Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Pink Candle Gang

The Pink Candle Gang, a name that threw fear into the hearts of Delmarva in the early 1920s.  Okay, maybe not fear with a name like Pink Candle but certainly Panic. The gang was credited with a hundred robberies, although some were just unsolved robberies with no one else to blame.  They ranged from Milton to Denton to Salisbury.  It was so bad the town of Milford offered a $150 reward for their capture

Their name came from their use of pink candles instead of flashlights to throw light in the houses at night that they ransacked and robbed.  They would leave the stubs of the candles in the house as a calling card.

The gang consisted of several Negros who lived in Seaford Delaware.  Mostly they lived in the Shanties that were at Greenabaum’s Grove. 

Greenabaum’s Grove was beside Greenabaum cannery.  It had a number of shanties near the plant for negro workers.  The place had constant fights, illegal stills, gambling and other illegal activities.

At Greenabaum’s Grove the center of gang seem to hang around the house of Mary Ann Adams where she and her daughter Rhoda Ann Adams, her son Arthur “Sloppy” Adams and her grand daughter Josephine Adams (AKA Margaret Estella Adams) lived.  The law would eventually pick James Henry “Beef Soup” Jones as the member they would prosecute the most.  Other people arrested and believed to be members of the gang were; Wilson Brown, Henry “Friday” Bailey, Ivy J Downing, James Ines, Charles Davis, Arthur Smith, and Thomas Barkley.  The loot found at the shanty consisted of gold rings, diamond stick pin, watches, necklaces, gold pencils, and pink candles.

James Henry “Beef Soup” Jones (born 1882) was caught in Salisbury in February of 1923 trying to break into a slot machine he had stolen from a Mr. Squires of Salisbury.  He had on his person a number of items stolen from Mr Rawson house on Delmar Road.  After a “Third degree” by the Salisbury police he gave up his friends in the gang.  He was given a twenty years sentence.  He had been released from jail after serving a one year term in March of 1922.

While in the Salisbury jail on March 24th he made his escape with three other inmates by sawing through the bars of the cell and using blankets tied together to slide down the side of the building.  A big manhunt took place.  A $200 reward was offered by Wicomico county for his capture.   Like most criminals rather than run away from the area he returned home to Seaford. Over 400 men from Seaford formed a posse and searched the shanty towns and woods looking for him.     In the search of the Negro settlements for Jones a number of illegal stills were found and those owners were arrested. 

He was capture May 13th by Frank John James and Dale S. Holt two operators of a trucking line.  They were returning from Wilmington at night and recognized Jones alongside the road just below Harrington.  They turned their vehicle around and came back and grabbed Jones and with Frank James aiming a pistol at him they made him get into the vehicle and took him to Seaford where the sheriff handcuffed him.  From Seaford they took him to Salisbury and turned him over to Sheriff John H Farlow.  They claimed their reward and James Henry Jones had an addition six years added to his twenty year term.   Both men were well known in Blades Delaware over the years.  Frank James ran an auto  repair garage and Dale Holt was mayor of Blades. 

Rhoda Adams (born about 1889) was perhaps a pitiful figure.  She gave birth to her daughter at age 13.  She lived in the shanty town and was a drunk.  Newspapers accounts abound of her being arrested for being drunk and in a fight with some other woman.  She was constantly serving from 30 days to a year in jail for her actions.  As is said in the Detention field; she served a life sentence on the installment plan.  She received an eighteen month sentence for her part in the Pink Candle gang.

Her brother, Arthur “Sloppy” Adams was about ten years older than her.  He was well known in Seaford, first for being a drunk razor carrying, gun carrying fighter and finally after about 1930 a handy man around Seaford.  He was the subject of a newspaper article by Wright Robinson and mentioned in other books on Seaford.  He died of a heart attack in 1941 while pumping water at his home.  A couple photographs exist of him and one is shown below. 

 from the postcard book "Seaford Delaware"  "Sloppy" Adams prior to 1923 with top hat and all.  Years later Wright Robinson asked Sloppy why the Pink Candle Gang never broke into the Robinson home in Seaford.  Sloppy said because the Robinson's never had anything worth stealing.   

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