A Murder at Willow Walk

Martin Foy was twenty five years old in 1892. He was a race track tout and occasionally worked with the horses long enough to earn enough money to place a few bets or to fund his travel from track to track as he followed the race meets throughout the country. Martin Foy was also in love with Katie Emerson from Philadelphia. The two had met the previous summer in Saratoga Springs but their love would prove to be short-lived.

Katie Emerson and Martin Foy started living together in Saratoga the summer they met. Although they never officially married, they lived as man and wife in one of the seedier sections of town known as Willow Walk, where brothels and saloons abounded, an area the village constables referred to the area as the “valley in the shadow of death.” Unfortunately for Katie, though, Martin Foy had a jealous streak and he did not like Katie talking to other men, something Katie had trouble avoiding, since she worked in a brothel on Spring Ave (today known as High Rock Ave).

In late winter 1892, Foy travelled to New York City without his common law wife. While there, his jealousy burned hot and he pawned his overcoat for a pistol and a train ticket back to Saratoga Springs.

On May 14, 1892 in the afternoon, Dexter Hayden saw Foy on Lake Ave. Having known each other for most of their lives, Hayden and Foy made some small talk during which Foy told Hayden that he had had enough of Katie and her boyfriends and that he planned to shoot them as soon as he saw them, mentioning by name two of Katie’s presumed customers, Dick Shea and Billy Martin.

Later that evening, around 6:00 PM, Martin Foy sat on the front stoop of Jennie Weaver’s home, just down the street from the brothel where Katie was working. Foy didn’t have to wait long before Katie appeared and started walking toward Foy, who got up and slowly walked towards Katie.

Katie stopped and talked to Dick Shea for a moment before proceeding along her path. When Foy intercepted her he calmly said, “Didn’t I tell you if you talked with Dick Shea I would kill you?”

Before Katie could even respond, Foy pulled his pistol and shot her. She fell to the ground and Foy stood over her, shooting her once more. Convinced he had killed Katie, Foy turned the gun on himself and, putting the pistol to his temple, pulled the trigger.

The bullet only glanced off of his head and knocked out Foy, who fell unconscious a few paces from his wounded lover. When Foy came to, he saw Katie groaning, but still alive. As law men rushed to the scene, Foy let loose a barrage of curses at Katie and fired at her again before he was finally disarmed and Katie taken to the hospital.

Later that night, Foy was patched up and brought to Katie’s room where she identified him as the shooter. In the presence of constables and the attending physician, Foy admitted that he was the shooter. Adding that he knew Katie was going to heaven and he, the electric chair. Katie died the following morning.

If that was all there was to this obscure murder of a poor brothel worker at the hands of her jealous lover in a small village in upstate New York in 1892, then the story would be of little interest. However, almost as soon as the murder was committed, the story took on a life of its own.

First, it was discovered that Katie Emerson was not the name of the young lady killed by Martin Foy. Her real name was Henrietta Wilson, a detail that Katie revealed on her death bed. She said that she had come from a respectable family but offered nothing else to help authorities notify her next of kin. She was buried in the pauper’s section of Greenridge Cemetery while the case against Martin Foy was prepared for court.

Foy’s trial was pretty straightforward. There were plenty of witnesses to the crime and the defense move to claim temporary insanity did not meet with willing ears from the jurors. Only a few weeks after the murder, Martin Foy was sentenced to death and sent to the Ballston Spa jail to await his execution.

While in jail Foy attempted to set fire to the building in order to create a diversion while he tried, unsuccessfully to sneak out and, later, he was found to have a few saws concealed in his cell. Despite these facts, Foy was not secured or watched more thoroughly and on August 10, 1892 someone managed to slip a key to him through an open window of his cell on the first floor of the jail. Naturally Foy used the key to let himself out of his cell and hid in a laundry room while the jailer made his rounds. When the jailer came back through the cell block area, Foy shoved him and sprinted through the kitchen and out onto the streets of Ballston Spa.

As it was early morning a posse was slow to form up and Martin Foy made his escape. He was last seen running west on High Street. Police tracked down several sightings and leads but ultimately Foy slipped the net and wound his way west through Canada and then down to California where he planned to take a ship to Australia. Unfortunately, his love of the horses drew him to the race track at Oakland on November 10 where an eagle-eyed constable recognized him from a photograph the Saratoga Police had sent to all race tracks in the country. He was apprehended and brought back to Saratoga to be lodged in the same jail he had escaped from three months earlier.

Even though the Saratoga jail did have iron clad cells on the second floor of the building that were much more secure than those on the lower level of the building, Foy was inexplicably placed on the bottom floor once again and after another four weeks of confinement, Foy made another escape.

This time, Foy fashioned a fake gun from a piece of wood and some tin foil. On December 15, when Watchman Story was making his rounds, Foy shoved the imitation pistol at Story, who threw his hands up in the universal sign of surrender. Foy relieved Story of the keys and let himself out to freedom once more.

This time however it was afternoon and a posse was quickly formed, deputized and sent after the escaped killer. The trail headed south and soon Foy was located, hiding in a thicket of brush, attempting to conceal himself under a pile of leaves. When confronted, Foy shouted for his pursuers not to shoot as he was unarmed. The fake pistol was recovered and Foy returned to the jail, this time thankfully, he was placed in the iron clad section and he managed no more escapes.

Martin Foy was eventually sent to Dannemora prison to await his execution. Foy rejected any appeal on his behalf and requested that the court move up his proceedings by 30 days so that he would have fewer days to await the executioner. Foy told the court that the waiting was unbearable and wanted to get on with the execution as quickly as possible.

