Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More Giffords

Over the weekend, Peter Jung was at the cemetery mowing the new grass at the restored Gifford family grave site when he noticed some Gifford graves that weren't part of the family plot.

Among the graves in this extra row of Giffords are those of Malcolm Gifford and his offspring. A little investigation discovered the story of the Malcolms Gifford--a tale of wealth, privilege, and unsolved murder.

Malcolm was the eldest son of the eldest son of Elihu Gifford and had inherited Gifford Iron Works and the wealth and position that went with it. His son, Malcolm, Jr., had all the advantages afforded a rich kid, but in April 1914, at the age of nineteen, Malcolm, Jr., was arrested for murder. 

The previous spring, Malcolm, Jr., had been suspended from the Tibbitt's School in Hoosick Falls, for what the Chatham Courier assured readers was a "minor infraction." Malcolm didn't go home to Hudson or tell his parents about the suspension but instead went to stay with a school chum named Derrick Boardman, whose family lived in Troy. 

On the night of April 1, 1913, Malcolm, Boardman, and some other friends were going to a dinner dance in Troy. Before arriving at the dance, Malcolm, according to Boardman's trial testimony, borrowed $1.50 from him and went off on this own. He appeared at the dance a few hours later in the evening.  

On that same night, an unidentified young man engaged Frank Clute, a chauffeur, to drive him from Albany to Troy. Somewhere near Watervliet, the young man shot Clute in the back of the head with an automatic revolver, stole his money (which amounted to about $50), dumped Clute's body into a ditch, and fled. The first evidence discovered that connected Malcolm Gifford to the murder was a pair of blood-stained gloves found near Clute's body. They bore the trademark of Brooks Brothers, and all of Malcolm Gifford's clothes came from Brooks Brothers.

The evidence that led to Malcolm's arrest, however, wasn't discovered until almost a year later. The Boardmans hired a caretaker named Charles Carpenter to shovel snow off the roof of their house. While engaged in this task, Carpenter discovered a black bill book, a chauffeur's license, and other papers that belonged to Clute stuffed under the flashing near the window of the bathroom that adjoined the bedroom where Malcolm Gifford had stayed as a guest the year before.

Malcolm Gifford was arrested in Chatham on April 17, 1914, while on his way back to school after spending Easter vacation in Hudson. He was indicted and arraigned before a Grand Jury in Albany before his father knew anything about his son's predicament. The next day, Malcolm, Sr., arrived in Albany with family attorney Samuel B. Coffin, confident of his son's innocence and determined to see him through the trouble.

Malcolm Gifford, Jr., was tried twice for the murder of Frank Clute, and both trials ended in a hung jury. The first trial was held in July 1914, and in this trial, seven jurors thought Malcolm, Jr., was guilty and five thought he was innocent. Amazingly, the Hudson Evening Register, and probably other papers of the day, reported the names of the jurors who voted to convict and the names of the jurors who voted to acquit. Malcolm, Jr., was tried a second time in February 1915. In that trial, eleven jurors believed that he was innocent, and only one held out for a conviction. That juror's name, too, was published in the newspapers. After the second trial, Malcolm, Jr., was released on a $25,000 bond, and there was not a third trial.

At the beginning of 1917, Malcolm, Jr., along with some fellow students at Williams College, enlisted in a Canadian military unit. The United States had not yet entered the war--World War I--at that time. On November 8, 1917, he was killed in action in France.   


  1. FYI.....Malcom Gifford Jr. was not buried in Hudson.


  2. Thanks for these! - margaret (Malcolm Gifford Sr.'s Great Great Granddaughter!

  3. Gossips, Thank you for these historical accounts and research. I am Malcolm Gifford Sr.'s great great granddaughter and it is fascinating to learn these stories.