The Whyo’s gang were described by journalists as one of the worst to have ever infested the city of New York. Founded in the late 1800’s, they ruled the old Five Points neighborhood, the 4th & 6th wards with a reign of terror from 1860 to 1890, their call Why-ooo, Why-ooo, Why-ooo would be enough for the law abiding citizen’s in the area to shutter their windows and lock their doors, as they knew that mayhem and murder was soon to follow. The Whyo’s were the last great gang of the Gangs of New York era.
Named for their calling which sounded much like an owl, the Whyo’s were fierce and had several noted leaders during their time, “Poll” Sullivan who met his end on Center street, killed by Kid Hunt. The notorious Danny Lyons, who himself was murdered in Murphys saloon on Worth street, the news of this murder was looked upon so favorably by the coroners jury that they acquitted the man who was accused of his murder. And Dan Driscoll, who fatally shot a woman, Beezie Garity, in what turned out to be an accidental shooting but Dan Driscoll ultimately paid the price by being the first prisoner to be hung in the Tombs prison in New York.
During the 1870s, the Whyo’s gang would include some of the most notorious gangsters of the era, including Red Rocks Farrell, Clops Connolly, “Big” Josh Hines, Hoggy Walsh, Piker Ryan, Dorsey Doyle, Bull Hurley, Fig McGerald, and Googy Corcoran.
Aside from committing many crimes, the Whyos also offered specific criminal services for a price. The following list was found on Piker Ryan when he was arrested by the NYPD in 1884.
In one article that appeared in the Evening Express on the 6th of October 1888, written by journalist David Wechsler who accompanied “Mud” Hatton, a younger member of the gang, who Wechsler described as “stocky built youth”, as he went about his daily business, or more like nightly business.
The reporter starts the evening with a cop on the beat, patrolling along Park street, Whyo’s territory and soon enough the call is heard Why-ooo, Why-ooo, Why-ooo, according to the reporter the policeman knew enough to grip his club before going to investigate. “Its thim divils of Whyo’s up to some mischief agin” The officer made his way up the street and searched around in the alley, he opened the lid of a coal box and poked his club in “Come out o that” he ordered the person inside. The reporter then records the conversation between the two
“Mud” Hatton – Now w’at d’yer want? Kin I giv’ yer a kiss or will me picture do?
Officer – We’ve got yer picture in the gallery. What are yer sleepin’ in the coal box fer?
“Mud” Hatton – Becoz I cant bire a hotel
Officer – Well ye’d bether git out o here or Ill supply ye wid a hotel free
“Mud” Hatton – T’ank yer, Ive bin ter dat hotel an der waiters aint civil enough
As the two parted ways the officer shouted to Hatton “Ive me eye on ye Hatton an if anymore bricks is dropped on me head from the roof Ill lock ye up fer sure” As Hatton got of into the distance he turned and shouted back to the officer “Droppin’ a brick on yer head wouldnt hurt yer but it’d be tough on der brick” And “Mud” Hatton went into the night to start his work.
Soon after the encounter with the officer “Mud” made his way to a saloon on Baxter street, he paused outside for a moment, picked up a cobblestone and walked into the bar, the gentleman behind the bar looked at “Mud” with “no friendly glance”. “Hows yer day runnin” asked Hatton, “Wat’s yer game?” the barman replied, “Salty I want a drink” replied Hatton, “You do, do yer” said the barman, “Wheres yer money?”, Hatton replied “Salty Im ashamed uv ye” Hatton turned to walk to the door, as he reaches the door he turns and says “Salty some uv de gang an I want te leave a love token fer dem” and with that he hurled the cobblestone behind the bar breaking bottles and glasses, but before the barman could react Hatton was gone running off down the street.
The next stop was a dingy little grocery shop near the Five Points, who’s owner was a stout German man, who was known as Dutch. Dutch’s face turned to alarm when he seen who his visitor was, Hatton then proceeded to help himself to some smoked herrings and crackers & made himself at home. “I tink its tree weeks since de gang haz seen ye an I believe yer dues is tree dollars” the store owner replied ” I have it not” Hatton replied “Tree dollars is wot I said. Tree dollars or its a regular clean out” This threat seemed to be enough as Dutch paid him the 3 dollars and he left the store.
Further down the street “Mud” made another dollar when he came across a drunken man lying in the street and another 50 cents harassing from someone running errands. “Der aint nuthin like hard work” Hatton laughs as he makes his way to a basement saloon in the Bowery.
As Hatton entered the saloon he winks at the barman, the barman returned the wink and Hatton went to the pool table and began playing pool, badly. Two men who drunk and looking out of place in the dive looked on in amusement “Aint much of a player is he” one said, the barman heard this and said “Regler chump. Got lots uv money and tinks hes a sport” Soon enough the two men were playing pool against “Mud” and they kept winning, until they got too drunk and began losing until they had enough and began to leave “Five dollars gents please” said the barman, this seemed to sober the men “Fer what” they asked, “Fer de games, Dye tink ye can be a sport without payin’ fer it? The men paid the five dollars and left, soon after “Mud” Hatton went to the bar and the barman gave him two dollars for his part in the scam. Hatton was soon on his way again.
By now “Mud” Hatton had a successful day, he was $6.50 richer and drunk and for some reason decided to go back to the first saloon to pay a visit to Salty, within 10 minutes of arriving at Salty’s saloon there was breaking glass and fighting, leading to “Mud” Hatton being “fired out of the saloon at a wonderful velocity”
Evening Express – 6th October 1888
Gangs of New York – An Informal History