'Quick and Without Pain'





Graphic Story of the Execution
Told by a Globe Writer Who Witnessed It -
Dead Two Minutes After Entering the Chamber.

           With a small party of gentlemen, I was standing Monday morning, on one of the lower ridges along the northern borders of the Adirondacks, feasting my eyes on the grandeur of the scene.  In front of us, at our right and to our rear, forming a semi-circle around us, rose a high wall of mountains, come capped with snow, others covered with shrub growth or with forests.  Far off to the left our eyes rested upon the blue-gray waters of Lake Champlain and so clear was the pure mountain air that we could plainly see the Champlain House on the Vermont shore fo the lake, 23 miles distant.  The bright sun shining down upon the scene, the mild breeze, the birds twittering in the tree-tops gave such a charm to the morning that, as I thought of the occasion which had brought us there, I could not help but think to myself:


          “How lovely the world seems to-day!  Is it not a pity, is it not wrong that just as God has made it most beautiful, man would put a fellow-being out of it, even though that fellow-being has been guilty of the same at?”


          Further down in the valley before us was the one blot on this fair picture – the gloomy walls of Dannemora prison, behind which even now, as we were drinking in the beauties of nature, one who had seen but little more than boyhood’s days was preparing to leave the world.  Martin Foy had broken the laws of God and man and the courts of the State had said that he must die.  This was the day fixed for  


           It was about 11:30 Monday morning, when Warden Walter N. Thayer crossed over from the prison to the little village hotel and announced to the witnesses who had assembled there that all was ready for the execution.  The witnesses were 23 in number; among them were William H. Farrell, P.P. Gilliland and Dr. E.E. Larkin, of Plattsburg; Dr. John O’Brien, of Amsterdam; District Attorney Dudley, of Elizabethtown; C.W. Lansing, of Port Henry; Dr. George Beebe, of Albany; E.P. Morrison, of Sandy Hill; Dr. H.B. Burton, of Troy; E.A. Andrus and Dick Mingay, of Saratoga; Dr. E.S. Lawrence and District Attorney Person, of Ballston; John Harding, of Saranac Lake; Thomas Patterson, of Whitehall; W.H. Palmer, of Dannemora and the GLOBE  representative.  Escorted by Ed M. Coughlin, the warden’s secretary, they proceeded to the death chamber, a narrow room in the south wing of the prison.  A few feet from the door stands the death chair and close behind that is the switchboard, at which the current is turned on and off.  In the presence of the witnesses the electrical apparatus was tested by means of lights, but State Electrician Davis and Dr. J.B. Ransom, the prison physician.  When the officials were satisfied that everything was in good working order the warden retired from the death chamber.  A few minutes elapsed and then he re-entered the room.  Beside him walked Principal Keeper E.J. McKenna.  Then came the condemned man and Father Belanger, his priest, and Guards Vogen and Glazier followed them.


          As he entered the room, the prisoner’s eyes were turned toward the floor.  His countenance was pallid;  in his trembling hands he carried a crucifix.  Warden Thayer, Keeper McKenna and Father Belanger stepped aside and Foy walked slowly to the chair and seated himself.  His nerve seemed to be completely gone.  No sooner was he in the chair than the guards proceeded to fasten him.  One strap was placed around the chests, another around the waist, two were put around each arm, one over the forehead and eyes and another across the chin.  His feet were placed in sockets.  While the guards were strapping the prisoner, Electrician Davis bared the right leg below the knee and applied one of the electrodes and another, helmet-shaped, was fastened to the head.  All this was quickly done and in a few seconds over half a minute after the mournful procession entered the room,


           Gathered about the chair were the warden, the keeper, the priest, Dr. Ransom, Dr. R.B. Bontecou, of Troy, Dr. Frank Madden of Plattsburgh, and Dr. J.B. Ledlie of Saratoga, the three last named being the physicians who were to assist Dr. Ransom in the examination of the body.  It was 11:48 when Dr. Ransom gave the signal and Electrician Davis turned on the current.  The witnesses, with their eyes fastened intently on the doomed man and with bated breath, waited to see the body straighten up and hear the straps creak as it was forced against them – something they had been led to expect from reports of other executions.  But there was not a sound.  As the current shot through the body, the right leg, to which the electrode was applied, moved gently and slowly to the right, then back to its natural position, and then again forth and back.  But there was no other noticeable movement of the body.  The physicians who stood about the chair say that it moved slightly as the muscles were contracted by the electric fluid, but this was not perceptible to the other witnesses.  The current was kept on for 78 seconds, varying in force from 1.640 to 150 volts.  Immediately upon its being turned off, the physicians examined the body and within two minutes after Foy entered the room he was declared dead.  There is no question, however, that he was unconscious and totally oblivious of all sense of feeling from the


          As the doctors were examining the body, and before they had declared the man dead, a rasping sound came from Foy’s throat.  The witnesses were momentarily alarmed, thinking that there had been a failure and that he was not yet dead, but Dr. Ransom and Warden Thayer immediately relieved their anxiety by explaining that Foy had suffered from chronic dyspepsia and that the noise was caused by gas coming from his stomach.  Although Dr. Ransom and the examining doctors were satisfied that the current had done its work, another shock was subsequently administered, in order that all the gas might be driven from the stomach.


