Dr. Sahler's Sanitarium in Kingston- A.J. Schenkman
Dr. C. O. Sahler ran a private sanatorium located at 61 Wall Street in Kingston. According to James Sullivan he had started the sanatorium in 1896. It was created to help “nervous and mental diseases and all forms of invalidism.” In 1914, Dr. Sahler had a thriving practice, usually treating over 100 patients. It is the same year he was contacted by an individual claiming to be from The New York Times. Unbeknownst to Sahler the man on the phone was “Doc” Waterbury, an internationally known confidence man.
Waterbury was not a doctor, and his real name was Jules Ford. He called Dr. Sahler introducing himself as D.C. Russell, a retired editor for The New York Times, who was now independently wealthy. The reason he was calling was two-fold. He was hoping to send the well-known newspaper humorist Irvin Cobb to interview Sahler. “Russell,” also wished to pay for several newspapers reporters to stay at the sanatorium. They suffered from exhaustion and hitting the bottle one too many days. He assured Sahler that Cobb would call on him in a few days.
“Irving Cobb,” who was actually Waterbury, arrived at the sanatorium shortly after speaking with Sahler. “Cobb” convinced the doctor that he not only wanted an interview, but would publish a full page advertisement for Sahler. It would appear in the paper’s popular Sunday supplement. The hook came when Sahler was told his picture would be featured prominently in the newspaper. However, since pictures were so expensive to reproduce, he would need some financial help. Further appealing to the ego of the doctor “Cobb” explained that he also wanted to run the feature in The New York Tribune. This of course required more money. Sahler forked over the money requested by “Cobb.” After taking a few pictures and interviewing Sahler, “Cobb” exited the sanatorium. A short-time after the interaction with the reporter, Sahler saw a picture of the real Cobb and realized that he had been taken for as a sucker. He contacted the police. A warrant was sworn out for the arrest of Doc Waterbury in February 1914.
Doc Waterbury was well known to police with a record dating back to 1899. According to The New York Times, his first brush with the law was when he was locked up in Atlanta for representing the Associated Press(AP). As an “AP” reporter, he swindled several U.S. Congressmen promising, if they gave him money, write-ups in a biography of prominent U.S. Congressmen that the AP was working on for publication. It of course never happened. Shortly after marrying Edna Weed, while on his honeymoon, Waterbury was busted while trying to pull a job. He was sent jail for the con involving the Congressmen. Once released, the con-man continued his ways.
The real Irvin S. Cobb-Library of Congress
The long arm of the law caught up, again, with Waterbury on March 5, 1914, when he was arrested for the fifth time at the Biltmore Hotel by detectives from the 30th Precinct. He was arrested in New York City where he was sent to The Tombs to await extradition to New Jersey on a warrant for grand larceny. Waterbury had swindled the William A. Necker Undertaking Company, promising an advertisement in a local paper. There still was the outstanding warrant in Kingston from February 1914, and because of this warrant, Kingston was promised Waterbury if he was released for any reason. He eventually jumped bail which had been set at $1,500. Waterbury secured the bail by mortgaging his parent’s home in Enfield, New York near Ithaca. He did not own the house at the time.
After a short jail sentence in New Jersey, he was out again. In 1916 E.D. Easton of the Columbia Phonograph Company was his next victim. Once the United States became involved in World War I, Waterbury saw a cash cow. Waterbury, in 1918, took advantage of the doughboys fighting in France. This time he posed not as a newspaper reporter, but an intelligence officer. He explained to his victims that the American’s fighting in France suffered because they could not speak or understand French. He explained to the unsuspecting that he was in the process of creating a program to teach them French, and of course was short on funds. Still later, he also claimed that he had attended Yale, and was taking up a collection for a memorial statue for those who attended the school, and died in World War I.
Finally, in 1919, Waterbury, according to The Kingston Daily Freeman, was charged with attacking a 15 year old girl. She had answered an advertisement for a stenographer. He was arrested and eventually convicted of the crime. Waterbury would emerge from prison five years later only to be re-arrested for selling memberships to the Gridiron Club in Washington, D.C. This time when he appeared before the judge, he pleaded for mercy. He promised the judge that he was going to go straight.
There is no indication that Sahler ever recovered the money that was swindled from him or that Waterbury ever saw the inside of an Ulster County Jail for the crime. It does appear after his last arrest for selling memberships to the Gridiron Club that he made good on his promise to the judge. Waterbury did walk a straight path. However, by this time he suffered from heart disease, as well as, kidney disease. Doc Waterbury died on March 18, 1925, on his parent’s farm in Enfield, New York. “The suave internationally known confidence man, who for years strolled a careless, dangerous path across the United States and Europe,” died penniless at 50 years of age.