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

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Governor's support, if a wise amendment had
not been incorporated in the measure through
the insistence of labor's representatives. This
amendment, which should have been made a
portion of the original bill, forbade the troopers
of the squadron-to-be to interfere in city dis-
turbances, save at the explicit command of the

Thus at their inception, the troopers were defi-
nitely established as a purely rural force. They
were to keep away from the hatreds and infinite
bitternesses of industrial strife, save only when
it was a question of sending them or the National
Guard to hold rioters in check.

The amendment also cleared the pathway of
the heavy going that would have been ahead if
the troopers' authority and the jurisdiction of the
city police forces had been permitted to overlap.

42 Grey Riders

The duties and powers of the new organization
were set forth thus:

: 'It shall be the duty of the State Police to
prevent and detect crime and apprehend crimi-
nals. They shall also be subject to the call of
the Governor and are empowered to cooperate
with any other department of the State or with
local authorities. They shall have power to
arrest without warrant any person committing
or attempting to commit within their presence
or view a breach of the peace or other violation
of law, to serve and execute warrants of arrest
or search issued by proper authority and to ex-
ercise all other powers of peace officers in the
State of New York."

Then came that amendment whereby the foes
of rural police sought to limit their authority
and succeeded in purifying and strengthening
the force at its birth.

"But they shall not exercise their powers,"
this read, "within the limits of any city to sup-
press rioting and disorder except by direction
of the Governor or upon the request of the
mayor of the city with the approval of the

The bill restricted the size of the force to four
troops, each with a captain at a salary of $1800;

Birth 43

one lieutenant, $1500; one first sergeant, $1200;
four sergeants, $1100 each; four corporals, $950
each; a saddler and a blacksmith with rank and
salary of corporal, and forty-five troopers at $900

The Governor was to appoint the superin-
tendent whose term of office was to be five years
and his salary $5000 a year. He was to select
his own deputy at a salary of $2500 a year; a
clerk at $1500 a year with the rank of sergeant-
major, and two stenographers with rank of
sergeant and the annual salaries of $1200 each.

All of the above salaries have since been in-
creased. An inspector has been added to the
department and a troop clerk to each troop.

The law required that the superintendent file
a bond of $25,000 and that he be responsible to
the Governor. It provided $500,000 for the ex-
pense of organizing, equipping, and administering
the department for one year. It left the rest of
the problem entirely in the hands of the man
whom Governor Whitman was to appoint.

In this, it followed the principle laid down in
the law creating the Pennsylvania State Police.
There were no checks and balances to hamper or
direct the activities of the commander of the new
force. He was to be supreme in his department,

44 Grey Riders

subject only to the approval of the Governor.
By the measure of his worth, his command was
to succeed or fall.

'What Pennsylvania has done," the New
York Tribune said editorially, "New York can
do if a leader as able as Major Groome can
be found and the politicians and mysterious
'higher-ups' can be made to keep their hands

But the politicians and higher-ups had no in-
tention of keeping their hands off. Rich booty
was almost within their reach. The office of su-
perintendent paid little, but there was a hah
million to be spent in the next year. The eyes
of the people were fixed on Europe. They would
know little and care less about the fate of this
new department. Here was a brand new police
force, designed to be supreme in the rural dis-
tricts of the State. The possibilities of its ma-
nipulation for personal profit were endless and a
people in the midst of war would ask few ques-
tions as to what became of a mere $500,000.

The long-clawed paw of politics was stretched
out toward the cradle in which the new-born
police organization slumbered. Governor Whit-
man struck that paw aside.

To the various tentative nominations for the

Birth 45

post of superintendent, whispered suggestions,
and veiled proposals he returned an inflexible

From that committee of men and women who
had fostered the State Police dream in the face
of four years of discouragement, he had caught
the gleam of the ideal they held. He had talked
over the question of the perfected organization
with a friend of twenty years' standing and that
friend had built up that ideal for him into a
living, splendid thing.

The Governor and this friend had begun their
life work together. In a New York City board-
ing house, more than a score of years before,
Charley Whitman, fresh from New York Uni-
versity Law School, and Dr. George Fletcher
Chandler, graduate of Syracuse and the College
of Physicians and Surgeons had been intimates.

