Tag Archives: Toledo Police

Bullets, Badges and Batons..the Story of Police Inspector Charles Roth

Inspector Charles Roth

Inspector Charles Roth

      The Toledo Symphony Orchestra celebrated its 70th birthday this past year and  what many Toledoans probably don’t know is that the seeds of the symphony were sown by a a man who grew up a farmer and then later became a Toledo Policeman. That officer was  Inspector Charles Roth who grew up in Defiance County in the early 1900’s the son of a farmer, but the young man was not content with the idea of following in his father’s footsteps to cultivate corn, Roth, instead, wanted to cultivate and grow the music in his heart.  At a young age, Roth had already taken up the piano and trumpet and numerous other instruments. He was a natural, and he was passionate about playing the instruments with enough talent to relocate someday to Toledo where he might play in the popular Toledo Police Band.

Early Toledo Police band

Early Toledo Police band

By 1917, he achieved that goal. He moved to the big city upstream on the Maumee where he joined the Toledo Police Department as a rookie on street patrol.   When he wasn’t pounding the beat, young Roth was keeping the beat, while playing in the popular Toledo Police Band.  By 1923, however, Roth’s ambitions as a musician were ready to expand and so he formed the Toledo Police Civic Symphony, recruiting musicians from all walks of life throughout the Toledo area who shared his appreciation and talents for good music.  Roth led this new orchestra as its conductor and musical director, while at the same time, continuing his career on the streets as a Toledo Police officer.  The Toledo Civic               Symphony proved to be a hit with local citizens during the 1930’s, appearing often in concert at numerous venues around the city.  Roth as the conductor, reached for new horizons as a writer and composer.  By 1937, he wrote the official Centennial March for Toledo’s 100th birthday. The orchestra debuted this original composition at the newly built Toledo Zoo Amphitheatre. It would not be his last composition.  Over the course of his life, Roth wrote more than 70 symphonies and other pieces.

Charles Roth and Toledo Civic Symphony

Charles Roth and Toledo Civic Symphony

Lt. Roth did not go away in rancor.  While the love of music played the melody of his life, it was always in harmony with his career, for Roth was also considered an outstanding law enforcement officer in a number of areas.  Among them, his renowned abilities and skills as a marksman.  Instrumental in the building of Toledo’s police shooting range at Bay View Park, Roth exhibited his skills as a champion marksman in numerous matches held at the range. His reputation was unrivaled in Toledo and most of the nation.  In 1927 he won the U.S. national revolver championship held at Camp Perry.

Roth Teaching at TPD Academy

Roth Teaching at TPD Academy

Roth was also one of the driving forces behind the development of the Toledo Police Academy.  With a strong belief that police officers needed more training, discipline and professionalism, Roth helped guided the academy’s growth for many years and literally wrote some of the earliest books and manuals that the rookies absorbed during their training. Adding to his long resume as a true renaissance man, Roth had a love for horses and wrote several books about them and their owners. he was often invited to be the announcer for local rodeos held in the Toledo area.  In his spare time on Sundays, he taught Sunday school for a Methodist church.  To say he was a stern man, might be an understatement, Roth to this day is remembered as a strict disciplinarian, who could be sharply candid in his remarks and commentary.  Many young officers learned to fear Mr. Roth’s reputation as a tough taskmaster and his no-nonsense style.  Those who knew him well, however, also knew that he could be as compassionate as he was strict, often giving musicians and officers personal loans if they didn’t have enough money to make it to payday.

Captain Roth at Police Range

Captain Roth at Police Range

Major Charles Roth by the end of his career, had helped the Toledo Police Department grow as a professional law enforcement organization over five decades and when he left this life in 1967, he left behind not just a police department,  but a wonderful symphony orchestra that to this day can ascribe a part of its legacy to this most unique and dedicated Toledo Police officer.

My thanks to the Toledo Police Museum for their photos and information about Charles Roth. If you would like  to visit the Museum it is on Kenwood Blvd. at Ottawa Park.

Here is a video from the Toledo Police Museum about this most talented policeman.

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The Luckey Legend of Benjamin Franklin Stone

The story of  the black man’s entry into the ranks of American law enforcement really didn’t begin to materialize until little over a century ago in about the  late 1800’s and the early 1900’s.  Even then, the numbers of black Americans given the chance to wear a badge were still few and occurring mostly in the larger cities where black populations were large.  In Toledo, for example, Albert King was the first black citizen hired to wear a Toledo Police badge in about 1900.  In the smaller communities of the area, minority police officers were non existant at the time,  and in many rural towns, they still are.

