Frederic Franklyn Van de Water.

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

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Guards"; the least, "The Slacker Police."

The Democratic party throughout the State
also protested every action of the organization,
the creation of a Republican regime. Labor
continued its long howl of objection, raised
originally when the first State Police bill was
introduced into the Legislature.

But gradually this storm died away. Out of
the decreasing turmoil of condemnation, clear
voices of praise began to be lifted.

The troopers were fair. The farmer folk
granted that. They weren't the bullies they had
been made out to be. Somehow, you rather
liked the fellows when you talked to them.

Then, whole townships that had suffered the
rule of lawbreakers who had laughed at the
local authorities began to speak well of these
quiet men in grey, who seemed to have the
knack of finishing what they set out to do.

For a century 'Five Chimneys" had had a
reputation which had grown steadily worse with
the passing years. Originally the crumbling
building had been a road house, no more than
quasi-respectable in its heyday, when the stage

First Patrols 85

coaches from Syracuse to Oneida changed horses
there and passengers alighted for refreshment.
Even in that time unpleasant rumors floated
about the countryside of travelers who had
stopped there alone and had never been seen

Rail, and then motor, traffic robbed Five
Chimneys of its only reputable reason for exist-
ence, but it continued to flourish after its fashion.
The years that swept over it plucked shingles
from its roof, wiped the last traces of paint from
its walls, and sagged its ridge pole.

From windows with most of the panes broken
the inn leered upon the world, a disreputable
sinner to w r hom age had brought no repentance.

Five Chimneys was still an hostelry by name,
but long ago what legitimate trade it had en-
joyed had dropped away. Eventually, its repu-
tation prevented the renewal of its license, which
only meant that thereafter the State obtained
no revenue from the liquor it sold.

From bad master to worse, the ancient build-
ing descended until it fell at length into the
hands of Sam and Louis Bernardino, Italians
whom the editors of the Munnsville and Stock-
bridge papers never hailed as "genial and popu-
lar bonifaces." Neither geniality or popularity

86 Grey Riders

were in the make-up of Sam or Louis, and the
outraged local authorities called them things
that even a country paper would not print.

The doubtful reputation of Five Chimneys
was no longer dubious. It was a road house
still in name but in reality it was a "blind pig";
a "fence"; an establishment where liquor was
sold to Indians of the nearby reservation and a
stronghold for the minions of Sam and Louis
who preyed upon the surrounding communities.

Local authorities protested against its con-
tinued existence, and impelled by these protests,
constables and deputies made extremely half-
hearted efforts to check the depredations of the
inn's frequenters. But the hostility of Sam and
Louis, and their meticulous accuracy in relat-
ing what was going to happen to anyone who
interfered with them, completely dampened
what ardor the law officers had brought to their

Eventually, Five Chimneys and its proprietors
were left severely alone by the two towns. The
only trouble with this policy was that the fre-
quenters of the establishment would not re-

On a frosty afternoon in early October, 1917,
those who lurked behind the grimy windows of

First Patrols 87

the old road house might have seen two horse-
men in strange grey uniforms come ambling
along the highway past the place. The knowl-
edge that the riders were Troopers II. C.
Wagner and J. Wolinsky of the new-fangled
outfit that had recently been quartered at
Oneida would probably have signified nothing
to either Sam or Louis. Yet the men who
passed meant that the final period was about to
be affixed to the lurid record of Five Chimneys'

There were only a few paragraphs to be added
to its tale and Wagner and Wolinsky were
shortly to add them.

The troopers were on their first patrol and
the words with which their captain had sent
them forth still sounded in their ears. They
had no tradition to fall back upon only a new
theory of police work that had been dinned into
them during the rigorous period of training.

Munnsville, the persecuted, saw them come,
and from the grocery steps and behind windows
where women peered out, w r ondered who they

One resident at least knew. He was Edward
Spaulding, former constable of the town, w r ho in
times past had had painful experiences with the

88 Grey Riders

lawless garrison of Five Chimneys. He fol-
lowed the riders to the stable where they un-
saddled their mounts, determined to be the first
to make known Munnsville's grievances against
the inn and its proprietors.

As the troopers, saddlebags on arm, quitted
the stable after grooming and bedding their
mounts, former Constable Spaulding drew nigh
and spun for them the tale of Munnsville's woe.

