Frederic Franklyn Van de Water.

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

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familiar grey uniforms, slouch-hatted, and with
sheepskin coats turned up about their ears to
fend off the driving sleet that lashed them and
their mounts.

Strange policemen, these. They spoke to one
pleasantly when questioned. When epithets
were hurled at them experimentally, they did not
frown or fret. Apparently they were deaf to
the threats and predictions that the continually
growing crowds shouted all morning long. Pres-
ently the mob made the common and painful
mistake of identifying this passive demeanor
as a sign of weakness.

Shortly after noon, a repair wagon, guarded by
mounted troopers commanded by Sergeant Mc-
Garvey of Troop K, started out from the car
barns to patch up the cut overhead wires, two
blocks away. The grey riders cleared a path
through the shouting crowd for the wagon, pay-
ing not the slightest heed to the curses and filth

34 2 Grey Riders

screamed at them. The mob was ugly, but still
a little puzzled and forbore to attack.

But when the truck had reached the broken
point in the wire and mechanics on its raised
platform had started the work of repair, from
the roofs on both sides of the street a shower of
cobbles came pouring down. Strikers well
supplied with ammunition rose from behind the
coping and hurled missiles at the workers and
their escort. In the rain of stones the repair men
sought shelter beneath the truck. Several horses
were hit and reared and bucked while the mob
shrieked its delight.

In the face of the storm of cobbles, Sergeant
McGarvey rode forward and shouted to the
throwers. Yells and catcalls of derision greeted
him. The missiles came faster, falling on
troopers and crowd alike. Unless they were
checked it was certain someone would be seri-
ously hurt or killed.

McGarvey's hand dropped to his holster and
came up with a Colt .45 cocked and ready.
There was a grim look about his mouth as
he raised his voice and shouted above the
tumult :

"Cut that out or I'll shoot."

"Ba-a-ah," yelled one of the attackers, lean-

" Call Out the Guard " 343

ing over the coping. " Shoot, ye tin soldier ! Ye
can't hit nothing."

Too often before he had heard policemen
threaten to shoot to be awed by this threat.
The double bang of a .45 answered his defiance.
A foot to the right, a foot to the left of where he
was standing, chips flew from the coping.

McGarvey shook the smoke out of his eyes and
raised his gun muzzle in readiness.

"I'm going to shoot a? the next man who
throws a stone," he bellowed. 'Now, go ahead.
Throw 'em!"

The strikers on the roof tops looked at one
another, at their mate who stood dazed by the
coping, "bracketed" by the sergeant's shots, at
the horseman waiting in the street below.

A calm as of the Sabbath suddenly settled over
the block. The repair men issued from their
hiding places and mended the break in the

But meantime, between them and the car barn,
the crowd was becoming increasingly dense and
ugly. As the repair crew, its work done, started
back for shelter, men blocked the street. They
met the approaching troopers with another
volley of stones.

A minute later they were flying, shrieking like

344 Grey Riders

Indians, for the riders had slapped spurs into
their mounts and charged.

The onslaught of horsemen trained in breaking
up crowds was something that the rioters had
not been schooled to expect in their earlier ex-
perience with the local police. They scattered
like chickens with cavalrymen in grey urging
them on. When the flight and pursuit were over
the horsemen returned, three of them dragging
by the collars unwilling leaders of the mob who
had been too slow of gait. These were arraigned
and held without bail.

Peace brooded over Albany for the rest of the
day. The troopers had reminded the rioters
that laws were not made to be broken.

The order that Captain Dutton had given to
the United Traction Company on taking over
the city had also much to do with the restoration
of quiet. The concern had followed the usual
method of strike-beset corporations and had
employed a number of armed guards and strike
breakers, as well as numerous private detectives.
Their presence on the street was as conducive
to order as dynamite on a stove.

"Take those men off the streets and keep
them off," was the ultimatum served on the
company by the deputy superintendent. "If

" Call Out the Guard" 345

we find them starting anything, we'll arrest
them, every last one of them."

The guards and strike breakers were with-
drawn. Through the ranks of the strikers the
word began to sift that while the men in grey
were undoubtedly shameful sons of disgraceful
ancestry, there was this much to be said for
them they were fair.

