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The Bergeron Farm Hi Jacking

The Bergeron Farm and Somerset hi-jackings occurred almost simultaneously.

I mentioned earlier it had happened to Max Fox and his crew before. In January of 1927 and much after the Toboga/Homestead seizure, Max had arranged for a ship named the Lutzen to drop a huge load of liquor. The Lutzen was a 135 foot Canadian registered cargo ship. For reasons unknown in an extremely bold move it was decided to drop the load on the Somerset bank of the Taunton River. The Lutzen had never before entered U.S. territorial waters. The Bergeron property consisted of a small farm house, a good sized barn and several out buildings. The liquor had been stacked in the barn. There were nearly 25 men at the farm and they were relaxing and sampling the booze. Half of the load went to a farm in Somerset.

The remainder went to the Bergeron Farm,located in Dartmouth near the Westport line on the Fall River road. The farm was downa narrow lane with stone walls along the sides of the road. The seclusion was perfect for storing loads of liquor.

Bergeron Farm then, above and now below

It was owned by an elderly woman named Mary Santos who lived on Clinton street just around the corner from Max Fox's Reed st home. It was a common practice to pay someone fifty cents a case for storing liquor on their property. It wasn't uncommon to store it without the property owners knowledge either though.

Another 20 or so men who were later discovered to be part of a rival Providence gang directed by Raymond Patriarca Sr. and a small time gangster named Charles R. Hacking easily snuck up on Fox's crew. Hacking had been arrested for smuggling before. In June of 1922 a small sloop named the Katie B. was discovered at the Providence pier with a load of rum that had been brought in from Jamaica. RI police arrested the owner of the boat, his son and Hacking. C.R. Hacking's name would pop up again in the lives of Max Fox and Charlie Travers.

As the men made their presense known they brandished handguns and rifles and made no pretense as to why they were there. The Fox gang began firing at the thieves and in seconds there was an all out gunfight of over 40 men. Max Fox was present and managed to slip away to get help. He made it to the Dartmouth Chief of police's house and demanded that he send officers to aid in the gun fight. The conversation was over heard by the Chief's wife who later recanted her story. The revised version stated the Chief was sick and laying in the couch.

Bergeron Big Barn

Max returned to the farm and continued in the fight. In short order 4 Dartmouth constables arrived at the scene, Patrolman William J. Reynolds and another patrolman were in Reynold's car and and 2 others on motorcycles. Hearing the gunshots and shouting they stopped at the edge of the clearing on the lane where they saw men from the Providence gang removing cases of liquor from the barn to their cars and trucks while Fox's men were taking the cases back and placing them in the farm house. The patrolmen were not prepared for the battle, they were told by the Chief to respond to the farm to investigate a report of chicken theives. Patrolman Reynolds saw Max Fox running by and grabbed him telling him he was under arrest. Max laughed at him and asked, "What are you going to do? You are outnumbered 10 to 1?"

Realizing their predicament the officers hid under their car and behind the stone walls and tried to return fire but had little ammunition.

Bergeron Small Barn

Eventually the hi-jackers left but left evidence that pointed to the Patriarca gang. The Fox gang won in that they kept possession of the stash. It was said that Inspection of the scene in daylight revealed many blood trails but miraculously no one was reported killed and only one of the local gang was hurt. The cook at the farm was identfied as Jack Burgo who was shot in the head but survived. In the newspaper accounts the day after the battle Burgo was described as "near death." When interviewed in his hospital bed the next day he recounted some of the details of the gun fight. Surpisingly though he claimed he remembered nothing and attributed his statements to morphine pain medication. It was reported later that Burgo was given a bribe to keep quite, though it was never revealed which side made the offer.

It also came out that Max Fox himself summoned the Chief to send men to the Bergeron Farm. The Chief's wife first stating that Fox himself had came knocking on their door, but later said she didn't recognise the man and that they talked in another room and she wasn't aware of the topic of their conversation. Patrolmen Reynolds, Wardell and Faulkner threatend to resign in the days immediately after the incident. They maintained that the Chief was in collusion with Max Fox and they had no confidence in the Chief. A few month's later the Chief resigned.

Early the next morning Fox and 15 of his men were rounded up at Downey's garage on Kempton street, at the New Bedford line. Autos with motors still warm and bullet scars proved they had not been there long.

The New Bedford Evening Standard reported "Sixteen men were arraigned before special Justice George N. Gardiner in Third District Court on charges of being suspicious persons and assault with intent to murder Burgo. This arraignment followed a conference in which District Attorney William A. Crossley, State Officer Francis W. Clemmey and two State Detectives sent down from Boston participated. Each pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and were later bailed at $10,000. The suspicious persons complaints were dismissed." and "When the party reached the house Chouqette said he heard shouting, "Hold our gang, we want protection." Patrolman Choquette said that one fellow came running up to the machine, he was with a revolver in his hand and told him to step out. He said that as he opened the door and as he brushed into the man, his gun went off. "I then fired my gun and as I did I heard shots from all sides, I then ran behind a stone wall. "??Patrolman Choquette in giving his version of the fray said that he was called about 7 last night by Faulkner and instructed to get a shotgun and go to Faulkner's home.

"I did not know what it was all about," said Choquette, "I was told to wait there for Reynolds, We met there, Faulkner and I. Wordell and Reynolds started out. Max Fox was there and he started to drive too fast ahead of us and we had to tell him to slow up or he would get away from us." When the party reached the house Chouqette said he heard shouting, "Hold our gang, we want protection." Patrolman Choquette said that one fellow came running up to the machine, he was in with a revolver in his hand and told him to step out. He said that as he opened the door and as he brushed into the man, his gun went off. "I then fired my gun and as I did I heard shots from all sides, I then ran behind a stone wall."

Patrolman Reynolds

Total bail for the 16 men was $150,000, put up by several individuals. Albert Cohen, 96 South St. bailed Fox and Albert Lopes, naming $75,000 real estate and $80,000 personal property as surety Lopes and Fox furnished bail on the other prisoners.

Lopes giving his surety as $15,000 real estate and $10,000 personal bailed William Rogers. Fox put up $30,000 real estate and $20,000 personal property as sureties for Henry Roderiques, Benjamin Carvaco and Joseph Ponte.

Morris Handler, 220 Grinnell St., offered $137,000 real estate and $50,000 personal for Edward McCabe, Henry Jordan and Charles Aylward.

Manuel Goulart went bail for Antone Mello, Carmelio Grimmia alias Frank Davis. He put up $125,000 real estate.