Frederic Franklyn Van de Water.

Grey riders : the story of the New York state troopers online

. (page 14 of 18)
Online LibraryFrederic Franklyn Van de WaterGrey riders : the story of the New York state troopers → online text (page 14 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

grey of the troopers, had enjoyed no little repute
as a ring man.

"I," said the prostrate red man gravely, "will
be good Indian."

They raised the fallen and temporarily repent-
ant warrior and escorted him inside the church.
There several complainants from the dispersed
congregation came forward and told their tale
of persecution. This prisoner, they said in effect,

278 Grey Riders

had descended upon the carol-singing wor-
shipers like Brant, Red Jacket, and Sitting Bull
rolled into one. The things he had done to the
Christmas party, they averred, were scandalous.
The things he had said were even more so. The
witnesses explained that they weren't vindictive
or anything like that, but they did think that
the best thing that could be done with this bad
Indian was an immediate hanging and a subse-
quent skinning.

The prosecution having rested its case, the
captive took a long breath and began his defense.
He spoke of the rights of Indians on their own
reservation with an accompaniment of anathema.
He dwelt at length on the fact that the courts of
New York State had no jurisdiction over him
and embroidered his every statement with pro-
fanity. He then turned his attention to the
physical peculiarities, mental deficiencies, and
moral lapses of his accusers. The information he
gave was interesting, though pungent. Before
this mingled flood of scandal and blasphemy, the
would-be lynchers grew embarrassed and then
vanished, save one, who, the troopers insisted,
should stay and later prefer charges against the
disturber of Christmas socials.

Having thawed themselves out about the

The Redskin Rising 279

stove, Nelson, Keeley, and Weinstein arose,
girded up their loins, and announced to their
prisoner that they were going to take him to jail.
'I am not going to jail," responded the other
and attached himself to a pew with a barnacle-
like firmness.

The three troopers attached themselves to him
and pulled valiantly. They did not get him to
relax his grasp until the pew gave way. In the
confusion, the stove went over with a thunder-
ous crash and, in and out of the hot ashes it
spilled, rolled three men in grey and a figure that
had once been a good Indian, but was now, judg-
ing from the fight it put up, all bobcat.

Words never heard in the sanctuary floated
up from the combatants. There were thuds and
grunts and strange expressions of anguish. Sel-
dom had even an Indian church witnessed so
godless a proceeding.

At length, from the heap of contorted figures
came the muffled announcement: ; 'I am good
Indian!" The troopers relaxed their holds and
peace was again temporarily restored. When
uniforms had been readjusted and the torn cloth-
ing of the prisoner put on as nearly as possible as
it should be, the convoy again started for the
halls of justice.

280 Grey Riders

Out of the church it filed; first Nelson; then
Weinstein, followed by the prisoner, while Keeley
and the complainant brought up the rear. As
they passed through the narrow dark vestibule,
something struck Weinstein in the back ; a some-
thing with at least a hundred teeth and a couple
of thousand claws. Down went the trooper with
the Indian on top of him and Keeley threw him-
self upon the contestants.

For five minutes the darkness was filled with
flying feet, howls and grunts, and anxious ex-
pressions from the fighters concerning features
they were in danger of losing. Nelson hovered
about the outskirts of the fight, trying to sort out
the animated sandwich and get the Indian that
was in the center of it. One foot he grasped and
began to pull violently only to discover that there
was a spur attached to it. He let go and a
squalling from the center of disturbance ceased
and a muffled voice that he recognized as Wein-
stein's urged frantically, "Hit him with a crop,

Keeley complied and after several blows a
voice that had become all too familiar announced :
'Ugh! Enough! I am good Indian."

Four miles through snow and mud they drove
their prisoner who borrowed cigarettes and

The Redskin Rising 281

smoked continually during the ride. They
routed a justice of the peace from his bed and
after wishing him Merry Christmas, arraigned
their prisoner.

His honor looked once at the battered and
bruised and disheveled troopers and then pro-
nounced sentence:

"Ninety days in the county jail."

