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NY PUBLIC LIBRARY THE BRANCH LIBRARIES
a J A t j5477y
Major George Fletcher Chandler
Superintendent, New York State Troopers
The Story of
The New York State Troopers
Frederic F. Van de Water
G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York and London
Ube Umicfcerbocfecr press
Frederic F. Van de Water
Made in the United States of America
FORMER GOVERNOR SMITH'S ENDORSEMENT
DURING my two years as Governor of the
State of New York, the Department of State
Police, sometimes referred to as the "State
Troopers," came under my personal observation
and I have abundant reason to believe that the
State should be very proud of its line of first
defense in the rural communities as well as in
some of the smaller cities when their service was
called for by local authority.
The risk and danger makes the trooper's life
one of constant devotion to the maintenance of
the dignity and the majesty of the law.
. iff *
ABOUT three years ago the New York Tribune
wrote, asking if it would be possible to get a
story of the State Police. As a result of the
correspondence which followed Mr. F. F. Van de
Water called upon rne in Albany, and after talk-
ing with him it occurred to me that if he would
don the uniform of a trooper, live at one of our
barracks, and ride about on patrol he could get
the spirit of the organization, study its personnel,
and be able to write understandingly of it.
Since then he has spent his vacations with us,
for he was so popular with the men that I made
him an "Honorary Trooper," he being the only
man holding such a warrant. He has passed a
good deal of time with the members of this com-
mand and probably knows more about this
department than anyone who is not a salaried
I have read his book, Grey Riders, and can say
that it is based upon actual facts and depicts the
life and spirit of the New York State Troopers
as they are, with one exception, and that is his
reference to me. In this matter I am convinced
he is biased, for the position that the New York
State Troopers hold in this State is due to the
splendid officers and men who comprise the
force who have done their work so well.
The book I believe will appeal to all citizens
both young and old who stand for law and order,
and the fascinating manner in which the story is
told cannot but be a source of pleasure. Every
member of this department is deeply grateful to,
and proud of, Honorary Trooper F. F. Van de
GEORGE FLETCHER CHANDLER.
I. FOREBEARS . . 3
II. BIRTH 30
III. BOOTS AND SADDLES . 50
IV. FIRST PATROLS ..... 68
V. THE MAN THEY HAD TO KILL TO GET 94
VI. Vox POPULI . Ill
VII. LEWISTON'S GANG . . . 134
VIII. THEY CARRY ON . 145
IX. SAVIORS OF THE DUMB . . 164
X. THE THREE TOUGH TOOHEYS . 177
XI. "QUEER, BUT HARMLESS" . . 188
XII. THE ART OF ORPHEUS . . 208
XIII. THE GHOST CATCHERS . 227
XIV. THE FRIGHTENED PEOPLE . . .239
XV. Lo, THE TOUGH INDIAN . .261
XVI. THE REDSKIN RISING . . .273
XVII. How THEY RODE TO ROME . . 283
XVIII. TRIAL BY FIRE 315
XIX. "CALL OUT THE GUARD" . . .334
XX. SQUADRON, FORWARD! . . . 357
MAJOR GEORGE FLETCHER CHANDLER (Frontispiece)
Superintendent, New York State Troopers.
A GREY RIDER ...... 12
TROOPER TYPES ...... 58
FIRST SERGEANT M. N. McGovERN ... 74
TROOP C FIGHTS A FOREST FIRE . . .118
AFTER THE CRASH ...... 126
CATCHING CAR THIEVES ..... 150
HORSE THIEVES AND BOOTLEGGERS . . . 170
PATROLS LEAVING THE TROOP K BARRACKS . 190
TROOPER AND MOUNT; PARADE DRESS . . 330
RAILWAY AND HIGHWAY ..... 244
ON THE DRILL GROUND ..... 264
THE "COSSACKS OF CAPITALISM" LUNCH WHILE
ON DUTY . 328
CAPTAIN GEORGE P. DUTTON .... 336
Deputy Superintendent. New York State Troopers.
