Wednesday, June 1, 2016


The Cortland Democrat, Friday, May 27, 1892.

George Fitts of McLean Causes the Arrest of William C. Keating of Schenectady on the Charge of Buncoing Him out of $6,000—The Examination
Before Justice Smith—The Prisoner Held for His Appearance Before the Grand Jury.
   George Fitts, is a well-to-do farmer, fifty-six years of age, and resides on one of his farms about two miles northwest of McLean in the town of Groton. He is a money-maker and every enterprise in which he is known to have been engaged has always turned out to the benefit of his bank account, until the one which forms the subject of this article. People who knew George Fitts, and he is pretty well known in this and the adjoining county of Tompkins, were greatly surprised last fall to learn that he had been buncoed out of $6,000 in clear cash. The story as told by him is as follows:
   On the morning of the 25th day of September last, a slick looking, sandy complexioned man drove up to his house and introduced himself as a nephew of the late Judge Boardman of Ithaca and the cashier of Tompkins County Bank. Incidentally he informed Mr. Fitts that he wanted a farm for his sister, who was wealthy and had two wild sons that she could do nothing with. Consequently she wanted to get them on a farm. He inquired of Fitts if he knew of a good one for sale. The latter said that the Syke's farm was for sale and when asked if he would go with him to see it, readily consented and the two drove away to look at the farm which is located a mile or so north from Fitt’s home. The stranger, who said his name was  Boardman, appeared to be well posted with regard to the names and financial standing of people in that vicinity and as he was an entertaining talker the ride was not an unpleasant one.
   After leaving the Sykes farm they drove about a mile when they saw a man sitting at the roadside wearing a linen duster and who inquired the road to Virgil. He then said a large fortune had been left him and that he had lost considerable of it through bad luck and unfortunate investments and speculations. The man also said he had been gambling and taking a piece of cloth from his pocket which he called a toadskin said, if Fitts could guess the right card he could win some money. Boardman bet and won $5. The latter urged Fitts to bet, but he declined. Boardman then hit Fitts a wrap on the hip and the latter says he experienced a sort of shock. Boardman then said to Fitts that the man on the roadside had $10,000 or $20,000 and was evidently weak-minded and that they might as well have the money as some one else.  Boardman and the stranger bet $6,000 on a card and the former proposed that Fitts do the same. Boardman put $6,000 in a tin box in the bottom of the wagon, locked it and handed the key to the stranger. He had again given Fitts a rap on the hip and had him induced to come to Cortland to try and raise the money. Boardman enjoined Fitts to be very quiet about the matter as he was running for office and if it became known that he was engaged in a game of the kind it might injure his canvass.
   They drove to Fitt’s house to get some checks that he had and then left for Cortland. They went to the Second National Bank and Fitts made and signed a note payable to Fitz Boynton’s order, which the latter endorsed and then went with him to the First national Bank and obtained the money, Boardman in the meantime remaining in the wagon. Fitts did not tell a soul what he wanted so much money for and claims that all this time he was hynotised or mesmerized by Boardman and was entirely under his control.
   On the way back, they found the stranger in the edge of the woods at the old Camp Meeting ground between this village and McLean, busily engaged in manipulating his cards. They stopped and entered into conversation with him. The stranger came up to the side of the buggy that Fitts was on and began talking. Boardman demanded the $6,000, which Fitts had in his side pocket and as the latter took the money out Boardman snatched the package and threw it in a [squared in] box in the bottom of the buggy. He then locked a tin box and handed it to Fitts saying the money was in it and directing him to take it home and take care of it. Fitts told Boardman he might carry him home as it was four miles from that place, but Boardman ordered him out of the wagon and told him they would be over next morning to look at the farm. The stranger got into the buggy and the two drove toward Cortland. 
   When Fitts got home he opened the box with a hammer. It contained a stone wrapped in blue wadding paper but no money. The men did not return the next morning nor have they called upon him since. This is substantially Fitts' story of the transaction.
   Boardman and the stranger, who is believed to be one Frank L. Smith, alias Frank Lockwood, alias B. F. Chase, alias B. F. Grant, drove through Cortland to Lincklaen, Chenango county, where their horse gave out and they hired landlord Darling to carry them to DeRuyter where they took the train for Canastota. They sent $20 in a letter to the owner of the livery house in Groton, telling him where to find his rig.
   Fitts seemed to be anxious to keep the matter quiet and was very uncommunicative in regard to the transaction for several days after it happened, but it finally came out in one form or another in the papers. He was evidently chagrined over the fact that he had been so easily done up, and his reputation for business shrewdness and sagacity knocked higher than a kite and for a time he seemed to prefer to pocket the loss, rather than own up that he was the victim of his own cupidity. Very little was done to arrest the parties who buncoed him until recently.
