The Life and Adventures of Ben Hogan, the Wickedest Man in the World

The Life and Adventures of Ben Hogan, the Wickedest Man in the World

Ben Hogan
Ben Hogan

Author: Hogan, Ben (Benedict), 1841?-
Ben (Benedict)
The Life and Adventures of Ben Hogan, the Wickedest Man in the World



The writer of these pages desires it understood that he has acted simply in the capacity of an amanuensis for Mr. Ben Hogan. The statements, opinions, incidents, revelations and views are all the latter gentleman’s.

It should be further explained that Mr. Hogan, and no one else, is responsible alike for the contents and publication of this volume.

This explicit statement is called forth by a sense of justice; for the writer himself would be very loath to lay claim to any of the brilliancy, wit, or delicacy in the choice of subjects which may be found in this book. The honor of all these belongs exclusively to Mr. Hogan.

George Francis Trainer.




Early Life—Arrival in America—How he Avenged the Robbery of his Father—Mysterious Disappearance of the Old Jew—In the House of Refuge—Seafaring Life—Beginning of his Boxing Career 17
A Remarkable Game of Poker, and What Came of it—Ben as a Pirate—Fast Life in New York—How he gave a Combination Show in Oswego 29
A Southern Trip—Experiences in New Orleans and Mobile—Three Men Put Under the Sod by Ben’s Bullets 39
Ben as a Spy in both the Union and Confederate Armies—The Buried Treasure—How he Fooled the Captain—At Port Royal and Newbern—Bounty-Jumping 45
Ben in Canada—He goes West again—Adventures in Cincinnati, Nashville, and Louisville—How he Sold the Colored Troops—Sets out for the Oil Regions 54
First Appearance in the Oil Country—Dance House in Pitthole—French Kate—Babylon House—Fight with Bob Donnelly—His Explanation in Court of the Character of his House 62
Attempt to Rob Ben—How he became a Minister and Married a Couple—A Jolly Wedding—French Kate Jealous 76
Attempt to Murder Ben in Babylon—He Shoots a Man and is Arrested—Frightens the Witnesses and Prevents Perjury—Is Acquitted 82
Leaves Oil Country—In Saratoga—Arrested on False Reports—Goes back to Tidioute—In Rochester—First Meeting with Cummings 86
The Gymnasium Business—Life in Rochester—First Meeting of Hogan and Tom Allen—A Disgraceful Affair 94
How Ben Treated the Deputy Sheriff—Annie Gibbons, the Pedestrian—Ben goes to Pittsburgh and Meets Mr. Green 102
Ben in St. Louis—First Entree into Parker’s Landing—Opens a Free-and-Easy—Trouble with the Authorities 113
The “Floating Palace”—A Wonderful Institution—The Girls and the Patrons—Scenes of Revelry—How Nights were Passed—The Loss of the “Palace” 118
Return to Parker’s Landing—His Three Years’ Sojourn in that Town—Adventures and Incidents—Attempt to Burn Ben’s House 125
Ben buys a House in Pittsburgh—Engineering for a New Railroad—Goes to Petrolia and opens House—The Ladies’ Seminary 133
Ben as a Politician—Elected Burgess of Petrolia, but Cheated out of the Office—Goes to Greece City—Pleasure trip West—Preparations to Fight Tom Allen in St. Louis 142
The famous Fight with Tom Allen 151
What came of the Fight—Allen’s Treachery—Attempts to kill Ben in St. Louis 159
Ben in Chicago—Returns to Pittsburgh—More of Allen—Builds Opera Houses in Petrolia and Millerstown—Figures once more in Politics 166
Ben as a Banker (Faro Banker)—Burglars—Counterfeit Money, and How Hogan Didn’t Handle it—Ben as a Doctor—Allen in New York City—Why the Fight Fell Through 175
The Girl Ben Met in Owney Geoghegan’s—A Confiding Sea Captain—Adventure in Little Falls—Pitching a Man Across the Erie Canal—Return to Syracuse 181
Another Challenge to Allen—Brookville and Indiana Adventures 187
Ben’s Generous Act in Indiana—Under Arrest in Pittsburgh with Kitty—Goes West—Life in Grand Rapids—Mistaken for a Minister 194
One More Challenge to Allen—Return to the Oil Country—Ben and McDonald—Opens Dance-House in Elko City—Bullion House—Kitty Runs Away 202
Saratoga Trip—Bullion again—Arrival in Tarport—Opens Dance-House—A Groundless Scandal—The Truth about the Girl Carrie 209
Ben Leaves Tarport—What some of the Oil Country Papers had to say about him—Arrival in New York 213
Ben as a Reformer—His Opinions on the Temperance Question—Physical Culture—The Social Evil—Prisons and Penitentiaries—Gambling 221
Conclusion 237





The life of any man is interesting as it reveals human nature and discloses character. Biography is in itself a combination of all those elements which go to make up literature. It is humor and pathos; it is poetry and prose; it is the sternest tragedy and the broadest farce. Fiction builds its most fantastic structures upon the inventions of the brain. Biography writes in lasting characters upon the granite front of truth. The record which it leaves is more wonderful than any flight of fancy—more startling than any outburst of imagination.

