Frederic Franklyn Van de Water.

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

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other law officers hunt for Pasco. They waited
for the old story to be rehearsed the hue and
cry, the failing activity, and, finally, the aban-
donment of an empty search. Yet as days passed

io6 Grey Riders

without bringing any encouragement to the men
in grey, they redoubled their efforts. Gradually
it was brought home to the folk of Warren
County that here were men of a different breed
from the deputies and constables whom Pasco so
often had mocked. These quiet, determined
horsemen were going to get Pasco if it took all
summer. With the realization of this, came a
revulsion of feeling among the neighbors of the
hunted man. For the first time in the Me of
Sam Pasco, those who knew and feared him be-
gan furtively to side with those who sought him.

On April 29th, a shabby mountaineer ap-
proached one of the searchers and with many
fearful glances about him, whispered a few words.
He was a relative of one Hewett, a farmer who
lived in the foothills, near The Glen, and who was
now kept a virtual prisoner in his house by Pasco.

By night the fugitive was coming to this house
to get food. No one knew where he came from
or where he went on leaving. In the house he
sat in a corner of the room, a table in front of
him and his rifle laid across it, cocked, while he

He had told his unwilling host that he watched
the house all day long, and warned him that he
would die if he tried to leave the place. Hewett

The Man They Had to Kill to Get 107

managed to get word to his relative, however,
who in turn reached the troopers.

By this messenger the troopers sent back word
to Hewett to pull down the shade over a certain
window if Pasco were there. That night they
crept up about the dwelling and waited. But
no signal came. For some reason their quarry
had become wary.

When darkness had fallen on the night of April
30th, they surrounded the house again. Cap-
tain Button, now deputy superintendent, was
in charge. The others who lay out in the brush
that long, long night were Sergeant Sheehan
and Troopers Ryan, Kelsey, Myers, Richter,and

The night was still and very dark. Dew
soaked the men to the skin as they crept up
toward the house. Over the signal window the
shade had been drawn. Pasco was there.

There was nothing to do but wait, for the man
they wanted had assured Hewett that if men
tried to take him while he was in the house, its
owner would be the first to die.

Hour after hour, the men in grey lay in a
semicircle about the door, silent under the
marching stars. The dew dripped steadily from
the eaves of the house and little creatures of the

io8 Grey Riders

night scuffled and rustled through the woods.
Once or twice, they caught the murmur of voices
within the dwelling. Hewett could tell a strange
story of those long hours during which he played
host to Pasco with his life in his hand, knowing
that a half dozen rifles were leveled outside to
greet his guest in parting.

It was only an hour before midnight when a
gaunt shadow passed across the glowing window
shade a shadow with a long rifle carried in the
crook of its arm. There was a little stir, more felt
than heard, in the darkness outside. Somewhere
sounded the "clock" of a rifle being cocked.

Then a yellow bar of light shone between the
back door and the jamb. Slowly it broadened
and in it appeared a figure that loomed gigantic
in the half light. Sam Pasco stepped across the
threshold to his death.

There was a sudden short movement in the
darkness and a voice called:

"Put up your hands, Pasco!"

He faced the menace that spoke out of the
blackness like the wild thing he was. There was
a snarl and he turned to run.

Three little pencils of fire scratched across the
darkness. There was the triple clatter of rifle
shots. Pasco's shadowy figure remained erect

The Man They Had to Kill to Get 109

an instant and then quite deliberately sank to
the ground.

He died the next morning as he had lived-
defiant and fearless to the last.

"Preacher!" he scoffed when they told him he
was going. "What fer? I'm goin' to hell any-
how. Leinrne go peaceful."

"Bury me," he whispered just before he went,
"bury me out in the pasture alongside the old
cow I planted there a week ago."

His nose wrinkled in a defiant grin that was
half snarl. Then Sam Pasco died.

Thus the troopers slew the only man they
have had to kill in the four and a half years of
their existence. Since then, in rioting mobs they
have faced thousands armed with stones and
clubs and deadlier weapons. They have broken
and scattered these mobs; they have confronted
desperate criminals, single handed. Many of
the riders themselves have been seriously in-
jured. Yet, save for the unlamented Pasco,
they have taken no life.

