Tag Archives: Crime and Justice

A Tompkins County Civil War Love Story
New Exhibition Opens At The NYS Museum


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tarbell_portraitsAn exhibition featuring a Civil War love story, I Shall Think of You Often: The Civil War Story of Doctor and Mary Tarbell, opened Saturday, March 30, 2013 at the New York State Museum.

The exhibit focuses on the life and marriage of Doctor and Mary Tarbell of Tompkins County, New York, during the Civil War. The exhibition is presented in conjunction with An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War, a 7,000-square foot exhibition commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Both exhibitions are open through September 22, 2013. Continue reading

Ticonderoga’s Bernard Frederick Champagne


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3 Bernard Champagne headline BRFBI agents described Ticonderoga’s Bernard Frederick Champagne as “a prolific impersonator,” but the true extent of his success is unknown. Because so much of his fakery escaped detection, it’s unclear how many identities Bernard actually assumed. One agent said he had “at least 50 aliases,” and at one point, there were 34 names documented. It was the list of professions, however, that really impressed them.

Among his successful impersonations were: a graduate of Columbia University; a doctor employed by the US Public Health Service; a secret service agent; an FBI agent; a member of the US diplomatic corps; and the nephew of noted politician Hamilton Fish, a ruse that allowed him to pass $600 worth of bogus checks ($8,300 in 2013). Continue reading

History’s Criminals: Ticonderoga’s Bernard Champagne


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2 Champagne Headline part 2 4WAfter impersonating Walter W. Baker, heir to the Baker chocolate fortune, and bilking his Richmond fiancée’s mother out of $15,000 in 1928 (equal to $197,000 in 2013), Ticonderoga’s Bernard Frederick Champagne was sentenced to ten years in a Virginia prison. He was paroled after serving more than six years, but the gates had hardly closed behind him when Champagne was at it again.

Shortly after his release, the US Department of Justice was tracking him across the North Country. As he had done for years in the past, Bernard managed to move quickly and stay a step ahead of his pursuers. Continue reading

Ticonderga Scoundrel: Bernard Champagne


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1 Walter_BakerFort Ticonderoga’s connection to the world of chocolate has been well documented over the years. Several additions and improvements were funded by Forrest Mars, Jr., husband of Deborah Adair Clark of Ticonderoga (they are now divorced). Forrest is worth approximately $10 billion as one of the heirs of the Mars candy company.

Eighty years ago, another famous name in chocolate—Baker—was bandied about in Ticonderoga, and it again involved mention of great wealth ($80 million at the time, equal to $1 billion in 2013). But for the village, the story left in its wake an embarrassment as bitter as the company’s most famous product (Baker’s bittersweet chocolate). Continue reading

Black History Progams at Adirondack Prison


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In the 1850's, black families came to the Adirondacks to farm.The Adirondack Correctional Facility at Raybrook is hosting a series of special Black History Month programs for inmates that focus on 19th Century stories of African-Americans in the North Country.

“Dreaming of Timbuctoo,” the display put together by John Brown Lives! back in 2001, reveals the story of families that came to the Lake Placid area in the years before the Civil War, to establish farms and gain voting rights. Continue reading

Free Love: Emma Goldman and Victoria Woodhull


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Victoria Woodhull 1828-1927

Love was too important to be left in the hands of the state, thought Victoria Woodhull. And she said so, at Steinway Hall just off Union Square in New York City in 1871, speaking to a packed audience on the principle of “social freedom,” the code word for the right to choose your sexual partners.

“Yes, I am a free Lover, I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long a period as I can, to change that love every day if I please.” The audience went wild. Continue reading

Franklin County: The Trial of Allen Mooney


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Franklin County Bldgs 1907 04On May 12, 1903, Franklin County attorney Robert M. Moore was at wit’s end. After two years of haggling, all possibilities had been exhausted, and he knew his client was in serious trouble. There was nothing left but a claim of insanity. If that failed, a man was sure to die.

