100 Years Ago • December 1912
Mutton dinner shatters lives
A taste for mutton, indulged in at the expense of a neighbor, landed Asa Smith, his wife and two sons, Dennis, 18 and Theron, 17, in the Albany penitentiary where they will sojourn for a period of 180 days at an expense of $10 a week to Warren County. The family stole a sheep from Byron Whittemore and were convicted of the crime on Dec. 13, 1912 in Judge George Hodgson’s court. The eldest son of the family, Claude, about 21, was already an inmate of Albany’s bug-ridden bastille, having been sent there weeks ago by Justice Hodgson, for stealing a sum of money from James Raymond while employed at his farm on Spruce Mountain.
The Smiths are a bad lot, certainly not the Smiths generally, but this particular bunch of the world’s biggest clan, who are most undesirable citizens of the most pronounced class. A year or so ago they moved from the town of Bolton by special request of the authorities. They than located on Harrington Hill in the town of Caldwell for a while and finally drifted into Warrensburgh. They were not warmly welcomed but were tolerated. After another move or two they located last spring on a farm on the Glen Road about a mile and a half from the village adjoining the farm of Byron Whittemore.
One night recently the Smiths were entertaining Eugene Allen, a friend from Pucker Street and hilarity reigned in the farmhouse. Mrs. Smith, who was formerly Josephine Frazier of Horicon, suggested to Allen that there was “some good eatin‘” in the Whittemore pasture near by. The visitor took the hint and accompanied by the boy, Dennis, went after the provender. Locating a fat sheep of a valuable breed, Allen seized it by the horns and pulled while Dennis pushed and landing the animal in the cellar, butchered it.
The pot was set boiling and Mrs. Smith soon served a savory dish of mutton to the hungry crowd and the remainder was put in cold storage for future use. To remove all traces of the theft, Pa Asa buried the head and entrails of the animal in the cellar. The boys wanted to sell the pelt but foxy Asa sunk it in the nearby Hudson River. Later he dug up the entrails in the cellar and in a weighted bag, dumped them in a well. Mr. Whittemore missed a sheep from his flock and suspected the Smiths but could find no proof against them.
One day Mrs. Smith came to the village to visit her daughter and brought along a piece of the mutton for dinner. There ensued an argument among the women about where the youngest Smith child, Dewey, 12, who was staying in town with his sister and going to school, was going to stay for his better welfare. Mrs. Smith wanted to take him home and the old woman finally got her way, taking Dewey back to work on the farm. Knowing of the theft of the sheep, Mrs. Fleming “got back” at her mother by informing Judge Hodgson of all the details that had been confided to her. Acting on Mrs. Fleming’s information, warrants were issued and all of the culprits were arrested by Constable Milon U. Brown. Allen made a complete confession and received the same sentence as the others and was fined $25. He was also compelled to pay Mr. Whittemore $15 for the sheep. He complied with these conditions and his sentence was suspended for good behavior. Constable Brown took the four prisoners Dec. 13, 1912 to the pen in Albany where father, mother and two sons joined the eldest Smith boy who was already incarcerated.
The rest of the mutton story...
Asa Smith’s son Dewey, 12, the only immediate member of the family out of jail, except his married sister, Mrs. Arthur Fleming, was put in his sister’s care after the trial. He was later taken to the county home on Dec. 21, 1912 by John J. Archer, Town Overseer of the Poor and committed to the care of E.W. Griggs. Dewey was taken to the state industrial school in Rochester where he will be kept for a period of five years.
Dewey seemed to feel most keenly his family’s disgrace and after he was put in his sister’s care by the court, he began to act badly and soon demonstrated he was a chip off the old Smith block and his sister was unable to control him. When he was at the County Home he ran away every day and gave them all a great deal of trouble at every turn. (Note: Byron E. Whittemore’s farm was where the Queen Village Golf Course is located today. On a cold fall night, when the wind is in the trees, (“and the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas”) legend has it that hoof beats can be heard, pounding on the sand flats overlooking Rte. 28, of a big angry sheep whose violent untimely death long ago caused so much turmoil in the lives of an entire family.)
Dubious law to be repealed?
The state legislature will be asked to repeal the hedgehog bounty bill on the grounds that certain unscrupulous farmers are raising hedgehogs for a 30-cent bounty that the guileless state is now paying per head. The hedgehog bounty costs the state about $30,000 per year.
Bull attacks dairy employee
Thomas J. Goodman, employed at the River View Dairy Farm near Luzerne, was attacked by a bull in the stall on Nov. 30, 1912. His shoulder, three ribs and bones in one hand were fractured. His cries attracted Mrs. Frank Davis and Margaret Needham. They held the bull at bay with pitchforks.
Tanning foreman passes away
Charles E. Purce died at Pasadena, Ca. on Dec. 21, 1912. Mr. Purce was born in Warrensburgh in 1837 and was a son of Alanson Purce who came to Warrensburgh in 1834, entering into the employ of the managers of the Warren Tannery as foreman. He continued in the position until 1848 when he became associated with Colonel Benjamin Peck Burhans and General Thomas S. Gray in the co-partnership of B.P. Burhans & Co., building the Horicon tannery.
In 1862 the firm was dissolved, General Gray purchasing the interests of the other members. Charles E. Purce assisted his father at the Horicon tannery and in 1863 they moved to Jordan, NY. For a number of years Charles Purce spent his winters at Pasadena. Her is survived by a sister, Mrs. Isaac Chadderdon and a half brother, William Purce.
News briefs roundabout
On Dec. 2, 1912, the soaking rain completely destroyed the sleighing here. It just may be our January thaw delivered ahead of time.
A white squirrel, the first one ever seen in northern New York was captured while swimming in Lake George by Frank Smith of Bolton Landing.
A.C. Emerson & Co. have received several train car loads of coal during the past week and local consumers are filling their bins in anticipation of a shortage later this winter. The price is now $7 a ton for stove coal, 25 cents higher than last year.
In Sodom, one of Charles Sawyer’s horses got tired of living and laid down and died one day recently.
A barn owned by Daniel Donovan of Friends Lake, Chestertown was burned the night of Dec. 18, 1912 together with 30 tons of hay and all of the farming utensils. It is thought that the fire was of incendiary origin. The loss was a severe blow to Mr. Donovan as he has no hay left to feed his stock.
Bert Fry of Stony Creek and Miss Lillian Lanfear of Warrensburgh were married by the Rev. A.J. Murdock on Christmas day at the Methodist Episcopal parsonage in Stony Creek.
Thought for the day: ”The past is not dead, it’s not even past.” William Faulkner
Readers are welcome to contact Adirondack Journal correspondent Jean Hadden at email@example.com or 623-2210.