Of Sam and Louis he sang his lament; large
bellicose Italians, wide of girth and shoulder,
ferocious of face, adept with tongue, knife, and
fist, who scorned the law and red visaged and
snarling defied its constituted officers.

Of the doings at Five Chimneys he also told;
of Indians reeling back drunk to the reserva-
tion to stir up trouble; of ne'er-do-wells who,
refused liquor in the respectable places, man-
aged to get it somehow ; of riotous parties at the
inn; of fights and drinking bouts and scandals.
With the painstaking attention to detail of the
small town resident, former Constable Spauld-
ing told all he knew.

He dilated on robberies, thefts, burglaries,
hold-ups, assaults, breaches of the peace, dis-
orderly conduct, and other offenses which he laid
at the rotting door of Five Chimneys. He de-

First Patrols 89

scribed the stealing of cattle, chickens, and other
stock and went into particulars concerning the
gang that he said did it.

And ever and anon through former Constable
Spaulding's song of complaint ran the burden:

"That there Five Chimneys ought to be put
out of business."

When he had finished the troopers spoke.

"All right," they said. "Let's go. Where
is this dump?'

"How?" queried the ex-constable.

"This Five Chimneys. We'll pull it."

"W 7 hen?" demanded Spaulding, unaccus-
tomed to such simple, direct action on the part
of law officers.

"Right now."

"Wait till I get my car," exclaimed the in-
spired former policeman, "and by gosh, I'll go
with you."

On the journey through the gathering dusk
toward the old inn, however, the troopers' guide
could not shake himself free from the role of
Job's comforter. Apparently, old threats of the
Bernardino brethren ran through his mind and
now and again he spoke.

"Cut your liver out . . . handy with a
knife those dagoes . . . stamp you right into

90 Grey Riders

the ground ... get you sure if they get


Presently Five Chimneys loomed up, a blotch
of deeper shade in the thickening twilight. No
light gleamed from within. To all outward
appearances, the place was deserted.

Down the road, away from the hostelry, a man
was tramping. Him the troopers overtook.
Questioned by Spaulding who recognized him as
one Ed Coughlin, the man admitted that he had
just left Five Chimneys. He was searched and
a pint of whiskey was discovered. He admitted
that he had bought it from the Bernardinos.

With this as their basis for action, the troopers
approached the gaunt building and hammered
on the door. The sound of their summons
echoed through the house and died away into
silence. Again and again they pounded, and
only the echoes gave answer.

Then for the first time in a generation Five
Chimneys felt the force of law that knows no
turning aside or hesitation. The ancient door
creaked and groaned under the force of Wagner's
and Wolinsky's shoulders, then splintered and fell
in with a resounding crash.

Through the opening the troopers plunged,
and almost into the arms of a burly Italian. His

First Patrols 91

rage seemed to lend his face incandescence in the
darkness. With moustaches bristling, he liter-
ally screamed his protest against this outrage.
Mistaking the silence of the two men in grey for
fear, he switched from protests to threats, the
most merciful of which included immediate and
peculiarly painful extinction.

When the turmoil of his passion caused him
to choke and gasp for breath, Wagner spoke

"If you've finished," he said, "you'd better
come along. You're under arrest."

The Italian waved his arms and bellowed.

"Shut up!" commanded Wagner incisively.

The prisoner gulped and shut up. Outside
Spaulding peered into the face of the captive.

"Gosh," he marveled, "it's Louis Bernardino.
And he's 'rested. Well by Gosh!"

He held the prisoner while Wagner and
Wolinsky found a lantern and searched the place
from garret to cellar. From under the stove
protruded a pair of boots which on being pulled
violently proved to be attached to the person of
William Franklin who admitted that he was a
patron of the establishment.

With the three prisoners the troopers and their
guide then drove to Oneida where Bernardino

9 2 Grey Riders

was held for violation of the liquor law, and
Coughlin and Franklin were released on their
promise to appear against the Italian in the

Early the next morning, the troopers again
descended upon Five Chimneys. Beneath a
mattress they found Sam, younger brother of
Louis. The fate of the other Bernardino had
tamed him. He offered no protest when told he
too was under arrest. A quantity of liquor was
also discovered and in the attic of the hotel ten
thousand cigars were found cached.

