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Sadie Farrell

Sadie Farrell [1] (fl. 1869) was an alleged semi-folklorish American criminal, gang leader and river pirate known under the pseudonym Sadie the Goat. However, there exists doubt as to her historical existence.[2]

Sadie Farrell
Nationality Irish-American
Other names Sadie the Goat
Occupation thief, river pirate, kidnapper, criminal gang leader
Known for New York gang leader and river pirate; leader of the Charlton Street Gang (1869)
Home town Manhattan, New York, United States



She is believed to have been a vicious street mugger in New York's "Bloody" Fourth Ward. Upon encountering a lone traveler, she would headbutt like a charging goat a man in the stomach and her male accomplice would hit the victim with a slingshot and then rob him. Sadie, according to popular underworld lore, was engaged in a longtime feud with a tough six- foot-female bouncer Gallus Mag, who finally bit off Sadie's ear in a bar fight, as Mag was known to do, albeit usually with male troublemakers.[3][4][5][6]

Folklore has it that, leaving the area in disgrace, she ventured to the waterfront area in West Side Manhattan. It was while wandering the dockyards in the spring of 1869 that she witnessed members of the Charlton Street Gang unsuccessfully attempting to board a small sloop anchored in mid-river. Watching the men being driven back across the river by a handful of the ship's crew, she offered her services to the men and became the gang's leader.[6] Within days, she engineered the successful hijacking of a larger sloop [7] and, with "the Jolly Roger flying from the masthead", she and her crew reputedly sailed up and down the Hudson and Harlem Rivers raiding small villages, robbing farm houses and riverside mansions, and occasionally kidnapping men, woman and children for ransom. She was said to have made several male prisoners "walk the plank".[3][4][5][7]

She and her men continued their activities for several months and stashed their cargo in several hiding spots until they could be gradually disposed of through fences and pawn shops along the Hudson and East Rivers. By the end of the summer, the farmers had begun resisting the raids, attacking landing parties with gunfire. The group abandoned the sloop and Sadie returned to the Fourth Ward, where she was now known as the "Queen of the Waterfront". She then is claimed to have made a truce with Gallus Mag, who then returned Sadie's ear. Mag had displayed it in a pickled jar in the bar. Sadie kept the ear in a locket and wore it around her neck for the rest of her life.[3][4][5][6][7]

In popular cultureEdit

Sadie is referenced in several historical novels, most notably, J. T. Edson's Law of the Gun (1968), Tom Murphy's Lily Cigar (1979), Bart Sheldon's Ruby Sweetwater and the Ringo Kid (1981) and Thomas J. Fleming's A Passionate Girl (2003). She served as the subject of popular songs, including an historical ballad by the indie folk-rock band Nehedar, "The Ballad of Sadie Farrell",; accessed December 25, 2016.[8] In the film Gangs of New York the Hell Cat Maggie character is part of a combination of Hell Cat, Sadie Ferrall and Gallus Mag.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ O'Kane, James M. The Crooked Ladder: Gangsters, Ethnicity and the American Dream. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1994. (pg. 49, 52); ISBN 0-7658-0994-X
  2. ^ "The only problem is that there are no records from the period to suggest that Sadie ever existed.",, June 2014; accessed December 25, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Asbury, Herbert. The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the New York Underworld, New York: Alfred A. Knopf (1928), pp. 58-60; ISBN 1-56025-275-8
  4. ^ a b c Batterberry, Michael. On the Town in New York: The Landmark History of Eating, Drinking, and Entertainments from the American Revolution to the Food Revolution. Routledge, 1998. (pg. 105); ISBN 0-415-92020-5
  5. ^ a b c Jones, David E. Women Warriors: A History. Dulles, Virginia: Brassey's Inc. (2005), pp. 240-41; ISBN 1-57488-206-6
  6. ^ a b c English, T.J. Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster. New York: HarperCollins (2005), p. 19; ISBN 0-06-059002-5
  7. ^ a b c Mushabac, Jane, and Angela Wigan. A Short and Remarkable History of New York City. Chicago: Fordham University Press (1999), p 60; ISBN 0-8232-1985-2
  8. ^ "Sadie the Goat Head Butts Her Way to Notoriety-Drunk History - Video Clip | Comedy Central". Retrieved 2016-12-11. 

Further readingEdit

  • Lorimer, Sara. Booty: Girl Pirates on the High Seas. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2001; ISBN 0-8118-3237-6
  • Sifakis, Carl. The Dictionary of Historic Nicknames: A Treasury of More Than 7,500 Famous and Infamous Nicknames from World History. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1984; ISBN 0-87196-561-5