Editor's note: The following text is from articles printed in the New York Times in February, 1860. Thank you to Contributing Scholar Carl Mayer for finding, cataloging and transcribing this article. The language, spelling and grammar of the article reflects the time period when it was written.
New York Times - 1860-02-15 page 8
Bloody Affray on the Ice at Port Ewen. - TWO MEN KILLED, ONE FATALLY WOUNDED, AND ANOTHER BADLY HURT.
Great excitement has existed in and around Port Ewen, Ulster County, during the last two or three days, in consequence of a shocking and bloody affray which occurred on the ice opposite that village on Saturday afternoon last, [Feb. 11, 1860] about 3 o’clock.
The facts are as follows: Two brothers, named RILYEA, with a friend, all residing at Esopus, Ulster County, were sailing in an ice-boat on the river on Saturday afternoon. After amusing themselves for sometime, they fastened the boat to the dock at Port Ewen, and went into a tavern to drink. While there, three Irishmen took possession of the boat, loosed it from the dock, and sailed to the middle of the river, where they were observed by one of the brothers, who instantly went to them demanded the boat. The Irishmen refused to surrender it, and angry words ensued. During the altercation, young RILYEA unfastened the tiller and threatened to drive out the occupants of the boat.
Upon this, one of the Irishmen drew knife from his pocket and stabbed the unfortunate [22 year old] youth in the heart, inflicting a fatal wound. The remaining brother and his friend witnessed the transaction from the shore and immediately started for the scene of the affray. Before they arrived at the boat, however, they came to the place where the elder RILYEA lay, and seeing that he was dying, rushed towards the boat to take revenge. After a short fight, one of the Irishmen seized the tiller and struck the friend of the brother a severe blow upon the head, which felled him senseless, [cracked his scull and lead to his demise]. HIRAM RILYEA then repaired to the tavern where he procured a pistol, and returning to the boat, shot one of the Irishmen, killing him instantly. He then turned and [despite being badly hurt,] ran for the shore in the direction of Rondout, followed by the remaining Irishmen, where he arrived in advance of them, and instantly gave himself up to the authorities. The brothers RILYEA were 20 and 22 years of age respectively. The one who was killed was buried on Sunday. Both the offenders have been arrested.
New York Times, Feb. 17, 1860, Page 5
The Grand Jury of Ulster County, which has been for several days in session at Kingston, adjourned on Wednesday, after having disposed of about thirty cases, in various forms. The most important of them was the affair at Port Ewen, which took place on Saturday last. The case, as laid before the Grand Jury, differs essentially from the reports formerly printed, and is substantially thus:
On Saturday morning, two brothers, named HIRAM and JEREMIAH RELYEA [sic], with a friend, JOHN SLATER, while cruising down the river on the ice, with an iceboat, landed at Port Ewen, a small village, inhabited mainly by Irish, employes of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company. It seems that HIRAM RELYEA and SLATER proceeded some distance back of the village, while JEREMIAH remained to take charge of the boat.
While thus engaged he was surrounded by a gang of ruffians of the place, was terribly beaten and obliged to flee for his life. Thus matters stood until about 5 o'clock P. M., when Hiram and Slater returned to take the boat, when they were also attacked by the gang, and being surrounded upon all sides were obliged to fight for their lives. At this juncture RELYEA and SLATER endeavored to take refuge between two canal boats near by, but were still more closely pursued, and RELYEA was felled to the ground by a heavy blow from MARTIN SILK. Instantly springing to his feet, he discharged a pistol at SILK, the ball of which passed through the heart of his assailant, killing him instantly. RELYEA immediately fled toward Rondout, about a mile distant, pursued by a crowd of over a hundred infuriated Irishmen. When he reached the village he was covered with blood, and his clothes nearly torn from him by the crowd. He immediately gave himself up to the authorities. A scene of the greatest excitement prevailed in Rondout, and for a time it was with difficulty that a serious riot between the canal men and the citizens was prevented. Both HIRAM and JEREMIAH RELYEA now lie in a critical condition. Doubts are entertained of the recovery of the latter. Coroner DUBOIS on Saturday proceeded to hold an inquest on the body of SILK, who, with the jury impaneled, after much opposition by the friends of deceased, found a verdict in accordance with the above facts. The Grand Jury on Tuesday refused to find a bill against HIRAM RELYEA, on the charge of killing MARTIN SILK, admitting the ground of self-defence. Indictments were found against PATRICK KINNY, TOBIAS BUTLER, PATRICK MORAN, and some six other rioters, charged with “assault with intent to kill.” Warrants were issued, and those named have been arrested.
1860-02-17 New York Daily Herald Iceboat Affray - The Tragedy on the Ice at Port Ewen.
ADDITIONAL PARTICULARS —SPEEDY JUSTICE BY THE GRAND JURY OF ULSTER COUNTY.
The Grand Jury of Ulster county, which for several days past has been in session at Kingston, adjourned on Wednesday, after having disposed of some thirty cases, the most important of which however, was the affair which took place at Port Ewen, about three miles south of Kingston, on Saturday last. The case was laid before the Grand Jury on Tuesday, at which time the true facts in the same appeared, and are in substance as follows:
On Saturday morning last two brothers, Hiram and Jeremiah Relyea, together with a friend, John Slater, while cruising down the river on the ice in an ice boat, landed at Port Ewen, a small village, populated for the most part by Irishmen employed on the Delaware and Hudson Canal, which has its terminus at that point, and a community bearing no favorable reputation. It seems that Jeremiah Relyea and Slater proceeded some distance back of the village, while Hiram remained to take charge of the boat. While thus engaged he was surrounded by a crowd of ruffians—representatives of the village—and Relyea was severely beaten and driven away. Thus matters stood until about five o'clock in the afternoon, when Jeremiah and Slater returned to take the boat, &., when they were also attacked, and, being surrounded upon all sides, were obliged to fight for their lives. At this juncture, Relyea and Slater endeavored to take refuge between two canal boats near by, but were still closer pursued, and [Hiram] Relyea was felled to the ground by a heavy blow from Martin Silk. Instantly springing to his feet, he discharged a pistol at Silk, which took effect, the ball passing through the heart, killing him instantly. Relyea immediately fled towards Rondout, about a mile distant, pursued by a crowd of over a hundred infuriated Irishmen, which place he, however, reached, covered with blood and his clothes nearly torn from him by the mob. He instantly gave himself up to the authorities. A scene of the greatest excitement prevailed in the village, and for a time it was with difficulty that a serious riot between the Irish canal men and the citizens was prevented. Both Hiram and Jeremiah Relyea now lay in a very critical condition, and doubts are entertained of the recovery of the latter. Coroner Dubois on Saturday proceeded to hold an inquest on the body of Silk, who, with the jury empannelled [sic], after much opposition by the friends of deceased, found a verdict in accordance with the facts as stated. The Grand Jury, at Kingston, on Tuesday acquitted Hiram Relyea on the charge of killing Martin Silk, upon the grounds of self defence. It further found bills of indictment against Pat Kinney, Tobias Butler, Pat Moran and some six others on the charge of ‘‘assault with intent to kill." Warrants were issued for their arrest, and those named are now in jail.
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