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The grocery clerk capers

June 20, 2009
By Howard Riley,

The Chief of Police of Saranac Lake (1906) said he was not guilty but the village board suspended him anyway. The board thought it strange that he was picking up his meat order from the clerk at Duffy's Market at 4 a.m.

About 100 years ago in Saranac Lake, the Duffy Brothers, Owen and Ben, owned a couple of stores. One was described as a meat market, located where the Post Office Pharmacy is located today, and the other was a grocery store located at the corner of Bloomingdale Avenue and Church Street Extension, later the location of the Percy Mullen Grocery Store.

These fellows were uncles of Walter (Bud) Duffy; his dad was also Walter and young Walter followed his dad as manager of Wilson's clothing store in Saranac Lake. His father was the youngest of 13 children.

Article Photos

The location of Duffy’s Meat Market from 1900 to about1909, now houses the Post Office Pharmacy. It was the Gibney Market, as pictured in November, 1926. From the left, first man unidentified, then Bill Jewtraw Jr., Howard (Hod) McKillip (Bob’s father and Peg Kelly’s uncle) then Mr. Gibney in the suit. Far right, the kids are Doug Willette and Alvin Skeels with Leo Bopray.
(Photo Courtesy of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library – 85.718)

Now here is the story that Walter (most recently known as the spokesman for the SL Chamber of Commerce) has come up with from a copy of the Malone Palladium of March 8, 1906 and reprinted at that time with the permission of the Adirondack Enterprise. Here are excerpts from that unusual tale.


Caught in a trap

"Last week a great sensation was created at Saranac Lake when it was discovered that a number of merchants there were being robbed in a systematic manner. The petty pilfering of a clerk in a meat market and a clerk in a grocery store, which has been detected, and of which confessions have been made, leads to one of the most interesting situations imaginable. It is asserted that fourteen or fifteen parties may be dragged into the mess as a consequence of these disclosures.

"Owen Duffy of the firm of Duffy Brothers received a letter without a signature, in which it was charged that one of the employees of the firm, in company with a public official, had been seen together in the market as early as four o'clock in the morning.

"As a result of the letter a trap was set for the employees of the market and it was arranged with F. S. Boardman of Stowe, Vermont to serve as a detective. The developments led to another trap set Tuesday morning. Boardman entered the market soon after it was opened for business by the clerk in question. He arranged to make a cash purchase of meat. Not long after, Benjamin Duffy entered the market and, upon examination of the cash register, discovered that no part of the money had been turned in. After waiting a reasonable length of time for the clerk to turn in the money, which it is alleged he did not do, Mr. Duffy dispatched him upon his rounds for soliciting orders. Upon his return he was summoned to the office of attorney H. P. Coats. Mr. Boardman was also there and, when faced by his accusers, the clerk made a confession.


The whole confession

"Under oath the clerk made a statement in which he gave the names of a grocery clerk and Chief of Police Arthur Wood as persons to whom he had given meat belonging to Duffy Brothers. As to the grocery clerk, the witness said he got groceries in exchange for meat. Of Wood's alleged part in the transactions, the clerk in Duffy Brothers Meat Market declares under oath that altogether he (Wood) got about $50 worth of meat with the understanding that he did not have to pay for it. I let him have it with the understanding that it was in return for his accommodating me with loans. His loans did not amount to a quarter of what the meat was.

"A special meeting of the village board was held on Wednesday, at which time Benjamin Duffy presented the sworn statement of the clerk to the board. One of the trustees made a motion that Chief Woods be suspended, pending an investigation, and the motion was carried.

"Chief Wood had paid Duffy Brothers $50, the amount the clerk alleges the meat was worth. Wood, who recently was appointed a deputy sheriff and who is a constable for the Town of Harrietstown, denies the story of the clerk, and says the meat received was, according to agreement, to have been paid for by the clerk for loans that had been made to him by the Chief."

That was the end of the story and no other names were given. I wonder who the other fourteen or fifteen citizens were who might have been "dragged into the mess."



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