‘Hunter kills himself accidentally’

Saranac Lake police blotter, November 1937

This big buck was taken by Dick Hogan, Pat Hogan’s dad, on Keegan Hill on our old family farm in Alder Brook. Pat said he thought it dressed out at close to 250 pounds. Don’t know the men in the picture, but the deer and bear are hanging in the empty lot that was then the Saranac Lake Hardware. The Waterhole, then Mike and Sandy’s Restaurant, is in the background. Pat’s grandmother Esther Keegan Hogan and my grandfather William Keegan were sister and brother. (Photo courtesy of Dan Patnode)

When hunting season opened in the 1940s and ’50s, the streets of Saranac Lake would be crowded with hunters in their black and red wool “uniforms.”

It was not just locals, although it seemed like everyone hunted back then, but hunters came from far and wide outside the Adirondacks. One group came from Ohio every year and hired Winchester MacDowell and Eldred Gauthier as guides. Not many hunters around anymore; once in a while there are pickup trucks parked along the highways belonging to hunters.

It didn’t take long for the terrible stories of the shooting accidents to unfold: family members killed by family members in the woods, best friends shot by best friends or a hunter being killed by his own “empty” 30-30.

There are newspaper clippings in my files from some of those accidents, which I may cover later. A Mr. Duffy of Saranac Lake was killed. I have all the details about his death, not only from the newspaper story but more about him from his relative Walter “Bud” Duffy.

He came in from hunting camp on a Sunday morning to attend a 4 a.m. hunter’s Mass at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church. That 4 a.m. Mass was a tradition carried on for many years. He returned to camp and was shot dead by a fellow hunter a few hours later. He was in his 20s, married with a number of small children.

Nov. 17, 1937, 1:50 p.m.: “Call received by Chief. Someone shot at 6 Elm Street. Investigated by Brown [later the Marine hero of World War II] and Garwood. Found man lying face down on floor in garage in rear of 6 Elm. Dr. Trembley arrived just before us. One James Garrett of 4-1/2 Elm Street was called by Mrs. Fred Parker, who lives next door. Mrs. Parker was called by Miss Alice Nokes, sister-in-law of deceased. Turned man onto his back and found he was dead, apparently from shot through heart. Found a .38 Marlin Rifle on floor with one shell still stuck in the barrel. Four other .38 cartridges unfired on floor. Notified Coroner Dr. Wardner, who ordered the body taken to the undertaking establishment of James A. Fortune.

“Found deceased to be Thomas Frasher, age 63 of 87 Elliott Street, Rochester, N.Y. He was staying with his mother-in-law Mrs. Susan Nokes and sister-in-law, Miss Alice Nokes. Was here on a hunting trip. Had hurt his leg while in the woods and was resting there prior to going home tomorrow. He had gone to the garage to clean his gun. Reconstructing what probably happened. He evidently emptied his gun, but one cartridge was stuck in the barrel. He was blind in one eye and apparently did not see the cartridge still in the barrel. From the position he was in and from blood on the car, he probably was facing the car and leaned over the gun to reach an oil can, which was on the running board of the car, accidentally discharging gun. Bullet entered directly over heart, and death was instantaneous.

“James Garrett ran over as soon as he was called and felt of Frasher’s pulse, but he was dead when he got there. Alice Nokes heard the shot and heard something fall. She went to the garage and found him and ran to Mrs. Parker’s, who in turn ran to the James Garrett home. One son survives, Donald Frasher of Rochester, who was notified by Alice Nokes. All his valuables were taken by Dr. Wardner.

“Verdict was withheld until further examination at Fortune’s. Gun case and cleaning rod and oil can was brought to Police Station, also four .38 cartridges.”

More stories from November 1937

Nov. 18, 10:40 p.m.: “Complaint on the street from Carlton Kilroy of 155 Broadway that someone had entered their cellar by pushing in a window. Investigated and found the cellar window pushed and the padlock had been removed from Mr. Kilroy’s storeroom. They apparently thought they were getting into the Grand Union store rooms. [Was the GU next door? How could the burglars mistake Kilroy’s Market for the GU? Will have to ask Mike Kilroy about this.] Mrs. Kilroy said there wasn’t anything missing. Said she heard a noise down cellar about 9 p.m. but thought it was Carlton fixing the furnace. We found where they had lighted matches outside the cellar window and then found tracks in the snow that looked like a size 6 or 7 shoe. Tracks led toward the Bryant apartments, but unable to follow tracks because of a lack of snow. — Tyler”

Nov. 19, 10 a.m.: “Complaint from Jim Fortune about the C.C.C. [Civilian Conservation Corps] trucks parked on the Church Street Extension every Wednesday and Saturday nights. They raise hell from 11 p. m. until they leave. They turn the lights on and off on the trucks, blow the horns and create a general disturbance in that neighborhood. Wants police to give them a talking to. — Higgins”

Nov. 22, 12:30 a.m.: “Call from Mrs. George Kibben, 44 B’way complaining about noise coming from apartment upstairs. Though that Roy Driscoll was licking his wife. Investigated by Jones and Brown. Found that Roy and his wife and Lawrence Duquette and his wife had had a little party. Some argument started in which Roy got quite mad. Finally got him quieted down and to bed. His wife didn’t want any trouble. — Brown”

Nov. 26, 10:30 p.m.: “Leo Buckley called the Police Station and asked the police to get in touch with Hugh McKillip, Fire Chief, to sound the alarm. Bill Carey is lost in the woods near Colby Pond. — Duprey”