Nelson then sought information from the cap-
tive for the purpose of making out commitment

The prisoner announced blandly that he had
lived one hundred summers and no winters; that
he had three wives and forty -four children ; that
his occupation was lawyer and that he had no

These facts having been duly recorded, they
piled once more into the truck and the good
Indian begged permission to see his wife and child
before going to jail. He said that he had not
seen them in three months, but would vouchsafe
no explanation for this long estrangement. They
drove him back to the cabin where his family
lived. There he bade his people farewell and
returned to the truck where he promptly fell

All the way to the Genesee County jail he

282 Grey Riders

slumbered in snatches, awaking each time the
truck jolted over a bump sufficiently to murmur:
"I am good Indian. Give me a drink."

It was three o'clock Christmas morning when
they reached the county jail. The sheriff was
awakened and demanded from a window who was


"It's me; it's Bill," explained the good Indian


When they had entered the sheriff's office, the
affair took on the nature of a reunion.

"Why, it's William Printup!" exclaimed the

"Howdy, Sheriff," replied William gravely.

" He's just got out of here this morning. He'd
been in for three months," explained the sheriff.
"What you been doing now, Bill?' ;

"I have been fighting Germans," explained
the prisoner. "I have been to France. I am
good Indian. Wah!"

He relapsed again into slumber and the sheriff
dragged him off to a cell, sleeping peacefully.



A HORSEMAN in grey trotted out of the weeping
mist that hung over East Dominick Street,
Rome, N. Y., on the morning of July 15, 1919.
A black tide was creeping up the thoroughfare
toward him. Its foremost surges were armed
men. Its rear was lost in the fog.

Terror brooded with the dawn over the city.
Above the clatter of hoofs came the savage long-
drawn "Ah-h-h!" of a triumphant mob. For
forty-eight hours this mob had dominated Rome.
It had defied authority. It had chased the police
off the streets and thrown deputies into the canal.
It had halted street cars; checked traffic; tied up
industry, and taken East Dominick Street for its
own in the name of the Soviet Republic of

And now, having broken all the forces of the
law that had been sent against it, the mob was

moving out through the morning mist against the


284 Grey Riders

rest of the city that had lain, the night before,
wholly in its power. Bad liquor and worse
counsel had fired its members; red agitators
urged it on. Under the banner of Communism
the mob was marching forth, eight thousand
strong, to capture the rest of Rome.

Straight into its teeth trotted the grey rider.
A few yards from the advancing ranks he halted
and flung up one hand. The growl of the mob
scaled higher into a shriek. Oaths and defiances
were screamed in a half-dozen alien tongues.
Rifles and pistols were brandished.

Yet no shot was fired at the horseman who
had come out of the dawn like a part of the fog
itself. He waited an instant, one arm still
lifted, the other reining in his mount. Then
above the lawless clamor he raised his voice.

" Go back ! " he shouted. " Disperse ! Get off
the street or-

His voice was blotted out by the uproar. For
a moment longer he waited, then he wheeled his
horse and trotted back into that fog that had
given him birth. The mob came on singing and

But the voice that it had heard and mocked
spoke the order of the State of New York. The
grey horseman who had carried that command

How They Rode to Rome 285

was herald of the paramount police authority of
the State.

The New York State Troopers had come to
Rome in the hour of her dismay. The message
the rider carried to the mob marked the second
crisis of the riot that had surged for two days
through the city with the blind savagery of a
great fire.

Two months before, the mass of armed men,
drunk with power and alcohol, had been wage
earners in one or the other of the half-dozen great
plants which are Rome's boast. A month before,
they had been strikers who, under apparently
conservative leaders, had walked out with the
old familiar demand for higher pay and shorter

For a time, the strike had been law-abiding.
Then the morale of the strikers, Italians for the
most part, had been sapped by idleness and
rotted by I. \Y. W. and Communist agitators who
swarmed like flies to the slums of Rome.

At first it was only a few words, spoken along
the bar in one of the many saloons of East
Dominick Street where the majority of the
strikers lived. Then the labor meetings changed
in tone. Defiance of authority, control of the
factories, capture of the city itself were coun-

286 Grey Riders

seled by the speakers and acclaimed with rising
frenzy by their audiences.

East Dominick Street was preparing to secede
from the United States.

By July 1st, the city authorities woke up to
the fact that this was no ordinary strike. Police
reports told of a secret force working under-
ground among the idle employees of the Rome
Brass & Copper Company, the Spargo Wire
Company, the Rome Manufacturing Company,
the Rome Wire Company, and smaller concerns.

