You may not have heard of the book We Is Got Him: The Kidnapping That Changed America. Until I ran into Andy Kaplan — an avid “06880” reader, and CFO of DonorsChoose.org — I sure hadn’t.
Here’s the summary from Amazon.com:
In 1874, a little boy named Charley Ross was snatched from his family’s front yard in Philadelphia. A ransom note arrived three days later, demanding $20,000 for Charley’s return. The city was about to host the United States Centennial celebration, and the mass panic surrounding the Charley Ross case plunged the nation into hysteria.
The desperate search led the police to inspect every building in Philadelphia, set up saloon surveillance in New York’s notorious slums, and begin a national manhunt. With white-knuckle suspense and historical detail, Hagen vividly captures the dark side of an earlier America. Her brilliant portrayal of its criminals, detectives, politicians, spiritualists, and ordinary families will stay with the reader long after the final page.
What makes an 1874 Philadelphia kidnapping “06880”-worthy?
The fact that on December 15 of that year, a New York detective and 2 officers prepared to raid a small island off of Westport. Author Carrie Hagen writes:
Doyle had learned about an elderly couple who sold provisions to fishermen and wanderers from their home on the island. … (He) thought the pair could very well be hiding Charley Ross. Doyle assembled a team, secured a search warrant, and landed on the island at 3 a.m. on December 16.
Domesticated animals and birds roamed the grounds outside of several shacks. When officers knocked on the main cabin, nobody answered. They pounded harder. An elderly man cracked open the door. Behind him, an old woman stood holding a candle. In a shaky voice, the man asked why they were bothering him so late at night.
Doyle’s men pushed the door open, entered the cabin, and said they were there to take Charley Ross back to his family.
The officers searched the home, and surrounding shacks. The couple insisted no one ever stayed with them. Doyle left without making an arrest.
That’s the only time Westport is mentioned in connection with the case.
Sadly, young Charley Ross was never found.