Three pioneer aviators, including a Gloversville native, died when their plane crashed into a buckwheat field near Rural Grove in the Montgomery County town of Root on Jan. 8, 1928.
The Gloversville native who perished in the accident was Edward M. Pauley. Born in 1895, Pauley served on the ground in World War I in the motor transport corps. After the war, he became a pilot as a civilian then rejoined the U.S. Army Flying Corps, earning the rank of captain. Capt. Pauley married Marion Howarth of Johnstown. They had no children. He was in the Army reserves when he died.
Pauley headed a company called Flyers, Inc., the first commercial air service based in Albany. His firm, headquartered at the Ten Eyck Hotel, carried passengers and freight and flew racing editions of the Albany Journal newspaper to Saratoga Springs for the 1927 horse racing meet. Albany Mayor John Boyd Thatcher mentioned Pauley’s name as the future superintendent of the almost-constructed Albany Airport.
On Sunday, Jan. 8, veteran pilot Raymond Henries flew from Long Island to Albany on his way to Buffalo, delivering a new Fairchild monoplane. The large single-engine plane was to be based in Buffalo for Colonial Western Airways. Henries had a passenger, former pilot George Benedict, then in his family’s clothing business in Illinois.
Pauley decided to fly with Henries and Benedict to Buffalo where two planes ordered by Flyers, Inc. were to be delivered. Pauley planned to make arrangements to have his new planes flown to Albany.
Despite thick fog, the Fairchild monoplane left Westerlo Island airfield south of Albany, piloted by Henries, around 2 p.m. Several hours later, Colonial Western Airways reported the aircraft had not reached Buffalo.
WGY radio in Schenectady announced the plane was missing sometime after 6 p.m. Telephone reports poured in from listeners. Some heard what they thought was a crash about 3 p.m. near Rural Grove in the town of Root, on the south side of the Mohawk River between Fultonville and Canajoharie. A Mrs. Quackenbush of Rural Grove reported she heard a crash and was convinced the plane had fallen.
Early Monday morning Sheriff Seeley Hodge formed a posse of about 30 men who began a ground search. Searchers found the wreckage on Tuesday morning near a farm being worked by J.E. Bartlett off what is today Route 162, between Currytown and Middle Grove. A plane from Schenectady Airport doing an aerial search saw the activity on the ground and landed on a nearby field.
Pilot Henries’ body had been thrown about 75 feet from the main wreckage. The bodies of passengers Pauley and Benedict were found crushed inside the plane.
The Albany Evening News reported, “Death rode on the wings of the wind with the three missing aviators whose bodies were found on a farm hillside near Rural Grove today, strewn with wreckage of their big Fairchild monoplane.”
The crash investigation was hampered in the coming days by the arrival of what authorities estimated to be a total of 3,000 to 8,000 gawkers and souvenir hunters. Investigators could not find part of the instrument board of the plane. It was located in the possession of a Gloversville businessman.
The cause of the crash was never pinned down. The thick fog was likely a factor but there were reports from people on the ground who said they heard a plane’s engine overhead that seemed to be misfiring before the accident.
Capt. Pauley was buried at Ferndale Cemetery in Johnstown. His story was researched by his niece, Frances N. Burnham of Scotia, with the assistance of town of Root historian Bill Maring.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.