The smoldering fire could not be found, but
there were puffs of smoke and now and then
showers of sparks that told of the coming out-

City officials laid their fears before Captain
Barnes, of Troop D, at Oneida. They were told
that this was a local matter for the local police;
that the troopers could intervene only in case of
riot and then solely at the order of the Governor
of the State.

Belatedly, Rome prepared for the sinister
conflict that was coming. The police force was
increased and the sheriff, at the behest of the
city, swore in an army of deputies.

The shabby residents on East Dominick
Street wore, all at once, a new and defiant

How They Rode to Rome 287

swagger. Pamphlets in scarlet covers were
being circulated among the strikers. From the
saloons, late at night, came howls of defiance of
police, Rome, and the Government itself. Voices
more strenuous than tuneful chanted the " Inter-
nationale" and other hymns of the embattled

The authorities at Rome then uncovered the
disquieting fact that almost every one of the
strikers had a permit to carry a gun. For more
than a year the arming of the workers had been
carried on. From this authority and the other,
in Rome and elsewhere, the men now on strike
had received their permits.

The outbreak could not be far off and the sub-
jects of the forming soviet were not only eager
for combat but prepared for it. Disarmament
then might have precipitated trouble. The
officials of Rome made no attempt to revoke
these licenses.

June faded into July and the lawless voices
along the shabby reaches of East Dominick
Street grew louder and more insistent. There
were rumors that a soviet headquarters had been
set up and temporary officers of the new republic
had been chosen. Policemen, who hitherto had
been received in the factory district with awe and

288 Grey Riders

respect, now had strange things shouted at them
in foreign tongues which, fortunately for their
peace of mind, they could not understand.

The hidden fires were roaring and crackling
louder and louder.

On July 13th, the few faithful workers on their
way to the strike-hampered plants found the fac-
tories surrounded by a cordon of armed men who
told the job holders they were to work no more;
that no wheel was to turn in any of the plants
until these were taken over by a committee of
the workers and run for the workers' own profit.

Most of the loyal men turned back without
argument. The few sturdier souls who tried to
force their way through were beaten thoroughly
and enthusiastically and fled, bruised and tat-
tered, to gasp their story of outrage to a police
force that was not quite certain what to do
about it.

No wheel turned in the factories that day.
From morning till night they were blockaded by
armed men. And when the shadows of evening
crept along East Dominick Street, the lights of
the saloons and meeting places blazed as though
it were a feast day.

All night long there was activity; councils, no
longer furtive, in the rear rooms of saloons;

How They Rode to Rome 289

meetings in the halls; hurrying to and fro of
messengers. The "proletariat" was organizing
for war.

The devoted patrolman who ventured to walk
the length of that revolution-drunk thoroughfare
heard, thrilling through the darkness, high
wolflike shouts of triumph. Now and again the
crowds in the saloons would break into a chorus,
stumbling over unfamiliar w y ords and wandering
off the key and out of the tune, but nevertheless
bellowing defiance to authority with all the em-
phasis overtaxed lungs could give. The patrol-
man heard and passed on, thanking God it was
no worse.

Somewhere in the squalid tenements and
shabby foreign stores that are strung on the
thread of East Dominick Street, there was a
room in which a few swarthy men sat and plotted
out the campaign of the morrow. The complete
roster of those who served on the general staff
of Rome's revolution has never been known. It
is certain, however, that they planned the taking
over of: first, East Dominick Street; second the
factories; third, the foreign quarter; fourth, the
rest of the city. What was to happen after that
no one ever will know certainly.

All through the night, East Dominick Street

290 Grey Riders

hummed like a swarming hive and slept not at
all. Each hour, alarming and more alarming re-
ports poured into headquarters; reports that made
the sheriff wonder where he could scare up more
deputies, and the chief of police worry whether
he could make his whole force stay at work.

Dawn saw the factories again invested by the
armed ring of pickets. This morning there was
no attempt at parley. Anyone with the hardi-
hood, after the warning of the day before, to try
and go to work was beaten into insensibility,
revived, and told to go and show himself to his
"capitalist master."

