It’s hard to believe that a place as pastoral as the Croton Reservoir (formerly known as Croton Lake) once played backdrop to a terrible murder. But the Croton Reservoir was different in the 19th century. So different in fact that we probably wouldn’t recognize it today…
Over 10,000 Italian, Irish and African-American laborers descended upon the Croton area during the building of the Aqueduct. Drinkers, gamblers, and former criminals made up a large number of these workers. In contrast, many families lived in the towns and countryside surrounding the aqueduct. The Griffins were one such family. The Griffins owned a farm and rented a room to Henry and Mary Hall; Henry was an assistant engineer working on the aqueduct’s construction. When Farmer Griffin died, the farmhouse was left to his wife.
Three Italian immigrant laborers employed by the aqueduct saw Farmer Griffin’s death as their opportunity to strike it big. Together with three accomplices, the men bombarded the Griffin farmstead, demanding the money that Farmer Griffin had left behind. Met with Mary Hall’s resistance and unrelenting screaming, a thief threatened her at knife point. Mary Hall did not wield to the thief’s threat and so, on the morning of November 9, 1911, Mary Hall was stabbed to death.
The thieves fled and were ultimately brought to justice by the New York City Aqueduct Police- a unit created because of the rampant crime along the aqueduct. The six men were brought to trial, found guilty of murder and sentenced to the death penalty. They were executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison.