A runaway team kills man

I love the stories in the old clippings from the Enterprise in the archives of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library. It’s the way the language is used, although sometimes the reporter kind of “backed into” a story. For instance, the lead on the following story, written today, would report the driver’s death in the first sentence.

The only time I saw a runaway team was when we lived on our farm on Norman Ridge. Duke Derby, Jim Derby’s father, was going by the house with a team hitched to a wagon, and I was on the front porch of the house. I have no idea what spooked the horses, but they suddenly reared up and took off, although Mr. Derby got them under control while they were still in sight. It was fortunate that it happened on a level, straight part of the road. Jim also had a brother, Duke, who died of cancer when he was just age 18.

Our hay and horse barn is still there on the long, flat part of the Ridge. The Ridge now looks like God or some landscape architect in the sky swooped down and trimmed and mowed and installed precision fencing with a laser.

However, it was really Ron and Beth Edgley who did all that work on the nearly 500 acres they own on both sides of that open ground. It is so great that the most beautiful view in the Adirondacks is preserved, with all that green grass and 70 bison on one side of the road and on any given day 200 or 300 Canada geese on the other side. And by the way, Americans find it much more romantic to call bison buffalo.

But it’s only with John Deere tractors and a lot of hard work by Ron and Beth that have mowed and stored and wrapped tons of hay from those fields to feed the huge beasts. We go to the Ridge often to walk and have watched Beth, right along with Ron, mowing those fields, wheeling a big tractor around like she’s in the parking lot at Price Chopper.

Oh, yeah, the story here is about that runaway team.

Jan. 4, 1898

“Tuesday, Sol Scheier, a Plattsburgh cigar manufacturer, went on his monthly trip into the Keene Valley. It came near being his last trip, as it was of his companion. He took a team at AuSable Forks and was driven by the faithful driver, Ebon Giffin, who had accompanied him many times before.

“At about eleven o’clock, when going down a hill about two miles from Keene Center, one of the tugs became detached from the wagon, the loose end striking the horse’s legs. The horses started to run and the driver was unable to control them. Reaching a slight curve in the road both occupants were thrown out. Mr. Scheier struck on his shoulder and escaped with a few bruises. The driver was not so fortunate.

“He was thrown head first on a pile of stones and rendered unconscious. He was taken to a house nearby and Drs. Howe and Rand were summoned. The physicians found that Mr. Giffin had sustained a severe fracture of the skull. He died at midnight, without regaining consciousness.

“Mr. Giffin was a widower, about 60 years of age. He was employed for many years by the Rogers Company of AuSable Forks. He was a favorite driver and an expert in the management of horses.”

(The Rogers Company was owned by the family of North Elba town Justice Jim Rogers of Lake Placid. Also this column was written before I saw the feature story on the Edgleys in Tuesday’s Enterprise.)