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HISTORY OF THE DEPARTMENT (the early years of Washington)

When Washington was incorporated February 15, 1841 a police department was formed according to state law. A Board of Trustees was elected which had the powers to make laws for the policing of the town. The head law enforcement officer was the Constable of the township. The first constable of Washington was Joseph R. Hardin, who was also Collector, Assessor, and Treasurer of the town. He owned a general store and was a school teacher and a ferryman.

In 1846, a city patrol was formed whose main duty was to catch straying or runaway slaves. The patrol captain was William J. Cowherd. The other men in the patrol were David McLean, Daniel Jones, John T. Gregory, William Lay and Gert Goebel.

There was military law in Washington from 1862 to 1866. During the period of the Civil War and some months after the war, the Union Army controlled the town. A Home Guard was formed of which Francis Wilhelmi was the first “Hauptwache,” or Head Guard. Later, he commanded the 17th Infantry Regiment, but the Home Guard continued. Colonel H.C. Eitzen of Washington was the Provost Marshall of a military district which included Franklin County.

In March, 1873 the city began operation under a new charter. The first election under the new charter took place Tuesday, April 8, 1873. Eight councilmen, a collector, assessor, treasurer and marshal were elected.

In addition to the usual disturbances of the peace, the early marshals had to take care of the bums off the railroad trains and loafers at the depot. The marshal and his men were busiest at public events, particularly dances. In June, 1873 ducks and geese running at large in the city were declared a nuisance. They were to be confined and, if not, were to be taken and sold by the marshal.

In June, 1875 the marshal of the city was ordered to devote full attention to his job and was appointed “Public Officer” of the city. As such, he was to receive one dollar a day. At the same time, an ordinance was made prohibiting the running at large of hogs and pigs in the city. A fine of $5.00 per head was levied. All hogs and pigs were to be impounded and sold for the benefit of the city unless the fine was paid within three days.

On July 30, 1877 an ordinance was passed establishing night police. The ordinance stated, “These policemen under command of the mayor may require the assistance of citizens or bystanders, and anyone refusing to assist is to be fined 5 to 50 dollars.” Policemen appointed to the night police had to be citizens of the city and had to be over 21 years of age. The only compensation to such policemen was two dollars a night. My how police work has changed!

From Ralph Gregory‚Äôs “A History of Washington”