Had the strike been confined to Albany the
problem confronting the men of the service
would have been simple. But the riot fever
had spread until every community touched by
the traction company's line had been filled with
the epidemic, and it had jumped to other far-off

Order had no more than been restored in
Albany when the Troy authorities began to howl
dolorously for aid. On the morning of February
10th, Governor Miller extended the jurisdiction
of the troopers to that city as well. More men
were drafted from the four barracks of the or-
ganization, and, on the morning of the llth, fifty
horsemen took over the policing of the riotous

Here again, the old formula was repeated:
first a riot, then the troopers, then peace.

Shortly after the grey riders had arrived and

346 Grey Riders

taken up quarters in the Washington Volunteer
Fire House, the mob that had mocked at the
authority of the local police force gathered in
Franklin Square, howling defiance to the heavens
and daring the police to intervene.

The police did intervene a police strange to
most of these city dwellers. A platoon of slouch-
hatted horsemen trotted to the head of the
square and formed a line there, as quietly as
though going through drill. From the silent
grey line an officer rode into the milling mass of
men and women, and above their curses and
threats lifted his voice to order the square

The mob laughed at him. The officer glanced
at his watch.

"You've got just forty-five minutes to get out
of here," he shouted as calmly and cheerfully as
thoughhe were announcing trains, " if you haven't
cleared out by then, we're going to charge."

This to the rioters, who had learned recently to
scorn police mandates, was a rare jest. They
hooted and laughed raucously and long. Then
they resumed the hurling of threats and obloquy
at the rank of men in grey, at the head of the
square, immobile as a wall, save now and again
for the restless tossing of a horse's head.

" Call Out the Guard " 347

"Five minutes more," Lieutenant Nagell of
Troop G shouted.

The yelling redoubled. Hundreds of voices
screamed :

'We dare you charge!"

They charged.

The wall of grey suddenly became a swiftly
moving wave of horsemen. It swept across the
square like wind over a field, and before it, run-
ning too fast to spare any breath for yelling, sped
the erstwhile mob of a few minutes before. In
less than ten minutes the horsemen had the
square to themselves and the riot was over.

Watervliet was crying for aid. Troopers were
sent there. Within a week, the handful of grey
cavalrymen were patrolling the strike-ridden
towns of Cohoes, Waterford, Green Island,
Hoosick Falls, Ogdensburg, East Syracuse, and
Tonawanda as well. In each of these they met
violence and overcame it. In each they took no
side, but upheld the law. They forbade rioting
and sabotage and crushed all attempts at its
commission. But they also visited swift wrath
upon company guards and private detectives
whom they discovered on the streets.

The widespread area of the strike, and the few
men available to handle it, strained the depart-

34 8 Grey Riders

ment almost to the breaking point. Only a man
of marked military ability could have prevented
that break coming about. Major Chandler, a
skilled strategist, returning from the sick bed of
his son, assumed charge of the situation.

So mobile was his force and so deftly did he
maneuver it, that the strikers were willing to
swear it was ten times its actual strength. The
men were continually on the move, shifting from
this town to the other as the disorder blazed up
or died away.

There was never a moment during the two long
months of the ordeal when a single misstep by
one of the men on duty might not have brought
about disaster. The original stamina of the
troopers and the tempering that they had re-
ceived in the service now were proved to their

By absolute devotion to duty, immediate and
impartial enforcement of the law, calmness and
courtesy wherever possible, and swift and forceful
action where commands were ignored, one hun-
dred and sixty horsemen were enabled to restore
order in eleven towns with a total population of
five hundred thousand.

They made no effort to break the strike. That
was not their concern. But they did uphold the


Guarding the Albany Car Barns

"Ah-h, you dirty Cossacks!"

" Call Out the Guard " 349

law, jealously, fearlessly. Rioters soon learned
to recognize that there was no room for argu-
ment, no chance for appeal when a trooper had

Lieutenant Broadfield of Troop K, now Cap-
tain of Troop B, came upon a crowd at Quail
Street and Central Avenue, Albany. He ordered
them to disperse. They hooted. He charged
toward them, night stick drawn. Thirty seconds
later, the spot where they had stood bore only
one trace of their late presence a pair of arctics
standing unoccupied in the mire. The owner
had been in such haste to comply with Broad-
field's order that he had parted company with
them in his haste.