All that first year of trial, the man who had
made the department could watch and feel the
rooting and growing of the organization he had
molded. He could see the gospel he had ham-
mered into his men taking hold in the country-

no Grey Riders

side. Editorials in the country papers, letters
that began to pour in, spoke of the awakening
approval of the people the grey riders had been
sent forth to guard.

No one could measure the extent of this con-
version. Yet presently the question of that
extent became immediate and vital.

In the fall of 1918 Governor Whitman was
opposed for reelection by the man who during
his long sojourn in the Legislature had fought
the police measure bitterly. In November, the
unexpected happened and Alfred E. Smith,
Democrat, was chosen Governor of New York.

When he took office, the troopers had been
scarcely fifteen months in the field; too small a
time, even the strongest supporters of the de-
partment feared, for any organization to demon-
strate its work convincingly to the people of the
entire State.

In January, 1919, in his first message to the
Legislature Governor Smith opened the war,
advocates of the State Police had felt was bound
to ensue.

"I believe," he wrote, "y u can abolish the De-
partment of State Police. There seems to be no
justification for its further existence. The return
to the State is not commensurate with the cost."



So, almost at birth, the New York State
Troopers stood face to face with the threat of
dissolution. The Governor of the State, the
man who by law was their supreme commander,
had branded them as useless and had demanded
their abolition.

The dreams of those who had made and who
loved the service all at once went black. The
future that had seemed so splendid, suddenly
was wiped out. It is strange that, in the face of
this heavy threat, the young organization did
not fall to pieces of its own weight.

The attack of the Governor left no room for
argument. His conviction that the troopers
were at best an extravagant and unnecesary
accessory to the State government was sincere
and fervent.

The youth of the organization, the fact that

no service could be expected to demonstrate a


ii2 Grey Riders

high degree of worth with only fifteen months'
trial, made no difference to Alfred E. Smith.
He had an honest hatred of the things labor had
told him all State Police represented.

"They're no use. Throw them out," ordered
the Governor.

" What are you going to do about it?" friends
of the organization asked Major Chandler.

"We obey orders," replied the leader of the
grey riders. "If they say quit, we quit."

There was no public protest from the men of
the young service. They had been taught to
bear punishment, close-mouthed. Faced with
dissolution, their officers redoubled rather than
slackened their efforts.

"Let's make it good while it lasts, anyway,"
was the word that was passed through the de-
partment, and the grey riders on patrol carried
that determination with them all through months
of uncertainty.

They sought neither sympathy nor succor.
They knew little of how the rural population as
a whole regarded the organization. It was
the Governor and the members of the Assembly
and Senate who were first made aware of a
strange thing that had come to pass among the
people of the countryside.

Vox Populi 113

Fifteen months before, not one in a thousand
of these folk had ever seen or even heard of the
State Troopers. Eight months earlier, rural
papers and grocery stores had been filled with
skeptical comment on the work of these new-
fangled police, and wails at the extravagance of
keeping them.

It is quite probable that Governor Smith be-
lieved that the abolition of the force would meet
with the approval of the vast majority of the
people of the State. Earlier comment he had
received from the rural districts would have
warranted such belief.

Yet in these few months an amazing thing
had happened to the population of New York.
Two hundred grey uniformed cavalrymen had
gone among them, carrying a new gospel
of police work. They had been the most
effective of missionaries; exemplars of the the-
ories they held; followers of the ideals they

They had taught villagers and farmers, by
deeds rather than words, that there could be a
higher and finer conception of police work than
that exemplified by constables and deputies.
They had brought, to hamlet and open country,
a renewed belief in the dignity and austerity of

ii4 Grey Riders

the State's law and a respect and admiration for
the men who rode in its service.

At first it was the country press that told of
this great change; this reformation from skepti-
cal neutrality to ardent partisanship.

Papers that a few months before had wept
columns of brevier tears over the extravagance
and uselessness of a State Police, now considered
themselves deeply affronted by the proposal of
the new Governor.

