West Conshy Lost an Original. We’ll miss you Pat KellyAugust 15, 2023
Let’s look out for one of our own Student AthletesAugust 29, 2023
It wasn’t so funny back then,
But it sure reads a little Funny Today
By Jack Coll
About ten or twelve years ago I wrote a book called “Remembering Conshohocken & West Conshohocken.” So, I was researching a few old-time businesses and referred to the book and came across the chapter pertaining to the history of the Conshohocken Police Department. At the end of the chapter, I had written a bunch of Headlines from over the years taken from the Conshohocken Recorder newspaper, under the headline I wrote a sentence or two explaining the headline.
So, I thought I’d repeat a little bit of the chapter explaining the formation of the Conshohocken Police and then get to the old-time headlines. Enjoy!!!
Conshy, Times Were Tough
In 1850, when Conshohocken incorporated as a borough, the village had a mere 727 residents and very little, if any criminal activity. Twenty years later, the young borough was laying down the foundation for becoming a major industrial town. The iron and millworkers were a young, rough bunch who, upon being paid on Saturday mornings, found themselves in one or more of the local taverns for an afternoon of relaxation. By early evening, the overcrowded bars, some with dirt floors, became a crush of loud voices, rattling bottles and the smell of stale beer.
Generally, the conversations were jovial, and all too often the ironworkers would get to bragging about their abilities as workers. More than once the townspeople were heard saying that “More iron was made in the saloons on Saturday night than made at the mills during the week.” These conversations would sometimes rise to a shouting match and beyond, of course, all of their differences were settled outside winding up in fisticuffs rolling around in the unpaved dirt road.
The workers came from Fulton’s two furnaces in Conshohocken and Mooreheads’s two furnaces in West Conshohocken, and the workers from Spring Mill Furnaces were always involved in the weekly fisticuffs, as were the employees from the furnace at “Matsunk” now Swedeland, and the mighty ironworkers of Alan Wood Steel. As the industries grew, so did the taverns and saloons, and by 1870, the Saturday night get-togethers also included the quarry workers from Whitemarsh, the lime burners from Plymouth and, of course the steel workers from Connaughtown.
Eventually, the company workers formed themselves into company gangs. There was the Connaughtowners, the Guineatowners and the Pikers. Just outside the borough were the Hickerytowners and the Limeburners from Plymouth. Adding to the rowdiness of the Saturday night drinking parties were the Boatmen who worked and traveled along the canal, who tied up their boats on Saturday afternoons until they were sober enough to unhitch the boats on or about Monday Mornings. The town residents also had to contend with workers from the freight trains as well as the free travelers of the freight trains known as hobos.
Residents who lived in certain parts of town had trouble traveling to other parts of town because the gang mentality transferred to all parts of the community. West Elm Street became known throughout the borough as “The Bowery” and a very rough stretch of real estate to pass through, especially when an outsider, particularly one from Connaughtown attempted to make his way through the Bowery.
Maple Street was known as Cork Row, named for the Irish section of town, long before the Italians started moving into the borough along Maple Street, Cork Row eventually became known as “Little Italy.”
By 1871, borough officials were under a lot of pressure from the residents to stop the lawlessness and hire a sheriff or policeman. Borough records show that the town was paying fifty dollars per month for two men in 1871 for part time police service. The borough hired a constable before hiring any police officers. George McGonigle was hired as constable in 1871 and held the post until 1873. John Stemple, known as “Jacky,” and Michael Wills, who owned and operated a cigar store on Elm Street for many years, wore civilian clothing with badges as an emblem of authority. Too often, the two part time officers were not taken seriously, and they were always outnumbered on Saturday nights, forcing the hiring of a full-time police officer.
At the request of Burgess William Hallowell, in March 1873, Jack Harrold was appointed as the borough’s first full-time policeman at a salary of forty dollars per month. Since then, the borough has had twelve Police Chief’s including James Courduff, Henry Hollands, William Heald, Daniel Donovan, Francis “Bunny” Blake, Walter Phipps Sr., Charles Marwood, Raymond Alexander, Adam Pagliaro, James Doughtery, Michael Orler and George Metz.
Let’s get to a few of the old Conshohocken Recorder headlines that made me giggle a bit when I looked at them recently. Some funny, some not so funny.
“Chief of Police Hollands Arrested a Cow”
The cow belonged to William Hallowell and was arrested for running the streets at large.
“Officer Shoots at Escaping Prisoner”
Michael Kennedy escaped Officer Heald as he was about to be placed in a cell, the officer shot at fleeing man, who made his escape.
“Speak Easy Keeper Held For Trial”
George E. Culp was held for $800 bail. Many witnesses testified to purchasing beer on Sunday at Culp’s home on West Sixth Avenue near Whiskey Lane. (Today’s Sutcliffe Lane)
“Police Raid Crap Shooters”
A fight among street gamblers at Seventh Avenue and Forrest Street brought the police, but crapshooters made their escape.
