Within a year Bricktop hooked up with the owner of a saloon and began calling him “her man.” That lasted for three years until one day the barkeep threw her out. Bricktop quickly regrouped and charged the saloon and savagely beat her former lover ripping off an ear and half his face.
Bricktop eventually took her trade to the roughest bar in town, the Dance House on Gallatin Street. The rumor was nothing was too rough for the Dance House but Bricktop quickly proved to be the exception and she was eventually forced to take up freelance work wherever she could find it.
Bricktop killed her first man in 1856 after he called her a “whore” to her face. A year later she was in a bar when she told seven foot tall Charley Longley “I bet you would fall forward if I stabbed you.” When Longley laughed at the idea, Bricktop proceeded to pull a knife and filet him.
On November 7, 1859, Bricktop and two other ladies of the evening were visiting a beer garden when a man seated at the next table named Laurent Fleury complained about their foul language. At first the women ignored him but when he told them to “shut up” Bricktop replied if he didn’t mind his own business she would cut his heart out. Obviously he didn’t know who he was dealing with and Fleury walked over to the ladies table and slapped Bricktop. Now the fight was on. The three women all pulled knives and jumped him. Joe Seidensalh tried to come to the rescue but had to back off after he was severely sliced. A bar employee pulled a gun and fired a shot but the women attacked him with bricks and he too had to retreat. By the time the police arrived the victim was dead on the floor with his pockets cut out. The pocket was later found under Bricktop’s skirt and became evidence against her in a murder trial.
Bricktop awaited trial in the Parish Prison where she met and fell in love with a corrupt guard named of John Miller.
Bricktop eventually beat the murder charge when the coroner’s inquest could not determine a cause of death. Bricktop’s lawyer seized upon heart failure as the true cause of Fluery’s demise and New Orleans toughest woman was back on the streets – this time with a partner, former guard John Miller.
The pair quickly became a colorful item even by Gallatin Street standards. Miller had lost an arm in a bar fight a few years earlier and, absent a prosthetic, he attached an iron ball and chain to his stump. The result was a ferocious weapon that was used in the robberies of a number of tricks Bricktop managed to lure to a back alley.
The savage robberies helped to make ends meet for while but the romance saw the beginning of the end in 1861 when Miller came home with the idea of whipping Bricktop into submission. Bricktop had other ideas and grabbed the bullwhip from Miller and gave him a bloody beating. When Miller tried to lash out with his ball and chain, Bricktop grabbed the ball in midair and began dragging him around the room while administering even more of a beating. Miller finally pulled a knife and tried to stab his lover. Bricktop bit his arm until he dropped it and then turned the knife on him.
It was fatal end to the story and the killing landed Bricktop in state prison for a ten year sentence. The stretch only lasted nine months when the military governor of the state, General George F. Shepley, practically emptied the prisons with blanket pardons. Bricktop didn’t wait for anyone to change their mind and quickly seized the opportunity to flee town never to be seen again.
The Crime File articles have traditionally focused on tough male criminals, so this month I thought we'd look across the gender aisle at one of the most nefarious women to ever come to the attention of the justice system.
Mary Jane Jackson was born on Gridon Street around 1836 and during her short life she was probably one of the toughest, most ruthless criminals in all of New Orleans. During her ten year run she never lost a fight, killed four men and permanently maimed an untold number of others. Her reputation was so ferocious even the top gang in the city, the Live Oak Gangsters, went out of their way to avoid her. When she took up living with notorious criminal John Miller, the couple quickly became known as the toughest couple in the city.
Nicknamed “Bricktop” because of her flaming red hair, Mary Jane became a prostitute at the age of 13 and worked some of the sleaziest bars in town. Despite being a favorite among the men, most of the women who worked around Bricktop were scared to death of her.