J. Frank O’Connor, known by his clients and friends as “Scrappy” O’Connor, was a merchant tailor. After a long weekend of partying, he would be murdered during a drunken battle in his office (shown above) on the second floor of Rochester’s Sibley Building. O’Connor’s body was found about 6:00 p.m., Monday, August 28, 1922. These are actual crime scene photos by Albert R. Stone…
O’Connor was widely known around Rochester for arranging parties with women and liquor for his wealthy and prominent friends; many of the parties were held in his Sibley office. He also owned a tailor shop on the corner of Main and Stillson. Notice the empty liquor bottles in the photo above? Investigators said they found nearly 50 empty gin bottles in the office. Remember, this is during Prohibition.
At first his death was thought to be linked to two women heard arguing over him at about 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 27. However, on August 29, 1922, Owen DeForest DeWitt, a millionaire “clubman” and real estate dealer (shown below), was arrested for first degree murder after being found drunk in Syracuse at the Ondondaga Hotel. DeWitt, 45, lived at 14 Gramercy Park in Rochester’s Browncroft neighborhood.
It was later reported in the Rochester Herald that both men, in a drunken daze, battled in the office rooms. O’Connor evidently struck his head on the floor, and as his blood oozed from the wounds, made by his fall against the glass of the show case, DeWitt washed his hands and left the office. According to this article in the Syracuse NY Journal on Wednesday, August 30, 1922, DeWitt admitted meeting O’Connor that fateful day, but said he did not remember being involved any altercation.
Mrs. Grace M. Begy (shown below) of 70 Stillson Street was held as a material witness for selling gin to DeWitt after the killing. It was reported that DeWitt staggered from the Sibley Building at 5 o’clock and had drinks at Mrs. Begy’s ‘Prohibition saloon’ on Stillson Street – while O’Connor was bleeding to death back at the office. Witnesses said DeWitt literally fell into a taxi and then took a train for Syracuse.”
Oh, the stories a 1920’s prohibition saloon owner could tell.
Tags: Albert R. Stone, Browncroft, downtown Rochester, Grace M. Begy, homicide, J. Frank O'Connor, Main Street, murder, Owen DeWitt, prohibition, prohibition saloon, Rochester, Rochester NY, Sibley Building, Sibley's, Sibley's Department Store, speakeasy, Stillson Street
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So appreciate your bits of history and your dedication to preservation. Keep it up. Is this a one-person show? Is your identity a necessary secret?