It was Wednesday, August 22, that we left Buffalo. In some stray notes made by my companion, I find this enthusiastic description of the start.

"Toof! toof! on it comes like a gigantic bird, its red breast throbbing, its black wings quivering; it swerves to the right, to the left, and with a quick sweep circles about and stands panting at the curb impatient to be off.

"I hastily mount and make ready for the long flight. The chauffeur grasps the iron reins, something is pulled, and something is pressed, - 'Chic - chic - whirr - whirr - r - r,' we are off. Through the rich foliage of noble trees we catch last glimpses of beautiful homes gay with flags, with masses of flowers and broad, green lawns.

"In a moment we are in the crowded streets where cars, omnibuses, cabs, carriages, trucks, and wagons of every description are hurrying pell-mell in every direction. The automobile glides like a thing of life in and out, snorting with vexation if blocked for an instant.

"Soon we are out of the hurly-burly; the homes melt away into the country; the road lengthens; we pass the old toll-gate and are fairly on our way; farewell city of jewelled towers and gay festivities.

"The day is bright, the air is sweet, and myriads of yellow butterflies flutter about us, so thickly covering the ground in places as to look like beds of yellow flowers.

"Corn-fields and pastures stretch along the roadsides; big red barns and cosey white houses seem to go skurrying by, calling, 'I spy,' then vanishing in a sort of cinematographic fashion as the automobile rushes on."

As we sped onward I pointed out the places - only too well remembered - where the Professor had worked so hard exactly two weeks before to the day.

After luncheon, while riding about some of the less frequented streets of Batavia, we came quite unexpectedly to an old cemetery. In the corner close to the tracks of the New York Central, so placed as to be in plain view of all persons passing on trains, is a tall, gray, weather-beaten monument, with the life-size figure of a man on the top of the square shaft. It is the monument to the memory of William Morgan who was kidnapped near that spot in the month of September, 1826, and whose fate is one of the mysteries of the last century.

To read the inscriptions I climbed the rickety fence; the grass was high, the weeds thick; the entire place showed signs of neglect and decay.

The south side of the shaft, facing the railroad, was inscribed as follows:

  Sacred To The Memory Of 
  A CAPT. IN THE WAR OF 1812, 

The disappearance of Morgan is still a mystery, - a myth to most people nowadays; a very stirring reality in central and western New York seventy-five years ago; even now in the localities concerned the old embers of bitter feeling show signs of life if fanned by so much as a breath.

Six miles beyond Batavia, on the road to Le Roy, is the little village of Stafford; some twenty or thirty houses bordering the highway; a church, a schoolhouse, the old stage tavern, and several buildings that are to-day very much as they were nearly one hundred years ago. This is the one place which remains very much as it was seventy-five years ago when Morgan was kidnapped and taken through to Canandaigua. As one approaches the little village, on the left hand side of the highway set far back in an open field is an old stone church long since abandoned and disused, but so substantially built that it has defied time and weather. It is a monument to the liberality of the people of that locality in those early days, for it was erected for the accommodation of worshippers regardless of sect; it was at the disposal of any denomination that might wish to hold services therein. Apparently the foundation of the weather-beaten structure was too liberal, for it has been many years since it has been used for any purpose whatsoever.

As one approaches the bridge crossing the little stream which cuts the village in two, there is at the left on the bank of the stream a large three-story stone dwelling. Eighty years ago the first story of this dwelling was occupied as a store; the third story was the Masonic lodge-room, and no doubt the events leading up to the disappearance of Morgan were warmly discussed within the four walls of this old building. Across from the three-story stone building is a brick house set well back from the highway, surrounded by shrubbery, and approached by a gravel walk bordered by old-fashioned boxwood hedges. This house was built in 1812, and is still well preserved. For many years it was a quite famous private school for young ladies, kept by a Mr. Radcliffe.