          When Foy had been declared dead the witnesses examined the body.  I gave it a careful examination at those points where the current entered and left the body and was unable to find any mark or discoloration.  There is no doubt that the execution was the most successful that has yet taken place and Warden Thayer and Dr. Ransom are deserving of praise for the smoothness with which everything was done.  The execution demonstrated that with proper care on the part of those having it in charge, electrical execution is the nearest to humane of all methods.  With proper precautions there can be no such scenes as were witnessed at Auburn af few months ago.  Capital punishment is brutal in principle;  it is nothing better than legalized murder and should be abolished.  But if the Legislatures will not do away with it, then in every State in the Union where the law, “A life for a life,” exists, it should be enforced by New York’s method.  There is always a certain horror about a hanging, no matter how careful those having it in charge may be.  But Monday’s execution demonstrated that in electrical execution death is instantaneous and painless;  there are no horrible attendant features; nothing to shock the most timid witness.



            Immediately after the execution the autopsy was performed.  The body was found to be in perfect condition.  The action of the electric current on the vital organs could not be discovered, the symptoms of death being those which are present in all cases of death from natural causes – the heart had stopped beating and the blood had become clotted.


          When the doctors had concluded, the body was dressed for burial and placed in a cheap coffin.  During the afternoon the father and brother of the dead man, who were in Dannemora since Saturday night but did not witness the execution, were permitted to view the remains.  The brother broke down completely and wept like a child, but the father controlled himself, though his face told of the pain and bitterness that was in his heart.


          “If we were half-millionaires,” he said, as he looked upon the face of his dead son, “you would not be here to-day.”


          The brother declared that Foy had been the victim of persecution, for despite his faults and vices, they still loved the depraved being and will always believe that he died unjustly.  They acknowledge his crime, but claim it is the only wrong deed he was ever guilty of, and say he would not have committed that had he been in his right mind.  Later the coffin was enclosed in a pine box and turned over to the Foys, who took it to Saratoga that night.



 The Brutal Murder, His Escapes and His Last Days at Dannemora.


          The story of Martin Foy’s crime has been told over and over again, but it will bear repeating.  He was born in Saratoga 25 years ago.  His father, Martin Foy, Sr., is a stone mason by trade, an industrious workman and a citizen respected by all who know him.  The rest of the family also bear a good reputation.  Martin, wayward in his childhood, left home when 12 years of age and ever after lived a life of sin.  Several years ago he became connected with the race track and traveled about as a helper for various owners.  About three years ago he met Henrietta Wilson, who had come to Saratoga from Pennsylvania.  After a time the two began to live together as man and wife, though unmarried, and this relation continued until a year ago last spring when she left him and took up with another man.  Foy then threatened to kill her and patiently awaited his opportunity.  On the night of May 13, he met her on Spring avenue, Saratoga, and shot her.  She ran a few steps, shrieked and fell.  He followed her and shot himself in the head as he stood over her body, giving himself a slight scalp wound that caused him to fall to the ground.  Then raising himself on his elbow and seeing his victim rolling on the ground, he cursed her and shot her again.  The girl died and her assassin was locked up in the jail at Ballston.


He was a troublesome prisoner from the start and a few months after his incarceration succeeded one night in getting out of his cell into the corridor.  In the morning when Jailer Howland appeared with breakfast, Foy hit him on the head with a chair and escaped through an open door.  He succeeded in reaching California, but in November was captured there and brought back to Ballston.  A few weeks passed and then as Jailer Storey appeared at his cell door one day with his dinner, Foy held an imitation revolver in his face and demanded the keys.  The old jailer thought it was a real revolver and quickly complied with the murderer’s demand.  Foy then made his escape.  An alarm was quickly given by the jailer, however, and in a few hours Foy was caught in the woods near the village and returned to jail.  But




          A few nights later he pulled the excelsior from his mattress and lighting it, threw it out into his corridor.  The fire was discovered by another prisoner just in time to save the jail from destruction.  After this last attempt, Foy was put in chains and kept in solitary confinement until February.  Then he was tried, convicted and sentenced to death.  He was taken to Dannemora soon after.  An appeal was made to the higher courts for a new trial but this was denied, and in July he was sentenced to be executed on August 27.  When sentence had been pronounced and he was asked by his counsel if anything further could be done for him, Foy replied with an air of bravado, “Yes, ask the judge to make it July 27 instead of August 27.


Shortly before the time fixed for the execution the horrible, bungling affair took place at Auburn, and to prevent a repetition of it Warden Thayer asked of Gov. Flower that a respite be granted Foy in order that he might strengthen his electrical apparatus.  Accordingly the date for the execution was changed to October 23, the warden meanwhile putting in a new dynamo at the prison.


 Every effort was made to save Foy’s life.  The family is well liked at Saratoga and, out of sympathy for them, probably, nearly everybody in the village signed petitions for Foy’s commutation.  The ground upon which the request was based was insanity.  As late as Sunday a party of prominent Saratogans appeared before Gov. Flower and pleaded for Foy, but the Governor refused to interfere.