Sadie the Goat


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Sadie Farrell (fl. 1869) was an American criminal, gang leader and river pirate known under the pseudonym Sadie the Goat. She first came to prominence as a vicious street mugger in New York’s “Bloody” Fourth Ward. Upon encountering a lone traveler, she would headbutt men in the stomach and her male accomplice would hit the victim with a sling-shot and rob them. Sadie, according to popular underworld lore, was engaged in a longtime feud with rival female bouncer Gallus Mag. Mag bit off Sadie’s ear in a bar fight.

Leaving the area in disgrace, she ventured to the waterfront area in West Side Manhattan. It was while wandering the dockyards in the spring of 1869 that she witnessed members of the Charlton Street Gang unsuccessfully attempting to board a small sloop anchored in mid-river. Watching the men being driven back across the river by a handful of the ship’s crew, she offered her services to the men and became the gang’s leader. Within days, she engineered the successful hijacking of a larger sloop and, with “the Jolly Roger flying from the masthead”, she and her crew reputedly sailed up and down the Hudson and Harlem Rivers raiding small villages, robbing farm houses and riverside mansions and occasionally kidnapping men, woman and children for ransom. She was said to have made several male prisoners “walk the plank”.

Sadie and her men continued their activities for several months and stashed their cargo in several hiding spots until they could be gradually disposed of through fences and pawn shops along the Hudson and East Rivers. By the end of the summer however, farmers had begun resisting the raids, attacking landing parties with gunfire. The group abandoned the sloop and Sadie returned to the Fourth Ward, where she was now known as the “Queen of the Waterfront”. She made a truce with Gallus Mag, who returned Sadie’s ear. Mag had displayed it in a pickled jar at her bar. Sadie afterward kept it in a locket and wore around her neck for the rest of her life.

Sadie is referenced in several historical novels, most notably, J. T. Edson’s Law of the Gun (1968), Tom Murphy’s Lily Cigar (1979), Bart Sheldon’s Ruby Sweetwater and the Ringo Kid (1981) and Thomas J. Fleming’s A Passionate Girl (2003).

 

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