Posts Tagged With: sheriff

A Glimpse into the Life of a Rural Michigan Sheriff: 1939 – 1952

Serving Summons and Shooting Stray Dogs…

Sample view of the diariesI bought 13 diaries on eBay the other day for more money than I care to admit. The diaries were from the years 1939 through 1952, although 1944 was missing. They had once belonged to a sheriff in Harrison, Michigan, or at least to someone in the Sheriff’s Department in that mid-Michigan town located in Clare County. When I bought the diaries I was hoping it would provide a wealth of information, a window into the life of a rural sheriff, including how he spent his time, and would include names and events.

Sadly I didn’t get a wealth of information, more like a trickle, and as for the window
anlogy…well I see through the glass there but darkly. Turns out the diaries–and diaries is not the right name although I am not sure what to call them–were really served as a place to list events and activities for which the sheriff either was paid (like issuing a summons) or needed to pay others (like hiring a deputy for the day if he was on the road). Still it was an interesting read and my biggest impression is that the sheriff spent a lot of time issuing summonses and shooting dogs. For the former, the sheriff received $2 and for the latter $1–and the fee for shooting a dog never changed from 1930 through 1952.

I jotted down a few of the items written in the books I found interesting. Items in quotations are direct quotes from the books and items in parenthesis are my comments or thoughts.) And although the shooting of dogs and the issuing of summonses make up the biggest part of the diaries I have spared you from reading all but maybe one or two.

A page from one of the diaries1939
(Charge for mileage: 5 cents per mile; meals: 50 cents; serving papers: $2.50; Addition charge if a deputy is required: $1; pay for deputy if needed for a day: $3)
June 15–“Fred Dorsy chicken stolen. Art Olsen cows killed.
Aug. 20: “Complaint in Temple on Lester Bowen”
Aug. 21: “Arrested Lester Bowen”
Aug. 25: “Lester Bowen hearing”
Nov. 7: “Start of Bowen trial”
Nov. 10: “Took Bowen to Jackson”
(No mention of Bowen’s crime, his conviction or his sentence)

1940
(Sheriff appears to have been a S. M. Amble)
March 15: “Picked up 5 boys from Freeman Twp for unlawfully driving a car belonging to ____ Gould. Namely RIchard and Robert Barton, Russ Goodrich, Chas. Waldron and Darrell Weage.”
March 21: “Boys sentenced to 3 months probation”
(One of the boys listed above still appears in the local phone book. Can’t be sure it’s the same person but it would be interesting to call and find out. Wouldn’t he be surprised?)
March 21: “Killed and buried dog – $1”
(There are many mentions of the killing of stray dogs. Sometimes two at a time and sometimes the name of either the person requesting the killing or the owner of the dogs is listed. Not sure who they are. And sometimes there is a notation that the head was cut off and sent to Lansing–probably for testing for rabies.)
Aug. 24: “Hughes store broken into at night.and $3.50 taken from cash register.”
Oct. 18: “Investigated pig shooting.”

1941
(Mileage rate now 10 cents. Reimbursement for breakfast: 70 cents; dinner: $1)
Feb. 23: “Robt. Kroll house burned. 3-year-old-boy burned to death.”
(There is no entry on Dec. 7, but then many pages in the book lack entries and because the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred on a Sunday there would not be much happening on a Sunday in Harrison anyway.)

1943
March 23: “Repairs on car: $4”

1945
(Mileage reimbursement now 12 cents)

1946
June 29: Airplane crash at Airport. Killed Barbara Wenig, Paul Treadwell and Wenig.”
(No more information on the type of plane involved or the reason for the crash.)

June: Sheriff’s Convention in Marquette
Mileage: $42.60
Room:        9.00
Meals:       10.50
Crossing
Straits         3.00
Total        $65.10

1948
Feb. 18: “Served summons on Spikehorn for Harold Hughes”
April 7: “Ice off of Budd Lake.”
Aug. 10: “Found body of Frank Biker”
Oct. 8: “Served tax notice on Spikehorn”
(Spikehorn was a local character around Harrison who kept beers and had run-ins with locals and with the state conservation department. I was surprised that I did not find more mentions of him.)

1949
Aug. 25: “Arrested Vern Charette and Richard Henry for maliciously destroying property at state park”
(A Vern Charette is still listed in the local phone book)
Oct. 24: “First snow flakes”
Oct. 29: “Albert Eaton died”
Nov. 19: “Wet snow storm. Froze roads. Very icy. Wreck near James Hill. 2 people killed.”
Nov. 20: “Bad traffic jams. Lots of accidents.”
(The ice storm would have hit during the opening week of deer hunting season when a lot of visitors come to this part of the state. I am curious to know however, where a traffic jam would have occurred and what the sheriff considered a traffic jam.)

1950
(Deputy pay for a day: $5)

1951
(Mileage rates seems to have decreased from 12 cents to 10 cents a mile)
Feb. 5: “Mertle Shummway shot Ray”
Feb. 6: “(2:30 a.m.) Drove Roy to Gladwin Hospital”June
April 13: “Budd Lake opened up”
June 30: “Mertle sentenced to 2 1/2 years in House of Correction”
(No idea what drove Mertle to shoot her husband, the seriousness of his wounds or what happened after Mertle was released from jail.)

1952
April 18: “Ice out of Budd Lake”

And that’s a recap of the diaries. Now you know as much as I do–and for much less.I may stop by the local paper, the Clare County Cleaver and take a look into their archives to find out more about some of these stories. And as tempted as I am to call a couple of the people mentioned in the diaries, I will let sleeping dogs lie and hope the sheriff won’t shoot them.

Categories: Clare County, Harrison, History, Life, Michigan | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

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