A Newsletter of the White River Valley Museum

April 2002



A Brief History of Auburn's Early Police Department

by Dr. Tina Brewster Wray, Curator of Collections

 


"It was a whole different job
back then. You were the dogcatcher,
the jailer, later the meter man.
You did everthing."

Capt. William Pitzl,
Auburn Police Department Historian

 
In the mid-to late 1800's, Slaughter (now Auburn) experienced rapid population growth and maintaining law and order became an increasing concern. In 1886 Daniel Shaner was named the first town Marshall. He had to do some improvisation his first day on the job. He fashioned a billy club out of a piece of firewood, and having no jail, decided to side-track a boxcar to use as a substitute. He then struck out on his beat. By the next morning he already had several "tramps and drunks" in custody.

Slaughter was incorporated in 1891, and at the first city council meeting, F.L. Berner was appointed the first "official" town Marshall. Plans for a city jail were solicited, and in 1892, for a total cost of $400, the jail was completed. Built of rough logs and with a dirt floor, the small building became increasingly decrepit. It was torn down in 1924, after a new jail was built in the new City Hall.



Auburn City Jail, 1915.
Used from 1892-1923, the jail was located on the corner
of 1st and A St. NW, on an alley behind the City Hall.

 
During Prohibition, bootleggers plagued the Auburn area. In 1924, Mayor Otto Bertsch publicly criticized the police department for their failure to adequately enforce the liquor laws. An angry Officer Fred McCumber retorted that most of the intoxicated people who come to Auburn come from out of town, especially Morganville and Black Diamond. He cited Chief Roy Wendle's record-breaking collection of $1500 in fines for liquor violations. And he argued that the chief had done the best he could with limited resources, "He has run a lot of bootleggers out of town by private means when he didn't have the money to get definite evidence against them. It takes money to get evidence and Wendle has neither the money for investigation, nor has he any help." Roy Wendle remained Chief of Police until 1926.

The city's modern police department began in 1927 under Chief Charles L. Ludwig. He created the department's first record-keeping system and, using his own money, set up a workable fingerprint and photography system. Ludwig held the position of police chief until 1962, taking a 2-year respite in the late 1930s. By the time Ludwig retired, the police department had grown to eighteen employees.



Auburn Police Department, 1939.
Left to right: Chief Charles Ludwig, Floyd Albro, and Wilbur Morrison.


The Auburn Police Department recently donated a large collection of items to the museum. It consists primarily of photographs (both historical and recent) as well as newspaper clippings and several artifacts (including a 1960s breathalyzer and a 1970s camera used for taking mug shots). However, the museum would like to continue to expand its documentation of the early years of the police department. If you have any photographs of the early police chiefs or officers that you would like to donate to the museum, please contact Tina (253-939-273).

 


Early Auburn Marshalls/Police Chiefs
& Year of Appointment



1891 F.L. Berner
1892 H.W. Ward
1895  T.A. Hanson
1897 George Barnes
1898 Josephus Berner
1900 G.W. Ware
1901 Ottis Inglis
  H.N. Connell
1902 Ottis Inglis
  August Roehl
1903 J.S. Berner
1905 August Roehl
1915 J.K. Jensen
1917 Charles N. Lieuallen
1919 August Roehl
1921 Fred McCumber
1922 Nathan Page Sr.
1924 Roy Wendle
1927 Charles L. Ludwig
1937 E.H. Norris
1939 Charles L. Ludwig

Dr. Tina Brewster Wray