Across the little bridge on the right is a low stone building now used as a blacksmith shop, but which eighty years ago was a dwelling. A little farther on the opposite side of the street is the old stage tavern, still kept as a tavern, and to-day in substantially the same condition inside and out as it was seventy-five years ago. It is now only a roadside inn, but before railroads were, through stages from Buffalo, Albany, and New York stopped here. A charming old lady living just opposite, said, -

"I have sat on this porch many a day and watched the stages and private coaches come rattling up with horn and whip and carrying the most famous people in the country, - all stopped there just across the road at that old red tavern; those were gay days; I shall never see the like again; but perhaps you may, for now coaches like yours stop at the old tavern almost every day."

The ballroom of the tavern remains exactly as it was, - a fireplace at one end filled with ashes of burnt-out revelries, a little railing at one side where the fiddlers sat, the old benches along the side, - all remind one of the gayeties of long ago.

In connection with the Morgan mystery the village of Stafford is interesting, because the old tavern and the three-story stone building are probably the only buildings still standing which were identified with the events leading up to the disappearance of Morgan. The other towns, like Batavia and Canandaigua, have grown and changed, so that the old buildings have long since made way for modern. One of the last to go was the old jail at Canandaigua where Morgan was confined and from which he was taken. When that old jail was torn down some years ago, people carried away pieces of his cell as souvenirs of a mystery still fascinating because still a mystery.

As we came out of the old tavern there were a number of men gathered about the machine, looking at it. I asked them some questions about the village, and happened to say, -

"I once knew a man who, seventy-five years ago, lived in that little stone building by the bridge."

"That was in Morgan's time," said an old man, and every one in the crowd turned instantly from the automobile to look at me.

"Yes, he lived here as a young man."

"They stopped at this very tavern with Morgan on their way through," said some one in the crowd.

"And that stone building just the other side of the bridge is where the Masons met in those days," said another.

"That's where they took Miller," interrupted the old man.

"Who was Miller?" I asked.

"He was the printer in Batavia who was getting out Morgan's book; they brought him here to Stafford, and took him up into the lodge-room in that building and tried to frighten him, but he wasn't to be frightened, so they took him on to Le Roy and let him go."

"Did they ever find out what became of Morgan?" I asked.

There was silence for a moment, and then the old man, looking first at the others, said, -

"No-o-o, not for sartain, but the people in this locality hed their opinion, and hev it yet."

"You bet they have," came from some one in the crowd.

Thursday we started for Rochester by way of Stafford and Le Roy instead of Newkirk, Byron, and Bergen, which is the more direct route and also a good road.

The morning was bright and very warm, scarcely a cloud in the sky, but there was a feeling of storm in the air, - the earth was restless.

As we neared Stafford dark clouds were gathering in the far distant skies, but not yet near enough to cause apprehension. Driving slowly into the village, we again visited the three-story stone house. Here, no doubt, as elsewhere, Morgan's forthcoming exposures were discussed and denounced, here the plot to seize him - if plot there was - may have been formed; but then there was probably no plot, conspiracy, or action on the part of any lodge or body of Masons. Morgan was in their eyes a most despicable traitor, - a man who proposed to sell - not simply disclose, but sell - the secrets of the order he joined. There is no reason to believe that he had the good of any one at heart; that he had anything in view but his own material prosperity. He made a bargain with a printer in Batavia to expose Masonry, and lost his life in attempting to carry out that bargain. Lost his life! - who knows? The story is a strange one, as strange as anything in the Arabian Nights; there are men still living who faintly recollect the excitement, the fends and controversies which lasted for years. From Batavia to Canandaigua the name of Morgan calls forth a flood of reminiscences. A man whose father or grandfather had anything to do with the affair is a character in the community; now and then a man is found who knew a man who caught a glimpse of Morgan during that mysterious midnight ride from the Canandaigua jail over the Rochester road, and on to the end in the magazine of the old fort at Lewiston. One cannot spend twenty-four hours in this country without being drawn into the vortex of this absorbing mystery; it hangs over the entire section, lingers along the road-sides, finds outward sign and habitation in old buildings, monuments, and ruins; it echoes from the past in musty books, papers, and pamphlets; it once was politics, now is history; the years have not solved it; time is helpless.

