Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Remembering Murdered Game Warden William Jackson

The LaGoy brothers were rough. A neighbor near Severence, on the road between Schroon Lake Village and Paradox, once wrote a letter to a local newspaper asking for a telling retraction. “I was not lost,” D.S. Knox wrote. “My wife was much excited by the delay of about an hour of time over due, thinking as I have an organic heart trouble, caused to give her alarm, and not ever thinking of any of the LeGoy family causing any harm as neither of us believe that any of the LeGoy family ever would cause any personal harm without a provocation.” It was rather important to Knox to make it clear to the world, that even if his wife had been talking out of school, neither of them harbored any ill will toward the LaGoys.

There was probably good reason to write that letter. Three LaGoy brothers were then being held at the Elizabethtown Jail on suspicion of the axe murder of game warden William H. Jackson.

According to testimony at their trial, at about 9 pm on Friday, September 17, 1897 the LaGoy brothers were headed out of Schroon Lake Village when Special Game Protector Jackson learned of their whereabouts. William Jenks rode with Jackson and over took them on the road to serve an arrest warrant on the elder brother Frank, then 32 and wanted for hunting deer with dogs (although the deer season was expanded in 1897, hounding and jack-lighting were outlawed). Frank LaJoy resisted arrest and attacked game constable Jackson with an axe. Jackson managed to fire one shot at his assailant, but LaGoy buried the axe in his chest. Jenks was no where to be found. He later said his horse was spooked and he had waited for Jackson some distance away and when he didn’t return, went into the village for help.

A posse was organized and set out to find Jackson, a large athletic man who had struggled toward the village alone until he collapsed, dead from several axe wounds.

The youngest LaGoy brother Will, 18, was captured the next evening and confessed that his brother Frank had killed the game warden, carefully washed the axe and went home to change his blood-soaked clothes. Two days later the posse caught him there and brought him back to the Ondawa Hotel where a large crowd had gathered. Sheriff John W. Nye ordered his men to shoot any man who approached the prisoner and after a considerable row, Frank LaGoy was quickly transferred to the Essex County Jail. The other brother, George, was captured Monday morning and all three were charged with murder.

In early December, Frank LaGoy and his cellmate Harry Harris dug their way out of their cell and, as the editor of the Essex County Republican put it, “vamoosed, sloped, cleared out, cut and run, departed without cause or permission from their boarding house.”

Posses were organized throughout the county with orders to take Frank LaGoy dead or alive. Trains were searched, and patrols sent in every direction. The next night LaGoy was recaptured near Schroon Lake. Harris was arrested a few days later after have joined, and then deserted, the 65th N.Y. Cavalry. He made a second escape in 1900.

During the trial Frank LaGoy claimed self-defense and argued that he had been threatened and once beaten-up by constable Jackson, but to no avail. He was convicted of 2nd Degree Murder and sentenced to no less than 20 years in Dannemora. His brothers were found not guilty.

In 1918, under the headline “Schroon Lake Murderer Paroled” the Adirondack Record reported that the State Board of Parole had released Frank LaGoy.

Just three years later Frank LaGoy, now 64 and living in Igerna near Chestertown, was arrested again for threatening a neighbor with a gun over a timber dispute. Taken to the Warren County jail, he joined his brother George, being held on a related assault.

It’s a strange an terrible twist of fate that game warden William Jackson is all but forgotten, while his killer Frank LaGoy, was remembered in song into the late 1960s:

“Come all you boys and citizens, come listen to my song,
’tis the story of Frank LaGoy, it won’t delay you long.

He broke the jail and left no bail, and through the village ran,
he bid goodbye to Sherrif Nye, ‘now catch me if you can.'”

Relatively little is known about William H. Jackson. According to census records, he was born in about 1874 and raised in Mineville. His father William was a black man born in Virginia in 1842 who worked as a miner. His mother Eliza Jane, was white and Canadian, which suggests its possible the elder William Jackson was born into slavery and escaped to Canada.

Related Stories


John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




6 Responses

  1. TiSentinel65 says:

    There is also a story, although it is probably not as well known as the LaGoys and William Jackson, about the game warden that turned up dead on the shores of Jabe Pond, in the town of Hague. I remember my grandfather talking about helping with the search. The weird thing about it, the person who last saw the game warden alive also found his body. This same person received a ticket from the game warden in previous weeks. The story that was told by the person of suspiscion, was that the game warden’s boat capsized and he drowned. The game warden was considered an excellent athlete, and swimmer. Local lore is the game warden was murdered. If any body has information on this, please elaborate further. I have not found anything on the web about this story.

  2. Editorial Staff says:

    John Warren just posted a response to your inquiry:

  3. Bob LeGoy says:

    I ran across this story and to my surprise I found the name of one of my uncles, Frank LaGoy (I’m sure he was in a later generation than the one in your story) Even so, I’m sure there is a relationship since the last name is spelled the same and the location is close. My name is spelled differently because when I enlised in the Navy my birth certificate arrived three days before enlistment with the error and I had no time to change it. I sent the story along to my three sons who each responded with some surprise, too. I thought this might add some interest to your story. Bob LeGoy

    • John Warren says:

      Hi Bob,

      That’s very interesting. Thanks for reading and your comment.

      John Warren

  4. Jennifer Gadway says:

    Hi John,
    I am a great niece of Frank Lagoy, and would like to know where you got the information on that song?

    • John Warren says:

      Hi Jenn,

      The story came from local newspaper accounts. You can search local newspapers at the Northern New York Library Network webpage here. I did a quick search but couldn’t find it again. I’m sure that’s where it comes from though, in an article published in the 1960s perhaps that recounted the story.

      Also, if you search “Come all you boys and citizens, come listen to my song” in Google you will see the first result is a reference to a Catskills folk song using the same tune.

      Do let us know if you start performing it!

      Thanks for reading,

      John