“Gun Duel in Street Between Italians”
Another victim of the lawless element of foreigners who were permitted to openly violate the law by carrying concealed deadly weapons. The two men got into a gunbattle after drinking at local tavern.
“Police Shoot and Kill Man Charged with a Felony as He Was Escaping”
Officers Ruth and Manson captured a man charged with a felony. The prisoner escaped and swam a creek, did not heed shots in air and police fired on him, inflicting fatal injuries.
“Whole Police Force Offer Resignations”
Men were dissatisfied with wages of eighty dollars per month for continuous work, would stay if paid ninety dollars.
“Policeman Tussles with a Bull”
Officer Campbell made the most exciting arrest of his career when he arrested a bull. The bull escaped from his stable off North Lane and wandered into town, stepping on flowers on Fourth and Fifth Avenues.
Officer Jacquot Rounds Up Bad Gang”
Officer Jacquot captured five youths who committed a series of robberies in different sections of the borough.
“Hotel Keeper Under Bail, Caught with 5 Quarts of Moonshine”
Officer Jacquot captured the proprietor of a hotel located at the corner of Elm and Poplar Streets with a bag containing five quarts of moonshine. When he was being put into the jail cell, he attempted to bribe Officers Jacquot, Donovan and Himes with fifty dollars, but his offer was refused.
“Policeman Shot in Leg When Pistol Falls From Holster”
Officer Donovan was wounded by accidental discharge of pistol in police station. The bullet just missed the chief. The bullet struck the officer in the left leg just above the ankle, took an upward course, passed out a short distance below the knee and embedded itself close to the top of the door leading to the corridor of the cell room, a few feet from where Chief William Heald was sitting.
“Three More Dogs Shot Yesterday”
In 1928, many Conshohocken Recorder articles reported packs of dogs roaming the streets of the borough.
“Wounded Dog Bites Policeman”
Officer Bosca was bitten on the hand three times after he shot a dog and tried to remove it from a house.
“Police Raid Two Homes; Arrest Two”
Armed with search warrants, Constable John Smith of West Conshohocken and Chief Donovan and Offices Williams and Bosca swooped down on two alleged bootleg establishments and seized a quantity of wine and beer. No frequenters were found in either place.
“Council Takes Official Note of Brave Act”
Commends Officer Harry Williams for recovering safe with $900. Alone, he chased fleeing bandits and exchanged shots. The two bandits broke into Almar Store located at Eighth Avenue and Hallowell Street.
“Police Raid McGuire Place; Seize Liquor”
Find Patrons in place and no one in attendance, a warrant was issued for Thomas McGuire, who escaped raiders.
“Police Stop Craps Game”
Raid place at 37 Fayette Street after orders to close were ignored. The raid was staged by Chief of Police Francis Blake and Officers Snear and Phillips. Less than two dollars was confiscated.
“Policeman Kirkpatrick Shot in Hand by Constable in Party Watching for Suspect”
Conshohocken police officer Ezekiel Kirkpatrick had his third and fourth fingers amputated following a shotgun blast that hit him in the hand at close range.
“Police Riddle Bandits Car With Bullets After Robbery; Recover Loot; Gang Escapes”
Bandits broke into the tobacco warehouse of Stanley Szmigle on Elm Street. Police found bandits in car loaded with loot. The bandits were covered by policeman’s guns, and driver backed the car out and police started chase. The police fired nine shots into car, but bandits got away. Officer Walter Phipps was struck in the foot by return fire, but a steel beam saved his life.
“Police Department without Car for 53 Days”
The police car smashed into the back of a fire truck when returning from a field fire at Tenth and Freedly Streets. Three officers had their own cars to drive, but the other three officers had to respond to borough calls on foot.
“Officer Zadroga Ties a Runaway Horse to a Fire Hydrant After Merry Chase this Morning”
Jesse Zadroga tied a horse to a fire hydrant outside the police station located at Hector and Forrest Street until the rightful owner could be found.
“Officer’s Ankle Is Broken in Fight at Game”
Officer Matt Dougherty had his ankle broken during a Thanksgiving Day football game when he attempted to break up a fight at the “A” Field.
“Officer Mazur Fires in Air, Two Men Halt”
Officer Mazur heard the sound of breaking glass and saw four men running from the Washington Fire Company and ordered them to stop. When they didn’t, Officer Mazur fired into the air, ordering them to halt. When he fired the shots, two of the men stopped and the other got away.
“Five Flee Store, Area Police Aid Capture”
Conshohocken Police aided the Phoenixville Police by setting up a roadblock on Elm Street, helping to capture five men who robbed a Phoenixville Furniture Store.
“Police Nab Six More in Gang Rumble”
A total of sixteen young men had been arrested up to that point for participating in a “Gang Rumble.” Officer George Bland responded to the fight at Elm and Poplar Streets. Bland ordered two youths to pull their car over, and the driver sped off. Officer Bland fired a shot at the fleeing car in the Connaughtown section. Officer Adam Pagliaro helped in the arrest in the Mogeetown section of Plymouth Meeting.