THE ALBANY STRIKE ..... 348
GAME CONSERVATION 366
THE snow had come sweeping in from the
west to meet the dawn. It had caught the day
at its birth and smothered it. The grey twi-
light that had presaged sunrise had lingered all
morning. Between the February sun and the
storm-lashed reaches of Western New York a
blizzard, a mile thick and a hundred miles broad
The mercury had dropped to zero during the
night. Now that noon had passed, it was sink-
ing still lower. There were at the moment no
streets in Lowville. Where they had run the
snow stretched level from fence top to fence top.
Presently, if the storm endured there would be
no houses either. Drifts that had banked up
on their windward walls were already reaching
toward the second story.
4 Grey Riders
Through windows heavily etched with frost,
the villagers looked out upon the great white
clouds roaring past like steam and thanked God
for their own warm shelters. Nothing seemed
abroad that 21st of February, 1920, but the
whirling flakes and the shrieking wind.
At 2:30 that afternoon a cry for help came
across ten miles of blizzard-swept fields to cer-
tain men in grey who waited at their substation
in Lowville. Faintly heard above the drone
of wind-strained telephone wires, Sergeant Wil-
liams, commanding the substation, caught the
hysterical voice of a woman in New Bremen.
"My husband's going to kill me," the message
ran. "He's shot at me. He's going to kill me.
My husband's going to kill me."
The sergeant broke in upon the frightened
babbling and learned the woman's name and the
location of her home. He also learned that she
was crouching behind a locked door in that
home, while on the other side a maniacal man
waited pistol in hand.
"It's all right," he told her, "we're coming."
The snow tapped and sputtered on the frosted
window. There was a note of ironic laughter
in the scream of the gale. As Williams turned
from the telephone, another man in grey was
struggling into a sheepskin coat. To him,
Trooper Meehan, the sergeant gave the message.
"Get there," he added, "Get there some-
A moment later, Meehan was lurching through
the blast toward the stable. Five minutes
thereafter, Lowville saw a horseman go storming
down the street into the teeth of the wind.
" Get there somehow."
There was no use in trying to follow the road.
Where possible, he rode along ridges kept bare
by the gale. Where drifts intervened and could
not be circled he slapped spurs into his horse
and plowed his way through.
Landmarks had been swept away by the cold
white cloud. The wind buffeted him and tried
to steal away his breath. Fingers grew numb
on the bridle rein; feet scarcely felt the stirrups
to which they clung.
Meehan fought his way along. For five miles
he went forward through that blizzard. Then,
punished by the wind and the cold, weakened by
interminable floundering through drifts, his
horse staggered and fell. The rider extricated
himself and got his mount to his feet. Nearby,
through the whirling snow clouds, there loomed
the shadowy bulk of a farmhouse. Toward
6 Grey Riders
this Meehan struggled with his exhausted
Of the amazed farmer who answered his knock,
he asked permission to stable his horse. When
he had done this, he turned the high collar
of his coat about his ears and spoke to the man
who had come out to aid him.
"How far to New Bremen?"
"Well," the other debated, ' 'bout five miles,
I guess. Might as well be fifty. Come on into
"Get there somehow."
Meehan shook his head and after a few brief
instructions as to what his would-be host should
do in event of certain emergencies, pushed out
again into the storm to face five miles of drift
and snow and cruel wind on foot.
For an instant behind him he heard the voice
of the farmer shouting a Jeremiad. Then the
scream of the tempest shut out all other sounds.
The snow lashed and stung at his face. It
drifted into his collar. It caked on his eye-
lashes and bleared his sight. Sometimes there
were drifts through which he swam rather than
walked. Sometimes there were bare patches of
road where the wind blew so fiercely that he
could scarcely stand against it.
The twilight that had endured all day, un-
changed, was now thickening, and wintry dark-
ness came creeping up through the white hollows
of an empty world. No living thing was abroad
but this single man in the sheepskin jacket
and grey uniform, fighting the blizzard single-
handed; pushing on across a wintry desert be-
cause he was part of a service that has yet to
fail to answer a cry of distress.
The dusk had deepened into blackness when
there came a knock at the door of a house in
New Bremen that had sheltered impending
tragedy that day. The man who had waited
outside a barricaded door, pistol in hand and
murder in his heart, turned and then raised
his arms in token of surrender as another
White marks where the frost had nipped were
on the stranger's face. Snow clung to his
uniform, to his hair, his eyebrows, to the
gauntletted hand that held a revolver.