Young Benjamin Stone

 So it was surprising to learn that the first black man in Ohio to become a small town police chief was a man by the name of Ben Stone, in the tinyWood County village of Luckey Ohio – in the 1920’s. He was born in 1874, Benjamin Franklin Stone, of mixed Irish and Black parents, and was considered “mulatto”, at the time.  While history doesn’t record exactly where he was born, we do know that he and his brother, Tom Stone, eventually ended up in an orphanage on Lagrange Street in Toledo,. By the time he was 10 years old, Ben and his brother, Tom were taken from the orphanage by Bill Dunipace, an early farmer near Luckey who needed help on his farm. Dunipace was a bachelor and gave the brothers the promise of a better life in exchange for doing the various chores and jobs around the farm. Apparently, Tom Stone didn’t take to the notion of being a part of the farm life and fled back to Toledo, while Ben stayed on to work with farmer Dunipace and lived out his childhood in this rural setting of the late 1800’s. It is said, that their relationship grew close and became like a father and son. Two decades later when Mr. Dunipace died, he left Ben 80 acres of land and a house on Sugar Ridge Road. For a number of years, Ben tried his hand at farming and living the rural lifestyle, but as a young man, at about 30 years old, he wasn’t content to just settle down and work the land. He had other pursuits on his mind and one of them was guns. Throughout his boyhood, he enjoyed shooting guns and spent much of his time while growing up…honing his skills as a marksman. Locals say he became so good with a revolver, he could shoot the eye out of a crow perched in the highest branch of a tree. And one neighbor says he actually saw Ben shoot at and hit the same nailhead on a wooden door, four times in a row. He also enjoyed other thrills like speed and motorcycles. Not only did he have a motorcycle, but kept it parked at night inside of his modest house on the farm property where he lived. Stories are still told of how Ben would blaze at high speeds down the back country roads of Webster Township on his motorcycle, “plinking” at prearranged roadside targets with great accuracy

 BEN STONE MAKES HIS HIS MOVE INTO TOWN.

Ben Stone’s Cabin

Eventually, in 1916, Ben tired of the farming life and sold off 40 acres of his land to a neighbor, but kept the old cabin and the other forty acres where he lived.  He also took a few odd jobs working for other farmers in the area. His solid reputation for hard work and honesty paid other dividends when he took a full time job as the night watchman for the Schwan Furniture store and funeral home in Luckey, guarding the business from the growing number of depression era criminals who roamed the area looking for things to steal. A few other merchants also paid Ben to watch their stores at night and soon he was officially appointed as the town marshal. With that designation he was allowed to carry and gun and he patrolled Luckey’s streets at night with a flashlight in one hand and a shotgun in the other. He also tucked a .45 caliber handgun into the side of his well worn and shaggy coveralls that was his familiar uniform. It can be stated that Ben was hardly a student of modern fashion. His unshaven and grizzly face and his disheveled appearance, were not helped by his refusal to wear a glass eye after he had lost one in an accident many years before. His reason for not wearing the glass eye, he said, was that “it doesn’t make me see any better”. Ben was clearly a man of modest needs and means. After selling his cabin and the remaining 40 acres in the country, he eventually made his home in the back storeroom of the old Schwan Furniture store and where his bed was fashioned from empty wooden boxes used for burial vaults.

 THE DAY THAT BEN BECAME A LUCKEY LEGEND

Locals say Ben would have made a good character for a movie. And if ever there was a great opening scene, it might have been written about the quiet autumn day in 1933 when this mild mannered and friendly marshal became a real-life action hero. As the tale is told from the 1981 Luckey Centennial history book, the story unfoldedThursday afternoon, September 28 in 1933. John Landwehr who worked at the Schwan furniture store, was washing the front windows when he noticed a man walk toward the Luckey Exchange Bank wearing a hunting coat. Another man was sitting in a parked car, acting nervously, on the street nearby. Sensing something wasn’t right, Landwehr and his sister ran to the backroom of the furniture store to awaken Marshal Stone who had been up all night patrolling the streets. When informed of what might be happening at the bank, Ben promptly rolled out of bed, put a six shooter in each pocket, and picked up a double barreled shotgun loaded with buckshot.

“He went out the back door of Schwans down the alley and through The Williamson’s Garage and when went down the sidewalk past the bank and waited in the stairway beside the barber shop.” Meanwhile the bandit had entered the bank and pointed a pistol at Harvey Helm, the cashier and two others in the bank, and demanded the money in the drawer. As Helm passed $344.98 to the bandit, he touched an alarm button that sounded in the telephone office and several other downtown stores. Then he and others were herded into a back room of the bank by the bandit who fled out the front door. As he exited, he was greeted by the shotgun wielding Marshal Ben Stonewho said “Stop or I’ll shoot!”

 That’s when Ben Stone says he heard “two cracks” from the robber’s gun and then felt something “nip” his legs” and “That’s when I let him have the right barrel and he went down in a heap.” Someone then shouted that the robber was going to fire again, at which point, Ben not only fired the other barrel at the robber, but then pumped three more bullets into him from his pistol. As soon as the gunfire erupted, the other man in the getaway car took off and Ben would recall later” I’m pretty sorry I didnt get him too.” He was later caught and sent to prison.