The client was Allen Mooney, and his crime in Saranac Lake became one of the most talked-about murders in North Country lore. It’s not a particularly complex tale, but its salacious and violent aspects guaranteed plenty of media coverage. Legally, it was pretty much a cut-and-dried case. Mooney admitted the shootings, and there was plenty of evidence against him. Continue reading

A Hamilton County Murder (Part 2)


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Though Ernest Duane had eventually admitted killing popular Lake Pleasant guide Eula Davis, there was no guarantee he would be found guilty in court. The defense focused on proving Duane’s supposed mental abnormalities, which they claimed had been exacerbated by the lonely life of a woodsman who often spent long months alone. It seemed a weak argument at best, but then came the kicker: Duane’s epilepsy, seized upon by his attorneys in a strategy described as the “dream defense.” Continue reading

Remembering Gordon Parks In ’100 Moments’


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Gordon Parks bought his first camera in a pawn shop and got his first real photography job at the New Deal’s Farm Security Administration (FSA).”American Gothic,” his bold arrangement of a White House cleaning lady with a mop in front of a flag, got him in trouble on his first assignment.

As a multifaceted creative artist, Parks stacked up firsts again and again in a long career that has been seeing numerous tributes over the past year.  2012 was the 100th anniversary of his birth, and exhibits are still underway. Continue reading

A Backcountry Murder in Lake Pleasant


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In late 1928, the life of an Adirondack guide came to an unfortunate, premature end. Like many of his brethren who died from accidental shootings over the years, the victim succumbed to the effects of a serious gunshot wound. But the demise of Eula Davis was no accident. Clearly, this was a case of murder, and the beginning of a twisted saga that kept all eyes glued on the Lake Pleasant region for some time. Continue reading

Ulster County Desperado: Big Bad Bill Monroe


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Americans are captivated with outlaws. Our history is filled with those colorful characters who bent the law to fit their own ends, from Jesse James to Al Capone.

Newspapers fed this fascination by following every move of many of these individuals. They were given curious names such as “The Kid,” “Gyp the Blood,” or in the case of Capone, “Scarface.” Many people do not know that a small hamlet in Ulster County had its own outlaw, known as “Big Bad” Bill Monroe. He was also identified as the “Gardiner Desperado.” Continue reading

New Book: The Impeachment of Governor Sulzer


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In The Impeachment of Governor Sulzer (SUNY Press, 2012), Matthew L. Lifflander brings to life the dramatic story of a forgotten incident in New York State political history. When William Sulzer was elected to the office of governor of New York State in November 1912, it represented the culmination of a long and successful career in politics.

The son of a German immigrant father and a Scotch-Irish American mother, Sulzer (1863–1941) rose through the powerful Tammany Hall machine to become the youngest man ever to serve as speaker of the New York State Assembly. In 1894, he was elected to Congress, where he served with distinction for eighteen years, rising to chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. When he became governor, it was with the support of the Tammany Hall machine, and everyone expected that he would duly perform his duties under the direction of Tammany boss Charles F. Murphy. Continue reading

Supreme Court: The Age of Holmes and Brandeis


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The influence of two men—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and Louis Dembitz Brandeis— will be examined in this seminar on American constitutional development from 1902 to 1939. Although the phrase “Holmes and Brandeis dissenting” led many people to believe that they shared a common jurisprudential philosophy, the differences between them are as important as the areas in which they agreed. Continue reading

Tour Highlights Infamous 1827 Albany Murder


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This Friday, October 26th and Saturday, October 27th, Historic Cherry Hill will present a special tour, “Murder at the Mansion: A Dramatic Walk through a Murderous Evening” as the third and last program in the series “Murder at Cherry Hill: A Window into Changing Times.”