The brothers were arraigned before Justice
W. Davis and held for the grand jury on charges
of liquor law violation and running a disorderly
house. They were later fined five hundred
dollars each and ordered out of the county.

On the Oneida-Schenectady road Five Chim-
neys still stands, an empty building, falling to
pieces, deserted, ramshackle, with all the evil life
it held so long swept out of it; a monument to a
rural police ideal which even at its birth knew
no fear and no turning back.

Such were the missionaries to whom Major
Chandler entrusted the work of converting the
hostile and suspicious in rural New York to the
cause of the troopers. They were raw. They

First Patrols 93

made blunders. But through all the early awk-
ward work of the young organization ran the
fine golden thread of the ideal they followed-
service, fidelity, courage.



SAM PASCO was bad.

Certain of the faint-hearted of this world ac-
quire evil or have it thrust upon them by the
force of circumstance. There was none of this
weakness in the cosmos of Sam Pasco. He was
bad for the same reason that an apple tree is
gnarled or a bramble, thorned.

Through the male line of his family, whose his-
tory in Warren County, New York, can be traced
back by a series of atrocious facts into a welter of
even gaudier legend, Sam inherited a lean, tireless
body, six feet five inches in height and every inch
steel and whipcord. Into this receptacle lawless
forebears had poured their accumulated iniquity.

Pasco was born bad, lived bad, and died unre-
pentant under the rifles of the men of G Troop,
New York State Troopers. His death set the
capstone upon the sinister reputation he had
built up through an outrageous life.


The Man They Had to Kill to Get 95

Sam was the one man among the thousands
the troopers have hunted down that they had to
kill to get.

If you turn the pages of the big scrapbook that
lies on a table in the barrack room of Troop G,
you will come at length to a placard issued by
the Sheriff of Warren County. This offers five
hundred dollars reward for the capture, dead
or alive, of Alvin (Sam) Pasco, who on April
19, 1918, killed Orlie Eldridge at Thurinan,
N. Y.

Above this modest offer for no one who
knew Pasco would have willingly crossed his
path for twice that sum is a reproduction of the
only photograph of Sam extant. No prompt-
ing of vanity brought about its taking, but
rather the insistence of the man who has charge of
such matters at Dannemora Prison where Pasco
served six years for grand larceny and, upon
receiving his freedom, returned home and
committed the murder for which he later died

Hair, matted and coarse as a straw thatch,
grows down low over the narrow forehead. The
eyes, sunk beneath overhanging brows, have the
bleak, insolent stare of a hawk. The cheeks
are thin, the jaw heavy, and the mouth is a
straight, cruel slash across the lower face.

96 Grey Riders

Above the picture someone has scrawled:
"Gone but not forgotten."

That is G Troop's epitaph for the only man
who has ever defied them to the ultimate limit
of all defiance.

In Warren County the Adirondacks run out
into foothills. To the tourist, it is a lovely
land, well timbered, laced with streams, and
dotted with lakes and ponds. It is a less genial
terrain for those who trust it for a living. In
the folds of the hills life runs on much as it did a
hundred years ago.

The rifle aids the plow in eking out a liveli-
hood for the hard-bitten folk of the region who
laugh at game laws and continue to lead the life
of the frontier, though the frontier is no more.
More than once the repeaters which stop the
deer in his track, in and out of season, have been
used to flout the law; usually with success until
the coming of the troopers.

It was in this region that the tribe of Pas-
co built up for itself a record of iniquity that
still endures though the last of the male
line has perished. By violence they lived
and by violence, for the most part, they

Consider the demise of Charles Pasco, known

The Man They Had to Kill to Get 97

through the region as "Dick," and uncle to
"Sam," whose Christian name was Alvin.

Confidence in his ability to outguess his
neighbor brought about his inglorious end.
When resting from the more violent varieties of
iniquity Dick sought relaxation in chicken
thieving. One hen roost in the neighborhood
had suffered so heavily from his depredations
that the owner bought a spring gun; set it in the
coop, and warned all his neighbors that the next
man who entered the place without authority
would inevitably have his head blown off.

