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The St. Paul Globe — Golden Jubilee Edition
Sunday, July 3, 1904; p. 48


William Foelsen       Charles L. Haas       William A. Hardenbergh

Lewis L. May       Richard T. O'Connor

J. J. O'Connor
J. J. O'Connor, Chief of Police

The efficiency and widespread fame of St. Paul's police department is largely due to the present chief, John J. O'Connor, known in police circles around the country as "The Big Fellow," this in tribute to his prowess in the position and his general fitness for the post.

Chief O'Connor was born in St. Paul and received his education here.

He was in the employ of the Kelly Mercantile Company from the time of leaving school until his appointment on the police force by Mayor O'Brien, some twenty years ago. His work earned for him the position of chief of detectives, and later the post of chief of the department. He was deposed by a Republican administration, and for two years conducted a private detective bureau with great success. With the return of his party to power, he was reinstated, and through persevering work and careful attention to detail has brought the St. Paul Police Department to a standard of efficiency not excelled the country over.

The chief is regarded as one of the foremost criminologists in the country, and surely no shrewder judge of human nature and the criminal, ever watched over the safety of a large city. He possesses the largest private collection of criminal pictures possessed by any department in the country, and his facilities for getting at accurate information bearing on criminals are unexcelled.

Among the denizens of "the underworld" he is feared and respected as few chiefs in the country are.

From a typical frontier village infested with vagabonds and cutthroats of every description, and having only one representative of law and order in the person of pompous "Bill" Miller, the first town marshal, to the best policed city in the country, is a record which St. Paul has made within half a century. The development of the police department of the city has kept pace with its commercial and industrial progress and today, fifty years after the organization of the municipality, St. Paul is no less famed among the crooks of the country as a good place to stay away from than it is among lovers of pure air and pure water as the healthiest city in the world.

While at the present time the criminal population of the United States takes care to keep clear of St. Paul, the village was, in the early days, the gathering point of desperadoes who followed the river, and a tough element that floated as a scum on the wave of immigration which gradually worked its way westward. Though settlers made their homes as early as 1838 on the site that afterwards became the village of St. Paul, no recognized police power existed till 1854, when the town was incorporated. During the Intervening period the pioneers were exposed to disturbances of all kinds and were compelled to protect themselves and their families when in danger.

First Police Force Was Five Strong

For two years William R. Miller, the marshal, strove to maintain order in the town, but the task became too great for him as the population increased, and on May 30, 1856, the council established the first police force, consisting of Miller as chief and four patrolmen, John Gabel, Nicholas Miller, M. C. Hardwig and Edward Maher. On May 29 they were given stars and invested with authority to make arrests. The force was reorganized in the fall of 1856 and eight men were added. The department as then established consisted of the chief, three captains and nine patrolmen.

The increase in the force was the result of excitement over an atrocious murder committed on July 9, when George R. McKenzie, proprietor of the Mansion House, an old hostelry on the bluff at the foot of Minnesota Street, was robbed and killed. So alarmed did the people become over this crime and other instances of lawlessness that they not only demanded a larger and stronger police force but organized vigilance committees to aid the policemen.

The town was growing at such a rate at that time that an old frame shack used as a lock-up and jail became too small and a new one was built at the corner of Fifth and Washington streets. It contained six iron cages, and at the time of its completion was looked upon as a piece of extravagance by the villagers. Though larger than was needed when completed it become too small after a few years had elapsed.

In 1858 J. W. Crosby was appointed chief of police to succeed Miller, and in the following year the force was further increased to include fourteen members and the chief. The chief was at that time receiving $600 per year, and each of the captains $45 per month, while the policemen received only $40. John O'Gorman became chief in 1860, and in that year salaries were cut on account of the low ebb of the municipal finances. The chief then received only $500 per year; captains, $480, and patrolmen, $30 per month.

Abolished Police Force

With the outbreak of the Civil war the town lost three of its best officers, who went away to fight for the Union. The department became so crippled that Mayor John S. Prince suggested at a mass meeting called to consider the matter that the force be abolished and that the citizens organize themselves into ward clubs to maintain the peace. Mayor Prince's idea was adopted, and the "Home Guards", in which some of the old settlers still living served, came into existence. Each ward organized a club, with officers and patrolmen and each member was required to serve in his turn. Sixty citizens constituted each club.

The home guard protected the town at night, and during the day time the town constables acted as policemen. Nearly a year elapsed before the guards were disbanded and the police force again established. The members or the organization took such a liking for night police service, however, that many of them acquired habits of "night-hawking" that remained with them for a long time, much to the dissatisfaction of their wives.

Each ward had an organization during this period and officers were elected to take charge or the respective districts. The First Ward Home Guards had William B. Langley as captain, Charles L. Wood as first lieutenant, and William Leip as second lieutenant. Ferdinand Willius was captain of the Lower Town Home Guards, D. S. Stomles was first lieutenant and George Constant second lieutenant. The Third Ward Home Guards was headed by C. C. Lund, captain; H. Schiffbauer, first lieutenant, and I. V. D. Heard, second lieutenant. A. J. Chamblin was captain of the Fourth Ward Home Guards as well as those of the Fifth Ward. Harvey Officer was first lieutenant of the Firth Ward organization, and J. H. Conaway was second lieutenant.

