“Skippy” Rohan Beats Confederate

      William “Skippy” Rohan would prove time and again he was one of the toughest kids ever to come out of the Kerry Patch, St. Louis’ tough Irish-American neighborhood.  Home to St. Louis’ most famous gang, “Egan’s Rats”, the Kerry Patch produced the toughest St. Louis gangsters of Irish descent.

     Born on July 5, 1874, “Skippy” Rohan was a contemporary of Egan’s Rats founders Thomas E. Kinney and Tom Egan.  Next to Kinney, Rohan was Tom Egan’s closest friends.  While Kinney and Egan made inroads into city politics, Rohan concentrated on regular criminal activities like robberies.  By the turn of the 20th Century, Rohan had spent several terms in the penitentiary for robberies, burglaries and assaults including assaults on St. Louis Police Officers.

skippy-rohan-murder

Artist Rendering of “Skippy” Rohan’s Murder in Tom Egan’s Saloon

     On Wednesday, May 23, 1906, Rohan was picked up by detectives at Blair and O’Fallon Avenues.  The detectives arrested Rohan and another man, J.B. Levy, after watching them ride around in a horse-drawn wagon.  Well-dressed burglars in suits had burglarized several establishments, which they drove to in a horse-drawn wagon.

     When Detectives Cummings, Callahan, Finan and John J. McCarty arrested Rohan and Levy, they found a bundle of clothes from a tailor, which was reported stolen the night before.  Other items in the wagon were connected to other robberies and burglaries.

     St. Louis Chief of Detectives William Desmond brought both men into his office for questioning.  Desmond often questioned suspects separately but decided to talk to both men for unknown reasons.

     Levy told Desmond he met Rohan in a bar that very morning.  Levy claimed that Rohan represented himself as a salesman.  Rohan gave Levy some packages, told him to rent a wagon and said he would guide the driver.

     Rohan had sat impassively during the interview.  Rohan stood up as if to stretch, took a couple of steps forward and leaped into the air.  Rohan came down with a strong kick to Levy’s midsection, which knocked Levy to the ground.  Rohan screamed, “Do you think I’m just going to stand there and listen to your pack of lies.”

     One of the detectives grabbed Rohan but Rohan shook him off and struck him a blow as well.  Detective Cummings struck Rohan in the face but Rohan continued to attempt to fight the officers.  However, the four detectives overpowered him and pulled him into the hallway.  Chief Desmond held Rohan and Levy for a string of recent robberies and burglaries.

     The detectives were fortunate to get Rohan under control so quickly.  Rohan had assaulted several officer in the past including the shooting of a St. Louis detective.  Rohan would be heading back to the penitentiary.

     In the early 1910s, Rohan would be released from prison.  Nearing 40, Rohan married, settled down and started work as a shoe salesman.  Rohan may have lived a quiet family life but he was caught in the middle of a brewing war among the Rats.  While visiting Tom Egan’s bar, he was shot by Harry “Cherries” Dunn on January 8, 1916.

     Rohan died as he lived in an extremely violent manner.  As J.B. Levy and many other men found out, “Skippy” Rohan was not a man to forgive slights or walk away from a fight.

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Sources: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 23, 1906 edition, p. 1.

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