They viewed with alarm and gravely deplored
Mr. Smith's suggestion. They demanded
whither they were drifting when a city-bred
Governor could sit in judgment over what was
proving itself to be indubitably the best rural
police force in the world. They predicted dark
things, up to and including the collapse of civili-
zation, if this force, which was proving its worth
so emphatically, should be withdrawn and dis-

The piping editorial voices swelled into a
chorus of protest and denunciation. Then let-
ters began to arrive. Many were to Senators
and Assemblymen from influential and incon-
siderable persons in the rural parts of the State
begging the Legislature by no means to permit
the troopers to be disbanded. More were to

Vox Populi 115

the astonished Governor. The tone of many of
them was not temperate. Reading them, one
might have imagined that it was the Constitution
of the United States that Mr. Smith had
proposed abolishing.

Day by day the protest grew in volume. In
headquarters at Albany the Superintendent and
his assistants attacked their work with a cheer
that recently had been missing. In barracks,
men gave less thought to getting other jobs and
began again to build for their own future in the
department. In the Governor's offices, a per-
plexed man ran through bales of letters brought
in by a perspiring secretary, and wondered what
had happened.

He was witnessing the strange phenomenon of
Americans fighting for a police force. He was
reading a great popular protest in favor of men
who guarded the people's laws. Born and bred
in New York City, the Governor probably had
not believed this possible.

This astonishing reaction of rural New York
against the abolition of the troopers was some-
thing more important and spectacular than the
personal objections of sundry men and women
to being deprived of something they approved.

Actually, it was the response of America to a

n6 Grey Riders

new, democratic police ideal. The time had
been too short for the public at large to grasp
the entire significance of the trooper creed. Yet
men and women knew that for more than a year,
they had been served by a police organization,
apparently entirely divorced from the usual
Prussian system of professional law enforcement.
They realized that these men in uniform regarded
themselves, not as the superiors, but as the
equals and friends, of the people they guarded;
that they gave their services eagerly and cheer-
fully; that no work was too trivial, no task too
onerous for them to undertake; that no reward
was asked and none ever accepted beyond the
thanks of the grateful.

Here was a force obviously unrelated either to
the portly, club-twirling bluecoat of the average
city department or the hard-bitten, desperate
State policeman of labor's hysterical descriptions.
What made this difference? To what new
tenets of police work did the grey rider hold

In theory, none of them were new at all.
Major George F. Chandler had simply organized
a police force that was to be in harmony with the
ideals of American democracy a force of, by,
and for the people of New York State.

Vox Populi 117

To the details of the work of organization he
had brought a mind exceptionally equipped,
through years of study of history and psy-
chology, to handle alike the raw young men of
his command and the people with whom these
recruits were to come in contact.

He knew r that from the beginning of time,
policemen had been considered by the rank and
file of humanity as a class set in authority over
common folk as a ruling caste. First the
policeman \vas the soldier, the servant of the
king. Later he became the servant of the gov-
ernment rather than the people. Never did the
popular conception of him change. He was a
person who lorded it over ordinary citizens and
bred dislike and distrust thereby. The lack of
tact, the bullying manners of the average police-
man has done much to increase this dislike. In
general the man in blue and brass is regarded as
a specially obnoxious, but probably necessary,

Theoretically, the policeman in a democracy
is the servant of the authority which brought
him into being and now supports him the
electorate. Actually, in three cases out of four,
he is nothing of the sort. He is the mailed fist
of the political party in power, or even if he is not

Vox Populi 119

knew men, and he knew also how swiftly they
sickened of impractical, Utopian schemes.

It was no hazy dream that he preached
to his recruits. It was plain, substantial gos-
pel into which the troopers could drive their

They were to revere the service to which they
belonged. They were never to turn aside in
carrying out its ends.

They were to regard themselves as the equals
of any man; as the superiors of none.

They were to be courteous to all; to be gentle
and tactful.

Summarized, they were to uphold the laws of
the State. That was to be their first great work.
In addition to this, and of almost equal impor-
tance, they were to be of service to men, women,
and children in distress under whatever circum-
stances, when and wherever possible.

