SHOOTOUT

Program
NYS Historic
Subject
People
Location
110 Union Street, Cobleskill, NY
Lat/Long
42.678486, -74.48375
Grant Recipient
Boy Scouts of America Troop 56
Historic Marker

SHOOTOUT

Inscription

SHOOTOUT
OFFICER MATTHEW WILSON
SHOT TO DEATH NOV. 27, 1900
NEAR THIS SITE AFTER
EXCHANGING FIRE WITH MEN
ATTEMPTING STORE BURGLARY
WILLIAM G. POMEROY FOUNDATION 2018

On November 27, 1900, at the corner of Union and Main Street in the Town of Cobleskill, New York, an innocent night watchman named Matthew Wilson, was killed in the line of duty by a group of six burglars in a shootout that haunted the town for many years.

In the early morning hours of November 27, 1900, Wilson was out patrolling the streets of Cobleskill, just as he always did in years past. At approximately 2:00 am he met up with Charles Warner, a local resident who operated a lunch wagon. They noticed a group of men lurking around the First National Bank (The Saturday Globe, 1 Dec 1900). Neither Wilson nor Warner recognized any of them as local to the Cobleskill area. Wilson told Warner that he was going to get this gun and that if Warner heard gunshots, he should come quickly (The Saturday Globe). Several minutes later, Warner heard those dreaded shots and went running toward the corner of Main and Union Streets. There was Wilson laying, “on the stone steps at the entrance to Martin Borst’s store” (The Saturday Globe). Wilson received four bullet wounds, with one reaching his heart (Commercial Advertiser, 5 Dec 1900). Matthew Wilson was pronounced dead at the scene by the coroner. He was fifty years old and was survived by his wife and a child (1900 US Federal Census, National Archives).

The Commercial Advertiser announced on December 5, 1900 that authorities were offering, “a reward of $500 for the arrest and conviction of the murderers.” A November 27, 1900 article in the Gloversville Daily Leader, notes that “an investigation of the premises revealed a number of burglars’ tools laying in the rear of the store,” therefore it was assumed that this group of men were had intended to rob Martin Borst’s store. The First National Bank hired the famed Pinkerton Detective Agency to investigate the attempted burglary and to apprehend the men responsible (The Daily Star, 27 Nov 2015).

In the following few years, the identities of all six men were discovered and they were subsequently arrested and put on trial. It was revealed that, as Wilson suspected, their intention was to rob the First National Bank in Cobleskill (The Brooklyn Citizen, 24 Mar 1903). ‘Goat’ Hinch was arrested in February 1901 and was convicted of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death. (The Cobleskill Index & The Daily Star). ‘Whitey’ Sullivan, aka James Sullivan, was arrested around March 1901. He was tried and convicted for the murder of Matthew Wilson and was sent to the electric chair (The Cobleskill Index, 31 Oct 1901). William Harris, alias ‘Sheeny’, Harris confessed and testified against all the other men (The Brooklyn Citizen, 13 Apr 1903).  ‘Dublin Ned’ confessed that he was at the burglary but that he took no part in the shooting, he served ten years in prison (The Brooklyn Citizen, 13 Apr 1903). Charles Ballard was killed before he could be arrested, when he was killed in explosion (The Brooklyn Citizen, 8 Jan 1903). ‘Canada Blackie’ or John Murphy was the last to be caught and was charged with the murder of Wilson in 1903 (The Brooklyn Citizen, 13 Apr 1903).

Matthew Wilson was a beloved citizen of the Cobleskill community. Due to his brave actions that November morning he was dubbed, “a true hero” (The Saturday Globe).