December 9, 1908
Information that men and women who had participated in the shooting had escaped and were making their way to a houseboat they had moored in the river was given to the police. Chief of Police Daniel Ahern ordered Captain Walter Whitsett, Lieutenant Al Ryan and Inspector of Detectives Charles Ryan to go to the river with thirty detectives and patrolmen.
When the officers arrived at the river bank, foot of Delaware street, they found one woman, two girls and a boy guarding the boat. Inspector Charles Ryan acted as the spokesman for the police and, climbing down the sand embankment, approached the gang plank. He was stopped by the woman, Mrs. Della Pratt, who threatened to shoot. The woman stood at the head of the scow gesticulating with her left hand as she warned the officers not to come any nearer, while she kept her right hand on a rifle hidden behind the canvas flap of the boat covering. Lining the top of the bank for a block in each direction, people stood watching the police trying to induce the woman way from the boat. She refused to allow anyone to approach the boat nearer than the end of the gang plank.
When ordered to come out on the bank she said she would give herself up if the police would bring Mrs. Melissa Sharp to the river and allow her to talk to her. The police refused to grant her request. Then she asked them to have James Sharp, whom she called "Adam," brought to the house boat.
For forty-five minutes the police argued with the woman and pleaded with her to surrender, but she stubbornly refused. Her two daughters, Lula, 14, and Mary, 11, joined the tirade against the police. While the officers did not want to shoot the woman and two girls, they were afraid to make a run for the boat, as it was believed that some of the men might be in it.
Finally a woman allowed William Engnell, a 15-year-old boy, to leave the boat and the police officials urged him to try to influence the woman to give up. He returned to the boat, but he did not have any success and again left the boat and was placed under arrest.
Untying a skiff which was alongside of the small houseboat, the woman ordered the two girls into it, and taking several revolvers and a rifle, the woman entered it and shoved off toward midstream. As the skiff, which had a canopy over it in the bow, floated out into the current, loud cheers rent the air from many of the persons in the crowd who sympathized with the woman and her kind.
Mayor Thomas T. Crittenden, Jr., and Police Commissioner Andrew E. Gallagher were spectators along the river bank, and had ordered the police not to shoot the woman and children. But it was seen that the woman and children would soon be out of reach, Mayor Crittenden gave the police permission to attempt to shoot holes in the boat in an attempt to endeavor to compel the woman to put back to shore.
Immediately upon receiving the order, Lieutenant Harry E. Stege, armed with a riot gun, shot at the boat and his fire was at once returned by the woman, who used a Winchester. As the bullets from the skiff were aimed at the crowd and were heard to sing as they passed overhead, the crowd wavered and finally broke and ran. The police fired volley after volley at the skiff, but could not tell whether the bullets were having any effect. After using all of the ammunition in the boat, the woman sat down and the girls got under the canopy.
Previously, and during the shooting, the three had been standing up in the boat, singing and waving their arms. It was seen that the boat had passed behind the range of the police guns and a new form of attack had to be planned. Mayor Crittenden ordered several patrolmen to enter a skiff and follow the fanatical woman and her children. He ordered them to stay out of rifle range but to keep them in view and arrest them at the first opportunity.
But as the crowd of police officers and followers ran east along the river bank they came to the Ella May, a ferry boat, and impressed it into service. The captain of the boat was ordered to follow the floating skiff and near the piers of the old Whiner bridge the Ella May drew alongside of the skiff and its occupants. Inspector Ryan and Captain Whitsett asked them to take the woman out of the water.
The water became so shallow that the ferry boat had to back up, and it was then steered to the regular Harlem landing and the police ran up to where McCoy was standing on the bank with Mrs. Pratt and her daughter, Mary.
The woman informed the officers that her other daughter, Lula, 14 years old, had been shot in the cheek and was in the boat. The little girl's dead body was huddled in the bow of the skiff. It was placed on some bedding found in the skiff and two patromen rowed it back to the foot of Main street, where an ambulance was waiting. The woman and living child were put on the ferry boat and brought to police headquarters. The dead child's body was sent to Wagner's morgue.
With her clothes wringing wet from dropping into the water as she attempted to get out of the boat after her mother said they would surrender, Mary Pratt, 11 years old, stood shivering on the sand bank near Harlem. An officer shed his coat and wrapped it around her. Pity was expressed by every police officer for the girl, but none was shown for the woman who was led to the boat with her wet clothes clinging to her body.
They were placed in the engine room while the ferry boat crossed the river, and then taken to the station in the police ambulance. While crossing the river Mary, who is a sweet-faced intelligent little girl, told about the shooting.
"Our faith you know teaches us that we have the right to kill police who interfere with us. We were strangers and did not know we had to have a permit to sing in the street. When the officer came out there and told us to get off the street, then we believed that they were not peaceful and we had a right to shoot them."
"Does your religion teach you that it is right to kill people?" was asked. "No, you be just and understand my position," Mary said. "We are a peace-loving people and believe that this country is free and we have a right to preach on the streets. If the police try to stop us our religion teaches us to believe that they are wrong and should be killed."
"Did you all have guns with you up town, Mary?" was asked by Lieutenant Al Ryan.
"Yes, we all had guns except Dewey and Edna. Papa had given them to us and we always carried them when we went up town to preach," she said. As she told her story she smiled every little while, and the fact that her sister had been killed did not seem to trouble her.
She told the police that the tribe of religious fanatics had drifted down the Missouri river from North Dakota, where they had spent the summer. Two boys named William and Alexander Engnell joined the clan at Two Rivers, S. D. The boys lived at Pelan, Minn. Alexander fell from the faith, Mary said, and left the band before they reached Iowa. William is still with the people and was arrested at the houseboat.
Labels: Adam God sect, boats, Captain Whitsett, children, Delaware street, Fourth street, guns, Harlem, Main street, Mayor Crittenden, ministers, Missouri river, murder, Police Chief Ahern, violence, women