FROM PAGES PAST: 1921: Gilbert Dean Convicted of Second Degree Murder

Yates County History Center
1921: Jerome Conley's murderer, Gilbert Dean, was sentenced to 20 years to life in Auburn Prison.

The Yates County History Center’s volunteers have gleaned these entries for your enjoyment from their digitized newspapers. You can access them at the free site For more information about the YCHC, visit

150 Years Ago

July 27, 1871

Branchport News — An oversight of our law-makers in not regulating the fee of Justices of the Peace when called upon to join parties in wedlock, occasioned a novel incident here very lately. A young couple desiring to be made one appeared before the Squire, and made known their wishes. The magistrate, nothing loth, but doubting the reception of any reward for preparing the parties for nuptial bliss, insisted that the would-be bridegroom should first hoe out his (the Squire’s) garden! The candidate stripped for the work, applied the hoe to the weeds, and being sustained by the smiles and encouraging words of his future help-mate, finished the job in about two hours. The silken knot was soon tied, and although sweat streamed from every pore, there was joy unspeakable in his manly eye as he went off with his lovely bride, triumphant.

Letter From Miles A. Davis of Jerusalem — Dear Editor Cleveland - As you are publishing a history of Yates County, permit me to suggest the propriety of a chapter on the Antiquities of the County through your columns, in the hope that some one, like Dr. Wright, A. R. Cowing, or any other, or others, who are versed therein, may render you such assistance in ascertaining all available facts as will enable you to prepare a comprehensive account thereof. There are things which should be elicited concerning the Indians, their names, traditions, and their signification of things and places. A competent geologist should inform us of the rocks, of the drift formations, of the various deposits and the upheavals. An archaeologist should give us his lenses on those natural mounds, or more properly, remains of ancient forts in Milo, Jerusalem, Potter, and elsewhere. These forts could never have been built by Indians, for they never build them; besides their mode of warfare never partook of fort building. They never coined money, for they had no means of doing so. Coined money has been found buried in the earth in an iron box upon the site of the ancient fort in Jerusalem near the residence of Bartleson Shearman. Two of these ancient forts were also located upon Bluff Point, the stones being laid in regular order like a work of masonry, and comprising several acres in extent. My father, several years ago, while engaged in working a pine tree up into shingles, found near the center of the tree, a large musket ball, which was imbedded in the tree some forty feet from the ground. The cavity made by the penetration of the ball must have been done at a very early age of the tree, as it was entirely healed over to the ball itself. The grains of wood that had grown over the ball since its enlodgment were carefully counted and numbered nearly 200. This would place the date of the propulsion of the ball into the tree back to a point of time in the 17th century. What people were living at that age in this country who used firearms is a question for the ethnologists. Many curious works of art have been dug up on the site of the ancient fort in the western part of Jerusalem. The outlines of this fort are yet partially distinguishable. My father a few years ago found, while traversing over these grounds, the bowl of a nicely carved stone pipe, which looks as though it belonged to a lapidary’s work in the giant age. I mention these little incidents with the hope of calling due attention to the very interesting and important subject of the Antiquities of our County.