If it were possible to read the history of men’s lives written upon their faces, the world would have little need of romances. This shabbily-dressed figure, which to-day you jostle against in the street, might furnish material for a volume of exciting tales. That white-faced woman, who stares with a half-frightened look at the passers-by, could unfold a tale of more terrible interest than ever evolved itself from the brain of the novelist. Around and about us, in all places and at all times, the surging sea of humanity casts up its broken spars and dismantled hulks. Those who sail in calm waters, or walk the beach, may pick up these remnants of wrecks, and find in them clews to voyages full of tragic interest.

Since this duty is often neglected by the more prosperous voyagers, and since men’s faces are not books which they who run may read, it falls to the lot of the biographer to show to others the mystery of life.

Probably no man’s career, if truthfully told, would be wholly barren of interest. In proportion to the eventfulness of that career it gains in interest. But it is a very serious mistake to assume that a person’s avocation in life determines the rank to which he ought, properly, to be assigned. The art does not make the artist. It happens that there are a good many preachers in this world who can not preach, a good many actors who can not act, a good many writers who can not write. It happens, too, that there are a good many people who can not do anything—whose excuse for existing remains forever a conundrum. The written lives of such harmless ciphers would be of interest only in so far as they might show the uselessness of the subjects. But a study of any character which is strongly marked ought to prove both entertaining and instructive. Nor is it necessary that such a character should be spotless, in order to teach some wholesome lessons. It has been the lot of the writer to meet some eminently respectable persons who were at heart the most consummate hypocrites. He has known school-teachers who harped upon the necessity of bookish knowledge, while they fastened singular verbs to plural subjects. He has met newly-fledged college graduates who talked loud over a “liberal education,” and floundered in the shallow waters of English syntax. He has talked with crushed poets who cried out against the stupidity of the world, and read their own verses, more limping than the Count Joannes as Romeo. He has listened to straight-laced Puritans pray to be made more Christ-like, and seen them, an hour afterward, turn a starving beggar empty-handed from their door. He has heard pious directors of savings-banks denounce the stage as an instrument of the devil, and learned, the next day, that these sleek Pharisees were under indictments for robbing the poor. He has talked with alleged “statesmen” and found them roughs; with professed Christians, and found them narrow-minded bigots; with the representatives of what is called fashionable society, and found them noodle-heads. One day he met and talked with Ben Hogan, and he found a gentleman.

Does that surprise you?

Let us not fall into any misunderstanding at the outset of this narrative. The qualities which go to make up a gentleman are more readily appreciated than explained. They may be possessed by any man, no matter what his calling in life. They may be acquired under the most unpropitious circumstances, or they may never be acquired, in spite of surroundings and the advantages of education.

Ben Hogan is no saint—but it may be well to add that this volume is not undertaken with a view to promulgating an immoral lesson. Yet, though the hero shall not prove a saint, and though the record of his life may contain some shadows, it is believed that nothing in the pages which follow will be found to offend good taste. Saints, as a general rule, do not make first-rate material for the biographer. The man who launches his craft on life’s sea and sails along in quiet waters, never striking out upon any voyage of discovery, never running against any shoals or rocks, never breasting any storms—such a man, sailing peacefully on until he enters the great port of Death, may have a very pleasant time of it; but, when his voyage is over, the log-book is found to contain precious little which is of interest to the world. On the other hand, the mariner who strikes boldly out in search of adventure, who runs his frail craft over unexplored waters, who finds himself often stranded upon treacherous coasts, and who laughs at danger and glories in the hardships of an adventurer’s life—such a voyager leaves behind a record which must needs be racy reading. And even should it happen that this plucky mariner plays the pirate at intervals, that certainly would not detract any from the interest which attaches to his exploits.

A knowledge of men and the world comes only from personal acquaintance with the one and experience in the other. There is a sort of wisdom which is not contained in books. The man who would possess himself of that must tread the by-ways as well as the highways of life. This Ben Hogan has done. He has been a close observer of human nature, and he has made his observations from many and various points. Profiting by what that great teacher, Experience, has taught, he has become, in his own way, a philosopher. He has learned to gauge men at sight. This rare faculty has stood him in good stead throughout all his checkered career. In many of the exciting scenes which this work will undertake to describe, the power of measuring men for what they were worth proved the winning card in Hogan’s hand.