This is the order, embodying his doctrine of
police ethics, which the Superintendent of the
New York State Troopers gave his men when
they began active service :

"A physician aims to save life and cure dis-
ease; a lawyer helps people out of trouble; a
clergyman tries to make people better; a soldier
fights for his country in time of war. These

120 Grey Riders

are fine professions all of them. They are
professions of service.

'The service that a State Trooper render. 5 to
his community is an auxiliary of all these an d
his duty in a measure embraces the work of tB ese
four great professions.

'You who wear the uniform of the Sl :a ^ e
Troopers must be ready to render first aid pe n d~

ing the arrival of the doctor; you must mainf am
the law which the lawyer expounds; you m us t
instruct people to do right, and, if the n ec *
arises, you must fight.

"You must have the confidence in your 86 **
which comes from knowing you are a
horseman, a good shot, and a judge of what is ri
and wrong in the matter of simple laws. > ou
must be able to distinguish between an accid en ^
due to unavoidable circumstances and a wil^ 1 "

"Go about with the idea of helpfulness an^ a
friendliness that wins the confidence of thepeoP^ 6 -
Never permit a child to be afraid of you. -"
you hear a grown person say to a child, '
out or I will have this man take you away,'
the child at once that if he goes with you, V ou
will give him a good time, will teach him to r lc * e >
and show him how to handle a gun. He

Vox Populi 121

then become your friend. The parent, too, will
learn from this that your attitude is one of
friendliness to all.

'Never hesitate to render assistance of any
kind, and let nothing be too much trouble which
you can do for the people you come in contact

"Always be a gentleman; courteous, kind,
gentle, fair; keep yourself clean and neat; you
and your horse equally well-groomed; stand
erect; put snap and vigor into your movements.
Avoid the appearance of lounging. Keep your
mind calm and free from excitement. Do not
be carried away by rumors but investigate every
story and hear both sides before you believe it.

'Then you will find that the time of your
enlistment will do you as much good as a course
of study in school. The education you will get,
the experience you will have, the careful and
painstaking use of the authority which you ex-
ercise as well as your own obedience to those
above you, will fit you for any career w T hich you
may choose later.

'Remember that you represent the authority
of the Governor; that you are an executive officer
and a State official. Be proud of it; live up to it;
work in harmony with your officers and the other

122 Grey Riders

troopers for the good of the service and the
honor of the great State of New York."

From the beginning, Major Chandler laid
particular stress on the responsibility resting on
the shoulders of every man of his command.

"One slip," he warned, "by any member of
this command, will do more harm than one
hundred good deeds can efface. Human na-
ture, unfortunately, is not constructive, but
likes to tear down. One mistake or one un-
worthy act on the part of a trooper will subject
the whole body to criticism."

Thus fortified, the men in grey rode out to
convince the people of a State that here was a
police force that belonged to them and was eager
to acknowledge that allegiance.

Skeptical farmers and villagers found them
from the first friendly, eager young men who
jumped at the chance to be of service, whether
it was in tracking down a murderer or finding a
lost dog. Problems and troubles at which other
professional policemen would chuckle or sneer
received grave consideration and helpful sug-
gestion from the men of the service.

Actually they were drummers, selling the
State Troopers throughout the length and
breadth of rural New York. The letters that

Vox Populi 123

swept in on Albany bespoke the efficiency of
their methods and the value of their wares.

"Abolish the State Troopers?" legislators be-
gan to say to each other. ;< Not while I value
my political life, w r e don't."

Thus from the beginning the thing worked.
The police organization; built for cooperation
with the citizens of New York; holding as high-
est virtues, courage, patience, tact, and gentle-
ness; operated with continually increasing
smoothness; with continually augmented ap-
proval, month by month. They made mistakes.
They also made enemies. But the successes
they achieved and the friends they brought to
the department far outweighed these.

Gradually, the troopers became to the people
of the rural districts something more than an
agency for the prevention or detection of crime.
Farmer folk, worried women, even children, be-
gan to turn to the men in grey with minor
problems. Troopers to-day wonder at times
when hard beset with appeals for aid how New
York State managed to live before they came
into being.

