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Death truck in the river

September 3, 2011
By HOWARD RILEY , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Searching once again through the murder/accident file in the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library has turned up many a bizarre story. Some will be told here in the next couple of weeks.

It all started when our collective memories had Phil Adler of local hotel fame supposedly driving off the state bridge on Route 3 and maybe being connected with Polly Adler, the author of a best seller, "A House Is Not a Home."

None of the above turned out to have any connection. Mr. Adler died peacefully at a boarding house on Olive Street in 1947; Polly Adler, apparently having never crossed paths with Phil Adler, died in California in 1962.

Joe Ratelle was at the state bridge on May 15, 1953 riding in a car with his mother and as they approached the bridge they saw a wrecker hauling a pick-up truck out of the water. Joe wasn't dreaming when he told me the story of what he witnessed that day; what he saw was a truck with a woman's body trapped inside; there had been a16-state alarm by police, searching for her and the driver of the truck whose body had floated three-quarters of a mile down the Saranac River.

Over the past weekend, thinking about any accident that I could recall at the state bridge, I amazingly (at least to me) remembered the name Sammy Brewster. I never needed to call Adirondack Room Curator Michele Tucker on Monday to check on that name because there on my computer was an e-mail from my friend Phil 'Bunk' Griffin with the entire story about the Sammy Brewster accident. Phil has the best web site in the North Country, just go to, you will be amazed.


From The Enterprise

May 16, 1953

Headline: "BODIES OF COUPLE FOUND IN RIVER; MISSING 21 DAYS" - "The bodies of Samuel Brewster, 31, and Mrs. Celeste Taylor, 58, missing since April 26 from this village, have been found in the Second Pond of the Saranac River near the State Bridge, Route 3.

"Fred Stephen Perry, of RFD Fulton, who has a camp at the State Bridge site, discovered Brewster's body at 6:15 last night while Perry was fishing. The body had been carried about three quarters of a mile from the State Bridge down the river."Perry immediately notified State Police, who noticed marks on the embankment near the bridge and started grappling operations for the missing woman and the 1949 three-quarter ton Ford pick-up truck in which she was believed to have been riding.

"State Police and local police, together with other volunteers, worked with search lights and located the truck. Buoys were set up to mark the spot for continued operations this morning.

"About 8 o'clock this morning, the work resumed. Police Chief William Wallace, BCI Investigator James Smith and Saranac Lake Volunteer Firemen, Howard Ellithorpe and Tom Fina, grappled from a boat. Fina made several diving attempts in the icy water and found Mrs. Taylor in the truck, but he was unable to open the truck doors.

"The wrecker from Brundage's Garage was sent out and hauled the truck to shore. Mrs. Taylor's body was removed to the Fortune Funeral Chapel.

"The truck was located in water about 14 feet deep."

Autopsy results

"The deaths of Mrs. Celeste Taylor and Samuel Brewster have been ruled accidental by Dr. Richard Bellaire, Franklin County Coroner.

"Results of the autopsy, Dr. Bellaire said yesterday, showed that Brewster who lived at 22 Santanoni Ave., died of a skull fracture. Mrs. Taylor who lived at 22 Dorsey St. died of a broken neck."

"Mr. Brewster, a combat veteran of World War II, was employed at Horton's Greenhouse. He was born on April 28, 1922 in the Town of Franklin, the son of George and Hazel Denneky Brewster.

"Mrs. Taylor was born July 5, 1897 in Vermontville, the daughter of Joseph and Matilda Daniels Lewis. She had been employed by the Troy Laundry."

The Enterprise story said that a complete obituary would be carried the following day.


Last week we carried a brief piece about Allen Mooney being electrocuted at Dannemora Prison for a double murder in Saranac Lake in 1902. The prison was built in 1844; in 1895 the first prisoner died in the electric chair; by 1913, 26 men had been executed there when the state moved all executions to Sing Sing Prison. The full story about the Mooney murders will be carried here next week.



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