The public is invited to step into the experiences of the Cherry Hill household on the evening of May 7, 1827 when a hired hand murdered a household member. Continue reading

A Treacherous Beauty Behind Benedict Arnold


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Treacherous Beauty: The Woman Behind Benedict Arnold’s Plot to Betray America by Stephen Case and Mark Jacob (Globe Pequot, 2012) is the biography of Peggy Shippen, a Philadelphia society girl who became Mrs. Benedict Arnold and was involved in the most notorious treason in American history. When the plot was discovered, Peggy cleverly deflected blame. More than a century after her death, documents were discovered showing that she was a conspirator. But Peggy’s story remains little known today.

The granddaughter of a Philadelphia mayor, Peggy was 17 when the British army occupied her city. She became friends with John Andre, a handsome British officer. Then, when the patriots retook Philadelphia, Peggy was courted by the city’s top military man, General Benedict Arnold, who was considered the best battlefield commander in George Washington’s army but had been grievously wounded at Saratoga. Peggy was 18 and Arnold was 37 when they married. A month later, they began secretly communicating with the British, offering to commit treason. The British officer who handled the negotiations was Peggy’s old friend, Andre.

Ultimately, the Arnolds settled on a plan to surrender the vital outpost of West Point to the British and arrange the capture of thousands of troops – and perhaps even Washington himself. But Andre was captured behind enemy lines, and the plot unraveled. Arnold fled to the British, leaving Peggy behind to care for their infant son and convince the Founding Fathers that she was innocent. She put on one of the greatest performances in American history – a hysterical episode known as the “Mad Scene” that convinced Washington and the others that this highly intelligent woman was oblivious to the plot.

Andre was hanged as a spy. Peggy rejoined Arnold and eventually moved to London. Later they tried to settle in Canada, but Arnold’s business disputes ruined their chances. Peggy spent her last years in England trying desperately to keep her family afloat despite her husband’s financial recklessness. She succeeded in raising five children of the British Empire, four of them soldiers. Peggy died of cancer at age 44, and demanded the most modest burial possible. A keepsake was found among her effects: a lock of hair from John Andre.

Stephen H. Case is managing director and general counsel of Emerald Development Managers LP. He is a member of the board of the American Revolution Center. Mark Jacob, deputy metro editor at the Chicago Tribune, was part of the team that won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism. To satisfy his personal curiosity, Case has made himself an expert in the Peggy Shippen story, reading all available histories that examine her story and tracking down Peggy’s letters at various repositories of historical manuscript.

Mark Jacob, deputy metro editor at the Chicago Tribune, was part of the team that won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism. He is co-author of the newspaper’s “10 Things You Might Not Know” feature. He has co-written four other books, including What the Great Ate.

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Wicked Ulster County: Tales of Desperadoes


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Situated in the scenic Hudson Valley, Ulster County is a lovely location to make a home and raise a family, but it wasn’t always so pleasant. Unsavory characters and immoral events have sullied its name.

In the 1870s, the Shawangunk Mountains inspired fear rather than awe, as groups like the Lyman Freer and Shawangunk gangs robbed and terrorized locals, descending from the protection of the wooded peaks. Kingston was torched, arson blazed in Kerhonkson and even the Mohonk Mountain House was threatened by flames. In 1909, the Ashokan Slasher’s bloody crimes and sensational trial captured headlines across the country. A.J. Schenkman’s Wicked Ulster County: Tales of Desperadoes, Gangs and More features these and other salacious stories buried in Ulster County’s history. Continue reading

Thomas Mott Osborne Film Premiere Theater Mack


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Who is Thomas Mott Osborne? And what is The Castle? These questions will be answered at the Auburn, NY premiere of a new documentary about Thomas Mott Osborne on Sunday, October 14 at 2:00 p.m. at Theater Mack at the Cayuga Museum. Filmmaker Neil Novello and Osborne biographer, David Connelly, will discuss the film after the screening. This program is free and open to the public.

Thomas Mott Osborne’s statue stands in front of the Auburn, NY Police and Fire Departments. The Castle refers to the 105 year-old Portsmouth Naval prison that stands empty on a bluff in the Piscataqua River separating Maine and New Hampshire adjacent to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. But what do these two (Osborne & The Castle) have in common?