Dick took these words to heart and after con-
siderable thought set out one dark night on an-
other chicken raid. If the gun was sighted to
blow off the head of the man w f ho opened the
door, he argued to himself, then surely, if one
approached the portal on hands and knees and
opened it while in this position, the charge of
buckshot w r ould whistle harmlessly over his

Dick's strategy was good but he trusted too
much to the word of the chickens' owner. This
was a merciful man who had set his spring gun
so as to hit any intruder in the shins. But when
the door opened Dick's head was where his shins
properly should have been and the charge tore

98 Grey Riders

into his skull and stretched him dead across the

Leander, father to Sam, also died suddenly and
violently because he was stubborn enough to
quarrel with his family. The head of the clan
disagreed on some point of policy with his son
and son-in-law, Calvin Wood. Argument and
vituperation bringing no settlement to the dis-
pute, Sam and Calvin determined to resort to
the more decisive voice of the Winchester.

Having decided that father must die, the
only point of dispute left between the dutiful
members of the second generation was who
should have the honor of killing him. For this
they dealt a hand of poker, and Calvin won,
legend has it, by three sixes against queens

Calvin took down his Winchester and camped
beside the dusty mountain road along which he
knew Leander came down each Friday from his
farm to market. There in the trail, they found
Leander's body with a bullet hole through his
head; one hand still gripping the ancient white
umbrella he had carried to ward off the sun, for
he was an old, feeble man.

For this Calvin went to the chair and Sam, the
last of the line, reigned alone.

The Man They Had to Kill to Get 99

When he cared to work, Pasco was an excel-
lent guide. He was a dead shot with the heavy
Winchester that seldom was out of his reach.
He never lied, chewed, smoked, drank, or swore.
These were his virtues.

He was a bully, a gunman, a thief, a despot
who ruled the entire region with his rifle for a
scepter. What he wanted he took, and the less
desperate dwellers in the region, confronted by
the hard-faced giant with his Winchester in the
crook of his arm, made no more than the most
perfunctory objection to his will.

Once or twice, ill-advised farmer folk who had
been levied on by Sam for the crops or the imple-
ments he wanted, did protest to the local authori-
ties. One of these wakened a few nights later to
find his barns ablaze. Another, roused by the
lowing of his cattle, sallied forth in the early dawn
to find a bouquet of cows' tails on the barn floor
and none at all on the cows. Thus Sam dealt
with those who protested against his rule and
presently there were no more protests.

At length the machinery of the law, after
slipping many times, did get a grip on Sam and
a jury was found sufficiently courageous to de-
clare him guilty of grand larceny. He went
away to Dannemora for six years, and com-

ioo Grey Riders

parative peace brooded throughout that part of
Warren County.

The farm that had descended to Sam through
the death of his father remained vacant a short
while and then was taken over by Orlie Eldridge
and his wife. The latter was a cousin of Sam
and claimed to have a half interest in the place.

At length, the doors of Dannemora swung
open for Pasco and he returned to his former
haunts. Wrath mounted high in him when he
learned that the home of his sainted parent was
being occupied by outlanders, and stopping only
long enough to recover and load his rifle, he set
forth to wipe the stain from the family honor.

Now during the years that Sam had spent in
jail a new force for law had been born in New
York State. Their demeanor was as quiet as
the grey uniforms they wore, but by the law of
their service they stepped not aside, even for
men so redoubtable as Sam.

Late on the night of April 18, 1918, Troopers
Herrick and Kelly, stationed at Warrensburg,
got a telephone call from Deputy Sheriff Smith
of Athol. Pasco was on the rampage again.
At eight that evening he had appeared at the
door of his ancestral home, rifle cocked and
ready, and had announced, quite calmly but

The Man They Had to Kill to Get 101

extremely positively, that Eldridge and his wife
had just five minutes to get off the property if
they wished to keep on living.

It took the couple not quite half the time al-
lowance to comply w r ith the request. They
knew Sam.

At midnight, Herrick and Kelly rode into
Athol where the evicted Eldridges told them their
story. After listening to the hysterical tale,
they finally got from the man an admission of
willingness to talk things over with Pasco and
try and reach an amicable settlement concerning
the disputed property.

At dawn the troopers, accompanied by El-
dridge, reached the home of Joe Maxim, about a
quarter-mile from the Pasco house. There,
Herrick and Kelly had heard, Sam was being
entertained by a more or less willing host. El-
dridge, so great was his terror of Pasco, refused
to go anywhere near the building but waited on
the crest of the hill while the troopers ap-
proached Maxim, who was picking up wood
in the back yard, presumably to cook his guest's

He insisted at first that Pasco was not there,
but finally admitted that the man the troopers
wanted was inside. They entered and at the

102 Grey Riders

end of the hall saw Pasco standing at a bedroom
door, his rifle in his hand.