The crowd this morning was snarling. Minute
by minute it felt its own strength increasing and
Rome's terror mounting higher. When a squad
of city police was sent with orders to open the
road to the mills, the mob fell upon them with a
bellow of joy. They took their clubs away,
subjected the majesty of the law to untold in-
dignities, and then literally chased them out of
that part of town.

This was the first crisis of the riot and the
strikers had triumphed in it. Here was the mo-
ment when the police should have begun shoot-
ing and kept on until the trouble had ended or
they themselves had gone under.

How They Rode to Rome 291

Five thousand impressionable Italians had
seen demonstrated that morning the, to them,
surprising fact that a policeman was a human
like themselves; that he was not a demi-god in
blue and brass whose word was law, but a
most humorous creature of flesh and blood
who shrieked as loud as anyone when he
was hurt and, when pursued, ran faster than

Entranced with this delightful new conception,
little groups of earnest rioters started out to hunt
policemen. Gradually, back to headquarters
where a worried chief was trying to cope with a
situation that was looming up like a thunder-
storm, there began to trickle bruised and tattered
patrolmen who announced with loud voices for
the benefit of all and sundry that they were
through with police work for ever and ever.
They turned in their badges if the strikers
hadn't taken these already and their equip-
ment and went forth into the early morning with
a sigh of relief, civilians and safe.

Meanwhile the soviet republic of Rome had
taken over East Dominick Street completely
and announced that hereafter it was closed to
traffic. Street cars that attempted to keep going
were forced to run a gauntlet of flying bricks and

292 Grey Riders

cobbles and, emerging with windows broken
and sides shattered, ran no more.

Automobiles and horse-drawn vehicles were
checked and turned back. Even pedestrians
who looked as though they had no business in
the neighborhood were told to get out.

Feeling that the situation was slipping out of
the hands of the police, President Bent, of the
Chamber of Commerce, decided to intercede
with the mob. His action was brave but ill-
advised. The rioters having whipped every
policeman in sight desired action ; not persuasive
oratory. With entire unanimity they fell upon
Mr. Bent when he tried to address them, jostled
him, pushed him about, yelled curses in his ear,
and finally ran him out of the district.

After that, few men had the courage to pene-
trate the revolutionary stronghold. President
Spargo of the Spargo Wire Company had that
courage and almost paid his life for it. In his
automobile he ventured down East Dominick
toward his plant.

A mob overwhelmed the car, dragged him from
it, beat him severely, and completely wrecked his

An officer of the Ordnance Department, on his
way to one of the mills to consult on some govern-

How They Rode to Rome 293

ment work, was torn from his car and rescued
with difficulty. Clarence Beckwith, son of the
assistant chief of police and one of the employees
of the Rome Wire Company, was attacked and
beaten insensible.

Hour by hour, the mob was growing in size,
in courage and wickedness. The police those of
them who remained were utterly unable to
handle it. As a desperate measure the officials
of Rome sent in the crowd of deputies the sheriff
had mobilized, with instructions to break up the

But the rioters, flushed with victory and de-
lirious from their taste of power, would not

Into East Dominick Street the attacking party
swept. Mounted men at its head charged the
cro\vd which with a roar met the onset halfway.
Scores of hands reached up and tore the amateur
policemen from their saddles. Other rioters
closed in upon the men on foot and took their
arms and bright nickel badges away.

A few escaped ; others were beaten before they
fled and half a dozen, borne shoulder high on a
triumphant surge of men, were carried to the
canal spanned by the street and thrown amid
shrill cheering into the water.

294 Grey Riders

Thus died Rome's last attempt to help itself.

For the rest of the day East Dominick Street
was a republic in the heart of the Empire State
with armed men patrolling and jealously guard-
ing its boundaries.

No stranger was permitted to cross the lines
drawn by the leaders of the mob. Traffic was
completely shut off. Over the frontier of the
newly formed soviet-land that afternoon there
came a funeral procession, rolling along in black

Sentries sprang to the heads of the horses
drawing the hearse and halted them.

'It's a trick!" men and women screamed;
"they're smuggling guns and thugs to the fac-

In an instant men were dragging the dazed
mourners from the coaches. Others tore open
the doors of the hearse, scrambled inside, and
callously pried up the lid of the coffin, to see if
arms were concealed therein.

After this desecration, the hearse was turned
around and the driver instructed to take his
burden to the cemetery by another route.

