On November 17, 1886 local newspapers reported on a “wrangle” in Easton Connecticut between a boarding house owner and a lodger. A quarrel between two men over a four dollar tab-not a small amount at the time and roughly equivalent to over 100 dollars today. The details are sparse, but the shooter, Joseph Gregoria Bua, made a living contracting housing for immigrant laborers-mostly Italian, to work on the Mill River dam. What must have been a heated argument turned fatal when Bua pulled out a pistol and shot Francisco Delia in the right side of his chest. Despite being rushed to the nearest hospital in Bridgeport, the wound proved to be fatal. Bua fled and the Deputy Sheriff for the county was searching the district for weeks.
We know that the shooter was still on the loose in December because a flyer from the Pinkerton’s Detective Agency is preserved in the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford. The leaflet, dated December 3rd, is a police notice meant to be distributed to law enforcement agencies and it calls for Bua’s arrest. The text details his physical appearance, dress and ethnicity. It even alludes to his education and character: he is described as both literate and multilingual, but also quick and shrewd.
Printed posters of criminals had been around for centuries, but Pinkerton’s had raised the medium to new heights. Utilizing an immense distribution network, they capitalized on the latest technologies and were the first to use photography in their notices. The organization functioned very much as a national security firm able to use its resources to apprehend criminals across the limited jurisdictions of local police departments. Pinkerton’s was also the service of choice for large companies eager to protect their investments. Considering the corporations that built the Easton reservoirs, Pinkerton’s involvement isn’t surprising. In 1886, the Mill River dam project was run by the Citizens Water Company, a newly formed group that vied with the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company to provide clean drinking water for the city. Citizens Water was a bit of an upstart company; forming in May of 1886, it purchased land, began the dam project and started to run pipes with the aim of providing fresh water to Bridgeport before October 1. Despite their ambitious time table, their work was delayed by legal injunctions and even some serious accidents. Well over their goal date when Francisco Delia was murdered, the scandal and news coverage might have precipitated the hiring of Pinkerton’s for damage control. In truth, the detective agency could have been hired by either rivaling water company – Citizen’s to protect their reputation or Bridgeport Hydraulic to further sully their competitor.
By 1887, Citizen’s Water lost their court battle and the two companies merged into one under the Bridgeport Hydraulic name. Their combined legacy continues on with Easton’s beautiful reservoirs today but what about the wanted murderer-Joseph Bua? He seems to have vanished despite the all seeing eye of Pinkerton’s.