"State trooper," this apparition said hoarsely,
"What's the matter here? "
A little later, the telephone in the substation
at Lowville rang again. The man who had tried
to kill his wife had been locked up. The woman
8 Grey Riders
Trooper Meehan of the New York State
Police had got there somehow.
In the Executive Law of the State of New
York, you will find them recorded as "The De-
partment of State Police." That is their official
title which the folk they serve do not recognize.
To the people of rural New York they have
always been "The State Troopers."
In the four and a half years of the troopers'
existence, these people, originally far from en-
thusiastic, have learned to respect, and to trust
For the first four years, they were only 233 in
number four troops, a bare cavalry squadron
in strength. In June of 1921, two more troops
were added. To-day, 350 men patrol by horse
and motor vehicle, a precinct that runs from
New York City's limit to the Canadian line;
from where their State reaches furthest west-
ward, to the New England border.
Some forty -five thousand square miles of open
country are in the troopers' keeping. Cities they
avoid. At their limits the authority of the grey
riders ends, unless the Governor sends them in.
They are rural police and their proper patrols
are the little roads where people are far apart
and crimes of late years have been close together.
Theirs is a more difficult problem than the
intensive work of a city police force. Their
charges are far-flung. The criminal whom they
pursue has territory the size of a Balkan kingdom
in which to hide. And they, themselves, are
ridiculously few for the work they do.
Yet in 1920, this handful of quiet grey horse-
men arrested some eleven thousand persons, an
average of about fifty per man. In the same
year, the New York City Police who are fond of
hailing themselves as "the finest," made an av-
erage of twenty-four arrests per man per year.
From these arrests, the city police obtained
80 per cent convictions. The troopers got from
theirs 94.6 per cent. Twenty out of every hun-
dred men arrested in New York City were dis-
charged. Of every hundred arrested by the
troopers, less than six went scot free.
For stark efficiency which is only part of the
story the record of the grey riders in 1920 has
never been equalled in the history of rural police
of this continent.
They were born in wartime. This handi-
capped their organization. They faced, w T hen
they rode out on their first patrols, the suspicion
of farmer folk who had only a vague and gener-
ally erroneous idea of their purpose. The crea-
io Grey Riders
tion of a Republican administration, they were
forced to confront within sixteen months of the
beginning of their work, the hostility of a
These handicaps they have overcome by un-
spectacular faithful performance of their duty
as interpreted to them by their superintendent,
Major George F. Chandler, a man with extra-
ordinarily high ideals of police work, wide
military experience and an exceptional gift of
Political influence has never been able to
reach them. They have faced the ordeal of
quelling industrial strife but have never wavered
in their impartial enforcement of the law. They
have kept clear of partisanship in local disputes.
Unsoiled and unafraid, they have held to a creed
that ranks service to the people they guard on
the same level as their protection.
No police force has ever had a higher ideal or
has followed it with greater devotion. The New
York State Troopers, by grace of that steadfast-
ness, stand to-day in the foremost rank of rural
police, the world over.
Grey is their color ; the neutral hue of weather-
beaten granite. Grey campaign hats shield
their eyes from the glare and dust of the roads.
Forebears 1 1
Purple cords on these, purple ties binding the
throats of the flannel shirts are the sole touches
of color about the sober horsemen. Tunics and
riding breeches of English cut, high laced leather
boots or puttees, and broad brown belts holding
against lean thighs the weight of the Colt 45,
complete the uniform. For dress wear there is
a military cap, also of grey, and a dress overcoat.
Fur caps and sheepskin coats are issued for
The urban population of the State knows little
of these men who, two by two, patrol the rural
districts, winter and summer; in heat wave and
blizzard. The city dwellers for the most part
are unaware of the splendid tradition that these
grey shuttles are weaving as they pass to and
fro across the warp of the commonwealth.
Persistent publicity is an art of which the
troopers know little; possibly because the tri-
umph of work well done in a lofty service is of
itself sufficient reward; possibly, also, because
they are too busy to seek the limelight.
