Duke of New York (mid to late 1800s)

This Duke isn’t recorded on any official documents I can find, other than possibly a marriage certificate, and once I started digging into his story, I realized why he was so hard to track down – he kept changing his name and for good reason!


The first mention of him is in the records of the Brooklyn Truancy School where he was a teacher mentioned as both D.C. Ormsby and, later in the report, Duke C. Ormsby.

And later:

This school was set up to try and rescue some of the city’s poorest children from a life of street crime and jail time, but it seems Duke w.asn’t there long because I found a series of letters in the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper The first was sent on June 16th 1858.

dukes 1st letter re truant school.png

The matron (and wife of the school superintendent) responded rapidly within 10 days:

duke-truant-school-matron's letter.png

Duke then wrote to the paper again:

duke's2nd truant school letter-1.png


To date, I have not found out what happened to his complaint, although I did find reference to an official ‘petition’ being recorded.


The next mention of Duke appears in the church records in 1860 when it’s noted that he hasn’t passed his Deacon’s exams and so has been accepted into the “restricted Dioconate” in New York City.


Next, I found him enlisted as a chaplain in the 132nd regiment fighting for the Union in the civil war. Confusingly, when I went back to trace him again a few years later, I could only find a “Reid D.C. Ormsby” and I’m wondering if Rev. D.C. Ormsby” was mis-transcribed? Also, I can’t find the record of his desertion that I once saw, although it is mentioned later (see 1875 NY Times article).

However, despite deserting, he then reapplied and was commissioned as an officer in 1863 under the name “D. Crump Ormsby” (which has been transcribed in some places as “D’Crump.”)


Here is one if the reports he filed from his post as a hospital chaplain



The war ended in 1865 and Duke must have returned to New York because the next mention I found was the following year in the “Journal of the annual convention, Diocese of New York” for 1866 when this appears:








I looked up the word deposition in this context and learned this:

Sentence of ecclesiastical discipline pronounced by a bishop that permanently excludes the exercise of ordained ministry by the bishop, priest, or deacon who is deposed. Conditions for deposition are prescribed by the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

I wonder what he did to cause them to fire him. Did they find out about his desertion? Or was there something else?


The next time he pops up is 4 years later in the New York Times, where he’s being sued for slander.


The Marine Court was in New York City and was later renamed City Court.

(Here he claims to have left the church because of problems with his throat although I think deposition means removal not voluntary resignation). I’d love to know what the other things he testified about were – the ones that were unrelated to the case.


Duke was back in court a year later. This time he was suing for the return of $500.


Try as I might, I can’t find a follow-up to this article that covers the “interesting developments.” Drat! Nor can I find a record of when exactly he worked in the Custom House, but we know he was fired from there because it’s mentioned in the 1875 NY Times articles (see below – 1875).


By 1872, Duke had wangled a position managing the US’s 8th largest post office. According to the NY Times article, he petitioned the President himself, then worked his way into the good favours of the Postmaster General and ultimately got this job (via the 1872 World Almanac).


It’s unclear how long he held this position. In 1875, The New York Times exposed him as a fraud and a criminal, who had been terminated then reinstated, then terminated again from his post office job (see below). But they indicated that the events they were describing had happened in the past, so it’s not clear how long he held on to this job.

However, the next year something very odd happened, which may have been related to his various scams and crimes.




In 1874, Duke married Mary Louise Frost. This marriage is recorded on the IGI website and it says Duke’s full name was Duke Compton Ormsby, that he was born in Sligo, Ireland and that his parents were William and Sara B.

Mary Louise was quite the woman. Here’s a bio written in 1893:























Note that she refers to her husband as Rev. D.C. Ormsby, even though he had been deposed and should not therefore be calling himself a reverend anymore. Perhaps she had no idea or perhaps she wanted to make her marriage sound more respectable.

After their marriage, they moved in with her mother. As usual, it wasn’t long before trouble found Duke/DC/Crump).





This for  is the year things went seriously awry for Duke.

At first when I found out he was running a major branch of the Post office, I was impressed. I thought it was nice that he had been able to make a career change and sort his life out. But that’s before I learned that he had basically used his job to swindle people out of money and that he had eventually even swindled the swindlers!

This New York Times article tells the whole sorry story.


Note that it mentions his alias “Crump” which he was using during his second stint in the Union army.

The interesting thing about this article is that it implies these crimes happened some time in the past and were only being exposed now because D.C. was once again trying to con people by using the letters of recommendation that had been given to him by the distinguished gentlemen who now disowned him. But they don’t say what his new con was.

Perhaps he committed these crimes before he even met Mary Louise?


Anyway, as of now, I don’t know whether the marriage lasted, but I did find more news about DC in the NY Times, this time in 1888. He’s still causing trouble! But this time he’s doing it by the name of Crump Ormsby.

It’s all very fascinating and I have to find out more!


One response to “Duke of New York (mid to late 1800s)

  1. Pingback: Two New Dukes « In Search of Duke Ormsby

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