100 Years Ago

July 27, 1921

Gilbert Dean Convicted of Murder, Second Degree — Friday afternoon Gilbert Dean was sentenced to Auburn prison at hard labor by Judge Thompson for a minimum term of twenty years or maximum of life for second degree murder in killing Jerome Conley February 20, 1920 during a fight at Conley’s home in Middlesex. During the three days when testimony was being received, the courthouse was crowded and many gathered outside to discuss every detail, unwilling to go home although well knowing the court chamber was already filled to capacity. The trial proved to be the most sensational feature in Yates County in years. People came from miles away, arriving early and staying until court adjourned. Fully half the spectators were women, some coming for miles bringing their lunches. These they smuggled into the courtroom, taking chances with the alert-eyed attendance and the ever ubiquitous Sheriff Blodgett. Many of the ‘gentler sex’ would bridge the two-hour recesses by eating picnic lunches and holding talking bees. Because of the nature of the testimony Thursday morning, Judge Thompson ordered the courtroom cleared of women, who went home to dinner early, and while the men who had been allowed in the courtroom during the morning had gone home for their dinner, the debarred ones returned early and obtained the best seats for the afternoon session. During the trial, and especially since the testimony of the defendant himself, much of the local hard feeling against the Deans has disappeared. With the announcement of the verdict many spectators said they were glad that the young man had escaped the death penalty. Only immediate friends and townsmen of the murdered man appeared to think his second degree verdict not enough. When District Attorney Kimball was asked by a reporter what he thought of the verdict, he replied: “Oh, it’s all right, but the facts in the case warranted a verdict of murder in the first degree. However, Yates County juries are not used to trying murder cases.”

Memorial to Col. Robert G. Ingersoll at Dresden on August 11 — Yates County has in her history presented to the world many men of fame and distinction, but it is to be doubted if in her annals there looms a figure of loftier prestige and renown than that of Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll. It is quite fitting therefore that on Thursday, August 11th, the anniversary of his birth at the humble little home in Dresden where first he saw the light of day, the entire citizenry of Yates county should unite in making this celebration a signal success. That four hundred men and women from every nook and corner of the county are participating in the arrangements for this event is an earnest of the whole-hearted public sympathy with this memorial celebration. Although there may be many people who disagree with Col. Ingersoll’s religious views, or perhaps better with his lack of religion, there will be none to minimize his greatness as a patriot, an orator and a humanitarian. Robert G. Ingersoll’s title of Colonel was no fictitious honor but was acquired through active and gallant service in the Civil War.

The Keuka Lake Floor Off Picnic Point — Patrick Welsh, of Rochester, a diver employed by the state, when here last week searching for the bodies of Ruth and Helen Rogers, said he had never experienced conditions like he found off Picnic Point. Twenty feet off shore there is a sudden drop like a rugged cliff of shale. At a depth of thirty-five feet he found a current of warm water, and below the water was icy cold. On the lake floor close to the cliff is a pocket of rock, which he said he had to enter from off shore. When once within he could touch the outside walls with his outstretched hands. The soil here seemed to resemble a sediment of white clay. He says he went to a depth of 150 feet. The west branch is deeper than the east branch. One spot measures 186 feet, and in many places it exceeds 170 feet in depth.

75 Years Ago

July 25, 1946

News Commentator Explains Russian Angle on Peace — The Knapp Hotel, now under new management, opened its enlarged and redecorated dining room, by giving a dinner for the joint meeting of the Penn Yan and Geneva Kiwanis clubs, Monday evening. Speaker for the evening was Edward Vadebonceur, news commentator from Syracuse, who said he was “giving the devil his due.” His subject dealt with the Russian attitude toward us and by stating many “facts written in the records of the peace conferences” he attempted to show why this little understood partner in Big Four conferences might well hold an antagonistic attitude. He quoted from President Truman’s speeches in the order of delivery: on Navy day, “We are maintaining this mighty navy to keep peace in this hemisphere without interference from any nation in the world;” at Chicago, “We have formed a military alliance with 27 republics in this hemisphere for peace purposes;” he asked Congress for two billion dollars “to provide arms and munitions and training for the armies of these nations;” and so on for many more. “When we say we are doing all this to preserve peace, Russia doesn't believe us,’’ he stated. They have a great inferiority complex, the speaker explained. They know that no nation in the world likes their government nor cares much to associate with them. “We never sent an envoy there,” he interpolated, “until the time of Franklin Roosevelt.” Stalin is the product of prison camps, as is Molotov. He was sent to Siberia twice. He learned to save his life by living in constant distrust of everyone. He is no “diplomatic Churchill, accustomed to world travel and friendly relations with all nations,” the speaker went on. “He is a rank amateur in diplomacy and doesn’t know what trust means.’’ “At the conference table,” Vadebonceur reminded his listeners, “the United States told Russia that we wanted to internationalize many of the European waterways, including the Danube, Don, and Volga, the water of which flow on the boundary of or through Russian territory. Naturally Russia objected. He countered by asking that we internationalize the Panama canal, which would be of benefit to every nation on earth which ships by sea. Naturally we refused. Russia feels that what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander.” We must make friends with Russia,” he declared very seriously, “for without a friendly Russia there can be no world peace.” He described a recent trip to England and London, commenting on the terrific desolation and poverty of the city where bread rationing has started and if you get a slice of bread at even the best restaurant or hotel you give up one other whole course of the meal. “The city is dingy and tired,” he said. “The people are tired. They are victors in a great war and what have they got for it?” He concluded with a short description of his experiences as a war correspondent in the Pacific theatre. “The lives those boys gave in that heat and filth were cash on the line paid for peace. It is our responsibility to see there is a peace . . . and we better accept it.”