At Le Roy we sought shelter under the friendly roof of an old, old house. How it did storm; the Rochester papers next day said that no such storm had ever been known in that part of the State. The rain fell in torrents; the main street was a stream of water emptying into the river; the flashes of lightning were followed so quickly by crashes of thunder that we knew trees and buildings were struck near by, as in fact they were. It seemed as if the heavens were laying siege to the little village and bringing to bear all nature's great guns.

The house was filled with old books and mementoes of the past; every nook and corner was interesting. In an old secretary in an upper room was found a complete history of Morgan's disappearance, together with the affidavits taken at the time and records of such court proceedings as were had.

These papers had been gathered together in 1829. One by one I turned the yellow leaves and read the story from beginning to end; it is in brief as follows:

In the summer of 1826 it was rumored throughout Western New York that one William Morgan, then living in the village of Batavia, was writing an exposure of the secrets of Free Masonry, under contract with David Miller, a printer of the same place, who was to publish the pamphlet.

Morgan was a man entirely without means; he was said to have served in the War of 1812, and was known to have been a brewer, but had not made a success in business; he was rooming with a family in Batavia with his wife and two small children, one a child of two years, the other a babe of two months. He was quite irresponsible, and apparently not overscrupulous in either contracting debts or the use of the property of others.

There is not the slightest reason to believe that his so-called exposure of Masonry was prompted by any motives other than the profits he might realize from the sale of the pamphlet. Nor is there any evidence that he enjoyed the confidence of the community where he lived. His monument - as in many another case - awards him virtues he did not possess. The figure of noble bearing on the top of the shaft is the idealization of subsequent events, and probably but illy corresponds with the actual appearance of the impecunious reality. The man's fate made him a hero.

On August 9 the following notice appeared in a newspaper published in Canandaigua:

"Notice and Caution. - If a man calling himself William Morgan should intrude himself on the community, they should be on their guard, particularly the Masonic Fraternity. Morgan was in the village in May last, and his conduct while here and elsewhere calls forth this notice. Any information in relation to Morgan can be obtained by calling at the Masonic Hall in this village. Brethren and Companions are particularly requested to observe, mark, and govern themselves accordingly.

"Morgan is considered a swindler and a dangerous man.

"There are people in the village who would be happy to see this Captain Morgan.

"Canandaigua, August 9, 1826."

This notice was copied in two newspapers published in Batavia.

About the middle of August a stranger by the name of Daniel Johns appeared in Batavia and took up his lodgings in one of the public houses of the village. He made the acquaintance of Miller, offered to go in business with him, and to furnish whatever money might be necessary for the publication of the Morgan book. Miller accepted his proposition and took the man into his confidence. As it afterwards turned out, Johns's object in seeking the partnership was to secure possession of the Morgan manuscript, so that Miller could not publish the work; the man's subsequent connection with this strange narrative appears from the affidavit of Mrs. Morgan, referred to farther on.

During the month of August, Morgan with his family boarded at a house in the heart of the village; but to avoid interruption in his work he had an upper room in the house of John David, on the other side of the creek from the town.

August 19 three well-known residents of the village accompanied by a constable from Pembroke went to David's house, inquired for David and Towsley, who both lived there with their families, and on being told they were not at home, rushed up-stairs to the room where Morgan was writing, seized him and the papers which he was even then arranging for the printer. He was taken to the county jail and kept from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning, when he was bailed out.

On the same Saturday evening the same men went to the house where Morgan boarded, and saying they had an execution, inquired of Mrs. Morgan whether her husband had any property. They were told he had none, but nevertheless two of the men went into Morgan's room and made a search for papers. On leaving the house one of them said to Mrs. Morgan, "We have just conducted your husband to jail, and shall keep him there until we find his papers."

September 8, James Ganson, who kept the tavern at Stafford, was notified from Batavia that between forty and fifty men would be there for supper. The men came and late at night departed for Batavia, where they found a number of men gathered from other points. From an affidavit taken afterwards it seems the object of the party was to destroy Miller's office, but they found Miller and Morgan had been warned. At any rate, the party dispersed without doing anything. Part of them reassembled at Ganson's, and charges of cowardice were freely exchanged; certain of the leaders were afterwards indicted for their part in this affair, but no trial was had.

