Adirondack Daily Enterprise, December 3, 1988 Born: c. 1855

Died: September 9, 1903



Orrando Perry Dexter was murdered at the camp he established on Dexter Lake in Santa Clara.

Frederick J. Seaver, Historical Sketches of Franklin County, Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon Co., 1918, pp. 553-555


An 1891 stock certificate bearing the original signatures of both Orrando Dexter and his father.  Courtesy of Frank Hammelbacher.  See ebay auction.An unexpiated murder was committed September 9, 1903, at Dexter Lake, which lies four or five miles east of south from St. Regis Falls, and at which Orrando P. Dexter from New York city had established a private park and built a costly cottage a dozen years or more previously. In accordance with his daily custom, Mr. Dexter had started this morning to drive to Santa Clara for his mail, but had proceeded hardly more than an eighth of a mile when he was shot. The bullet, evidently fired from a high-power gun, penetrated the buggy back, struck Mr. Dexter near the shoulder blade, passed completely through his body, just above the heart, and imbedded itself in the horse's rump. A few rods farther on Mr. Dexter fell from the buggy, and was found almost at once by one of his employees who had heard the report of the gun. He was then breathing, but died without having spoken. The generally accepted theory at the time was that the murderer, aware of Mr. Dexter's custom, had laid in ambush at one side of the drive awaiting him, and after he had passed stepped into the road and fired. Certainly he could not have shot from his place of concealment, for the course of the bullet proved that it came from straight behind, and not at a tangent. No evidence could be found pointing to the murderer. Mr. Dexter's father, who was the head of the American News Company, offered a reward of five thousand dollars for evidence that would justify an arrest and secure conviction, but though the best detective ability in the locality and from outside as well gave effort to unravel the mystery not the faintest definite clue was ever developed — which, however, is not to say that the identity of the murderer was not strongly suspected in some quarters.

Mr. Dexter had been in continuous contention with many people almost from the day of his coming to Waverly, and had had litigation with some of them. At one time he lodged charges with the Governor against the county's district attorney, and pressed them through a trial the costs of which mounted into thousands of dollars, and the finding in which exonerated the accused. He brought civil and criminal proceedings against other well known residents also for alleged conspiracy, and sued at least one newspaper publisher for libel because of publication of an item in town correspondence which two of the attorneys whom he sought to retain advised him was not libelous at all. He transferred his legal residence from New York to Connecticut in order, as was believed, that he might bring his actions in United States instead of in State tribunals. He had other troubles also, arising from lumbermen attempting to cross his preserve. It was thought that some enemy he had made by his contentious disposition must have committed the crime, though it is not, and was not at the time, conceivable that any one of those with whom his quarrels had been the most bitter, and which loomed largest in the public mind, could have been capable even of contemplating such a crime — much less of having committed it.

Mr. Dexter was forty-eight years of age at the time of his death, was an admitted attorney at law, and in ordinary personal intercourse easily made himself agreeable and interesting; but when in antagonism with any one over real or imagined affronts or grievances seemed to be unrelentingly pugnacious and implacably vindictive.