' We've too much to do to want to sit around
and talk about what we've done," troop
commanders will tell you.
The records of the service every last one of
them are open to the seeker for information.
12 Grey Riders
Each year, a report, telling briefly of an achieve-
ment finer than that of the year before is sub-
mitted to the governor. That is all. The tale
is in the records for the man who wishes to read
it, but no grey rider is going to insist on reading
it to him.
The war clouds that came rolling in from over-
seas, obscured their birth. They were riding
forth, equipped and ready for duty, before more
than a small fraction of the State knew they had
come into being. So born, and lacking the ser-
vices of an able press agent, they dropped out of
view of the general public, which would have been
an extremely bad thing for a service differently
organized and directed.
This is one reason they were neglected by
film and print. Another was the fact that they
resembled only remotely, those stern supermen
whom magazine writers and scenario artisans
have taught the public to regard as typical of
State police forces.
Say "State policeman" to the average citizen
and straightaway he will conjure up the picture
of an iron-faced man on a rearing horse, surging
into a mob of strikers with flailing night stick
or smoking gun.
The conception of horsemen going soberly to
and fro on patrols throughout the State; courte-
ous, quiet, attending strictly to their own busi-
ness, which is chiefly the petty woes an
unprotected countryside brings to them for
alleviation, is, anti-climatic to persons who have
thrilled to stories of 'black hussars" and
" cossacks of capitalism."
Under the troopers' ministration, rural crime
has decreased year by year in New York State.
Automobile accidents have been kept dow r n in
the rural districts since they began to patrol the
But the average citizen does not know that
and might not be particularly interested if he
New York, since the troopers came into being,
has passed through a period of such extensive
and violent industrial disorder as it has never
known hitherto. Yet not once has the National
Guard been called upon to restore the laws. In
a half dozen class wars, into which the grey
riders have been called to stop rioting, not a
single man has been killed, or badly hurt. The
rioting stopped when the troopers arrived. Yet
they have never broken a strike. They have
merely enforced the law of New York State that
they have sworn to uphold.
H Grey Riders
No one has ever told the average citizen that,
either. The more picturesque State police or-
ganizations that preceded the troopers have
stolen the thunder and burned out the limelight.
The Royal Northwest, now the Canadian
Mounted, shepherd of the Indian, guardian of
the settler; the organization that carried the
law north of fifty-three; the Texas Ranger who
keeps Mexico's outlaws on their side of the Rio
Grande; the Pennsylvania State Police, born of
bitter conflict in the coal fields and quellers of
savage industrial uprisings these are blood
brethren of the quiet grey riders who patrol the
farms and villages of rural New York.
These earlier troopers have appropriated all
the show parts in the drama of State Police on
this continent. They brought to America and
developed here many of the ideals of police work
since taken over and modified by the troopers.
Untamed frontier lands or bitter class war-
fare called the elder organizations into being.
The New York State Troopers were the first
State police force evolved in America primarily
to afford protection to the country districts of a
State old in civilization. No great crisis in-
spired their creation, but rather the gradually
growing conviction that the people of the coun-
tryside deserved some more efficient police than
the slip-shod constable and the uncertain deputy
The troopers are the most modern develop-
ment of the State police movement which, com-
pared to the age of Western civilization, is still
in its infancy.
The Nineteenth Century was the period of a
great change in the attitude of society toward
the laws under which it existed. The police of
the Eighteenth Century were, in great part,
amateur or professional soldiers. Not a little
of the work of law enforcement was performed
by the regular armed force of the nation.
Dragoons were employed to run down highway-
men. Soldiers mounted guard over condemned
criminals and held back the morbid crowds at
Gradually the need arose for a differentiation
between the soldier and the policeman. There
came a split in the forces organized for the de-
fence of the country. The soldier became the
armed man standing against foreign aggression
and a new force was recognized. These were
the police; the uniformed, drilled, younger
brothers of the professional fighting men. They
were pledged to war against, not the enemies
1 6 Grey Riders
from overseas, but internal menaces to the peace
and safety of the people themselves : the citizens
who violated the law and order of the land.