A riot started in the Albany armory during the
playing of a basketball game, when it was
charged that one of the players had been seen
riding on a street car. Immediately, earnest
efforts were made to string him up to one of the
baskets. Troopers plunged into the fight and
rescued the cause thereof.

' Yah, who won the war, you damned slacker?"
one of the battlers yelled as the men in grey dove
into the melee.

A mighty hand gripped the breeches seat of the
questioner. Another clutched his collar. Wildly

350 Grey Riders

clawing he was rushed across the armory floor,
through a corridor and heaved down the steps to
the sidewalk. There the seeker for information
sat for a moment, dazed. Then he remarked
sadly to the world in general :

"There ain't a bit of doubt who won that


Gradually the one hundred and sixty gained
the upper hand in the last and greatest of that
series of industrial upheavals which had fol-
lowed the war in New York State. They worked
any number of hours a day. They scattered
innumerable mobs. They handed back pacified
towns to the local police forces. They ate when
they could and more than once got all the sleep
they might expect, during that twenty-four
hours, in the saddle.

Eventually, even in Albany, the situation
seemed to clear. The strike continued, but the
strikers seemed to have abandoned violence per-
manently. Slowly, the grey uniformed garrison
in the armory was withdrawn. By the last of
April, Albany's police were once more handling
the situation alone.

In the eleven towns where rioting had necessi-
tated the calling of the troopers, all was out-
wardly peaceful. The troopers had returned

"Call Out the Guard" 351

control of the communities to the local authori-
ties and had faded out of the picture to return to
their proper work as rural police. Then, all at
once, it seemed as though the weary men would
have it to do all over again.

In Albany the revolt had been smothered, but
not extinguished. Unseen, it continued to burn.
The strike had frayed the nerves of all concerned.
There were plenty of trouble makers still in town.
All they needed was a provocation.

This provocation came through a dispute
between the drivers of jitney busses and the
police. During the early days of the strike, when
no cars ran, jitneys were commissioned by the
score to carry stranded passengers. When the
traffic was resumed on the rails of the strike-
ridden traction company, the jitneys continued
to operate and, since the sympathy of Albanians
in general was with the strikers, they got almost
all of the trade.

Complaints were made by the traction com-
pany officials that these jitneys were operating
on streets through which car lines ran, in viola-
tion of the terms of the franchise. The police
were ordered to withdraw the special licenses
of the jitneys. With a complete absence of tact,
they chose to put this ruling into effect on the

35 2 Grey Riders

night of May 19th, when the streets were
crowded with sympathizers with the jitney men
and the strikers. In the presence of these hostile
thousands, they proceeded to tear the licenses
off the motor hacks.

In fifteen minutes, a riot such as Albany had
never seen was surging through the main streets
of the city. The police were helpless against it.
Cars of the traction company were stoned.
Strike-breaking crews deserted them and were
chased by howling hundreds for blocks. The
tension had snapped. Albany was in for another
reign of terror.

Immediately the old familiar cry went out.

"Call the National Guard."

What good were the State Troopers, people
asked? They had been called in months before
to stop rioting, and now look what was happen-
ing ! The fact that the troopers had not been in
the city for weeks, and that there were none
nearer than the Troy barracks at the time the
rioting started, made no impression on the minds
of the panic-stricken.

They continued to bleat frantically for the
National Guard. These soldiers, they said, alone
could stop the trouble that was now making
night hideous. They had never seen the result

" Call Out the Guard " 353

of machine gun fire, nor did they appreciate
what an army rifle, fired into a mob, might do.

Meanwhile, Governor Miller had called, not
for the guard for which Albanians were clamoring,
but once more for the State Troopers. An hour
after trouble started, horses and men had been
ordered to Albany by rail from Oneida, Batavia,
and White Plains, and ten troopers all who were
in the Troy barracks, were riding hard toward
the riot-gripped city.

They were only ten, but when they formed at
the head of the street in which fighting was still
going on, and bore down upon the riot, they
looked like a hundred. Under the surge of
horses and men the mob broke and fled. They
knew the uniforms and the prowess of the men
who wore them.

Ten cavalrymen in grey that night broke a
riot that it was thought the guard alone could
handle. By morning their number had been
swelled to twenty. But the rioters, returning
in the hope of more trouble, thought they were
a regiment.