It is written in the Navy’s history of the Portsmouth Naval Prison aka The Castle that Thomas Mott Osborne “introduced a new era and a new viewpoint to the Naval prison.”  From 1917 to 1921, Auburn prison reformer and resident, Thomas Mott Osborne, was the only civilian commander of the Naval Prison. Osborne hadn’t served in the Navy.

“Osborne is either a nut or a visionary,” says Pulitzer Prize winner and Auburn resident, David Connelly, who worked with Award-winning filmmaker Neil Novello from Maine on what is the only video documentary ever made about the Auburn industrialist turned humanitarian in the early 20th Century. The always-controversial Thomas Mott Osborne brought scandal, prison reform and a movie crew to the Portsmouth Naval Prison aka The Castle. ”Osborne’s command of the Naval Prison just maybe the culmination of Osborne’s prison reform career,” says Mr. Novello who started on this documentary five years ago.

Novello’s filmmaking journey started with his visit to the Syracuse University’s Bird Library to do research on Osborne. He went through box after box of Osborne’s history at the Naval Prison, which provided many great photos, newspaper articles, as well as Osborne’s writings. It was the Bird Library librarian who told Novello about Osborne biographer, David Connelly.

In the course of a year, David Connelly generously gave of his research time and family time to be a part of this documentary. Connelly knew Frederik (Erik) Osborne, TMO’s grandson, who had the remaining two reels of the Osborne-produced propaganda prison silent feature movie. “The Right Way” was filmed at the Naval Prison using prisoners as extras.

The other important person who gave generously of her time to Novello was Eileen McHugh, Director of the Cayuga Museum of Art and History. The Museum had a copy of Osborne in a 1926 experimental sound movie filmed at the Case Laboratories in Auburn where Osborne mentions the Portsmouth Naval Prison and talks about his reform ideas.

McHugh provided Mr. Novello an area in the basement of the museum to videotape David Connelly’s interview and McHugh also secured, via the Cayuga Museum’s archive, photos of early Auburn as well as Osborne and his family.

To understand Commander Osborne’s Naval prison experience, Novello needed to include Osborne’s family and his work at Auburn and Sing Sing state prisons in New York where he disguised himself as a prisoner to find out what life was like inside. When Osborne went to the Naval Prison, he disguised himself as a prisoner for a report to the Secretary of the Navy. While Commander of the Naval Prison, again Osborne disguised himself as a sailor and was a coal shoveler on the USS North Dakota as a way to understand Navy life.

Osborne became known for his Mutual Welfare League system where prisoners manage prisoners. The Mutual Welfare League was used at Auburn State prison and in Sing Sing state prison as well as the Naval prison.

With the additional photos provided by Ossining Historical Society in New York, and movie film (of Naval sea exercises and World War One) provided by the National Archive, Novello had the visual ingredients for his documentary about Osborne’s experience at the Naval Prison which in a way, culminates his prison reform career.

“It’s all about Osborne’s perspective and his thinking”, says Novello. “I did not want to make a run-of- the-mill, academic-type documentary with pros and cons. It’s about Osborne but told through his letters, film and David Connelly’s wonderful interview.”

Novello wanted to première TMO@The Castle in Auburn at the Cayuga Museum of Art and History’s newly restored Theater Mack. “It’s most fitting to show my documentary right here,” says Novello.

Novello has also produced a DVD called, The Castle: Stories of the Portsmouth Naval Prison which includes TMO@The Castle and a commentary to go with the remaining reels of Osborne’s feature movie, The Right Way.

The Railroad Wars of New York State


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New York’s railroads were born of the cutthroat conflict of rate wars, bloody strikes and political graft. The railroad wars began as soon as the first line was chartered between Albany and Schenectady when supporters of the Erie Canal tried to block the new technology that would render their waterway obsolete.

After the first primitive railroads overcame that hurdle, they began battling with one another in a series of rate wars to gain market share. Attracted by the success of the rails, the most powerful and cunning capitalists in the country—Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, Daniel Drew and other robber barons—joined the fray. Continue reading