Mattydale Riot

Vernon W. Harl - The Man Who Wasn't There

 

 

 

 

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McGrath Genealogy  |  Upperchurch Connections  |       Old Mattydale          |  What's New  |  Contact

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With headlines like this, no wonder the name Mattydale stuck in people's minds.

 

It had been a quiet morning when Sgt. Martin Dillion, at the North Syracuse NY State Trooper office, received a call from Oran M. Woodward, one of the contractors, who was working on the newly opened Kirsch Tract. There was a riot under way in Mattydale and Dillon and his men needed to respond. This riot wasnít at a District No. 3 School Board meeting, at the newly enlarged brick school building. It also wasnít one of the raucous political meetings that Frank Matty held in his large double barn. This Mattydale riot was unique. It had been caused by a person who wasnít even there, Vernon W. Harl.

 

Mr. Harl was a contractor who had already built more than 20 houses in the Garden City tract, south of the Kirsch Tract. Currently he had about a dozen houses under construction on the Kirsch Tract and on the Mattydale Tract on the east side of Brewerton Road. Many of his contractors had not been paid for a while and on this particular morning Vernon Harl could not be found. A rumor had spread that Harl had disappeared with some mortgage money and the contractors began to pull out the plumbing and electrical work that they had done and for which they felt they were not going to be paid. The masons and carpenters, tradesmen that couldnít easily undo their work, tried to stop the plumbers and electricians from removing the fixtures and the riot ensued.

 

The riots were put down and the workmen removed from the houses. Troopers were assigned to watch the Harl houses on the Kirsch Tract and also those on the Garden City Tract as well as the Hurl family residence, now empty, on Molloy Road. It soon became apparent that Vernon had skipped town after securing a $32,000 mortgage on his Kirsch Tract properties, from an Oswego loan association, and after purchasing a new car and clearing out his residence.

 

One night, right after the riot, an overzealous watchman observed some men placing items, taken from one of the Hurl houses, into a car and gave chase. They proceeded north at a high speed and the watchman fired his revolver at the menís car to slow them down. The fleeing suspects responded by dumping some items out of their car window. The chase ended when the watchmanís car ran out of gas. The items were gathered up by the watchman and were returned to the house from whence they had come. It would be interesting to know how much a watchman was paid to deliver such over and above service. Early Mattydale was a bit like the Wild West.

 

Liens were placed on the Harl properties and Harl was taken through bankruptcy in absentia and by 1930 the process finally came to an end. Vernon Harl was never found or perhaps everyone stopped looking. However, he wasnít very far away.

 

Vernon Harl had come to Syracuse, about a year earlier, from Rochester, where he had married his wife. After his disappearing act in Mattydale he must have laid low for a while since he never even made an appearance in the 1930 census, anywhere in the country. By 1940 he had surfaced once again and was living in the town of Cheektowaga, in Erie County, NY, working as a Bakerís Supplier. From 1941 until 1943 he even worked as a building contractor once more, in Buffalo, NY. He settled in Gasport, NY, on the Rochester Road, about 5 miles northeast of Lockport. Vernon W. Harl died at Lockport Memorial Hospital at the age of 71, on February 11, 1970.

 

NOTES:

[1928-08-25a] - "Builder Is Reported Missing, The Syracuse Journal, Syracuse, NY, Saturday, August 25, 1928-Part 1

 

[1928-08-25b] - "Builder Is Reported Missing, The Syracuse Journal, Syracuse, NY, Saturday, August 25, 1928-Part 2.

 

[1928-08-26] - "Near Riot Is Prevented By State Police," The Syracuse American, Syracuse, NY, Sunday, August 26, 1928.

 

[1928-08-27a] - "Place Liens On Homes In Tract," The Syracuse Journal, Syracuse, NY, Monday, August 27, 1928-Part 1.

 

[1928-08-27b] - "Place Liens On Homes In Tract," The Syracuse Journal, Syracuse, NY, Monday, August 27, 1928-Part 2.

 

[1970-02-12] - "V. W. Harl, Toolmaker, Dies At 71," The Union-Sun and Journal, Lockport, NY, Thursday, February 12, 1970.