I thought I’d add a few that weren’t in the book, it seems to me that roving animals throughout the borough were a bit of a problem a hundred years ago.
About A Pig
A pig got into Patrick Kehoe’s cabbage lot on Tuesday and was driven out. The pig liked cabbage and came again. As Patrick was driving out the pig, the pig’s owner, John Kehoe, remonstrated with him. The remonstrance ended in a fight, during which Patrick was hit on the head with a hammer. John Kehoe was arrested and held by Squire Haywood in $300 bail for his appearance at court.
John Wright Jr., who resides at the lower locks, had two cows arrested yesterday for trespassing and doing damage to his garden. Officer Ruth arrested the cows and also the owners, Joseph Lavarach and Frank Hole, who reside in the East End and permitted their cows to run loose.
POLICE CAPTURE MEN AND CHICKENS
Matthew Fogarty, Michael Kennedy and eight chickens were arrested last evening by policeman Ruth and Kay and locked up in the station house. The men will be given a hearing this afternoon before Magistrate Light, charged by the officers with larceny.
Shortly after seven o’clock last evening the officers saw Fogarty and Kennedy in the Burman Butcher Shop, Elm Street near Forrest Street, with two bags containing chickens. One of the men was tying the legs of a pair of chickens when the officers entered the store and arrested the men and the chickens. When Fogarty was questioned, he told officers that his mother gave him the chickens to sell, the officers investigated and the story was false. The chickens are alive and thriving in their new quarters. They are occupying one of the cells.
Officers Arrest Herd of Cows
Special Officer Thomas O’Donnell of the Reading Railroad this morning placed under arrest four cows and a calf which he found trespassing on the Plymouth branch of the Reading between this borough and Mill Road.
The officers drove his prisoners to Irvin Moore’s stables in the rear of the police station. The owners of the cattle quickly learned of the arrest and came here to get their property. They were given the cows upon payment of the costs assessed the prisoners and for their care in the stable. The cattle arrested were the property of Stephen Bosak, 234 West Fourth Avenue, Alex Stelak, 348 West Fifth Avenue, and Charles Findrick, 346 West Fifth Avenue.
Here’s a couple of “Feel-Good” stories from years gone by.
Officer Harrold, in saving a small boy from being run over by the hose carriage while going to the fire on Wednesday evening, was considerably bruised himself and had his clothes somewhat torn.
Policeman Rescues Aged Woman From Burning Home
Officer Donovan Carries Woman to Safety as Five Homes Burn
Police Officer Donovan played the part of a hero during the fire which damaged five houses on Maple Street above First Avenue yesterday and carried aged Mrs. Williams, mother of the owner of one of the burning houses to safety after she had collapsed in the kitchen of the home and was alone in the building. Officer went to all five homes, the first four were clear of residents, when he got to the fifth house owned by Isaac Williams at 118 Maple Street, he entered the home and heard moaning, with the noise of the fire trucks arriving, the crackling of the fire he couldn’t tell if the moaning was coming from upstairs or downstairs. When he found her in the kitchen, he carried her to safety.
Officer Blake Saves Child
Saw Child Slip Into Deep Water at Balmoral Dam. Swam under water—
catching child as she sank in deep water
Presence of mind displayed by Officer Blake of the local police force, saved Nancy, seven-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Maguire, 829 Ford Street, West Conshohocken, from drowning in the Balmoral Dam at Gulph Mills, Wednesday afternoon when the child stepped on a slippery stone and was precipitated into water several feet deep near the flood gate. Nancy was spending a few days with her grandmother, Mrs. Elizabeth Maguire of Gulph Mills whose home is located close to the Gulph Creek.
Officer Blake who had gone to the dam to bathe in company with a group of swimmers was standing on the bank at the time watching the child. He knew of the slippery condition of the stone wall; he realized the perilous position of the children and no sooner had the child disappeared beneath the water than the officer pushing aside a number of the swimmers dove from the bank and swam to the spot where the child sank from view.
He was lost from the crowd for a minute. Few if any of the large crowd on the bank know what the officer meant presently, he came to the top of the water holding the child in his big strong arms, the muscles in which have been strengthened from continued intensive training in the prize ring.
Holding the frightened child in one arm he swam with the other to the shore and she was tenderly placed in the care of her grandmother badly frightened but none the worse for the unpleasant experience.
Believe it or not, that was the third rescue Officer Blake had made at the Balmoral Dam.
Oh, there’s a lot more cop related stories to tell, perhaps for some other time!
As we all know today, being a policeman is very serious business. Residents safety is a number one priority in Conshohocken today. Over the past few decades borough leaders have made the Conshohocken’s Police department their number one priority when it comes to hiring qualified candidates, a priority in equipping the department with the very best tools and technologies available.
We are a town like most, we had very humble beginnings, and the growth of our police department has continued for more than 150 years since 1870.
Just one more reason to be proud about the community that we live in!!
See ya next time, you bring a cup of coffee to your computer and Conshystuff will bring you the memories!!!