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More old news clippings

February 20, 2011
By DON WILLIAMS, For The Leader-Herald

Reading through by Grandmother Whitman's old newspaper clippings is a good "cold-weather" activity. It beats getting out on those stormy winter days. Her interests tended to lean toward those strange, somewhat human interest, stories. Just imagine, according to one of her clippings, a bolt of lightning striking a hearse on the way to the cemetery. The metal coffin was demolished and, unexpectedly, the "dead" occupant was found alive. The 5-year-old daughter had passed away on the previous Saturday and was on the way to burial. The bolt of lightning knocked down both horses and stunned the driver. When the frightened mourners reached the wagon, the little girl was sitting up and crying for her mother. The people of the vicinity considered it a miracle.

Another story of 1921 broke the news that a Miss Jessie Hall, 31 years old, had been caged in her own home for 20 years. She had been kept in a corner of a room, partitioned off by wire. The cage was heavily barred and boarded so that little light filtered in. Apparently, she was kept in captivity by her immediate family because she and her sister had inherited $16,000 from their grandfather. She was rescued by a humane society officer.

In these days of computer dating, we can take a lesson from a bride of some years ago who met her husband through correspondence. He came to Gloversville to marry her and the wedding was performed by a Methodist clergyman. They went to the Rensselaer Inn at Troy for their honeymoon. He told her that he was a playwright and was arranging a stage production in that city. The show required a financial investment of $1,000 and he told his bride that he only had $500. The sympathetic bride gave her husband of one week her savings of $500. The new groom left the hotel with the money and was never seen again. The bride, in her remorse, was heard to say, "I hated to think that Charlie would do anything wrong!" Since she had given the money of her own free will, no crime was committed.

Several photographs and clippings in my grandmother's collection tell the story of a "Cowardly Fulton County Murder" of a hundred years ago. The murder took place on the state road about a mile south of Sacandaga Park, three miles south of Northville. A photo of the scene shows where Charles Edward Baker, while riding in the rear of a carriage, placed a rifle to the back of Norman Briggs, the driver, and killed him. He then threw him to the ground, beat him with the gun, and drove off with the horses. The tragedy continued with several gun fights when the authorities tried to arrest him.

Norman Briggs lived on Grant Street in Gloversville with his wife and little daughter, Inez. The posse caught up with his murderer in Mayfield near the home of Mrs. Hattie Seeley at 10:30 at night. The killer shot Policeman John Pollock, possibly mortally wounding him, and also wounded Deputy Sheriff, Edward Stoddard. He then escaped into the darkness.

The newspaper reported Charles Edward Baker had transformed Fulton County into scenes from the "wild border of the west of former days." He was seen riding armed through the streets of Northville, looking like a western cowboy.

Photos of others involved with the murder case are included with the clippings. They included the Chief of Police George R. Smith, Officer J. H. Miller, who went after the killer, Coroner Dr. Franklin Wright of Northville, another coroner, Dr. R. J. Palmer of Gloversville, District Attorney Frank Talbot, and Officer Luther Wheeler who trailed the murderer.

Unfortunately, a clipping telling of the capture of the outlaw is not to be found in my grandmother's clipping collection.



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