   Some months since Fitts received a letter from a detective named Norris of Springfield, O., offering to find the men who had taken his money. On the 1st of April last Norris came to Cortland and met Fitts at the Second National Bank. Norris had a large book containing photographs of most of the prominent crooks in the country. Fitts picked out one, which he said he was sure was the one who took his money and gave his name as Boardman. Norris informed him that the man went by the name of Charles E. Davis, alias Red Austin. Fitts also picked out another photograph which he was quite sure represented the weak-minded card player and was told that his name was Frank L. Smith, alias Frank Lockwood, alias B. F. Chase, alias B. F. Grant. The detective offered to arrest the men for $800 to be paid in advance. Fitts declined to pay in advance. He was willing to pay the money after the men had been arrested, but this arrangement not being satisfactory to Norris, all negotiations were terminated.
   Acting on the information he had obtained however, Fitts went before Justice Dorr C. Smith and swore out a warrant for the arrest of the parties named. Here the matter rested until a little over a week ago when Fitts saw a paragraph in a Troy paper saying that William C. Keating of Rome had been indicted, charged with assisting buncoer O'Brien to escape. The paper also slated that Keating was arrested at Schenectady, that he had a very unsavory reputation and was also known as Red Austin, Charles Davis and by other aliases. Fitts cut the slip out and mailed it to sheriff Miller who went to Lincklaen on Friday last and taking landlord Darling with him started for Schenectady.
   Keating keeps a drinking place in that city and when Miller called at the place and asked for cigars, Darling saw Keating sitting at a table in his shirt-sleeves in another room and informed Miller that he was one of the men he carried to DeRuyter last September. The two left the place and after having their warrant endorsed, returned to the saloon accompanied by assistant chief of Police DeForrest and arrested their man. Keating made no particular objection and the sheriff brought his man home Saturday evening and lodged him in jail.
   An examination was to have been held on Monday but owing to the fact that witnesses could not be procured in time, it was postponed until Tuesday at 10 o'clock, since which time it has been in progress.
   Fitts swore to the statement substantially as above related and said he was quite sure that Keating was the man who took his money. C. W. Hall, the Groton livery stable keeper, was positive that the prisoner was the man who had his horse. Landlord L. E. Darling of Lincklaen said the men arrived at his place between 8 and 9 o'clock at night and he took them to DeRuyter. He said he thought the prisoner was one of the men. E. N. Andrews, merchant at Lincklaen, whose horse was used by Darling to take the men to DeRuyter, said in his opinion the prisoner was one of the men. Mr. John W. Breed, 60 years of age, who resided in the town of Cuyler last September, swore that two men in a buggy came to his house in the latter part of September about dusk and wanted him to carry them to Lincklaen. Thought prisoner was one of the men.
   The people rested their case at 3:45 P. M. on Wednesday and on motion of prisoners’ counsel the examination was adjourned to Wednesday next to enable prisoner to produce witnesses. It is under stood that he will attempt to prove an alibi. Last September it is claimed he was in the flour and feed business in Rome with one N. Turney, and it is claimed that he will be able to show from the books, several charges made in his own hand-writing that day and that he will prove by witnesses, that he was home on the 25th day of September 1891. The people were represented on the examination by District attorney Jerome Squires. Hon H. S. Patten of Whltesboro, John K. Mason of Rome, and John Courtney Jr., of this place appeared for the prisoner. The latter cross-examined the witnesses for the people.
"Something for Nothing."
   Many people who have heard the evidence in the examination of Keating, charged with defrauding George Fitts out of $6,000, think that the latter would not have proved such an easy victim if he had not been quite so anxious to obtain "something for nothing" from the weak-minded "three card monte" man on the 25th day of September last. It simply illustrates the fact that even honest men are not always as honest and high-minded in their dealings with others as they ought to be, and that the partition wall between strict integrity and downright dishonesty is so weak and thin, that [it is] liable to topple and fall on very slight provocation.
   The disposition to do right needs cultivating by the best people, because the evil one is always present with tempting promises, and hundreds of good people are tempted and fall. The love of money has proved the curse of thousands. It tempts the miser as well as the burglar and both are likely to suffer from their desire to obtain more than belongs to them. If Fitts had not entered into a scheme with Boardman, whom he undoubtedly believed to be a respectable citizen, to take advantage of the weak-minded card player, he could have shook Boardman while in this place and rid himself of his influence, but when he arrived at the woods and found himself trapped and in the power of two rascals, he undoubtedly exercised good judgment in delivering the money to the robbers. The money was what they had been scheming for and they would undoubtedly have taken it whether by fair or foul means. 
   No one takes the least stock in the mesmerism or hypnotism story although Fitts may believe it himself. While he may not be entitled to much sympathy it does not follow that the robbers are entitled to any. If they are found and identified they should receive the severest punishment the law allows.

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