February 9, 2020


The Wayback Machine revisits Paddy Corcoran, Civil War‒era gang leader and the cause of much mayhem on Dutch Hill, today home to Tudor City. Herewith, a lightly edited transcript of Corcoran's New York Times obituary, which surprises given its benevolent tone. It ran on November 18, 1900.

James J. Corcoran, an octogenarian truckman, who from 1850 to 1880 was regarded as the champion of the Irish immigrant class. . . lay dead yesterday at 317 E. 40th Street, shrived and regretted. He was known to his legion of acquaintances as 'Jimmy' Corcoran of Corcoran's Roost.
Born in Ireland in 1819, he came to America when 25 years old. . . Just before the war, he started in as a truckman in this city. At that time green Irishmen had to be circumspect. They were ill-viewed in certain quarters and were compelled to be clannish. 
Corcoran found a colony of squatters on Dutch Hill, an earth mound south of the rocks at 40th Street and what is now First Avenue. He built him a shanty. . . and from small beginnings came to be a boss truckman. 
Part of Dutch Hill was known as Clara Hill. . . and on the two hills were about 90 families. Corcoran was tacitly accepted as the head of the colony. Donnybrook Fair encounters between factions were common, and the police made affairs interesting. . . Now and then an arrest was made, and Corcoran appeared to bail out the prisoner. He had a caustic tongue and ready wit, and always had his say at the station house. 
Corcoran abandoned squatting 18 years ago, when he moved from his shanty to where he died. His end was hastened by grief over the death of his wife, the mother of his ten children, last August. . . He leaves an estate of about $25,000, including several road horses.

The obit sidesteps Corcoran's notorious past, save for the "Donnybrook Fair encounters" reference, longhand for "brawls." Since Corcoran had been out of the game for nearly 20 years, we suspect he became respectable by outliving his past.

More about Paddy here and here

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