G’day there!

I found this story a while ago now, and I’m pretty sure you know the how of it: I was researching something else when it happened to cross my path (give yourself a big ‘ol pat on the back if you guessed correctly). Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to quote the following newspaper article in full to prove that the story you’re about read did actually happen. While parts of it do sound like something lifted from the script of an action movie, it is in fact the true tale of expat Islander Amos McAulay, a brick-burner turned crime-buster, and the central role he played in a bullet-riddled romp through the marshes of Revere, Massachusetts, in pursuit of a two-time Italian murderer.

OK, let’s hit the beat.

Boston Post – Monday, 15 July 1918

Gun Fight Follows A Murder

17 Shots Fired Before Slayer Is Caught In Marsh

After a furious pistol fight on the Revere Beach marshes in which 17 shots were fired last night, Paul Codispoti, 28 years old, of 12 Bristow Street, East Saugus, was captured by Patrolmen Amos McAulay and John J. Delaney, a motorcycle officer of the Revere police.

The shooting followed a chase of more than half a mile across the marshes, to which Codispoti had fled after the fatal shooting of John Carioti of 16 Hinchman Street, Boston, in a bathroom of the house at 23 Floyd Street, Revere.

Two Charges of Murder

Codispoti, wounded in the neck and shoulder by two of the shots fired by McAulay, who returned the fugitive’s fire, is in serious condition at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and his held on a charge of murder, under a guard.

The Boston police allege that Codispoti is wanted for the murder of a man and the shooting of his wife in Boston about three years ago. He is also alleged to have served time at Uniontown, Penn., for participation in a gun fight. The Revere police allege he admitted after being captured that this was true.

The Revere police have sent out an alarm for the apprehension of another man, whose name is unknown to them or those present at the shooting.

In the battle in which all the odds were in favour of Codispoti, who had ducked into a ditch in the marsh and fired at McAulay from a distance of 25 yards, the officer nearly lost his life. Four shots whizzed by his head within a foot, following his command to the Italian to throw up his hands.

“Throw up your own,” yelled Codispoti when the officer thought he had him covered, the rain of bullets coming at the same time. 

McAulay whipped his own automatic into action and fired seven shots in quick succession at the Italian, and at the same time Officer Delaney, who had joined the chase from the other direction, fired six shots.

Two of McAulay’s shots struck Codispoti, one in the neck and the other in the right shoulder. The officers closed in on him and he gave up the fight.

The unknown man, who fled from the Floyd street house with Codispoti, taking another direction, disappeared, and the police have only a good description of him which has been sent broadcast. Officers are searching the Italian quarter of Revere, East Saugus, Chelsea, Boston and other places for him.

In the Floyd street house at the time of the shooting, were the dead man, Codispoti, the unknown man, Andrew Procopio, Peter Procopio, his brother, and Bruno Montgrado, all of whom live there.

The murder occurred about 7 o’clock in the bathroom of the first floor, where Andrew Procopio lives. From the story the Revere police have patched together from the information given them by the Procopios and Montgrado, the six men had just gone to Procopio’s from a house on Stowers street, Revere. The police allege that they had been playing cards and probably drinking.

The men say that when they arrived at Procopio’s that Carioti, the murdered man, invited Codispoti and the unknown man into the bathroom, and that after they had been in there about 10 minutes they heard three shots, immediately after which Codispoti and the unknown man left the place, closing the door behind them.

Codispoti, according to the police, confessed the shooting. He told the Revere police on the way to the hospital that Carioti had asked him and the unknown man into the bathroom and had demanded $10, saying, “I’m a black hand and I want $10.” Codispoti declared that he only had $2, and that as Carioti had his revolver in his hand he made a motion to get the money and instead pulled out his own revolver and shot him.

After he had reached the hospital, accompanied by Chief John J. Dyer and Patrolman McCann, he is alleged to have said that he knows a lot about explosives.

“I know a lot about explosives,” he is alleged to have told them. “I can blow up everything. If you send me to the chair, I will tell you nothing, but if you save me I will tell everything. I wrote President Wilson about it, but they don’t believe me.” 

Like I said, true story.

As the Guardian was pleased to report, after it learned of the affair about a week later, the hero of the hour was indeed an expat Islander. Amos McAulay had been born to parents James and Jane (McKinnon) of O’Leary Station in January 1879. A large family, he was one of at least ten children, and formed one of two pairs of twins along with brother William (twin girls would follow in 1892).

For reasons we do not know (although I suspect having to do with economics), the McAulays left the Island as a family around 1899 and migrated en masse to Revere, Massachusetts. Amos and his elder brothers were labourers, as was their father, and most of them found employment in the “terra cotta” industry, while the younger siblings were sent off to school (the protagonist of our story, later records reveal, received little in the way of education).

No doubt looking to shed his “alien” status and move up the rights hierarchy, and hopefully to a better life, McAulay applied for US citizenship in February 1902. According to his naturalization papers, he claimed to have immigrated to Boston in 1891, although this date appears as 1899 on census records. After being in the country for less than three years, it seems likely that he might have fudged the timeline in order to expedite the process a bit. It worked. Sort of.

Citizenship in hand, nothing immediately changed career-wise for McAulay, and he continued to toil variably as a “brick burner” or “tile burner”; he did, however, meet Bertha McAvoy of Boston, whom he wed in November 1904. (In a weird twist, his twin brother, one month later, also married a woman named Bertha). Theirs was a union that produced no known children.

Taking up residence with Bertha at 27 Central Avenue in Revere, McAulay remained a labourer for another decade until making a rather drastic career shift into law enforcement, opting to join the ranks of the Revere police force sometime around 1915. I can’t tell you the why of it – maybe it was always a dream of his, but I suspect the pay and respect were likely motivating factors. In any event, it was a decision that would put him on a collision course with a murderous, gun-toting Italian three years later.

Following his apprehension of Codispoti in the marshes, McAulay continued to work as a police officer in Revere for at least another 15 years, appearing in such a capacity on a city directory from 1933. He passed away in 1939, aged 60. While I can’t profess to be an expert in his law enforcement career, I suspect that that gun fight ranked up there as one of the most exhilarating, and probably terrifying, experiences. How could it not?

As for the homicidal Codispoti, he was spared a date with the electric chair. Although I can’t tell you the finer details of the subsequent murder trial, I’d hedge my bets on some sort of insanity defence based on his delusional spiel about explosives and blowing up everything and President Wilson, and since he next turns up in 1920 as an inmate of the State Hospital for the Insane in Bridgewater Town, Plymouth. He would remain there for over 20 years (at least), and might very well have been the Paul Codispoti who passed away in Massachusetts in October 1972.

See you on Friday!

Cheers,

PEI History Guy

P.S. – The above is a postcard image dated c.1910, showcasing Revere’s police station.

P.P.S. – Send me those videos!

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