Meanwhile the heads of a city that lay in the
tightening grip of lawlessness and violence were
in conference. To their terrified queries, Chief

How They Rode to Rome 295

of Police Keating, who had striven valiantly to
overcome the rioters with a wholly inadequate
force, held out no hope.

"We've done our best," he said. "We've
held them for four weeks; but the job is too big
for us. I had twenty men. Sixteen of them have
quit the force

He was interrupted by the appearance of four
more battered men in blue uniforms that had
evidently been used to scrub an exceedingly
dirty street. They muttered shamefacedly a
few words in the chief's ear. When they had left
he shrugged his shoulders.

'They make it unanimous," he remarked.
"There's no police force."

From end to end that night, East Dominick
Street blazed with light and hummed and
throbbed with voices. Armed men swaggered
along its sidewalks or breasted the bars where
fiery liquor and flaming words were absorbed
together. All night long, the drone of thousands
preparing for further action resounded through
the shabby thoroughfare. Street lights gleamed
on rifles and pistols. Now and then came fresh
bursts of fierce singing.

The men of the soviet republic of Rome had
met and overcome constituted authority. They

296 Grey Riders

had abolished the police force; they had thrown
the deputies into the canal. Now the city lay
helpless before them.

The celebration of the day's triumph and the
victory that the morrow might bring culminated
in a great open air meeting held in East Rome
and attended by the bulk of the strikers. Here
agitators, with the oratorical gift of their kind,
fired and spurred the undisciplined crowd that
listened to them into frenzv.


No one was sober or clear thinking enough to
appreciate that those who from the platform were
urging the workers to rise and take their own-
meaning the mills and the city were not of their
ranks. They were the red provocateurs who
gather wherever mills and mines lie idle. Their
one aim was to incite to violence; their one gift
was an uncanny knowledge of the psychology of
the foreign-born mob.

Law-abiding citizens elsewhere in New York
State knew little and cared less about what was
happening and what might occur in Rome. Not
so the radical element. Communistic and I. AY.
\Y. leaders in New York, Bridgeport, Paterson,
Pittsburgh, and other centers were watching
developments there closely. Captured corre-
spondence indicated that they were directing

How They Rode to Rome 297

from a safe distance a campaign which, if suc-
cessful, might have been carried to heaven knows
what limits.

Rome's riot, it is now believed, was the at-
tempt of Communists, Bolsheviki, I. "W. W.'s,
and the rest of their breed to determine whether
the East was ripe for revolt; whether the body
politic of New York State was sufficiently
apathetic and unprotected for the destroying
fire of a labor uprising to catch a firm hold.

How far that plot extended or what its ulti-
mate end was to have been is little more than a
guess. It is known certainly, however, that when
the troopers intervened, radical leaders in other
nearby industrial centers were stirring up the
workers to similar "direct action." Proof was
found that Binghamton would have been the
next town to "revolt" if the Rome effort had
been successful.

While the mass meeting was going on, men in
grey were riding swiftly through the night,
bringing to Rome New York's answer to Com-
munism's challenge.

That part of the city not yet invaded by the
rioters lay dark, fearful of the night and the
violence that might walk out of it, and dreading
the coming of the morrow. Better even than the

298 Grey Riders

rioters themselves, the authorities of Rome knew
the city's helplessness. It was utterly at their
mercy unless

Hours before a wire had gone to Albany, al-
most hysterically begging the Governor for aid.
At last came the reply. The troopers had been
ordered in.

To the officials of the stricken city this may
have seemed like a single load of sand bags
against the flood of the Mississippi. For there
were thousands of rioters and the troopers all
told were 232, far flung on patrols throughout the
length and breadth of the State. Rome had seen
its own police broken; its deputies scattered by
the rising tide of lawlessness. What could a
handful of strangers do?

From the office of the Governor word had been
sent to a grey haired, keen visaged man at the
headquarters of the New York State Troopers
in the Capitol. Four times Major George F.
Chandler had spoken into the telephone. That
was all, yet rescue was on the way.

From White Plains where K Troop has its
barracks; from the home of Troop G on the
Albany-Schenectady Road; from D Troop's

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18

Online LibraryFrederic Franklyn Van de WaterGrey riders : the story of the New York state troopers → online text (page 14 of 18)