50 Years Ago

July 29, 1971

Eleven Young Ladies Compete for the Title of Miss Penn Yan – For the past thirteen years the last Friday in July has been a special day for Penn Yan and area shoppers. This year is no exception with everything ready for the 14th annual Sidewalk Sale this Friday, July 30. This year’s theme will be Good Old Summertime and many of the participating merchants and their employees will be attired in proper garb. This sale was initiated and is sponsored by the Penn Yan Area Chamber of Commerce. Chamber president Milton Munson extends an invitation to everyone to visit the spectacular show of values on Friday. Among the day’s highlights will be the crowning of Miss Penn Yan 1971. She will reign over the Sidewalk Sale and will represent the community at various functions throughout the year. There are eleven candidates for the title of Miss Penn Yan. They, with their representative organizations, are: Gail Neilsen (Rebekah), Donna Greenfield (OES), Ann Versage (VFW), Cindy Northrup (LOOM), Jacqueline Palaka (American Legion), Christine Owen (Danish Brotherhood), Sue Bailey (Kiwanis), Sandy Kennedy (ALA), Silver Greenfield (LOOM Women), Carla Gray (BPOE), Mary Moynihan (BPW). The girls seeking the title will be in a parade through the downtown business section at 3 p.m. on Friday. The new queen will be selected at the stage on Main St. Following the selection, the parade will continue to the Lake St. Plaza.

Penn Yan Express Expands — Robert L. Hinson, President of Penn Yan Express, Inc., Penn Yan, announces the approval by the Interstate Commerce Commission and the New York State Department Transportation of the purchase of the operating authority of Frank’s - Van Namee’s Express Corp. of Utica, N.Y. The consummation of this purchase will extend the New York Intrastate operation of Penn Yan Express into an area between Binghamton and Utica, and Utica and Syracuse, including the cities and towns of Rome, Oneida, Oneonta, Bainbridge, Sidney, Mohawk, Herkimer, and many others. The Interstate authority will permit a similar operation and will enable Penn Yan Express to perform a service to and from the Northeastern part of Pennsylvania which was also a recent acquisition through the purchase of Eastern Carrier Corporation of Dunmore, Pa. In the linking of these recently acquired authorities with existing certificates, Penn Yan Express will provide shippers with an extensive and dependable coverage in the heavily industrialized and populated states of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Strategic terminal locations at Binghamton, Penn Yan, Buffalo, Elmira, Rochester and Syracuse, N.Y., Carlstadt, N.J. and Scranton, Pa. symbolize continuing growth and progress in the Southern Tier and Central New York State. The latest acquisition is expected to aid Penn Yan Express to attain its projected goal of a 10 per cent to 15 per cent increase in sales over the 1970 revenues of $7,250,000

Advertisement — Multer Electric on Main Street in Penn Yan advertised a 15-inch black and white TV for $139. Incredible value! A black & white RCA portable with two-function remote control, competitively priced with sets having no remote.