Roadhouse Characters

James Hayes





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McGrath Genealogy  |  Upperchurch Connections  |       Old Mattydale          |  What's New  |  Contact

















James Hayes



This building, at 321 West Fayette Street, was known as the Delevan House in the late 1890s. The image is from Google Street View - June 2014.


James Hayes - The Early Years

James Hayes was born in Plattsburg, NY in 1872. At the time of the 1880 census Hayes was living in the town of Clinton in Clinton County with his parents, James and Honora Hayes and his seven siblings [1880 - Hayes].


From: The Post Standard, Syracuse, NY, Saturday, January 18, 1902 [1902-01-18]


The young man [James Hayes] received a good education and is said to have had practically all the advantages of an ordinary boy, but was quite wild.


Ten or fifteen years ago he left Plattsburg and went to Albany to make his home. He was employed there by a contractor. After living a short time at Albany he came to Syracuse and went into the saloon business, later purchasing the old Delevan House in West Fayette street, near the New York Central station, which is now known as the Auburn Hotel.


James Hayes Enters the Syracuse Saloon Scene

The first appearance of James Hayes in the Syracuse newspapers was in late October 1896 when he made bail on a third degree burglary charge.


On Christmas Eve 1896 he and his loyal customers battled the authorities in the Delevan House barroom over the attempted repossession of the furnace in the basement of the 321 West Fayette Street establishment [1896-12-25]. He ultimately lost the furnace for his failure to pay the $50 still owed on it [1897-01-15].


"It was during his conduct of this place that Hayes began to get into serious trouble. Numerous complaints against the place were made to the police and were followed by efforts to close it, but it was not until a man was killed there three years ago that they achieved any kind of success." [1902-01-18]


The Death of Nellie Hayes

Two of the local papers took the event of the death of James Hayes’ wife as an opportunity to weave several tales of mystery and intrigue to appeal to their readership. The poor woman had been suffering from appendicitis and its complications for several months. When it appeared that she was improving her husband took her to Phoenix to stay with relatives. Her brother ran a hotel in Phoenix, near Three Rivers. When she took a turn for the worse earlier in the week, Hayes brought her back to the Delevan House and Mrs. Sarah Wakefield tended to her as a nurse. Her ultimate death was inevitable but the newspaper chose to ignore that fact in their headline [1897-08-13], [1897-08-14].


It was after the death of his wife Nellie that the behavior of James Hayes took a turn for the worse.


From: The Evening Herald, Syracuse, NY, Wednesday, May 10, 1899 [1899-05-10]

Hayes has a police record and he has given his age within the last four years from 27 to 38 years.


On August 14th, 1897, he was convicted of assault in the third degree on two charges and fined $25 for each; [His wife had just died, in a room at the Delevan House, on the evening of August 12, 1897]


On November 26th of the same year (1897) he was convicted of fighting in his saloon (Delevan House) and fined $5;


On April 12th 1898, he was charged with being a common gambler in connection with a charge that he had robbed a man that played cards with him and he was held for the Grand jury;


On December 26th of the same year (1898) he was charged with keeping a disorderly house and allowing women to frequent it, and he was acquitted by a jury [1899-01-04];


On January 20th of this year (1899) he was convicted of breach of the peace and given a suspended sentence.


Delevan House For Sale

An article published at the time of his suicide reported that Hayes had purchased the Delevan House shortly after coming to Syracuse. In the above ad Hayes was only offering the lease of the hotel “For Sale.” It is uncertain as to whether he actually owned the property or was just leasing it. 


The Death of Thomas McEvoy

As can be seen by the date on the notice above, Hayes was already planning on ending his association with the Delevan House when an event took place that would have made it very difficult for him to stay. Early in the morning of May 10, 1899, Thomas McEvoy fell to his death from a third floor window of the Delevan House and died on the sidewalk. McEvoy was a member of the Foresters, a national male society, who were in Syracuse for a convention. The presence of some late night drinking and some local ladies of the night made the exact circumstances of McEvoy's exit from the window seem suspicious [1899-05-10a], [1899-05-10b].


Women arrested from the Delevan House


Olive Howard (came to the Delevan House with Thomas McEvoy)

Bertha Howland

Blanche Perry (431 East Washington St – 1904-03-10)

Emma Atkinson

Public Prostitutes:

Anna Leahey - suspended sentence

Frances Patterson - suspended sentence

Florence Syker – held for further examination

Julia Forbes – 15 years old – sent to Door of Hope

Josie Bridenbecker - suspended sentence


An inquest was followed by a presentation to a Grand Jury but McEvoy's death was ruled an accident and no indictments were handed down [1899-05-16].


New Indictments Against Hayes 

Hayes escaped any indictments as the reult of McEvoy's death but other indictments had already been making their through the system. Eight indictments against James Hayes: 7- “keeping a disorderly house.” 1- “violations of the liquor tax law.” These indictments were handed down after the McEvoy affair and initially Hayes and his lawyer felt Hayes’ testimony to the Grand Jury, in the McEvoy investigation, had been used against him. It was later determined that these indictments were already in the pipeline and the timing was just a coincidence.  


