A History of Homicide in Hanover: Murder on Broadway

Originally published as Rum, a Tailor’s Goose, and a Soap Box: Three Murderous Affairs in the History of Hanover, Massachusetts, this book offers readers an updated version of the three crimes that shook peaceful Hanover, Massachusetts more than 100 years ago. The author has delved more deeply into the tragedies and provides additional information about each incident and the principal characters involved, and has included forty illustrations, many not seen in his original version.

The shooting deaths of two railroad laborers by a recalcitrant, illicit rum dealer shocked the tranquil town of Hanover, Massachusetts in 1845. Violence again visited the town nearly thirty years later when the manager of a hotel in the town’s Four Corners village murdered a woman in his employ.  An impulsive young Canadian immigrant entered a Chinese laundry and robbed and killed the owner in the same village three decades after that.

Journey back in time as John F. Gallagher chronicles these crimes that afflicted Hanover during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Explore the everyday lives of Hanover’s citizens, the social and moral issues of their time, and the impact each murder had on the community, the families of the victims, and the accused. Learn about the circumstances whereby the victims, all recent immigrants, came to America filled with dreams and aspirations they would never realize.

Below are some passages from A History of Homicide in Hanover: Murder on Broadway.


The discharge reverberated through the stillness of the chilly March air. The first victim clutched his chest, stumbled a few feet and fell dead. Enraged, his brother rushed at the wild-eyed killer and met the same fate. A third man, horrified at what he had witnessed, fled, but was shot in the jaw, a wound that nearly took his life.

It was Monday, March 17, 1845, St. Patrick’s Day. The Stapleton brothers, Patrick and James, and a friend named Pierce Dowlan, were Irish immigrants and laborers on the Old Colony Railroad. To celebrate the feast of their patron saint, the three men and some co-workers visited several drinking establishments in Hanson and Hanover that day. A stop at a “groggery” on Broadway near Center Street in South Hanover fulfilled an ominous admonition by its keeper that “he expected some day or other to see his yard stained with blood…”

A Tailor’s Goose

The companions stopped on the bridge and looked down into the gently flowing stream as churchgoers made their way home from Sunday services. The water sparkled in the bright sunshine. The men fully expected to see debris in the river, as a surge created by a week of inclement weather had disrupted the river’s natural confluence. One of the men, thirty-three year-old Alexander White, a shoe maker who lived at Weymouth Landing, suddenly noticed what appeared to be a human form in the water. He nudged his companion, David Pelleran, and frantically drew his attention to what he saw submerged below. “There’s a foot in the water!” he cried. “You’ve got the jim-jams!” said Pelleran.

But it was no illusion, and as the men peered more closely, they saw two legs protruding above the water line, swaying with the river’s current. They shouted to others near the bridge. John Bates, a boot maker, and Thomas South, a blacksmith who lived near the bridge in East Braintree, heard the cries and ran to help. Bates and a man named Leach retrieved a boat and paddled toward the body. A crowd had gathered during the commotion and with great anxiety they watched as the men secured the body with a boat hook, and, struggling with the weight of their ominous load against the outgoing current, slowly rowed back to shore.

A Soap Box

The butcher in the Four Corners Village of Hanover thought it peculiar when he noticed the door to Quong Sing’s laundry shop open on that cold day of January 28, 1904. When he entered, he saw the shop in disarray. He called out, but no one answered. Walking to the rear of the shop, a sense of foreboding enveloped him. As he entered a room on the right, he froze. There in the middle of the room was his Chinese friend, his head immersed in a wash tub, a heavy soap box on his shoulders. Quong Sing was dead.