Wednesday, April 29, 2009

From the 1891 blotter

Last Friday, I blogged about my discovery of the great story of the John Sheedy murder from 1891, courtesy of University of Nebraka historian Dr. Timothy Mahoney and the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. Back at police headquarters, we went digging in the blotters, and found some of the original entries from the day of the assault, Sunday, January 11th, 1891.

Here’s the original dispatch report, where at 7:25 PM Officer Malone is sent to Sheedy’s residence at the southeast corner of 12th and P Streets (click these to enlarge):

A mere 40 minutes later, he’s back at HQ with the details, accompanied by his sergeant. This struck me as strange at first, but it was just three blocks from Sheedy's to the police station, and shoe leather would be a pretty effective means of communications, given the alternatives available.

Chief Melick and Officer Malone bring in the suspect (Mr. Monday McFarland) on the following Saturday night around 10:30 PM:


Anonymous said...

slow blog day

Anonymous said...

I love these historical notes. What a great convergence of history with modern technology. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Back when the town wasn't spread over 80+ square miles, shoe leather was a pretty good way of getting around. I get a kick out of people (on the LJS site for instance) suggesting that LPD use more foot patrols, apparently not considering that there are presently over 50,000 acres to cover.

Anonymous said...

Was it 1891 or 1981?

"...Sunday, January 11th, 1981..."

Anonymous said...

With the increasing cost of properly equipped cruisers, the repairs, and fuel, why don't we get rid of a dozen cruisers and order some stallions. The motor guys could still use their tall leather boots, and you could mount a mobile radar right on the horses nugget. There's suggestion for the budget box.

Anonymous said...

Chief, I realize this was a long time ago, but I noticed the word "Marshal" used in the last report.

Could you elaborate on Marshal's back in those days? Was it the equiv of a Sheriff, or higher authority? It really has me curious.

Tom Casady said...


Oops, thanks!


We're in the process of downsizing the fleet right now, for just that reason. I don't want to do it in a drastic way by skipping a full model year though. Rather, we are replacing slightly fewer cars than the number we are actually decommissioning. Same result, but spread over three or four model years instead of all at once.

Now, regarding horses, I think they are like helicopters: darned useful in certain circumstances, uniquely suited to some of those, great to look at, but very expensive when you consider the actual cost divided by the time-in-the-air. I'd like to know the ratio of total personnel hours in an equestrian unit to the number of hoof-on-the-street hours. My guess is that training, grooming, veterinary care, preparation and administrative work consumes a huge percentage of the time of the officers assigned to an equestrian unit. At some point, it's probably worth it, but for me it would way down my list. I'd have to pick off many more important priorities before horses started nearing the top.

Tom Casady said...


That's a good observation, and you'll see Sam Melick referred to almost interchangably as "Chief" and as "Marshal" during different mayoral administrations when he served as chief of police. I suspect that he was, in addition to being chief of police, also a Deputy United States Marshal, hence the title. He was also sheriff, warden, and colonel at various times in his long career.

Steve said...


How much time do horses spend in the air?

Tom Casady said...

I'd say if the horse is a pilot, she spends about 10 hours out of a forty hour week actually flying. The record keeping, training, flight preparation, aircraft inspection, weather review, pre-flight briefing, post-ops debriefing, pilot medical examine, and so forth are pretty time consuming, especially when you are keystroking with horseshoes.

Now, if the grooming, de-worming, hoof-trimming, training, rub-down, sponge bath, feeding, leather-care, stable clean-up and innoculations take 30 of the pilot's 40 hours, by the time you do all the math on this, the horse only has about 20 minutes of flight time per week during months that have an "R" in their name or begin with a "J".

Steve said...

Sounds about right. However, if the horse would use the Windows features for handicapped access, they could use the voice recognition utility to control the computer rather than typing with horseshoes. They simply have to select equine as the language of choice.

Anonymous said...
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Tom Casady said...

Jim & Karen-

Thanks! I had the same thought on the title "Marshal." We can see that during his next term as chief of police several years later, he's being referred to as "Chief Melick." We can also see that after the election in May of 1891, Melick's replacement is in the blotter reliably as "Chief Dinges." I wondered whether the job title just changed with the 1891 election. I think not, though, because I recall that in 1985, C.B. Beach is referred to in the news as Chief. My best guess is that the appointment of Melick as a Deputy U.S. Marshal caused the title to stick for a couple years.

Now, was Col. Sanders actually a colonel?

Anonymous said...

Tom, I guess you didn't see this clip of Mel Gibson's newest movie, due in the theatres any day now.

I'm sure you'll find it interesting, if not a little funny.

Anonymous said...

Ok Tom, thanks for the info on the Marshal. Now I noticed too, you said Sam Melick was Warden? Of the Penitentary?

Thats a bit of history I didn't know, and I used to work at the Pen under Warden Parret (spelling?), Tom Mason and Major Leon Barkdoll. Darn Tom, ya gave me something in the way of history that I didn't even know. Thanks!

Dave said...

Ok, I have to comment on this one about the helicopter, hope ya don't mind Tom, since you didn't mention.

I seriously doubt that Lincoln alone, needs its own air support for LPD, since Nebraska State Patrol maintains a helicopter and Lincoln Airport, and as heard on the scanner (yeah, I'm a scanner freak), is available most of the time to LPD upon request.

Which reminds me Tom, how about a history of when LPD did fly the Korea era helicopter in the 70's, piloted by Duane Bollock.

Tom Casady said...


After the warden of the Nebraska State Pentitentiary was murdered in a 1912 escape, Melick was appointed by Governor Chester Aldrich as interim warden. I'm not sure how long he served in this role. Read The Last Posse by Gale Christianson.

In my biographical material, he's also the Lincoln Postmaster in 1906, at the time the "new" post office (now the eastern wing of the "old" Federal Building) was constructed. That's him on page 84 of Jim McKee's Lincoln, the Prairie Capital, an Illustrated History.


You mean, of course, Duaine Bullock. Also Bill Welsch and Dick Dawson, that I can recall. I spent some time in that bird as observer.

You're right: we get great air support from NSP. If you cannot tell from my toungue-in-cheek banter, I have no interest in helicopters and horses at this point in time--not that I don't love horses, or appreciate the value of both.

Jim said...

Jim and Karen:

"I think Texas still uses the marshal concept in addition to city and county and state police agencies. He just works for the court"

I've been traveling and working in Texas for about 10 years. They do have an officer that works primarily for the courts, but they are titled Constables.