To this day the business portion of Batavia stretches along both sides of a broad main street; instead of cross-streets at regular intervals there are numerous alleys leading off the main street, with here and there a wider side street. In those days nearly all the buildings were of wood and but one or two stories in height. Miller's printing-offices occupied the second stories of two wooden buildings; a side alley separating the two buildings, dividing also, of course, the two parts of the printing establishment.

On Sunday night, September 10, fire was discovered under the stairways leading to the printing-offices; on extinguishing the blaze, straw and cotton balls saturated with turpentine were found under the stairways, and some distance from the buildings a dark lantern was found.

On this same Sunday morning, September 10, a man - the coroner of the county - in the village of Canandaigua, fifty miles east of Batavia, obtained from a justice of the peace a warrant for the arrest of Morgan on the charge of stealing a shirt and a cravat in the month of May from an innkeeper named Kingsley.

Having obtained the warrant, which was directed to him as coroner, the complainant called a constable, and together with four well-known residents of Canandaigua they hired a special stage and started for Batavia.

At Avon, Caledonia, and Le Roy they were joined by others who seemed to understand that Morgan was to be arrested.

At Stafford they stopped for supper at Ganson's tavern. After supper they proceeded towards Batavia, but stopped about a mile and a half east of the village, certain of the party returning with the stage.

Early the next morning Morgan was arrested, and an extra stage engaged to take the party back. The driver, becoming uneasy as to the regularity of the proceedings, at first refused to start, but was persuaded to go as far as Stafford, where Ganson - whom the driver knew - said everything was all right and that he would assume all responsibility.

About sunset of the same day - Monday, September 11 - they arrived at Canandaigua, and Morgan was at once examined by the justice; the evidence was held insufficient and the prisoner discharged.

The same complainant immediately produced a claim for two dollars which had been assigned to him. Morgan admitted the debt, confessed judgment, and pulled off his coat, offering it as security.

The constable refused to take the coat and took Morgan to jail.

Tuesday noon, September 12, a crowd of strangers appeared in Batavia, assembling at Donald's tavern. A constable went to Miller's office, arrested him, and took him to the tavern, where he was detained in a room for about two hours. He was then put in an open wagon with some men, all strangers to him. The constable mounted his horse and the party proceeded to Stafford. Arriving there Miller was conducted to the third story of the stone building beside the creek, and was there confined, guarded by five men.

About dusk the constable and the crowd took Miller to Le Roy, where he was taken before the justice who had issued the warrant, when all his prosecutors, together with constable and warrant, disappeared. As no one appeared against the prisoner, the justice told him he was at liberty to go.

From the docket of the justice it appeared that the warrant had been issued at the request of Daniel Johns, Miller's partner.

The leaders were indicted for riot, assault, and false imprisonment, tried, three found guilty and imprisoned. At the trial there was evidence to show that on the morning of the 12th a meeting was held in the third story of the stone building at Stafford, a leader selected, and plans arranged.

On the evening of Tuesday 12th a neighbor of Morgan's called at the Canandaigua jail and asked to see Morgan. The jailer was absent. His wife permitted the man to speak to Morgan, and the man said that he had come to pay the debt for which Morgan was committed and to take him home. Morgan was asked if he were willing to go; he answered that he was willing, but that it did not matter particularly that night, for he could just as well wait until morning; but the man said "No," that he would rather take him out that night, for he had run around all day for him and was very tired and wished to get home. The man offered to deposit with the jailer's wife five dollars as security for the payment of the debt and all costs, but she would not let Morgan out, saying that she did not know the man and that he was not the owner of the judgment.

