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So, who killed Orlando P. Dexter?

July 21, 2012
By HOWARD RILEY (hjriley@adelphia.net) , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

This story is continued from last week. Mr. Dexter was a very rich guy who built a mansion near St. Regis Falls in the town of Santa Clara. He apparently was not very nice to his neighbors so they shot and killed him on Sept. 19, 1903.

I made a mistake last week writing that Orlando Dexter was the great-great grandfather of my former Enterprise colleague, J. Ripley (Rip) Allen. It was Orlando's father, Henry, who was Rip's great-great grandfather. Orlando was a distant cousin. Now those Dexter genes never got passed down to Rip because he is the nicest guy in the North Country ... and I happen to be Godfather to his beautiful, talented daughter, Shamim Allen.

The story so far: Dexter was killed in his buggy on his way to the post office. Dexter's father hired a bunch of Pinkerton detectives to find the killer but after three weeks in the area of the killing they found nothing that could be used as a clue and went home.

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The rest of the story

The following is the end of the story as remembered and written in 1968 by Tom Jacobs Aunt Mae as reported here last week.

"Then Mr. Dexter Sr. posted $10,000 reward for anyone who would tell who the killer or killers were; it was never claimed. After the detectives left, the men talked openly and freely.

"James Eccles engineered the plot and Malcolm Hulbert and William Kettles helped. They drove from Eccles' home in St. Regis Falls to a spot near enough to the Dexter home in order to see Dexter when he left for his mail. They followed him and shot him. They then returned to St. Regis falls where Mr. Alfred [referring to Joseph Alfred who owned and operated the Altamont Hotel in Tupper Lake. Eccles was a close friend of Alfred's and a bartender at the Hotel] was waiting for them. He gave Hulbert one thousand dollars for his share and Hulbert took the afternoon train for Canada and never came back.

"James Eccles and Kettles took the evening train for Madawaska [where Alfred had a small hotel about 40 miles from Tupper Lake] and stayed there until about Christmas time. Then they both went back to the Altamont. The next April, Eccles and Kettles went to some place in Massachusetts. Nothing was heard from them for about two years. Then one day Kettles stepped off the train. He was well dressed, had money, was tanned, and looked real healthy.

"That was the last time he was seen in Santa Clara. James Eccles lived the life of a hermit at Madawaska, so I am told. His wife divorced him soon after the Dexter murder, and he never had any guests at the hotel. He simply lived alone the rest of his life.

"Let it be known that to let the logs get through to the river would not have hurt his property, or him, but he chose the mean and arrogant way."

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New information

I received a telephone call from Norma Deragon after last week's column. She now lives in Saranac Lake and her family owned the Orlando P. Dexter mansion, from the 1950s to the end of the '60s. Her father was Rex Thomson. To better identify the property it was purchased by Shania Twain in about 1994; the mansion was demolished and was replaced by a modern house and recording studio.

Norma worked at the Nicholville Telephone Company in the 1970s and the following are stories that were told to her. Sam and Baah [Norma only knew her by this name] Chambers owned the Nicholville Telephone Company. She said they were the best people you ever want to meet but the founder of the phone company and a power company, Sam Chambers Sr., was apparently the opposite. Another act that Dexter supposedly committed was to divert the water supply on his property effectively cutting off the water supply that fed the adjoining farms and the power company.

Neil Skiff worked at the phone company with Norma and he said the Sam, Sr., would go to his father Derwood [sp?] Skiff and threaten him not to tell who killed Dexter. The story was that Sam Sr., with other businessmen, financed the murder.

There are many other versions and details about the murder in a great story written by Rick Smith, carried years ago in the Lake Champlain Weekly.

 
 

 

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