By horse, by motorcycle, and by automobile
the troopers kept circulating through the busi-
ness district. A guard had been placed over a
building in the course of demolition which had

354 Grey Riders

served the rioters as an ammunition dump the
night before. Through the crowds all that day
the men in grey kept weaving, breaking up
groups, keeping everyone on the move.

No one raised a hand against them. No one
dared. In the Albany papers that morning
Major Chandler announced that his men had
orders to shoot to kill if they saw anyone with a
weapon or a missile. There was no trouble.
The rioters had been bluffed out by twenty men.

Before that evening, reinforcements had ar-
rived and the men in headquarters at the Capitol
breathed a sigh of relief. The worst was now
over. They had the men, and the men, they
knew, could handle the situation.

There had been rumors that there would be
further trouble that night. Reports had reached
the troopers that cars would be fired upon as
they passed the Ten Eyck Hotel in the heart of
the city.

Persons passing the hotel that evening found
themselves hurried on by importunate men in
grey who would listen to no argument. Search-
lights flooded the houses across the way from
the hostelry with their glare and behind the
lights on the roof of the Ten Eyck was a line of
grey uniformed men, rifle in hand, waiting grimly

" Call Out the Guard " 355

for the trouble that was predicted. There was
no trouble that night. There was no more
trouble at all.

For a week thereafter, the troopers patrolled
Albany. No hand was raised against them; no
shot was fired; no stone was thrown. The dis-
order that only the National Guard could stop
was over.

It was over permanently. After a year of
riots by labor, the State over, the workers gave up
"direct action" as a futile and painful proceed-
ing while the troopers were in existence.

During that year 232 men quelled disorder in a
score of towns. They broke an open rebellion
against the government in Rome; they restored
the law among the unruly foreigners of the
State's largest steel city; they put down the most
stubborn rioting that Albany and its sister towns
had ever seen.

From the beginning to the end of their strike
duty, they took no sides. They accepted no
favors from either party. They merely upheld
the law.

They saved the citizens of the State untold
amounts in property that without their inter-
vention would have been destroyed or damaged.
They kept millions of dollars in the State treas-

356 Grey Riders

ury which, otherwise, would have been squan-
dered in calling out the Guard and keeping it in
the field.

And during that bitter year, in uncounted
riots, they killed not a single man, while the
number they injured severely might have been
counted on the fingers of two hands.

These are the men whom labor leaders will tell
you are "Cossacks" and 'the paid thugs of



THROUGH their conduct in the bitter class
combats of the three years following the end of
the Great War, the New York State Troopers
proclaimed that they had achieved their majority.
The ordeals through which they had passed not
only served notice on the world that they had
come to man's estate. They disclosed, as well,
that this maturity was well tempered, sane, and

In four years the grey riders had become
veteran policemen of a type far higher than any
the Empire State had known heretofore. Long
since they had ceased to be an experiment.
Their value as rural guardians of the law had
been proved in the first year of their existence.
Now, they had demonstrated their ability to
take over and handle successfully difficult situa-
tions, filled with possibilities of disaster, which,
hitherto, many had said only the National Guard
could control.


358 Grey Riders

They had demonstrated that they were more
than merely rural police. They had proved
themselves to be the State's first line of defense ;
its sure sword in time of need.

The strike frenzy of those years marks the
conclusion of one epoch and the beginning of
another. To-day, the troopers have ceased to
be on probation in any sense whatever. They no
longer face the task of demonstrating their use-
fulness to the people they serve. That period
has passed. Before them lies the work of main-
taining even raising still higher the standard
they have already established. Theirs is now no
mere struggle for existence. The battle they
fight hereafter is for further illumination of a
splendid record; for increased helpfulness to the
people of New York whose servants they are.

The tried and vindicated body of 348 men,
who maintain the peace and enforce the law of
the State's open places to-day, is a far different
organization from the 232 who rode out from the
pleasant meadows of Manlius in 1917. Yet the
change and improvement has come about, not
by any tremendous overturn of existing condi-
tions, but by gradual evolution. The ideals of
Service and Fidelity that inspired the rookies of
Camp Newayo have not been altered or dimmed.

