A Catskill Catalog: April 8, 2009
Imagine two young men walking down the sidewalk in Andes, having just dropped off their dates at one o’clock in the morning after a Friday night dance at the firehall. As they approach what is today the Ron Guichard Realty building, one, surprised at the appearance of activity in that building in the wee hours of the morning, says, “I think I see a light.”
Suddenly, a voice from just a few yards away, toward the street, demands, “Throw up your hands!” One of the boys responds, “We are friends, don’t shoot,” but a shot rings out, and the young man described by some as “probably the most popular young man of Andes” falls, shot in the stomach, writhing in pain.
That’s exactly what happened on October 28, 1905. Today’s realty office was then the Ballentine National Bank, and the young man clutching at the grievous wound in his abdomen was Frank Graham. He and his running mate that evening, a surveyor on the Delaware & Eastern Railroad, had just walked Hazel Newman and Lillie Ballentine home, to the house of Dr. Gladstone, where they lived, located just behind the bank.
Frank Graham was shot on the sidewalk about 10 feet east of the bank building next to the bank’s wrought iron fence. Perhaps, his friend ran in fear, because it was Graham himself who struggled his way up to the Gladstone residence where they had just left the girls. Dr. Gladstone attended to his wounds, while Lillie and Hazel ran to the firehall to wake the sleeping town by ringing the fire bell. David Ballentine, president of the bank, inspected his premises.
His investigation showed that someone had tried to pry open the rear door of the bank, failed, and moved to the front door, which they successfully broke open. Inside, the bank robbers had knocked the combination tumbler off the safe, drilled a small hole into the safe door, covered that with coats to deaden the sound, and used a small amount of explosive to blow open the safe. It didn’t work. All the explosion did was blow off the outer portion of the lock, leaving the safe door snugly, and securely, closed.
Meanwhile, a posse was formed to find the criminals. Frank Graham reported, through the clenched teeth of his agony, that he had heard, right after he fell, one of the men say, “We must be getting out of this!” The robbers immediately ran.
But where? The posse headed up Cabin Hill, riding in their search all the way to DeLancey and Hamden. Two Hamden farmers reported encountering well-dressed strangers, seven or eight of them, huddled around a campfire on Hamden Hill, but that lead went nowhere, and the posse found itself empty handed.
Back in Andes, Dr. Wight and druggist Norton worked with Dr. Gladstone attending young Frank Graham. It was clear his wounds were life threatening. Delicate surgery would be required.
Commodore Elbridge T. Gerry happened to be at his summer home at Lake Delaware. Gerry contacted his New York City doctors, summoning them to the Catskills. At 5:40 on Saturday afternoon, Dr. Robert C. James and Dr. Adrian V.S. Lambert, eminent surgeons, boarded a train in the city, making connections to Walton. A special train met them there, taking them to Delhi, where Mr. Gerry’s carriage carried the doctors to Lake Delaware where they spent the night.
Saturday morning the Andes Town Board had held an emergency meeting in which they voted to appropriate a $1,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the bank robbers who had shot young Graham. Many in town believed that these were the same criminals who, a month before, had shot Davenport storekeeper George Hotaling while attempting to hold up his store.
A number of pieces of evidence were found at the bank, including a supply of dynamite saturated with nitroglycerine, some blasting caps and a fuse, a sledge hammer, chisel and a couple of screwdrivers. Several of these tools had been stolen from the shop of local blacksmith John Bretz. Also found at the scene was a holster for a Colt pistol marked with the initials E.H.M.
Turns out, several people had heard the explosion at the bank, had heard the shots that felled Graham, but thought little of it, as the Andes boys were known to shoot up the air while celebrating Friday night.
At 10 Sunday morning, Drs. James and Lambert performed surgery on Graham at Dr. Gladstone’s house, assisted by Andes physicians, Gladstone and Wight, and by Delhi’s Dr. Gates. The surgeons discovered four holes in Frank Graham’s intestine but could not locate the ball that had torn that organ so drastically that 30 stitches were needed to close its oozing.
Commodore Gerry paid for the services of a trained nurse, Miss Olive Gray of Delhi, to attend to Frank Graham at Dr. Gladstone’s where the 25-year-old lay for the rest of the week. But he did not get any better. The following Friday, Frank Graham died.
His killers were never found. The crime remains unsolved, a cold case, as it were, 104 years cold.
How can one conclude such a tale? The words of the poet seem to fit. Robert Frost wrote, in his poem, “Out, Out” - which tells the story of the sudden death of another young man – lines which capture our human response to any such tragedy. Eventually, the people of Andes, “since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.”
It is ever so.