Staten Island’s “KKK” tried to scare this Black family out, 1920s

In 1924, a postal worker by the name of Samuel Browne would face the hardships of being a Black homeowner in Staten Island. Samuel Browne purchased a home from Klea Evans, a white woman, for $8,500 in the Castleton Hill district. Upon Samuel Browne’s move into his new home, residents of the all white district discovered that a Black family replaced their white neighbor. This discovery resulted in efforts from the white residents to have Browne sell his home at a profit. Browne refused the first offer of $9,000, then refused the subsequent offers of $9,500 and $10,000. Shortly after the first refusal of $9,000, Browne’s home faced its first attack by vandals. Browne’s wife, an elementary school teacher at PS 11, stated that when Samuel was just about to accept the $10,000 offer, the conspirators managed to have the company that held the fire insurance policy cancel it. The fire insurance policy cancellation led to Samuel Brown’s reluctance to sell his home out of principle and refusal of any further offers. 

In September 1924, Browne’s home was attacked yet again by a group that broke several windows with sticks and stones. A note marked “KKK” which threatened more violence if the Browne family failed to move out was delivered to the home after the attack. The case was brought to the Grand Jury and District Attorney Albert Fach when the Browne family faced conflict with other residents in the district, such as the cancellation of three insurance policies. Samuel Brown was able to have seventy witnesses called to Grandy Jury to testify for consideration of the case. Amongst the witnesses were representatives of the fire insurance companies, building, and loan associations which Browne held policies with that were canceled; as well as neighbors of Browne. 

District Hill residents were concerned that the Grand Jury’s failure to return early indictments would lead to no criminal prosecution. To the surprise of District Hill residents, Musco M. Robertson, a real estate operator, was indicted by the Richmond County Grand Jury, along with five other unnamed  suspects, all white men. The indictment of Robertson and the other five suspects came a month after the case was presented to the Grand Jury. Robertson happened to be Browne’s next door neighbor at 67 Fairview Avenue, while Browne lived at 65 Fairview Avenue. Robertson was released on five hundred dollar bail, pleaded “not guilty,” denied involvement, and assured he was ready to go to trial to prove his innocence. Robertson and the five suspects were indicted for the utilization of these four methods to oust Browne from his home and the neighborhood:

  1. Attempting to have Browne transferred from duty in the Stapleton post office much further distant than his home
  2. Committing acts of vandalism on the property from July 1924 to July 1925
  3. Attempting to get fire insurance companies to cancel the fire insurance policies of the letter carrier
  4. Attempting to have the Westerleigh Building and Loan Association foreclose the mortgage on Browne’s home.

With the evidence presented, District Attorney Fach claimed to already know who the five unidentified suspects could be.

Samuel Browne filed a suit with the Richmond County clerk for $100,000 against the nine neighbors he alleged had conspired to oust him and his family from their home. Alongside Musco M. Robertson was his son, Louis Robertson, Edward Hesse, Charles A. Price, William Buon, John Schimel Jr, Louis Spamer, Charles A. Kneisel, and Harry V. Carlier. According to Browne, these men met frequently to conspire against him.

It is believed that the indictment was dropped due to “insufficient evidence.”

On November 1927, the suit filed by Browne against the white supremacist conspirators was discontinued by Supreme Court Justice Scuder. Browne’s lawyer announced that the case was settled out of court without cost to the conspirators.