Back in Time: In 1907, Sch’dy druggist mistakenly held as Michigan horse thief

In the weekly Back in Time feature, Jeff Wilkin writes about a Schenectady druggist who was mistaken

The jig was up, the news was out — the law had finally found William “Bud” Walker on Sunday, June 23, 1907.

The Schenectady druggist was a wanted man, according to Deputy Michael Seirrini of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department in Monroe, Mich.

He said Walker was a horse thief.

The accusation was a great surprise and greater annoyance to Walker, who was detained when the steamship Western States docked in Buffalo. He said he had been visiting relatives in St. John, Mich., and was returning home. Walker’s sister and uncle were traveling with him, and vouched for both his character and identity.

The testimonies didn’t work. Seirrini had been following his target since Detroit, and enlisted Buffalo patrolman Adam Dickey to make the pinch. Dickey insisted Walker visit city police headquarters.

The crime story was told. Seirrini said Walker fit the description of Spencer Brookfield, also known as William Ashe, who had escaped the Michigan detective’s custody during escort to prison in Jackson in south central Michigan. Brookfield owed the state two to five years behind bars for horse theft.

Setting record straight

Buffalo detectives listened to Walker’s side of the story. The pharmacy man helped his cause by mentioning his ties to the Masons — he produced a card that proved membership in the Oriental Temple in Troy. Even Seirrini eventually bought Walker’s account.

“While there is a similarity in the appearance of the two men, I am satisfied that Mr. Walker’s description does not tally with that of the horse thief, and a sad mistake has been made,” the deputy said.

Walker was ready to say goodbye, but it wasn’t that easy. Seirrini said he could not order the exasperated man’s release until he had closed the case by the book. That meant a few words with the Monroe County sheriff.

“I appreciate the inconvenience I have caused Mr. Walker, and if I could I would grant him his freedom immediately, but I must abide by the orders of my superior and I await his word,” Seirrini said.

Seirrini wired the sheriff at noon. By then, Walker’s sister was on her way back home; the man’s uncle stayed in Buffalo.

Walker said he would make someone “pay dear” for his arrest and detention. Later in the afternoon, he appeared in Buffalo’s police court and was freed from law’s grasp.

He left for his uncle’s home in Lewiston, near Niagara Falls, and planned to return to Schenectady on Monday.

The ordeal was probably told, and retold, in Walker’s drug store at Clinton and State streets.

Categories: Life and Arts

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