Another year, another World War I gun found in basement of Glens Falls home

The Carl Walther pistol that was recently found inside a cinder block leading to a basement crawlspace in Linda Plante’s home in Glens Falls. Despite the date noted in photo, the gun was found on Feb. 24 of this year.

JAY MULLEN Special to The Post-Star

GLENS FALLS — Linda Plante had been dealing with a tricky mouse running in her walls for several weeks. After a while she was able to pinpoint the location to a crawlspace in her cellar.

On Feb. 24, she climbed up her step stool to get a better look into the opening of the crawlspace.

“The top of my chin was resting on these open cinder blocks. It’s a very tight space,” she said.

While looking through with her flashlight, she noticed that two of the holes in the cinder block were filled with rags, so she put on her mask and gloves and began digging up what was inside.

She carefully pulled one rag up and out of the hole and shined her flashlight down into it, but she didn’t find the mouse.

“There was a plethora of crumpled up Winston cigarette wrappers. I found a gum wrapper. Just little things like that,” Plante said.

After pulling those items out of the cinder block and continuing to look deeper, she noticed a “hard, dark object” about 4 or 5 inches deep.

“I reached down and I pulled it up,” she said. “And it was a pistol.”

Joseph Fredella

Plante has been living in her home at 10 Katherine St. since November 2003. She purchased it from a woman who was married to a member of the Fredella family.

Joseph Fredella was an Italian immigrant who came to the United States in 1901. Plante was told by her neighbor that Fredella built both of their homes, which are identical in construction.

Fredella had two sons, and Plante said she believes that he had built the two homes for his sons.

Fredella was born in 1867 and died in 1930 at age 54.

According to “Facing the Past” by Nora Nellis, his vision back in 1912 was to build housing that modeled those homes of his native Italy. He built all of the houses that now sit on Fredella Avenue, which used to be known as Lime Street.

Not the first time

Back in July 2007, Plante decided to have some concrete work done in her cellar. She called Talham Inc., based in Troy, to complete the work.

Plante said she had known about the crawlspace but neglected to take it into account when planning the work.

She figured she could have the workers clean out the crawlspace for her. She was even prepared to throw in an extra 50 bucks for the crew.

The workers agreed to clean out the space for her, and they decided to get it out of the way first thing.

Plante was standing with three big concrete workers and the foreman when they brought in a man smaller than her to fit into the crawlspace.

“They gave him a light. They had to take a brick out so he could get in,” she said.

Without realizing, Plante gave the Talham employees a bit of a spoiler.

“As he’s going into the top of the hole, I jokingly said, ‘OK now, if you find anything valuable in there it’s mine,’” she said.

Everyone began to laugh.

By the time the man was able to get into the crawlspace and turn around, which Plante estimates could have been roughly 30 seconds, he had found something interesting.

“He says, ‘Look what I found!’ His head popped out of the little opening and he had two guns in his hand,” Plante said with a chuckle.

The guns were later identified as Colt 1911s, both World War I-era handguns. Plante took the two pistols and gently placed them on a toolbench to take a closer look. She decided to call the police to have them look at the guns as well.

Identifying a found weapon

Plante handed the two Colt 1911s over to the Glens Falls Police Department so police could complete the typical process in identifying a found gun. Plante said she had to wait roughly four months to hear anything about them.

Assistant Police Chief Jarred Smith said that the process could vary in time, depending on the weapon.

“It depends on the pistol that was found or the firearm that was found, how much work we have to do,” he said.

Police will take the weapon back and identify a serial number to make sure that it wasn’t stolen or used in a crime. After that, depending on the outcome of those results, police make a determination as to what to do with the pistol.

With the pistol found in February, Smith said police are still in the process of determining whether the weapon is operable. But he doesn’t believe that it is.

“We don’t believe it is operable, so Linda can choose what she wants to do with it once we determine that,” he said.

If the pistol is found to be inoperable, then Plante would be able to keep the weapon for herself because it would never be able to be used again.

“That’s going to be up to her,” Smith said.

Plante does not have a handgun permit, but if the weapon is out of commission, then she would still be able to keep it.

Smith said the weapon appears to be very old and rusty.

He said there is a slim chance of finding a serial number on it because of that.

“As long as it’s inoperable, she can have it back and do whatever she wants with it,” he said.

Selling old guns

Plante planned on selling the two Colt 1911s once the identification process was complete. Because she has no gun license, she had to team up with a local gunsmith to handle the sale of the firearms.

During the process, she had to submit a letter of intent to police detailing what she planned on doing with the guns.

With the most recently found handgun, which Plante said is almost certainly a Carl Walther Model 4 7.65 mm World War I pistol, she plans to do the same.

“The value will depend on the serial numbers, when it was made, how many were made, et cetera,” she said. “But I will sell it, and maybe someone who is a World War I collector would like it.”

The first two weapons were down in the crawlspace, while the more recently found pistol was inside one of the cinder blocks.

That is the reason why the concrete workers didn’t see it back in 2007.

“He crawled right over it,” Plante said with a chuckle.

While a collector may be interested in the Walther pistol, she said she believes that relatives of Fredella may be interested as well.

“Maybe the relatives would like to buy the gun from me,” she said. “It will be for sale.”

But that is a long way off.

“We don’t even know what it’s worth,” Plante said. “That’s to come.”