Together the young lawyer and the budding
physician had begun the uphill struggle. Their
paths had parted, but the friendship remained.
One path led to the District Attorney's office in
New York County. The other had carried
Dr. Chandler from the city hospitals to a great
and continually growing practice in the little
city of Kingston.

On a community where ancestor worship

46 Grey Riders

reaches Confucian proportions and a resident of
twenty years' standing is still regarded as an in-
terloper, the young physician from New York
stamped the impress of a powerful personality.
He rose to the foremost rank of surgeons in Eas-
tern New York. He became Captain of Company
M, Kingston's unit of the 2d New York Infantry.
He was known as a musician of rare ability, a
keen judge of art, a man who threw himself with
full energy into any activity that interested him
whether it were arranging for a charity ball or
planning a fishing trip.

Kingston forgot in time that the Chandler
family did not spring from the old settler stock
of the region, which speaks volumes for that

From the beginning, there had been latent in
the man an instinct for organization and leader-
ship. This force had driven him into the Guard,
had inspired him to read extensively and studi-
ously history, law, psychological works. He
knew how to handle men. The high efficiency
of Company M bespoke this. He was not to be
swayed by political influence. Kingston had
learned this long since by a single bit of drama
in which he had stood his ground against what
seemed to be overwhelming odds.

Birth 47

Each year, it had been the custom of Company
M to turn over its armory to a certain religious
organization in Kingston for a charity entertain-
ment. Rival sects finally approached the Com-
pany's commander and set forth that this was
unfair discrimination.

There was justice in their protest. Captain
Chandler recognized this and made up his mind.

"Hereafter," he announced, "there will be a
charity ball at the armory each year in which all
religious and charitable organizations may take
part. There will be no more discrimination."

The wail of protest from the organization
which hitherto had enjoyed the sole privilege of
the armory was deafening, but the Captain of
Company M did not change his ground an inch.
The intervention of the mayor made Captain
Chandler only the more determined not to alter
his stand.

Over the head of the stubborn officer, the or-
ganization went to the adjutant-general. He
appealed to Captain Chandler. He would have
commanded a retraction of the decision had
not the Captain pointed out that under the
law, the commander of Company M had the
right to decide what entertainments should be
held in the organization's armory. Captain

48 Grey Riders

Chandler was sitting tight but he knew perfectly
well what he was sitting on.

The wave of protest, driven on by press and
political comment, eventually washed the door-
sill of the executive mansion in Albany. Gov-
ernor Dix added the weight of his argument to
that of the adjutant-general. To them, Captain
Chandler replied that he was thoroughly capable
of minding his own business and suggested that
other officials might follow his example to

While his assailants were thinking that over,
a ball was held in the armory of Company M.
It was attended by all charitable and religious
organizations in Kingston.

In 1915, the man who had withstood all politi-
cal and social influence that could possibly be
brought to bear on him, was one of the two guard
officers sent to the Field Officer's School at
Leavenworth for training with leaders of the
regular army there. Later he went to the Mexi-
can border with the rank of major, serving there
as Brigade Adjutant. He returned to Kingston
shortly before the State Police law was passed.

Boundless energy, firmness of purpose, im-
munity to political influence, executive ability,
and quick imagination were qualities that his

Birth 49

friends recognized in George Fletcher Chandler.
And Governor Whitman was one of the oldest
of those friends.

These were qualities needed in the man who
was to take the post of superintendent of State
Police and transform the newly born law into
a living police force.

On May 2, 1917, Major Chandler took that



IN October, 1917, the seed planted by the
Committee for State Police came to fruition and
232 grey uniformed cavalrymen rode forth in
their first patrols.

Summer had seen the birth of their organiza-
tion. This had passed almost unnoticed in the
turmoil of the storm that was sweeping in from
across the Atlantic. The hoofbeats of their
mounts were drowned in the long roll of drums.
The first faint clamor of their bugles was lost in
the mutter of a nation arming for conflict.

