Berne Local

Cpl. Harold C. Mattice

Corporal Harold C. Mattice
by Harold H. Miller

Corporal Harold C. Mattice, Troop C., was the first NYS trooper to die by a bullet while making an arrest. He was killed on April 28, 1923 at the age of 33 while attempting to arrest a subject for arson.

After investigating a barn fire which occurred in Morris, Otsego County, Corporal Mattice and his partner began to search for the suspect, a man named Yates who was out on bail for rape. At the Yates home, the mother of the suspect sent the trooper upstairs for her son. Yates, armed with a shotgun and a rifle, was hiding in the attic. As Mattice climbed up the man shot and killed Corporal Mattice. Later Yates killed himself. [Euretha Stapleton, in Our Heritage, page 51]

The Mattice family was among a large number of German refugees that settled in the Schoharie valley in 1711. Harold Mattice’s grandfather, Bartholomew Mattice, was a blacksmith. He moved to the hamlet of Berne, Albany County, before 1865 and established a blacksmith shop in what is now [2005] the garage of the John Yarmchuck house. His son Ira Mattice, Harold’s father, was also a blacksmith, and continued smithing into the 1920´s until he became too old and ill to continue. The Mattice family lived in the small house second on the west from the old firehouse.

Harold, born in 1890, learned blacksmithing from his father. In 1910 Mattice was single and working as a barber in Schenectady. About 1913 he married Maud Bellinger. For awhile they lived in Schoharie where he owned a blacksmith shop. They had a son William Ira Mattice born 27 March 1915.

Corporal Mattice joined the Division of State Police at Sidney, Delaware County, in December of 1917. There he worked as a blacksmith under Capt. Fox, Troop C. He later resigned, but subsequently reenlisted as a blacksmith on November 1, 1922. A half year later he was shot and killed.

Three months after Mattice's death his daughter Mary Ella Mattice was born on 22 Aug. 1923. His widow married Homer Frink a widower from Knox, Albany County, who had one daughter, Elsie, born ca. 1913. They lived on Old Stage Road near High Point Cemetery before moving to Worcester in Otsego County, where he managed a hotel.

Mattice, a shepherd named after a trooper who was once a boy at Berne, graduated in a fullscale ceremony with six other dogs at the police academy at Sidney (Delaware Co.,) Sgt. John J. Curry, normally stationed in the Capital District, was at Sidney Troop C Headquarters to supervise the training of the seven recruit shepherds. These dogs, all donated to the State Police shortly after birth, spent many hours learning obedience to hand and verbal commands, agility for climbing ladders and scaling walls, crowd control, protection of their handlers and others., tracking with or without scents, locating every type of known explosive, drug detection, building searches and mountain rescues.

Mattice was named after the first trooper to die by a bullet. He was Harold C. Mattice who was shot by an arsonist in 1923 in Otsego County. Harold C. Mattice, son of Ira Mattice (Ike), a blacksmith of Berne, learned the trade from father. That was his job when he first went into the troopers under Capt. Fox, Troop C in Sidney.

My one-time schoolgirl of Knox District No. 4, Mary Ella Mattice, used to speak of the trooper dad who was killed a few months before her birth. She lived with her mother and stepfather, Homer Frink, brother of Altamont business-man Millard Frink. The little girl walked quite a distance from her home on Old Stage Road near High Point Cemetery, to our little red schoolhouse. Teacher and pupils of yesterday's one-room country schools used to be very close. We began the day with a Bible reading, a song, prayer and pledge of allegiance to the flag. We took turns making soup or cocoa on our woodstove to supplement our lunch box meal. At recess and noontime, teacher played games with the kids, I have snapshots of Mary Ella Mattice, Velma Wood, the trustee's niece, Rosemary Henion and Eddie Shafer making snow forts at this time of year.

Mary Ella kept in touch with me through the years. Her husband, Al DeClercq, died a couple of years ago and is buried with the Mattice family in Woodlawn Cemetery, Berne. I was sorry to hear that her brother who visited Mary Ella at school is deceased. Her stepfather, Homer Frink, is buried in Knox.

Homer's daughter, Elsie Frink, married to Jim Petersen, formerly of Altamont Road, used to write from Arizona; She died last September. Once they lived in the old Petersen homestead. Jim built homes in Delmar on Cherry Ave.

Trooper Mattice had a brother, Earl, who was a career man in the Army, lived in China, teaching, and was a friend of Chiang-Kai Sheik. After retiring from the Pentagon, he lived in Washington, DC. He was buried in Arlington Cemetery. Another brother, Ed Mattice, lived near Voorheesville depot and drove a bread truck. Mary Ella's oldest son, Billy, was killed on his job. He left two daughters. Her son Jack DeClercq's daughter, Lisa, won a $16,000 scholarship to Philadelphia. Jacqueline, is 14. Believe the family lived in our area. Jack is an engineer. He got an eight point deer this year.

Altamont Enterprise - July 2, 1921