"Call a trooper," is the first suggestion that
now enters the mind of the distressed rural New
Yorker. The men of the department are tak-

124 Grey Riders

ing over much of the service once performed by
another company in grey, born, not in Manlius,
but Assisi.

Within one hour at barracks one night, the
writer heard three calls for succor come in by
telephone. One of these was from a man who in-
sisted that fifteen cents a plate for tomato soup
was more than the village restaurants should
charge. The second was an appeal from a
woman who had lost a kitten that was the pride
of her heart. The third was from an agitated
farmer's wife who had returned home to find
that she had mislaid the key and couldn't get
into the house.

Each of these appeals was accorded serious
hearing. The man was sent on his way pleased
with the promise that the tomato soup profiteer
would be investigated. A general alarm was
issued for the errant kitten. A trooper rode out
to the farm and by dint of some porch-climb-
ing ability reopened the home of the distressed
woman, after entering an unlocked second-floor

The people of the countryside have come to
realize that there are few troubles that could not
be remedied, or at least alleviated, by laying
them before the men of the State Police. With

Vox Populi 125

the growth of this realization, the boundaries of
the troopers' jurisdiction have widened. The
vast bulk of the work they do to-day leads to no
law court or justice's office.

The men made eleven thousand arrests in
1920. They investigated twenty-five thousand
cases in which no arrest was made.

Upholders of the law; tracers of lost children,
cattle, dogs, and cats; advisers on legal, agricul-
tural, engineering, moral, and sentimental prob-
lems; rescuers of stalled automobiles; saviors
of disrupted homes; missionaries preaching a
cleaner, more law-abiding life these things the
troopers are to the people of rural New York
and more.

They have had thrust upon them delicate and
intimate problems that the State has given them
no power to handle.

Sergeant now Captain W. W. Robinson,
riding on patrol through Grand Gorge, was
hailed by a young woman with the demand that
he make Ma and Pa behave. Questioning re-
vealed that the man and his wife stood on the
brink of divorce. She, obedient to the Indian
Summer clamor in her blood, was seeking amuse-
ment and excitement at night with the "flighty
crowd " of the village. He, sulking at home, was

i26 Grey Riders

threatening to divorce her and gradually whip-
ping himself up by threat to action. There
were several children younger than the one who
had asked the trooper for aid.

Legally, Robinson had no right whatever to
intervene. Nevertheless he appeared at the
home of the quarreling couple and, though a
bachelor, proceeded to read them an inspiring
lecture on constancy and martial fidelity.

'There ain't no law what compels the woman
and me to live together, is there?" queried the
husband sourly.

"Law?" echoed Robinson, sparring for time.
"Law? Of course there is. Do you know what
the Bible says about married people sticking
together? You don't want anything better
than that, do you?"

For an instant he feared that the skeptical
one was going to ask just what the Bible did say
about it, anyhow, but he didn't. He and his
spouse looked properly awed at this policeman
who was apparently so familiar with Holy Writ
and promised to 'do better hereafter. Each
time he passed through the village from then on
the Sergeant stopped at the home which had so
nearly fallen apart, and solemnly listened to
whatever complaint the wife had to make against


First Aid by the Roadside

Grey Samaritans

Vox Populi 127

the husband, or vice versa. The family that had
been on the verge of disruption still holds
together, thanks to the State Troopers.

Trooper Hamilton, on patrol near St. Johns-
ville, paused at a mountain cabin to talk with
the owner thereof. A woman stood in the back-
ground listening respectfully while her lord held
converse. Asked if this was his wife, the
mountaineer hesitated:

Well no, it wasn't exactly his wife. It was
his woman, and she was a good woman. They
got along together fine. She was as good as

'You ought to get married," Hamilton told
the man severely. 'Why don't you?" He
then proceeded to deliver a lecture on ethics.

'Well," the other conceded, "if you say we
oughtta, we'll do it, by gosh."

Escorted by the trooper, the mountaineer and
his shy, rather wistful looking helpmeet drove
in a rickety wagon to St. Johnsville. There the
ceremony was performed.

"And now, by gosh," said the triumphant

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Online LibraryFrederic Franklyn Van de WaterGrey riders : the story of the New York state troopers → online text (page 6 of 18)