Law and Order Union City, Pennsylvania, 1881
On January 5, 1881, Constable Clark Rice arrested young Pendergrass on a warrant sworn out by Will Ketchum for assault and battery. He was taken before Esq. Jackson and put under order to reappear on Friday morning.
The assault and battery suit held before Esq. Jackson last Friday resulted in young Pendergrass being bound over to court in the sum of 200 bail which was furnished by his father. Mr. Pendergrass, father of the young man who was arrested last week for assault and battery said that it was not Constable Rice who arrested the boy, but that he turned him over to the officers.
The friends of Mr. J. Skivington urged him to become a candidate for Constable.
Mr. John Skivington was a candidate for Constable. He has had considerable experience in that line of business, and if elected will no doubt make a good officer.
Rowdiness in Union City, March 1881
Two letters in the Union City Times from March 1881 expressed the amount of public concern over the rowdy citizens in town. One was dated March 8, 1881 and it said:
On Saturday night, February 26, a gang of ruffians attacked Mr. Frank Glenn on First Avenue, just in front of Professor Twinings and after striking him several times, fled like a pack of cowardly curs.
Another case calling loudly to our city authorities the deplorable state of society in Union City.”
A stronger letter, titled “A Brutal Outrage,” appeared in the Union City times of March 10, 1881. It said:
“On Monday evening of this week at about nine o’clock, a gang of twelve or fifteen low-bred ruffians of this town gathered on the side walk on Main Street, nearly in front of the Anchor Mills, leaning against the railing, laid in wait for someone to pas that they might victimize.
As three young men were returning home from Professor Goss’ singing class in the Tillottson Block, not having passed a word with these town pauper dogs, they commenced their onslaught which would have been a disgrace to Modoc Indians.
Mr. Taylor, a student at Professor Luce’s Writing College, received a severe blow upon the side of the head, nearly prostrating him. Mr. Waldron, whose father lives a few miles from our town, and who has just closed a prosperous term of school at Thomastown, Pa., and was visiting here was knocked down falling below the walk, and was then jumped upon and severely injured by some of these crow carrion demons.
Mr. Luce, nephew of Professor Luce, who has just closed a prosperous terms of school in the Willey District west of the Asbury Chapel, and who visiting at his uncles, was felled to the ground with a slingshot and then struck severely and badly injured by some of these bar room savages.
It is but just to say that these three young men are, and always have been peaceably quiet and orderly young men and sustain an unimpeachable reputation. The question to our town authorities is: will you let this state of things continue?
People’s lives assailed, their property plundered, ladies insulted on the streets by this low, lawless gang of human brutes that lounge around street corners, barrooms, billiard rooms, grouped together because they are such dastardly cowards they dare not attack anyone alone. If the authorities with a town out of debut and nothing to hinder ridding our town of such detestable nuisances fail to do it, then let the people organize a vigilance committee so strong and numerous, and employ such means as will give us a rest, at whatever cost, or with whatever means necessary to reach such an end, or shall we slumber on and lose our educational interests and everything of culture driven from our midst?”
The letter was signed, “A Citizen.”
On St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1881, The Union City Times said that “We are glad to know that we have a night watchman, and one too, who will no doubt see that some of the rowdyism which has held sway for so long will be stopped. We shall not mention his name, but it will probably not be long before he will be known when he makes an arrest some of these nights.”
On Saturday, April 23, 1881, fellows who were too “mellow” made attempts to stop people on the street several times. Chief of Police C.V. Main on Monday made information before Esq. Brown against James McGee and Robert Mehen when warrants were issued for their arrest.
Mehen was taken Tuesday by officer Clark Rice before Esq. Brown who fined him $5.00 and costs. Mehen promptly paid his fine. McGee hadn’t been taken before the justice yet.
The Union City Times commented, “We are glad to know that our authorities are bound to break up these night orgies by punishing the guilty ones.”
Council met Wednesday June 1, 1881, and considered the issue of immediately hiring and efficient police force. After a short discussion, the councilmen decided to hire policemen and also build a new and safe lockup. The new policeman will be on duty at all times, and not be called after the fight or after the fact of a crime. Anyone who in any way is found breaking the peace of the borough, and any boy or man found on the street in a state of intoxication is to be arrested and will pay a fine for every offence of the kind. With good police protection, the troublemakers should be caught and punished.
June 16, 1881
The new lockup is to be put up in a few days.
It seemed like old times to see Dan Mitchell on the police force. Dan is a good policeman and it would be wise to keep him or some other good man on duty all the time and pay them fair wages. It would be much more to the credit of the town than to have those occasional “brawls” with no arrests.
On July 4th there were but three arrests made during the day and evening. Whether it was the new lockup or the presence of Dan Mitchell, Matt Ruddy and John Seamon as policemen that had a cooling effect on the boys we cannot say, but that they were very quiet signified that something of that nature was before them.
On circus day, although the crowd was quite large, there was perfect order and not one single arrest made, which goes to show at once that what we have needed on all such days was good police regulations. Yesterday, however, two fellows got rather noisy and tried to make considerable disturbance, but were at once placed under arrest. Afterwards they were taken before a justice and fined, which seemed to have a good effect upon them both. It is the intention of Mr. Hunter to have every man found drunk on our streets locked up and then fined.
On July 10, 1881, Uncle Andrew Agnew on opening his barn found to use his expression, “A beautiful young lady fast asleep on the hay.” He had to talk to her some time before he could get her to go. She was one of the “soiled doves” from Titusville, and evidently had not other place to go. “It is strange to what low state a woman may fall, and the man who would entice a young lady to any such a place and then leave her is no better than a brute,” the Union City Times said.
On Tuesday night last, someone broke into the residence of S.S. Wheeler, over his boat and shoe store on Main Street. They affected an entrance by getting up on the wooden awning in front of the store and then going in at the window. In walking across the floor, they awoke Mrs. Wheeler who quietly tried to wake her husband and not let them hear her, but before she could do so the fellow stepped into the room where they were, holding in his hand a revolver. This so frightened Mrs. Wheeler that she screamed and the fellow turned, fired his revolver, sprang through the window and made good is escape before Mr. Wheeler had time to realize the situation and get out. From the appearance of the door casing where the fellow took hold with his hand, it is evident that he was blacked up in order to avoid being identified, showing almost conclusively that the parties are residents here.
The businessmen have decided to employ someone from now on to act as a night watch, and besides will al keep someone in their store nights. The Union City Times said, “It will be an unlucky thing for a person hereafter to break in or attempt the like as powder and lead are cheap now.”
The lockup contained three fellows on Saturday night who became too boisterous as the result of a too free use of “creek water.” They got cooled off, paid their fine, and were allowed to depart. There were several others who ought to have been served likewise and probably will be the next time they get on a spree.
A stranger in Union City inspected the inside of our new lockup last Monday morning. Officer Skivington accompanied him as far as the door. After becoming entirely satisfied that he could not be drunk on the streets of Union without being fined, he paid up and wended his weary way homeward.