On October 13, 1893 Martin Foy was brought from his cell at Clinton Prison in Dannemora, NY and strapped into the electric chair deep inside the massive prison. After a brief visit from his brother and father, Foy chose not to offer any last words and met his end in silence. As a postscript to the event, it was noted by newspapers all around the region that Foy had the most perfect execution with hardly any burn marks noticed on his body after the three courses of electricity were sent through his body.

While the clean, efficient execution of Martin Foy might have been the end of this saga, one more twist was in store. In 1894, Chief of Police Blodgett received a letter from Issac Miller from Pennsylvania inquiring after his sister, Mrs. Frank Emerson of 40 Spring Ave. She had not written home since March 1892 and the family wondered if she was still living in Saratoga Springs. Realizing that Katie Emerson, Henrietta Wilson, and Issac Miller’s sister were probably one in the same, Chief Blodgett sent a photo of “Henrietta Wilson” to Miller who soon confirmed that the dead woman was, in fact, Katie L. Miller of Myertown, PA.

It seems that Katie was embarrassed by her profession and wished to conceal from her family her true situation in Saratoga. So she invented a marriage to “Frank”, corresponded with her family using the alias and on her deathbed gave the name of Henrietta Wilson to further disrupt efforts at locating her family. While Issac, his siblings and their parents all were greatly shocked to learn of Katie’s life and death in Saratoga Springs, they soon sent for her remains and had them transported to the family burial plot for a proper internment.

Although it didn’t make it into the book, the story of the killer Martin Foy is just one more of the interesting and darker stories of the Willow Walk area of Saratoga Springs. To read more about Willow Walk, get your copy of All the Law in the World Won’t Stop Them and check out chapter three.

How the Title Was Chosen

As I researched this book I noticed a pattern in Saratoga Springs. Gambling was allowed to a certain extent until one reformer or another made an attempt to stop it. There were occasional raids and sometimes the reformers were successful in stopping the gambling for a short time. Other times, there were raids and the gamblers kept right on gambling, seeming to have no fear of the law.

When the village of Saratoga Springs was established, the original charter specifically directed the police board to stop gambling. Not other forms of vice, like prostitution or selling liquor on Sunday, but gambling. The first temperance movement met in Saratoga Springs as did the first meeting of the American Bar Association. Early attempts were made to close John Morrissey’s place, raids were made by representatives of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, and even Richard Canfield was raided.

Clearly there was always a law-and-order segment of the population of Saratoga Springs that wanted the town cleaned up but local officials and the majority of residents did not see the gambling as so much of a problem. In fact, John Morrissey was a sitting Congressman when he was operating his gambling place across from the railroad depot before he open the track and allowed gambling to be carried on there. Village residents elected Caleb Mitchell President of the village three times despite his owning and operating a gambling dive right on Broadway. Clearly, in the struggle between good and evil, evil seemed to always keep the upper hand in the first century of Saratoga’s history.

I found two articles where Richard Canfield expressed his views on gambling to a reporter. In the first article I was impressed at his ability to predict the future when he said that someday gambling would be licensed by the state with gamblers required to pay a large fee to the government and that the government would be active in regulating where and how the casinos would operate. It is amazing to me how closely New York State has followed Richard Canfield’s prediction when it comes to the question of gaming in the state in our time.

In the second article, Canfield explained why he continued to run a gambling operation and why his patrons continued to play even though the activity was against the law. Canfield said that gambling was a natural activity for men, and they would hazard anything in a friendly manner, even if the stakes were not high, for the pure enjoyment of it. Secondly he claimed that ninety-five percent of the population had gambled something at some time in their lives and were not willing to condemn a man who wagered his own money when they were likely to have done so themselves.

Canfield said, “…men will continue to gamble to the end of time and that all the law in the world won’t stop them.” As soon as I read the quote I knew I had the title of the book, as I can think of no better description of what the situation was like in Saratoga Springs from the 1820s through the 1950s. It truly seemed that all the law in the world would not stop the gamblers and the gangsters in Saratoga.

How the Book Came to Be.

One of my earliest memories is walking up the hill at High Rock Park to the building where the Olde Bryan Inn is today. When I was a small child relatives of mine lived in the building and there was some type of family gathering there. One of the elder Veitch men told me a story about my great-grandfather, Sid Veitch.

The story was that Sid Veitch was once in a car with some gangsters when they shot a guy and dumped his body at the hospital. When the police asked Sid what he knew about the murder, Sid told them that he couldn’t help them since he was in the front seat and the guys that shot him were in the back seat. The absurdity of Sid’s answer seemed to amuse the Veitch men, and it amused me too.

The story of Sid Veitch’s antics with the police always remained in the back of my mind, but I never knew any of the details. After college I was hired by the Saratoga Springs Police Department and worked my way up to become the commander of the detective division.

One day a retired detective called me and asked me to take a second look at an old case from the 1980’s. When I went down to the archives and finished with the detective’s request, curiosity got the better of me and I took a look for the oldest case report we had on file.

I discovered a folder with the words “Parillo Murder” written on it. The case was from 1936 and was the oldest case file I could find. Being a bit of a history buff, I started to read the contents. To my amazement the story was of a man who was shot and dumped at the hospital. Even more interesting to me was the story itself was an incredible tale of an unsolved gangland murder.

Eventually, I researched further the murder and gave a presentation at the Saratoga Springs History Museum. When I was finished a friend of mine said, “you should write a book.”

By then I had discovered many tales from Saratoga Springs’ past that were as interesting to me as the Parillo murder. True stories of gambling, crime and corruption were a part of Saratoga’s past that would challenge any creative mind to come up with on their own.

By writing this book of the history of gambling, crime and corruption to 1921 in Saratoga Springs, I hope to give residents and visitors an accurate picture of the conditions at Saratoga Springs during the roughly first one hundred years of the town. I also hope that the book will serve as a resource for future researchers on the topic.