Reluctantly they turned their backs to the
drama and panoply of war and set about the
sober work of enforcing the law in rural New

It had been their hope, as it had been the
dream of their commander, to ride to war with
the thousands of the State's sons. This pros-
pect had sustained them, had held their organiza-


Boots and Saddles 51

tion together during the first arduous weeks of

When out of the mass of recruits, the outline
of the squadron began to take shape, Major
Chandler wrote to the Secretary of War, offering
his command in the name of the Governor of
New York for service overseas.

Mr. Baker replied that the work the troopers
could best do lay closer at hand. By cooperat-
ing with the civil and military authorities in
holding New York's law inviolable, he said, the
grey riders could accomplish greater service to
the nation than on the battle line.

The troopers took their first disillusionment
as they have taken later rebuffs without com-
plaint. They completed their training and
rode, not through cheering throngs toward the
war, but out along country byways to the end-
less, unrequited labor that waited them there.

Never was there a time w r hen a force such as
theirs was needed more or noticed less.

The very speed and smoothness of their or-
ganization evaded publicity. They were in the
field before the State at large had become aware
of their existence.

On May 2d, the door of the Governor's office
at the capitol slammed behind a stalwart man

52 Grey Riders

with alert eyes above a heavy nose and firm
mouth. That was the second official act in the
career of the superintendent of the, as yet non-
existent, force. The first had been to grip the
hand of his old friend, Charley Whitman, after
he had received his commission as head of the
department. The third was to grin at the re-
porters who gathered round him in the corridor
and issue his first statement of the plans and
purposes of the new organization :

"Nothing to say at this time, gentlemen, and
no time to say it. There's too much to do."

Then Major George Fletcher Chandler set at
work to do it.

Other State Police forces had been born slowly,
out of great labor. There had been months of
investigation and other months of training be-
fore they had come into being. There was no
time for elaborate and expensive preliminaries
in New York State. The police were needed.
They had to be brought into existence quickly,
if at all. The mere problem of equipment was
becoming more serious week by week as the
nation's industries gave themselves over to war

In his own mind, Major Chandler had evolved
a definite idea of what a State Police force

Boots and Saddles 53

should be. His military training had given him
adequate knowledge of how such a force should
be brought into existence. His period of re-
search was brief and filled with action.

Ottawa and the headquarters of the Canadian
Mounted there, saw him for a day or so. In
that time he had acquired all the riders the north
could give him. He had also made arrange-
ments with the British Remount Commission
for the purchase of horses for his command.

At Harrisburg, he ran over the records and
inspected the organization of Pennsylvania's
troopers. He had found time meanwhile to
sketch the uniform which his force was to wear.
He stopped off at New York, consulted w^ith a
firm of military outfitters there and cajoled the
hard-pressed company into undertaking to equip
his command.

Then he returned to Albany to enlist his men.
On June 12th, he appeared at his office to begin
examination of applicants. On June 18th his
roster was filled.

There were thirty-five hundred applicants
and about one in ten examined was accepted.
Major Chandler knew he wanted the men ac-
cepted for he had examined each himself. As a
nucleus for his force, he had fifty-one soldiers,

54 Grey Riders

released from the army, to form the backbone of
the new service. He had chosen his officers from
guard units of the State. All were expert
horsemen and smart disciplinarians.

Of the thirty -five hundred would-be troopers
who applied, those who were not horsemen were
weeded out first. Then the remainder were
subjected to a physical examination more drastic
than that required for army or navy service.
Those who survived this were confronted with
the brain curdling ordeal of a psychological test.
The references of the successful then were looked
up and the final survivors were sworn into the
State's service.

The system initiated at the beginning of the
force is still maintained. Not a man puts on the
grey without first undergoing mental and physi-
cal examination at the hands of the superin-
tendent himself. Major Chandler thus makes
himself responsible personally for each recruit
who joins the department. Since 1918 no man
without an honorable discharge from army or
navy has been taken into the service.

