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Vigilantes in Somers: 124 Years Ago

SOMERS, N. Y. Feb. 23, 1887 - The Mutual Vigilance Society of Northern Westchester and Southern Putnam counties comprised a group of local farmers and businessmen whose aim was, “to protect local property, especially horses, from predatory thieves,” explained The New York Times .

On Feb. 6 a pair of bay mares and a sleigh were stolen from the Somers stable of Willis Smith. Drawing upon its nest egg of several thousand dollars, compiled from dues and membership fees, the Vigilance Society posted a reward of $100 for recovery of the property and another $100 for arrest and conviction of the thief.

Five riders were chosen from the list of active members and sent in pursuit of the criminal. President William Bailey first briefed the posse with a description of the stolen property, then dispatched them in five different directions. They were instructed not to return until the property was recovered. Whenever they encountered a village post office, they were to communicate with each other and President Bailey to keep everyone apprised of progress.

There is no report of whether Willis Smith recovered his mares and his sleigh, but The Times noted, “if they do not recapture stolen property, it will be the first time they have been baffled.”

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