Post McEvoy Events

Hayes Takes Over Orton's Roadhouse

James Hayes appeared as a witness in a court case involving robbery, a crime in which he was not directly involved. He gave evidence that two men, against whom the robbery charges had been filed, pawned a watch and chain with him. The pawning of the watch took place on September 6, 1899. That date established that Hayes was running Parton’s old place as early as that time in September [1899-11-14]. In 1900 Hayes had remarried and he and his new wife were living at Orton's roadhouse [1900 - Hayes].


Hayes Arrested as a Common Gambler

Jim Hayes was arrested on charges of being “a common gambler” and was held by Justice of the Peace Fuller of Phoenix for an appearance before the Oswego County Grand Jury. According to Charles Haggerty, of Oswego, Hayes was running a game in Brown’s Hotel at Three Rivers. Haggerty lost a few times and when he finally won, he claimed Hayes refused to pay him [1900-08-13].


Hayes had been arrested on a charge of gambling on August 11, 1900, at Three Rivers. He was found guilty and given a 60-day sentence and was allowed to postpone the time when he would turn himself in at the jail to begin serving his sentence until January 2nd [1901-01-06].


Hayes Arrested On Grand Larceny Charges 

In May 1901 Hayes was arrested on grand larceny charges made by an Orville Dean who owned a hotel in West Phoenix, NY [1901-05-10].


Hayes Arrested On Gambling Charges Again

James Hayes was arrested by Deputy Sheriff “Con” Murphy of Fulton on Saturday, Sept 7th. He was charged with being a common gambler. The offense had been alleged to have occurred at the Farmers’ Picnic at Three Rivers the previous month, on August 4th. He pleaded not guilty before Police Justice Betts and was held on $300 bail for the Oswego County Grand Jury [1901-09-08].


James Hayes Ends His Own Life

Just prior to his death in January 1902 Hayes was in the process of selling his lease at the old Orton place but at the last minute the deal fell through. At that same time he had an interest in a saloon in the 500 block of Pearl St., in the same block the then newly established Columbus Bakery. (The bakery was started in 1897 and is still in operation and run by the 3rd generation of the Retzos family.) Hayes' friends felt that this failed business deal contributed to his decision to commit suicide at the Globe Hotel on January 17, 1902 [1902-01-18].



[1880 Hayes] - 1880 NY Clinton Clinton  T9-819-260A

[1896-12-25] – “Night Was Cold,” The Daily Standard, Syracuse, NY, Friday, December 25, 1896 (PDF)

[1897-01-15] – The Sunday Courier, Syracuse, NY, Friday, January 15, 1897.

[1897-08-13] – “Her Sudden Death,” The Syracuse Daily Journal, Syracuse, NY, Friday, August 13, 1897

[1897-08-14] – “Mystery In This Case,” The Syracuse Standard, Syracuse, NY, Saturday, August 14, 1897 (PDF)

[1899-01-04] - "Failed To Convict," The Evening Telegram, Syracuse, NY, Wednesday, January 4, 1899.

[1899-05-10a] - "Found on the Walk," The Evening Herald, Syracuse, NY, Wednesday, May 10, 1899

[1899-05-10b] - "Was He Forced From Delevan House Window?" The Syracuse Daily Journal, Syracuse, NY, Wednesday, May 10, 1899.

[1899-05-16] - "No Indictment Found," The Evening Telegram, Syracuse, NY, Tuesday, May 16, 1899.

[1899-11-14] – “With The Jury. Is Adams Guilty of Robbing the Utica Floor Walker?” The Evening Telegram, Syracuse, NY, Tuesday, November 14, 1899.

[1900 - Hayes] - 1900 NY Onondaga Salina  T623-1135-205B; Res 10, Fam 11, Rents home

Hayes, James, Apr 1870, 30, M, 3, NY, NY, NY, Hotel Keeper

Hayes, Margaret, Wife, Jan 1878, 22, M, 3, 0/0, NY, NY, NY

Sheady, Patrick, Servant, Dec 1858, 41, S, Mass, Ireland, Ireland, Hostler

James Hayes’ father was born in Ireland whereas in this census he claimed his father was born in NY. Margaret was Hayes’ second wife and they had been married three years. Nellie, his first wife, died on August 12, 1897 in a room at the Delevan House. Margaret and her husband James were the proprietors of the establishment.

[1900-08-13] – “Hayes Arrested,” The Evening Herald, Syracuse, NY, Monday, August 13, 1900.

[1901-01-06] – “Hayes In Jail – Syracuse Hotel Man Behind the Bars in Oswego County,” The Syracuse Sunday Herald, Syracuse, NY, Sunday, January 6, 1901.

[1901-09-08] – “Accused of Gambling,” The Syracuse Evening Herald, Syracuse, NY, Sunday, September 8, 1901.

[1902-01-18] - "Jim Hayes Comes To An Early End," The Post Standard, Syracuse, NY, Saturday, January 18, 1902.