The act creating the organization set forth
that the force was to be divided into four troops.
As his deputy, Major Chandler selected Cap-
tain P. E. Barbour of the 22d Engineers,

Boots and Saddles 55

National Guard. The officers of the four
troops were:

Troop A: Captain Willis Linn, of the 1st New
York Ambulance Company; Lieutenant, John
A. Warner, 1st New York Cavalry.

Troop D: Captain, H. H. Barnes, 1st New
York Cavalry; Lieutenant, J. F. S. Meachem,
1st New York Cavalry.

Troop G: Captain H. G. Rosboro, 1st New
York Cavalry; Lieutenant A. H. Gleason, 1st
New York Cavalry.

Troop K: Captain R. D. Richman, 1st New
York Ambulance Company; Lieutenant, H. H.
Starks, 1st New York Cavalry.

All of these men had served on the border with
the superintendent of the department. He had
seen them in action and knew of their ability to
hammer a force into shape in the least possible

While the work of examining applicants was
going forward, Major Chandler was negotiating
for a training camp. A broad meadow near
Manlius, New York, was obtained. It had been
the former camp of Troop D, 1st New York
Cavalry, and afforded good pasturage, water,
buildings, and necessary railroad facilities.

The men of the service were instructed to

5 6 Grey Riders

report there on June 20th. On that day they
were split up into four troops and actual training

The training field was christened Camp
Newayo in recognition of the work directed by
Miss Newell and Miss Mayo which had resulted
in those lines of tents gleaming against the green
of the meadow ; in uneven ranks of men stumbling
uncertainly through their first drills.

Major Chandler in the meantime had dashed
off to Lathrop, Mo., and from Colonel Drage,
head of the British Remount Commission, had
received permission to pick 243 horses from the
twelve hundred held in reserve there.

All of the animals were of sturdy western
stock, acclimated and hardy and of the cob type
from fourteeen to fifteen hands in height,
short cuppled, with pasterns of medium length,
broad of chest, short of leg, wide of forehead,
well knit throughout, and brown or bay in color.

The head of the new department chose his
horses as carefully as he had selected his men.
A large proportion of the animals were mares, for
Major Chandler had determined that his com-
mand would raise its own future mounts. The
State of New York paid $160 per horse, delivered
at the camp. Major Chandler saw them started

Boots and Saddles 57

east and reached their destination only a little
while before his purchases rolled in.

Two hundred and forty-three animals were
detrained by the apprehensive recruits and run
into a corral for the night. Shortly thereafter,
the count showed 244. Troopers inspecting
their mounts-to-be came upon a mild-eyed,
solemn, little mule colt standing upon four
wobbly legs and looking wistfully out upon the
world into which he had just been ushered, while
his mother, declared by the troopers to be wholly
without proper shame, nuzzled him fondly.

"Gee Whiz!" exclaimed his discoverers among
other things, and so he was christened forthwith.

Governor Whitman on visiting the camp a few
days later, was introduced to the newest member
of the department.

" It's the first thing I ever heard of the State
of New York getting for nothing," he remarked
after the ceremony.

Gee Whiz, now a big powerful animal and
assigned to Troop G by virtue of his name, was
used last winter to draw a sleigh in which troopers
patrolled the snow -blocked roads of the upper

Theoretically, all of the horses had been
broken at the remount station. Actually, many

58 Grey Riders

of them had forgotten all of their alleged training
on the journey east.

For days after their arrival the horse lines at
the camp assumed the appearance of a western
rodeo. Men who had boasted emptily of their
horsemanship, and horses said to have been
broken, learned of cavalry tactics together.
There were times, veterans of the organization
will tell you, when the thud of falling riders rolled
over the pleasant field like the sound of far-off
bombardment. There were days when the hospi-
tal tent was filled with the kicked and thrown.
These, when able to stand on two feet again,
went heroically back to the work of becoming
acquainted with their mounts.

An element of chance was injected into the
early cavalry drills. What started out to be a
maneuver frequently ended up as a stampede.
Your own or your neighbor's mount might take
it into his head to run away or buck his rider off
at any minute.

Gradually, discipline bit into man and beast.
Drill formations began actually to look like
drill formations. Men approached their mounts
more frequently with smiles and more rarely
with prayers upon their lips.