The man went out and was gone a few minutes, and brought back a well-known resident of the village of Canandaigua and the owner of the judgment; these two men said that it was all right for the jailer's wife to accept two dollars, the amount of the judgment, and release Morgan. Taking the money, the woman opened the inside door of the prison, and Morgan was requested to get ready quickly and come out. He was soon ready, and walked out of the front door between the man who had called for him and another. The jailer's wife while fastening the inside prison-door heard a cry of murder near the outer door of the jail, and running to the door she saw Morgan struggling with the two men who had come for him. He continued to scream and cry in the most distressing manner, at the same time struggling with all his strength; his voice was suppressed by something that was put over his mouth, and a man following behind rapped loudly upon the well-curb with a stick; a carriage came up, Morgan was put in it by the two men with him, and the carriage drove off. It was a moonlight night, and the jailer's wife clearly saw all that transpired, and even remembered that the horses were gray. Neither the man who made the complaint nor the resident of Canandaigua who came to the jail and advised the jailer's wife that she could safely let Morgan go went with the carriage. They picked up Morgan's hat, which was lost in the struggle, and watched the carriage drive away.

The account given by the wife of the jailer was corroborated by a number of entirely reliable and reputable witnesses.

A man living near the jail went to the door of his house and saw the men struggling in the street, one of them apparently down and making noises of distress; the man went towards the struggling man, and asked a man who was a little behind the others what was the matter, to which he answered, "Nothing; only a man has been let out of jail, and been taken on a warrant, and is going to be tried, or have his trial."

In January following, when the feeling was growing against the abductors of Morgan, the three men in Canandaigua most prominently connected with all that transpired at the jail on the night in question made statements in court under oath, which admitted the facts to be substantially as above outlined, except they insisted that they did not know why Morgan struggled before getting into the carriage. These men expressed regret that they did not go to the assistance of Morgan, and insisted that was the only fault they committed on the night in question. They admitted that they understood that Morgan was compiling a book on the subject of Masonry at the instigation of Miller the publisher at Batavia, and alleged that he was getting up the book solely for pecuniary profit, and they believed it was desirable to remove Morgan to some place beyond the influence of Miller, where his friends and acquaintances might convince him of the impropriety of his conduct and persuade him to abandon the publication of the book.

In passing sentence, the court said:

"The legislature have not seen fit, perhaps, from the supposed improbability that the crime would be attempted, to make your offence a felony. Its grade and punishment have been left to the provisions of the common law, which treats it as a misdemeanor, and punishes it with fine and imprisonment in the common jail. The court are of opinion that your liberty ought to be made to answer for the liberty of Morgan: his person was restrained by force; and the court, in the exercise of its lawful powers, ought not to be more tender of your liberty than you, in the plenitude of lawless force, were of his."

It is quite clear that up to this time none of the to do parties connected directly or indirectly with the abduction of Morgan had any intention whatsoever of doing him bodily harm. If such had been their purpose, the course they followed was foolish in the extreme. The simple fact was the Masons were greatly excited over the threatened exposure of the secrets of their order by one of their own members, and they desired to get hold of the manuscript and proofs and prevent the publication, and the misguided hot-heads who were active in the matter thought that by getting Morgan away from Miller they could persuade him to abandon his project. This theory is borne out by the fact that on the day Morgan was taken to Canandaigua several prominent men of Batavia called upon Mrs. Morgan and told her that if she would give up to the Masons the papers she had in her possession Morgan would be brought back. She gave up all the papers she could find; they were submitted to Johns, the former partner of Miller, who said that part of the manuscript was not there. However, the men took Mrs. Morgan to Canandaigua, stopping at Avon over night. These men expected to find Morgan still in Canandaigua, but were surprised to learn that he had been taken away the night before, whereupon Mrs. Morgan, having left her two small children at home, returned as quickly as possible.

So far as Morgan's manuscript is concerned, it seems that a portion of it was already in the hands of Miller, and another portion secreted inside of a bed at the time he was arrested, so that not long after his disappearance what purports to be his book was published.

Nearly two years later, in August, 1828, three men were tried for conspiracy to kidnap and carry away Morgan. At that time it was believed by many that Morgan was either simply detained abroad or in hiding, although it was strenuously insisted by others that he had been killed. All that was ever known of his movements after he left the jail at Canandaigua on the night of September 11 was developed in the testimony taken at this trial.

