Sinclair offered to give the $10 back to Ellis, but McLaughlin held it as evidence. Judge Sullivan found Sinclair guilty and held him for sentencing.

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