In English-speaking countries, the city watch,
for many years as obsolete as the town walls it
was created to guard, went out of existence and
instead there sprang up the municipal police,
having little to do with protection of the city
from invasion, but vested with complete
authority over the law enforcement of the
Gradually this system of trained, organized
police extended to the cities throughout the
Western world. The spread of such forces to
the rural districts of America was infinitely
slower, though rural and city police organizations
both were born in Britain within a single decade.
In America to-day, the countryside for the
most part still turns for protection against
marauders to the constable and the sheriff's
posse that came into being under English law in
1295, as part of the militia system. These no
longer carry the long bow or go about jingling
in chain mail. Otherwise there is little to dis-
tinguish them from the keepers of the King's law
in Merrie England of the Thirteenth Century.
In the second decade of the Nineteenth Cen-
tury, Sir Robert Peel established the first rural
police the Royal Irish Constabulary. He fol-
lowed this by the organization of one of the first
modern city forces. In 1829, a bill prepared by
him created the London Metropolitan Police,
since known, in memory of their founder, as
"Peelers "or "Bobbies."
Cities throughout the world of the Anglo-
Saxon took up rapidly the ideas behind the
London force, but for generations the State
police movement went forward scarcely at all.
The Royal Irish Constabulary remained the
sole State-supported, semi-military, delocalized
police in the English-speaking lands. It is a long
trail back from the ideal toward which the
troopers are driving, to the combination of
necessities that brought the father of State police
organizations into existence.
Properly speaking, at its outset the Royal
Irish Constabulary was a force of rangers, rather
than a modern State police. Ireland was in fer-
ment with the age-old conflict between Celt and
Saxon. It was manifestly impossible to create
local police organizations in the affected districts.
Under the pressure of local influence, they either
would not have obeyed the Crown or they would
have been wiped out of existence.
1 8 Grey Riders
Thus, to see that the English law was ob-
served in a country in a state of incipient revolt,
it was necessary that a force owing no local
allegiance, government supported and semi-
military in organization be brought into being
and the first State police was born.
The third quarter of the Nineteenth Century
saw the northwestward thrust of civilization in
Canada. Traders, miners, cattle men, home-
steaders began to drift in ever increasing num-
bers into the territory that the Indians had here-
tofore regarded as their own. To the danger of
uprisings of the red men was added, as the pres-
ence of the whites began to make itself felt, the
bad man, the rustler, the outlaw, and all the other
agencies of violence that accompany the opening
up of new lands.
Law had to be brought to these young, un-
ruly provinces. Month by month, the tale of
unpunished crimes by reds and whites increased.
Sir John MacDonald, premier of Canada, in
1872 ordered an investigation into conditions in
the northwest. This was made by Colonel
Robertson-Ross. His report was the seed from
which the Royal Northwest Mounted Police
In the frontier lands, a problem, not entirely
unlike that presented in Ireland, was discovered.
Here was the clash of Anglo-Saxon not against
Celt, but Indian. There were hot inter-racial
hatreds. There were innumerable crimes of
violence. There was a lack of stability and re-
spect for the law in the settlements which pre-
cluded the establishment of efficient local police
The symptoms were roughly parallel to con-
ditions in Ireland. They called for a similar
remedy a force of State-supported, semi-mili-
tary policemen, owing allegiance to nothing but
the law they were to uphold.
They would have to be determined men for it
was an explosive mixture of red men and white,
good and bad, with whom they would have to
deal. The vast distances they would be forced
to cover made a mounted force absolutely
In 1873 the Northwest Mounted came into
being under command of Lieutenant Colonel
George A. French. The training period was
severe, for it was necessary to weed out all
weaklings before the force took the field. In the
work before the organization, there would be
no room for the man who would quail or turn
20 Grey Riders
By June of 1874, the men were ready for ser-
vice. During the remainder of the summer,
headquarters were established throughout their
new territory, and the actual work of the first
State Police organization to appear on the
Western Hemisphere began.
Devotion to duty, impartial enforcement of
the law, the bringing of justice to every offender
no matter at what cost these were the cardinal
principles governing the organization. For
nearly a half century they have been fol-
lowed with prosaic, undeviating British de-