Force Is Re-established

Early in 1863 a regular force was again established. Michael Cummings was appointed chief and George Morton captain. Seven men were put in service and given badges. Henry Galvin, who was given Star No. 1, survived fifty years of service and died a year ago while acting as sergeant-at-arms of the council. Peter Sass received Star No. 2; Jacob Heck, No. 3; James Waters, No. 4; William Costello, No. 6; Herman Harff, No. 6; Michael Quinn, No. 7; John O'Connor, No. 8; William Burke, No. 9; and Patrick Morin, No. 10.

The force was again changed during the same year, some of the original men were dropped and others added. In 1864 the council ordered all policemen to wear uniforms, only a star having previously distinguished them from citizens. In 1864 the first detective force, consisting of one sleuth, was appointed.

J. P. McIlrath was appointed chief in 1867, and retained the post till 1870. The salaries of the police department were materially increased in 1869. The chief, who had been receiving $600 annually, was given $1,200. Captains, who had been allowed only $500, were advanced to $1,000, and patrolmen had their wages increased from $480 per year to $840. The city was in a prosperous condition at that time, the Civil war was over and the country was booming. It became difficult to secure good men to serve on the force and the higher wages were paid as a matter of necessity. Salaries were destined to be cut, however, when bad times again visited the city. In 1869 the force consisted of sixteen members.

Added Eleven Policemen

Luther H. Eddy became chief in 1870, but he was succeeded by Chief McIlrath. In 1872 eleven new men were added and the position of police sergeant was created. Salaries then took another upward bound, the chief receiving $1,500 and captain $l,200 and the sergeant $900. At that time the mayor of the city received a salary of $600 per year. Further additions were made to the force in 1873.

The roster of the department in 1874 includes the names of four men who are still on the force. They are John Clark, now captain; James King, James Nugent and Thomas H. Kenaley. James King was captain in 1874, and became chief in 1875. A municipal court, which had become necessary on account of the increase in the number of police cases, was established in 1875, on recommendation of Mayor James T. Maxwell. Justice Flint was the first magistrate of the court.

The city during the early '70s attained a reputation throughout the West of being a tough river town and was the resort of criminals of all classes. The river front was infested with dives of vice of every description and frequent murders and robberies were committed. The police force in those days was unequal to the task of protecting the public, and safety committees were organized among the citizens to aid the officers of the law. Conditions gradually changed, however, and the city erased the stain which then blotted its name.

Improvements came fast in the '80s. St. Paul then attained the proportions of a city and the steady increase in population brought it by degrees to a place among the cities of the nation.

Built the Workhouse

One of the marks of development was the establishment of the workhouse at Como in 1880. Prior to that time petty offenders had been lodged in the lockup to serve the terms of their sentences and had been compelled to work with the chain gang, which in the early days took the place of the city street force. A few years before the workhouse was located at Como a unique institution was provided by the city at Smith Park. It was known as the "stone pile" and there tramps and short-term prisoners were obliged to work daily.

John Clark became chief of police in 1882, succeeding Charles Weber, who had served since 1879. In 1883 the first patrol wagon was put into service. The following year fifteen men were added to the force, and in 1885 the same number was again added. The force then consisted of ninety men, including two lieutenants, I. D. Morgan and Thomas Walsh, and four sergeants, A. M. Lowell, Charles Rouleau , Dennis Murphy and William Hanft. John J. O'Connor, the present chief, was then chief of detectives, with a staff consisting of Thomas Kenaley and D. J. O'Connor.

The mounted detail was added in 1885, and the patrol telegraph, including thirty-two alarm stations, was installed the same year.

The four substations were established May 1, 1887, and the following officers placed in charge: Rondo Street Substation, Capt . A. M. Lowell; Margaret Street Substation, Capt. William Hanft; Ducas Street Substation, Capt. Thomas Walsh; and Prior Avenue Substation, Lieut. William Budy. There were at that time in the department 126 men, including the chief, 5 lieutenants, 8 sergeants, 4 detectives and 121 patrolmen.

Police Headquarters Moved

The police headquarters was moved from the old city hall, Fifth and Washington streets, to the present location, on West Third Street, in 1891. Though the city has expanded and the population has increased greatly during the past decade, the police force has not grown in proportion and remains almost the same size now as it was fifteen years ago. Several changes in the personnel have occurred, however, as a result of different administrations being in power. In 1892, when Mayor Wright was elected, Albert Garvin was imported from Stillwater to succeed Chief Clark, and John C. McGinn was made chief of detectives in place of J. J. O'Connor.

Clark and O'Connor were re instated in 1894 for two years and were again ousted by the election of Mayor Doran, who appointed M. N. Goss as chief of police and Phil W. Schweitzer as chief of detectives. Goss resigned in 1899 and P. L. Getchell was appointed by Mayor Kiefer in his place. Getchell remained in the office until June, 1900, when Chief O'Connor succeeded him under an appointment by the newly constituted police commission under Mayor Smith's administration.

The police commission, which now controls the department, was organized under the new charter in June, 1900. Mayor Smith appointed Charles L. Haas, L. L. May, Daniel W. Lawler, William Foelsen and R. T. O'Connor as members of the commission, and all with the exception of D. W. Lawler, who has been succeeded by W. A. Hardenbergh, are still serving. The force now includes 192 men.