Squadron, Forward! 359

Years of trial simply have taught the officers and
men of the command how best to achieve those

In the main, this evolution has been accom-
plished without external aid. The members of
the squadron have been tested and sifted again
and again. Those who have been unfit, whether
officers or men, have been discarded. There
have been some slackers and two or three crooks
in the organization. This is unavoidable in any
body of men assembled so quickly, organized so
speedily and invested at once with such heavy
authority. But the time of the drones and the
trouble makers and the isolated breakers of their
enlistment oaths has been always brief. Not only
are they eliminated, but in addition many blame-
less and earnest men are asked to resign simply
because, for one or another reason, they cannot
fit themselves into the service; can not enter
into the finely balanced teamwork that the de-
partment demands. It still isexceedingly difficult
to get into the service, but it is simplicity itself
to get out.

Twice since the formation of the organization,
the legislature has recognized the value of the
work it is accomplishing by adopting measures
designed to aid toward greater achievement.

360 Grey Riders

In March, 1920, Governor Smith, originally
the most bitter antagonist of the troopers,
signed the Walton-Martin Bill providing in-
creased salaries for the organization and creating
two new ranks.

The enlisted men of all grades received a ten
per cent, increase in pay with the further guaran-
tee that $60 per year additional would be paid
every man who reenlisted at the conclusion of
each two-year "hitch."

The salary of the deputy commissioner was
raised from $2500 to $3500; captains were in-
creased from $1800 to $2500 and lieutenants
from $1300 to $1800.

In addition, provision was made for the crea-
tion of a Troop Clerk for each outfit with rank
and pay of sergeant and one Inspector with rank
and pay of lieutenant.

On the shoulders of the troop clerks was
loaded the responsibility of attending to the
ever-increasing volume of office business-corre-
spondence, filing, listing, and so forth.

The Inspector is actually a liaison officer be-
tween headquarters and the widely scattered
troops. He sees that teamwork is carried on
smoothly. He keeps watch over the conduct of
the patrols and investigates complaints and pro-

Squadron, Forward! 361

tests received at headquarters. Practically, he is
a glorified aide-de-camp to the superintendent.

Stephen McGrath, then first sergeant of G
Troop, was the first man to hold this post. When
he was promoted to the captaincy of Troop D,
Lieutenant A. B. Moore of Troop D took his
place and still retains it.

In April of 1921 further tribute was paid to the
value of the troopers to the State when Governor
Nathan L. Miller, whose watchword was
economy and reduction in the expense of all
departments, signed the Fearon Bill, creating
two new troops, and raising the salary of the
superintendent to $8000 a year.

Provision has also been made for the estab-
lishment of a pension fund for those w r ho grow
old in the service.

Three months after the measure authorizing
their creation was passed, the new units were in
the field; one, Troop B, with headquarters at
Malone; the other, Troop C, stationed at Sidney.
Permanent barracks for each troop were nearing
completion in the winter of 1921.

The officers of the six troops of the service are

Troop A: Captain W. W. Robinson, Lieu-
tenant Edward Heim.

362 Grey Riders

Troop B: Captain C. J. Broadfield, Lieuten-
ant Walter Croasdale.

Troop C: Captain Daniel Fox, Lieutenant
Daniel Faber.

Troop D: Captain Stephen McGrath, Lieu-
tenant John M. Keeley.

Troop G: Captain E. F. Tobey, Lieutenant
H. J. Nagell.

Troop K: Captain J. A. Warner, Lieutenant
E. C. Roberts.

Of the twelve troop officers, only one, Captain
Warner, entered the service in 1917 with a com-
mission . All the others have risen from the ranks .

Captain George P. Dutton, the present deputy,
likewise advanced from work in the saddle on
patrol to his present post. He was successively
sergeant, lieutenant, and commander of Troop G,
and when Captain P. E. Barbour resigned in
1918, was chosen his successor. Large of frame,
bland of demeanor, unruffled and sunny of dis-
position, yet a strict disciplinarian and a keen
policeman, to him as much as to any man, save
Major Chandler, is due the triumph that the
command has won.

To him, also, it was that the men of the de-

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Online LibraryFrederic Franklyn Van de WaterGrey riders : the story of the New York state troopers → online text (page 17 of 18)