Added to this keen insight into human nature, he possesses a quick appreciation, not only of the humorous but the pathetic. Nobody ever appealed to him for aid without meeting with a generous response. It might appear to those who have met him only in the character of a jolly good fellow—the companion of an hour, over a bottle of wine—that he is not the sort of man who concerns himself about the misery and misfortune in this world. But such a conclusion would be eminently unjust. His sympathies have never been hardened by the rough knocks which the world has given him. And it is this very quickness of sympathy—this power to feel for others—which makes the poet.

Here, then, at the very outset of his task, the biographer has made his subject a gentleman, a philosopher, and a poet.

What! a pugilist a gentleman? A dance-house proprietor a philosopher? A prize-fighter a poet?

Calm your ruffled temper, oh, indignant critic! Let your fretful quills resume their normal, horizontal condition. This little book will not shake the rock-founded morals of society. Not at all. Is it against the law of Moses or the prophets that a pugilist should be a gentleman? That title, remember, can not be conferred by royalty. It can not be inherited along with houses and lands; but it may rightfully be claimed by the man, whether preacher or pugilist, who acts honorably toward his fellow men, who gives respectful attention to the opinion of others, and who endeavors to conduct himself so that his presence is always welcome. If that be a fair definition of a much-misunderstood word, then Ben Hogan is a gentleman. And why may not the proprietor of a dance-house be a philosopher? Is our barking critic quite sure that he knows what philosopher stands for, or what philosophy means? Not book-learning—for, bless your ignorant soul, Socrates himself counted life too precious to waste in reading. Your dictionary will tell you that the word philosopher means properly a lover of wisdom. There never lived a more passionate lover of wisdom than Ben Hogan. And for the poet: Does it follow that because a man hardens his muscles he likewise hardens his heart? Poetry loves to spring out of seemingly unseemly places. It grows in rough soil and flourishes where the sunshine never reaches. Bret Harte found truer poetry in the life and death of Poker Flat’s outcasts, than Martin Tupper could in the whole range of domestic morality. It is not necessary that a man should write verses to be a poet. What is demanded of him is a sympathetic nature. And that Ben Hogan has.

Perhaps the reader who happens to enjoy a personal acquaintance with the subject of this biography, may consider the foregoing as pretty steep flattery, not to say amazing nonsense. Let him remember, however, that the luxury of getting up a book about oneself is expensive; and certainly a man has a right to order that written which pleases him best. Mr. Hogan has availed himself of this privilege. He desires the world to know how great a man he is. He wants all his illustrious deeds embalmed in print. If, after reading this volume it shall occur to the world that Mr. Hogan is deceived with respect to himself; that he is not a great man at all, and that his illustrious deeds ought long ago to have landed him in prison—if the world, I repeat, shall come to any such conclusion as this, why, then it must settle accounts with Mr. Hogan himself. Greatness has been unappreciated before now, and it is possible that some will fail to understand why a man should voluntarily proclaim himself to be “The Wickedest Man in the World.”








Early Life—Arrival in America—How he Avenged the Robbery of his Father—Mysterious Disappearance of the Old Jew—In the House of Refuge—Seafaring Life—Beginning of his Boxing Career.


Benedict Hagan, whose name has become familiar in the altered form of Hogan, is a native of Würtemberg, Germany. With his parents, he immigrated to this country at the age of eleven years.

His father was a cabinet-maker by trade, who had saved up something like a thousand dollars, with which he set forth to better his condition in the New World. Along with his family, he arrived in New York in the summer of 1852. His reception was not of the most encouraging nature, and an incident which occurred almost immediately after the landing of the family will serve to show the character of Hogan at that time.

As was customary with all emigrants who had any money to carry, the elder Hogan had secured his fortune, amounting to eight hundred dollars in gold, in a belt fastened about his shoulders. When he walked out of Castle Garden he was forthwith set upon by a Hebrew of the South street order, whose nose resembled his nature, because it was sharp. This enterprising Jew, who spoke German fluently, induced the emigrant to go into a small shop where everything was given away—for four times its value. The unsuspecting Hogan made a small purchase, and when he came to pay for it, disclosed the bag containing his gold. The sight was enough to rouse the Hebrew. Precisely how it happened he did not know; but in an amazingly short time Hogan senior found himself relieved of his eight hundred dollars.

Had it not been for the presence of young Ben, it may be safely assumed that the emigrant would never have gone forth from the Jew’s place alive. The boy, however, presented an obstacle to the commission of murder, which was undoubtedly intended by the robbers. They determined, therefore, to get rid of their victi

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