February 10, 2001

When you come to think of it, storms have gotten a lot of bad press. True, they sink ships and drown movie stars; I've mentioned a few in these broadcasts. But let's be fair about it; they're not always a bad thing. Depends on your point of view, of course. Submitted for your consideration.

Saturday, the 14th of November, 1818, the vessel Commodore Perry sailed out of Buffalo; destination Detroit. Among the passengers was Elias W. Slocum, who was leaving his Jefferson County home with his family to start a new life in Sandusky, Ohio. Life made a slight adjustment to his plans. November can be a dangerous time of the year to venture out onto the lakes. Winds out of the west were rising. Sunday evening Captain Johnson dropped anchor at Long Point, on the Canadian shore. The following morning a strong gale parted the ship's anchor cable. She headed back to Buffalo for a replacement, and was soon all but one aboard was out of harm's way.

During all of this enforced leisure Slocum chatted with some of the other passengers and perused a newspaper someone had brought aboard on Saturday. One item in particular had caught his interest. It told of the October 9th murder of Schoharie County, New York's deputy sheriff William Huddleston. The lawman had ridden out of the town of Schoharie to collect legal debts, owed by one John Vanalstyne, to the tune of $1450. When the deputy failed to return, searchers headed out the next day to the Vanalstyne farm and questioned the man. He declared he had paid the debts in cash and that Huddleston must have appropriated the money and run off. There was no evidence to suggest otherwise at first, but the investigation continued. When, on the 16th, it was discovered that Vanalstyne had lit out for parts unknown, the sheriff had his farm searched. Investigators found out that he had taken several bank-notes to a neighbor to be changed. One had blood on it. Back at the farm, traces of blood were also found in the barn and on several nearby fences leading to a freshly plowed field. They found Huddleston's body among the furrows. Further searching in the barn turned up the deputy's papers under the hay and a heavy oak stake with blood on it. The victim's spectacles were hidden nearby. His horse had never turned up; it was obvious Vanalstyne had fled with the animal. A reward of $250 was offered by Governor De Witt Clinton, and $100 more was put up by the sheriff for Vanalstyne's apprehension. The manhunt got under way. Clinton increased the whole reward to $500. Reports surfaced that the suspect was seen at Trenton and Lowville, with Huddleston's horse, heading towards Canada.

Interesting reading, thought Slocum. There was a very good description of Vanalstyne. It fit one of their fellow passengers perfectly. And something had not seemed quite right about the man when they had chatted. The reward was certainly attractive. Might be worth a chance. As they docked Slocum got word to authorities, who detained the man and notified the Schoharie sheriff. On March 19th, 1819, John Vanalstyne became the second person in the history of Schoharie County to wear the hangman's noose. As 1840s historian Jeptha R. Simms would explain, "Circumstances, over which human action could have no control, urged on the car of Justice and sealed his untimely fate."

For Classical 91.5 and 90-point-3, this is David Minor



It might be more accurate to call this the URL of the Century, for that's exactly what it is. Visit American Cultural History: The Twentieth Century
At this site, created by the reference librarians at Kingwood College (Texas) you'll be introduced to "resources covering 20th century American cultural history from 1900 to 1979. Divided into sections according to decade, the guide functions as a hypertextual bibliographic essay, outlining the major events, important persons, and cultural trends of each decade, and linking users to related Websites and print materials."

Click on the first decade for example, and you'll find links to such subjects and web sites as the San Francisco Earthquake, The Ash Can School of art, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, Ida Tarbell's The History of the Standard Oil Company, Mary McLeod Bethune who opened the first Negro Girls School, and Froggies' Novelty Song Files. I intend to make many visits to this site and I think you will as well.

© 2001 David Minor / Eagles Byte



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