For some time I had been intrigued by a book titled Wicked Mohawk Valley at the Herkimer County Historical Society. While attending a program on Strike Story (perhaps you read my blog post about that), I heard there was to be a program on the Wicked book on July 25, which was last Thursday. I made immediate plans to attend.
Steven worked till seven so had to join the program already in progress, but I got there in plenty of time. Before the actual program, we heard a few previews of upcoming attractions. I made note of two: a Wine Tasting and Tour at the Balloon Farm Bed and Breakfast in Frankfort, NY from 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 4, and a walking tour of the Frankfort Cemetery at 6 p.m. Aug. 26 (I hope those are also previews of coming attractions for blog posts).
Dennis Webster is the author of Wicked Mohawk Valley as well as Wicked Adirondacks and Haunted Mohawk Valley. The last, co-authored by Bernadette Peck, was given to me by Steven last Christmas. I had not even noticed it was the same author, so add that to the list of things I don’t pay enough attention to.
Wicked Mohawk Valley is a collection of true stories about famous or rather infamous area dwellers, mostly from history. Naturally, Webster included chapters on Chester Gilette and Roxalana Druse, two very well-known figures (at least to this blogger). However, since those two have been covered quite extensively elsewhere, Webster merely mentioned them at Thursday’s program.
The most famous person he talked about, and his favorite story, was Dutch Schultz, Public Enemy No. 1 after Dillinger died. I never knew Schultz was tried in Malone, NY, a place I have visited many times. The authorities were trying to get Schultz the same way they had gotten Al Capone, on tax evasion. They chose Malone as a place where they hoped Schultz did not own all the cops and judges.
It was perhaps a mistake to let Schultz know in advance where the trial was to be held. He and his PR team arrived a month before the trial and went on a charm offensive. He went to ball games and cheered for the home team. He bought rounds at the local watering hole. He gave a party for all the kids in town. He told everyone he was just a hardworking businessman who had tried to settle with the IRS for $100,000 and was being persecuted. Who wouldn’t believe such a nice guy?
Webster went on to tell a few more stories from the book, which does not include a lot of stories about gangsters. For one thing, the mafia in Utica was covered quite well in a series in the Utica OD recently. It sounds like he found a lot of really interesting stories outside the mafia.
Webster also talked about Haunted Mohawk Valley. The folks at the program seemed more interested in ghosts than gangsters. Perhaps he will do another program highlighting his haunted activities.
I thoroughly enjoyed Thursday’s program. I can’t wait till Steven buys me Wicked Mohawk Valley for my birthday!