Marshall Historical Society

INFERNAL MACHINE ON TASSEL HILL
By H. Paul Draheim

Town of Marshall resident Deputy Sheriff Arthur Pughe, and Dept. Sheriff W. Lee Northrup The following article, written by H. Paul Draheim, appeared in the Utica Daily Press in the 1950s. Tassel Hill, located in the Town of Marshall southwest of Clayville, is the highest point in Oneida County, at 1,942 feet.

When two deputies of the Oneida County Sheriff Department and a distinguished Waterville resident trekked up the densely wooded slope of Tassel Hill yesterday, they faced double danger one a reality and the other potential.

It all started when Sheriff Charles T. Baker received a telephone call from Supervisor Clifford J. McLaughlin of Sangerfield that what appeared to be a possible "infernal machine" had been discovered on the top of Oneida County's highest point.

McLaughlin had just talked with Osborne Mayer, a retired resident of Waterville who takes daily hikes into the woods, and in the course of one of those trips came upon the device which was totally strange to him. In fact, Mayer unhesitatingly told the deputies, "I wouldn't touch the thing. I thought you fellows should know about it and see for yourselves."

Sheriff Baker immediately assigned Deputies W. Lee Sheriff Baker immediately assigned Deputies Lee W. Northrup and Arthur Pughe, the latter being fire chief of the Deansboro fire department and somewhat familiar with "combustible devices". At Waterville, the two deputies met Mayer and together they drove toward Tassel Hill, following a narrow, winding road to a point beyond the reservoir. At this point, Mayer explained, "We will have to walk the rest of the way. It's about a mile."

No sooner had the deputies and Mayer entered the heavily wooded area, when they found themselves smack in the midst of real danger. The woods were filled with hunters and deer, and the bullets started whizzing overhead on either side. Not attired in the usual bright red-colored clothing used by hunters, Mayer solved the problem by reaching into his pocket and pulling out several large red bandannas.

Everything went fine for about five minutes, when suddenly a large deer came by, followed by the report of a shotgun. But with determination, the trio continued the upward climb, and on reaching the top, Mayer declared, "It's still here!" Deputy Pughe cautiously stepped forward to inspect the gadget, which comprised of a white box about 6" by 7" in size, and to which was attached a nine-inch plastic cone-shaped cylinder containing an intricate arrangement of condensers and fuses.

Closer inspection revealed that the "infernal machine" was one of the U.S. Army Signal Corps' radiosonde transmitters, made by a division of the Bendix Aviation Corporation in Utica. The modular attachment also contained wires and a battery. The deputies contacted Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome and found that the gadget was used in weather observations.

Sheriff Baker commended Mayer for his prompt action in calling the attention of the authorities to this instrument, adding that "It's better we hear about these things so that we can conduct an immediate investigation to determine whether or not any real danger exists."


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