One witness who saw the carriage drive past the jail testified that a man was put in by four others, who got in after him and the carriage drove away; the witness was near the men when they got into the carriage, and as it turned west he heard one of them cry to the driver, "Why don't you drive faster? why don't you drive faster?"

The driver testified that some time prior to the date in question a man came to him and arranged for him to take a party to Rochester on or about the 12th. On the night in question he took his yellow carriage and gray horses about nine o'clock and drove just beyond the Canandaigua jail on the Palmyra road. A party of five got into the carriage, but he heard no noise and saw no resistance, nor did he know any of the men. He was told to go on beyond Rochester, and he took the Lewiston road. On arriving at Hanford's one of the party got out; he then drove about one hundred yards beyond the house, stopping near a piece of woods, where the others who were in the carriage got out, and he turned around and drove back.

Another man who lived at Lewiston and worked as a stage-driver said that he was called between ten and twelve o'clock at night and told to drive a certain carriage into a back street alongside of another carriage which he found standing there without any horse attached to it; some men were standing near it. He drove alongside the carriage, and one or two men got out of it and got into his hack. He saw no violence, but on stopping at a point about six miles farther on some of the men got out, and while they were conversing, some one in the carriage asked for water in a whining voice, to which one of the men replied, "You shall have some in a moment." No water was handed to the person in the carriage, but the men got in, and he drove them on to a point about half a mile from Fort Niagara, where they told him to stop; there were no houses there; the party, four in number, got out and proceeded side by side towards the fort; he drove back with his carriage.

A man living in Lewiston swore that he went to his door and saw a carriage coming, which went a little distance farther on, stopping beside another carriage which was in the street without horses; he recognized the driver of the carriage and one other man; he thought something strange was going on and went into his garden, where he had a good view of what took place in the road; he saw a man go from the box of the carriage which had driven by to the one standing in the street and open the door; some one got out backward with the assistance of two men in the carriage. The person who was taken out had no hat, but a handkerchief on his head, and appeared to be intoxicated and helpless. They took him to the other carriage and all got in. One of the men went back and took something from the carriage they had left, which seemed to be a jug, and then they drove off.

At the trial in question the testimony of a man by the name of Giddins, who had the custody of old Fort Niagara, was not received because it appeared he had no religious beliefs whatsoever, but his brother-in-law testified that on a certain night in September, shortly after the events narrated, he was staying at Giddins's house, which was twenty or thirty rods from the magazine of the old fort; that before going to the installation of the lodge at Lewiston he went with Giddins to the magazine. Previously to starting out Giddins had a pistol, which he requested the witness to carry, but witness declined. Giddins had something else with him, which the witness did not recognize. When they came within about two rods of the magazine, Giddins went up to the door and something was said inside the door. A man's voice came from inside the magazine; witness was alarmed, and thought he had better get out of the way, and he at once retreated, followed soon after by Giddins.

From the old records it seemed that the evidence tracing Morgan to the magazine of old Fort Niagara was satisfactory to court and jury; but what became of him no man knows. In January, 1827, the fort and magazine were visited by certain committees appointed to make investigations, who reported in detail the condition of the magazine, which seemed to indicate that some one had been confined therein not long before, and that the prisoner had made violent and reiterated efforts to force his way out. A good many hearsay statements were taken to the effect that Morgan was as a matter of fact put in the magazine and kept there some days.

Governor De Witt Clinton issued three proclamations, two soon after September, 1826, and the last dated March 19, 1827, offering rewards for "Authentic information of the place where the said William Morgan has been conveyed," and "for the discovery of the said William Morgan, if alive; and, if murdered, a reward of two thousand dollars for the discovery of the offender or offenders, etc."

In the autumn of 1827 a body was cast up on the shore of Lake Ontario near the mouth of Oak Orchard Creek. Mrs. Morgan and a Dr. Strong identified the body as that of William Morgan by a scar on the foot and by the teeth.

The identification was disputed; the disappearance of Morgan was then a matter of politics, and the anti-masons, headed by Thurlow Weed, originated the saying, "It's a good enough Morgan for us until you produce the live one," which afterwards become current political slang in the form, "It's a good enough Morgan until after election."