Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Scandal of 1922: Part VI

The story of the trial, in 1922, of Hudson police chief John Cruise for dereliction of duty continues. What follows is the cross examination of Peter N. Lawson, the second of the two agents hired by the Commission of Public Safety to investigate "the situation" in Hudson, two years into Prohibition. In their initial testimony, the witnesses were questioned by corporation counsel, or the city attorney, who in 1922 who William J. DeLamater. Cross examination was by the attorney representing Chief Cruise, Robert M. Herzberg.
Mr. Herzberg then took up the cross-examination of the witness. He told of his employment with the Morse Dry Dock Company "under cover" which the witness described as being working for the government under cover. That his duties were to discover any workman in the yard who was not giving an honest day's work, who was a Bolshevik or a "Red." In order to do this work he was employed as a timekeeper and was later advanced to rivet counter. Later he was employed in the Chief Censor's office in the United States army, and it was his duty to see that all the messages that came from Europe went to the Chief Censor's office.
He went to Albany on two occasions while he was in Hudson and there he met a woman. They had dinner at the Savoy hotel there and were served with wine. He and Cunningham, another operative, went on an automobile trip down to the Race place where they purchased drinks. In reply to a question as to whether he had had improper relations with this woman at the Race place the witness declined to answer, stating that he was a married man and that the answer might tend to incriminate him.
He and Cunningham were introduced to two Hudson women whom "Knocker" Alger brought up in an automobile and introduced to them in front of the Worth House. Then they went to the Race place. He refused to answer any questions as to improper relations with these women. He stated that on the occasion of these trips to the Race place he charged the expenses of these trips to the agency.
Photo: Diamond Street
The witness detailed the circumstances of his becoming acquainted with Walsh. It was in Jack's. The witness told Walsh that he was a boilermaker working on the new bank and that Cunningham, the other operative, was this helper. They went to the Brandow Place, but could not get served until they were O.K.'d by Walsh. After that it was all right. From the Brandow place they went over to the K[nights] of C[olumbus] hall where a dance was in progress. The witness said he felt it was part of his work to investigate conditions at Hudson dances.
After leaving the dance the operatives met Alger and with Walsh they went out to the Hollowville Inn where they stayed only a short time. They came back to Hudson and went down to the Langlois place where, after being introduced by Walsh, they were served with drinks, which included two or three whiskies and some beer. After leaving the Langlois place they went up to the Worth House.
On Sunday they made arrangements with "Knocker" to get them a couple of girls. That was the first time that they had visited 323 Diamond street. Alger brought these girls up from the railroad station and they went out to the Race Place. The witness did not think that they got any drinks on Sunday.
Photo: Diamond Street
On Monday the witness took a walk around the town. Stopped at Langlois', McFrederick's, Jack's, etc. They did not go anywhere with Alger on that day.
On Tuesday he went around the town about the same as he did on Monday. He then detailed automobile trips to surrounding places "with the girls" as he described it and stated that he reported to his superiors that he was going around with these women and visiting the Race place, etc. He stated that the week of the minstrel show they took "the girls" out three times. They took them to the minstrel show and charged the expense to the city.
In reply to a question as to whether he and Cunningham had hired an orchestra to take out in the country for a party he answered "no."
At this point, the trial was adjourned until the next afternoon.

Some notes on Lawson's testimony: The new bank under construction in 1922, where Lawson claimed to be working as a boilermaker with Cunningham as his helper, was the First National Bank, on the southwest corner of Warren and Sixth streets, now Berkshire Bank.

An address mentioned in the testimony of both Lawson and Kennison is 323 Diamond Street. Bruce Hall in his book Diamond Street reveals that 323 Diamond Street was one of two bawdy houses operated by Mrs. Ray Church: "Mrs. Ray Church was an older lady who dressed like a spinster librarian but didn't always act like one. She operated out of both 323 and 325 Columbia, the same places where Kate Best and Saucy Nellie once proffered their services [in the 1860s and '70s]." It will be remembered that one of the people rounded up in the raid that took place in March 1922 was "Miss Ray Church."

Both 323 and 325 Columbia Street (a.k.a. Diamond Street) are gone now, replaced by the Columbia County office building that was constructed in 2003, but Hall includes this picture, taken in 1992, of 325 Columbia Street in his book.

Note the Hudson Opera House, which in 1922 was City Hall and housed police headquarters, in the background. Of course, in 1922 a row of buildings on the north side of Warren Street separated City Hall from the brothels on the next street--one of those buildings being 330 Warren Street, another location often mentioned in Lawson's and Kennison's testimony. 

Of course, the most intriguing question raised by the trial so far is: Where was "the Race place"?

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