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Murder updated by Times

March 13, 2011
By DON WILLIAMS, For The Leader-Herald

Oftentimes, we find a great Adirondack story that is incomplete and, unfortunately, the "rest of the story" is lost to history. I have yet to find the last name of Diana of Morehouseville, a prize-winning story I wrote a few years ago. But the good news this week, for those who wanted to know what happened to the killer who was loose in Fulton County in the early 1900s, is we have the "rest of the story."

The story of the murder and chase was found in my Grandmother Whitman's newspaper clippings, but the final clipping was missing. Charles Edward Baker had shot a carriage driver, Norman Briggs, just south of Sacandaga Park. He then proceeded to give the authorities a wild chase, riding through Northville like a cowboy from the old west. During the chase he shot and wounded Policeman John Pollock, probably fatally, and Deputy Sheriff Edward Stoddard, who ended up having his finger amputated.

Harry Vansteenburgh of Gloversville called to let me know that he knew of the story. His grandfather, Officer Luther Wheeler, was on the posse. His photograph appeared in the newspaper. Harry remembered his grandfather telling the story, but did not know the ending.

The "rest of the story" is a story in itself. Freelance writer Dick Nilsen, Caroga historian, did some fine research and found the ending, of all places, in the New York Times. It was a story "special to the New York Times" and was published in its Oct. 27, 1911, edition. Apparently, the Fulton County murder case had attracted some wide-spread attention.

It was a big case; the headline in large letters boldly stated, "MILITIA IN MANHUNT WITH FIFTY SHERIFFS" and "Charles Baker, Wanted for Murder, Wounds Two Pursuers in Adirondack Chase." Dated "Gloversville, October 26," it read "Fifty Deputy Sheriffs, assisted by bloodhounds, today trailed and captured Charles E. Baker, 21, who killed Norman Briggs, a livery driver," the story continued.

Baker put up a fight and was shot twice in the thigh before he was taken. Although he fell to the ground, he did not give up. He raised up on his elbow and fired three more times at his approaching captors before he surrendered. Among those captors was the National Guard Company G of Gloversville.

The chase and capture of the desperado would make an exciting movie. The nighttime search ended in failure and the guardsmen were brought in by automobile to close in on the fugitive. They moved in lines, searching every barn, outbuilding and house in the territory. They found no trace of the outlaw; he had eluded capture.

Sheriff Vill then called Utica and asked for the bloodhounds to take up the scent. In the meantime, Assistant District Attorney D. A. Smith and Oppenheim Supervisor John Vaughn saw a man on the edge of the mountain woodlands. They gave chase in an automobile with only a revolver for protection. They caught up with the killer and, although he threatened in a standoff to shoot, he simply lowered his rifle and went off into a ravine. Other posse members showed up and followed the fugitive on foot. When the sheriff joined them he called for a surrender, which resulted in a bullet flying over his head. The pursuing officers then shot back and Baker fell. They closed in, put him in shackles and took him to the hospital.

Once captured, it was revealed that Baker also had shot his aunt, robbed glove manufacturer Charles H. Dye and had possibly killed Matilda Martin, an elderly Johnstown lady. There was no report of the trial, but that, probably, is another story.



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