The recruits became familiar with infantry







Boots and Saddles 59

and cavalry drill. They learned on the range to
shoot straight with revolver and carbine. They
were taught how to care for their horses and

Besides the orthodox military training, the men
were taught the rudiments of police work. From
dawn to nightfall they were in the field. In the
evenings they attended lectures in the big
meeting tent, where their own officers and other
speakers addressed them. Examinations were
held later on these lectures.

Judge Alton B. Parker, Judge Ben V. Shove,
Deputy Attorney General Edward G. Griffin,
and Inspector Cornelius F. Calahane of the New
York City Police Department, were among those
who taught the troopers the elements of law and
police work.

Gradually, the mass of men and horses took
definite shape and grew into a clearly outlined
organization. After the first weeks of punish-
ing work, pride in the service began to replace
bewilderment in the minds of the recruits.

Their commander and his subordinates worked
hard to build up morale. Now that the organi-
zation had become a living entity, Major
Chandler began to preach to it his gospel of
police work ; his conviction that this force, strug-

60 Grey Riders

gling toward birth on the meadow near Manlius,
was destined to lead the way toward a higher and
finer conception of law enforcement than New
York, or any State, had yet known.

Men caught the fervor of his belief; saw the
shape of his ideal and became converted to it.
The things he taught gave to the embryo
troopers a substitute for the tradition they were
yet to build, and they grew proud of the New
York State Troopers for the things it was to be.

The spirit of the force gradually triumphed
over the exhausting work its members were
undergoing. Songs of no high measure of re-
spectability, brought into being by particularly
inglorious Miltons, were chanted triumphantly
during the rare periods of idleness. The Ancient
Order of Fleas, a secret society with a peculiarly
atrocious ritual, was created and its charter
members joyously initiated the entire rank and
file of the department. The spirit of the men
was achieving victory over the ordeal through
which they were passing. The organization
was beginning to find itself.

Toward the end of the training period, officers
of each troop picked their non-coms from the
men who had best acquitted themselves during
the three months of proving.

Boots and Saddles 61

From underclothes out, the State equipped
its force for the field. Uniforms, shirts, socks,
shoes, hats, caps, and even towels were provided.
Besides the heavy laced boots for rough work,
puttees for summer wear were included in the
equipment. The men were armed with the
Colt 45 revolver, Winchester 30-30 carbines,
and loaded riding crops.

Later, the carbines were discarded except for
riot duty and when patrolling the unsettled dis-
tricts of the State. The loaded crop also gave
way to the less graceful but more effective riot
stick, slung to the saddle bow.

The McClellan saddle was selected as best
fitted for the purposes of the service. A thick
saddle blanket and combination halter and
bridle completed the equipment of the mounts.
On patrol, the troopers were to carry saddle
bags, strapped on behind the cantle, and rain-
coats, rolled and fastened before the pommel.

All was issued to the troopers, free. Their
sole expenses were to be underclothing and
toilet articles. The rest clothing, equipment,
food and lodging for horse and man, came from
the State. With this in view, the $900 a year
paid to the men of the service sounded less
meager. To single men and most of the men

62 Grey Riders

of the command were unmarried this meant
some $800 a year spending money.

On September 5th, a little more than four
months after Major Chandler had received his
appointment, a little less than three since the
men had come to Camp Newayo, the training
period ended. Drilled and armed, uniformed,
equipped, and mounted, New York's State Police
were ready to take the field.

Their first work was the policing of the State
Fair at Syracuse; work that had been done here-
tofore by the New York City mounted police at
a cost to the State of more than $5,000 a year.

Those who attended the fair that year saw
the grey riders in action for the first time: men
lean, bronzed, and trained to the quick, who
skillfully handled their horses, wild as the wind
three months before, and were almost patheti-
cally eager to make good.

On the opening day of the fair, before Gov-
ernor Whitman and a grandstand crammed to
its limit, they held their first formal review.
Guard officers who had chuckled to themselves

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Online LibraryFrederic Franklyn Van de WaterGrey riders : the story of the New York state troopers → online text (page 3 of 18)