George Delcour pardoned by Governor

Part 2 of 2

This is a brief recap of last week’s column: The Governor of New York at the time, Nathan Lewis Miller, gave a full pardon to George Delcour who had been convicted of killing a police officer in Lake Placid in July 1907.

After he had served 10 years at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, his friends undertook a massive movement over many years to have him pardoned. Gov. Charles S. Whitman had commuted Delcour’s sentence four years previous to the pardon.

Mr. Delcour was the maternal grandfather of the children of Spencer and Stella Delcour Branch. The surviving children of that family of 12 are Louise Branch Wilcox, Rosie Branch Glover, Harny, Champ and Gus Branch.

The jurors recanted and said in a sworn statement that if they had all the information available at trial, that they learned later, they probably would not have convicted him; Essex County Sheriff Nye sent a statement to the Governor supporting Delcour’s pardon; O. Byron Brewster, Essex County District Attorney concluded a statement in favor of Delcour with this statement: “To summarize, I candidly give it as my belief that if the Governor exercises executive clemency in this case, his action will be above all righteous censure.”

Affidavits and statements of support

L. P. Ross, General Manager of the Northern Iron Company in Standish, in a long statement to Mr. Brewster, said: “At present he [Delcour] is a liability to the country, if given his freedom he will be an asset. Our company is now operating on 100 per cent government work in the production of ordnance and war materials. We are now and have been short of labor. This man Delcour is a physical giant, and, therefore, capable of doing as much as two ordinary men. I should not only be willing but pleased to have him paroled in my custody to work at our Standish plant.”

Mr. Ross in his statement included extensive interviews with people who had known Mr. Delcour and attested to his good charactersuch as; “George D. Keysor, Post Master and one of the most prominent citizens of Standish that Delcour was considered and had the general reputation of being honest, industrious, faithful and a trusted man.”

Ross’ statement also included an affidavit from Silas LaDuke, considered another prominent citizen of Standish who declared; “After Delcour grew up to manhood and was able to work I know that he was considered by his employers and co-workers to be a hard-working, honest, law-abiding citizen. He had good credit with all who knew him and was never before in trouble.”

Dannemora warden issues statement

The following statement was by John B. Trombley, Agent and Warden of Clinton Prison at Dannemora, dated February 16, 1915.

“Referring to the application for clemency of George Delcour, Clinton No. 8189; I wish to state that during his stay in Clinton, Delcour’s record has been of the best. He has held a position of trust and has always been loyal to the officials of the institution.” Signed by Warden Trombly.

There was a 500-word appeal sent to Gov. Whitman on May 25, 1918. It was signed by 147 citizens of Plattsburgh, Redford, Cold Brook, Saranac, Clayburgh and Moffitsville.

The author of the appeal with a signature above all the others was by Rev. A. M. Gilbert. Here are excerpts from the text:

“Without attempting to justify or in any way minimize the wrongs he has done and the laws violated for which he was convicted after trail, we feel obligated and justified to attest that we knew him as a resident of this town for several years before the unfortunate incident that lead to his conviction, and it is and always has been our belief, that at heart, in ideals and practices, other than in that unfortunate incident, he was a peaceful, industrious, loyal and law-abiding citizen; an attentive, kind and thrifty husband and a devoted and loving father enjoying the fullest confidence, love and devotion of his wife and daughters.”

The commutation

These are words of the official commutation but I cannot read the signature. The note was addressed to John B. Trombly, Warden of Clinton Prison, dated July 3, 1918.

“Dear Sir:

By direction of Governor Whitman I enclose herewith commutation in the following cases:

Benedette Macri

Alexander Ciniglic

James Thompson

George Delcour

Very truly yours,

Signed ?

Executive Legal Assistant”

All of the documentation, 100 pages or more, was supplied to me by Gus Branch, the youngest of the family and now a resident of Oswego.

Another irony following that tough, early life of Stella Delcour BranchHer father George Delcour died on July 17, 1935, on the day that Stella was giving birth to Jerome [Champ] Branch. She and her one other sibling, a sister attended the Catholic Convent School in Redford conducted by the Sisters of Mercy.

Mr. Delcour was born in 1877; he was released from prison on July 2, 1918. There are many references to his physical prowess in the other statements given to me by Gus. His prison record reveals he was 6 foot, 4 inches and weighed 200 pounds.