He listened gravely while they told of El-
dridge's desire for compromise and finally said
shortly that he was willing to talk things over.

" Better leave your gun here," one of the
troopers suggested as they started to leave the

"No," Sam replied, "it belongs to a fellow
down the road a piece. I'll take it back to him."

On the crest of the hill, they met the frightened
Eldridge. The quartette talked quietly for a
few minutes and, at the conclusion of the dis-
cussion, Sam announced his willingness to sell
out his share of the farm.

He and Eldridge then started down the road
together, still talking apparently amicably, and
the troopers followed some yards in the rear.

What transpired in that few minutes of con-
versation, no one will ever know. The dawn was
brightening into day and the troopers, worn and
sleepy from their night of search, marked no
danger to the newly made peace until they heard
an oath from Eldridge and the bang of a shot.

Sam had swung about, crouched and tense as
a panther ready to spring. The rifle that had
just spoken was held to his hip. As the troopers

The Man They Had to Kill to Get 103

gazed into its rnuzzle, a little stream of smoke
dribbled out in the still morning air.

Eldridge was bent over gasping and wheezing
as a man might with cramps. For a breath's
passing the four stood stark and silent as a
group in bronze. Then Eldridge straightened
up and fell over dying into Kelly's arms. Very
carefully Pasco began to back away down the
road, the muzzle of his rifle swaying slowly like a
snake ready to strike. The hands of Herrick and
Kelly crept toward the revolvers on their thighs.

Tense deliberation suddenly exploded into
swift action. Pasco jumped like a cat for the
woods at the side of the road. Herrick and
Kelly fired. The rifle barked and a bullet tore
Herrick's shirt across his ribs and just scored
his side.

The troopers emptied their guns at the fugi-
tive. They saw him spin around and fall, leap
up again and vanish in the thicket. They fol-
lowed, but they caught only a glimpse of him as
he crossed a field far away and plunged into the
deeper w r oods.

On the road where Kelly had laid him El-
dridge was hiccoughing his life away. They
carried him to the Pasco house where he died.
Then they set out to follow the murderer.

104 Grey Riders

But first they telephoned to headquarters for
aid. Little assistance could be gained from the
folk of the region who knew too well Sam Pasco
and his rule by rifle. That afternoon Corporal
Fox and Troopers Myers, Stanwix, and Holmes
arrived from G Troop's barracks by automobile,
bringing the 30-30 carbines that the troopers
usually carry only on riot duty. Later in the
day Sergeant Sheehan arrived with Trooper
Kelsey and took charge of the man hunt.

They set out at once to comb the hills that
were familiar to Pasco and strange to them; to
search a territory whose inhabitants, if not
hostile to the troopers, feared the man they
hunted too sincerely to give the pursuers aid.

There was never an instant during that long,
painful hunt when the hunters were not face to
face with death. Somewhere in the ranges, where
spring was beginning to stir, lurked a killer who
would die righting. Pasco was badly wounded
and was hiding like an injured animal, but
this the troopers did not know.

They sought him afoot and ahorse; they tried
to track him down with a bloodhound all with-
out success. People of the region grinned at
their efforts.

At length, the troopers abandoned hunting

The Man They Had to Kill to Get 105

and began to trap. To some one of those
houses and shacks tucked away in the hills Pasco
must come to get food. Accordingly they
waited, lying out by day and by night, watching
the homes of those known to be friendly to the

Under the strain of that search the men grew
lean and haggard. They had little time for
sleep and less for food, but they kept on. They
had to get Pasco, dead or alive.

No one knows where the hunted man holed up
during the first week of the search. One of a
less tremendous physique would perforce have
surrendered, for there was a hole in his back
where a 45 -caliber slug had entered and another
in his stomach where it had come out, after
skirting his ribs. AVith this terrific injury Pasco
had crawled away into some fastness of which
he alone knew. There he had poulticed both
wounds with mud. A physician would have
called this suicidal. Yet both holes \vere healing
when the troopers finally got him.

The mountaineers of \Yarren County had seen

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Online LibraryFrederic Franklyn Van de WaterGrey riders : the story of the New York state troopers → online text (page 5 of 18)