LOCAL WOMAN STILL RECALLS THE DAY IT HAPPENED 

By this time, the normally quiet downtown main street in Luckey was flooding with people who came to view the aftermath of this violent bank robbery that ended badly for the suspect as he lay mortally wounded bleeding profusely from his wounds, while Marshal Stone dealt with the pain and bleeding from two bullet holes in his legs. One of the people who came to town that day to witness the scene, was LaVeda Graening, who was a teenager at the time. Now in her nineties, and living in Perrysburg, she told me recently, what she remembers of that day as the crowd gathered around the dead bank robber sprawled out on the bloody street.

 ” My cousin called me and told me what was happening and I ran as fast as I could to get there. The streets were filled with people and people gathered around to see someone shot in the street. It was so public…seeing a body there. Just out in front of everybody. I don’t want to be too descriptive, but when they took his short off, you know, you could see the wound in his chest. It was awful”.

 Ben Stone who had suffered two gunshot wounds to the legs was being transported by a local resident to Mercy Hospital in Toledo. Mrs. Graening remembers that townspeople were concerned for Ben and sent get well cards to the wounded Marshal in hopes for his quick recovery. “Everybody liked Ben. He was a friendly man. I can still remember seeing that little smile of his. He used to have little sayings and called some of the girls and women in town his little “Ain-gies”, or Angels. He loved children….he was like a Granpa to me.”

STONE ADOPTS LUCKEY AS HIS HOME AND  LUCKEY ADOPT S HIM AS ONE OF THEIR OWN 

Laveda Graening’s remembrances of the Luckey’s most famous lawman are shared by many. The legacy of this man remains indelibly etched into the historical accounts of the Wood County community as a local hero. An unlikely and unusual embrace of a black man in the lily-white farm country of Wood County made up predominantly German and Swiss ancestry at a time when racial prejudice was still practiced openly in many communities. The open warmth that was shown to Ben during this era says a lot about the people of Luckey and says a lot about character of Ben Stone and the effect he had on the people of the community.Ben%20Stone%20original%202

 “He was my Dad’s best friend”, LaVeda Graening recalls, and she tells of how Ben’s “bunkhouse” or quarters, where he used to sleep at night in the back of the mortuary, often became a social gathering place for the men of the town who would get together on a Saturday morning to tell stories over a pot bellied stove. Ben, who was regarded as “town character” often took his share of good natured ribbing from some of the men in town about his dress, his bib overhauls and and his happy-go-lucky lifestyle, but Ben, it is written, always took it in good stride and laughed with those who make the jokes. After the bank robbery and shooting in 1933, the townspeople of Luckey took Ben a little more seriously. Appreciative of the fact, that he had put himself in harms way to protect the town and residents, the citizens found a new sense of respect for Marshal Stone. In November of 1933, few months after the shooting, Ben Stone was the guest of honor at a testimonial dinner at the Grace Lutheran Church in Luckey where 160 of his fellow townspeople thanked him for his courage and service to the town and presented him with a new gold deputy sheriff’s badge with his name engraved on the back of it. They also presented him with a check for 150 dollars.

 SLAIN BANK ROBBER’S MOTHER THANKS BEN STONE

Another gift Ben received was surprising and offered a strange twist to the bank robbery saga. It was a letter of thanks from the mother of Glenn Saunders, the bank robber that he had shot dead. Mrs. Saunders of Columbus Grove, thanked Ben for killing her son, saying he had always been trouble and she and her husband were relieved that he wouldn’t be causing anymore trouble. She continued her communication with Ben over the years and they often exchanged Christmas gifts.

 Ben continued his duties for the next decade in his adopted home of Luckey, patrolling the streets, with his guns tucked into the bib overhauls and greeting his friends and residents everyday with a familiar smile. After the shooting however, he had to give up riding his bicycle because of the wounds he sustained in the shoot-out. He sold it a young girl in town, Betty Landwehr, who had become one of his “Ain-gies” or Angels. Her mother paid for the bike with10 dozen cookies, delivered over a period of time. Betty rode the bike for many years before heading off to Bowling Green to college. Betty lives now in Florida and has very fond memories of Ben Stone as do most of those fortunate enough to have known him.

Ben Stone’s Marker

 When Ben died on August 27th, 1943, of heart disease, at the age of 69, staying true to his simple desires of life, his remains were cremated, and his ashes spread over the Webster Township Cemetery at Scotch Ridge. Today one can find a grave marker among the those of the other families and settlers of the area. And while the old dirty boots of Ben Stone no longer walk the streets of Luckey protecting its citizens at night, the footsteps of this young orphaned boy who found a home can be heard in the winds of time.

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Toledo’s Dell Hair, First of a Rare Breed of Cop-Poets

Cops who put down their pistols and pick up pens in the gentle pursuit of poetry, may seem like a rare breed, but perhaps not as rare as you might think. Happened to read recently about an undercover cop in Los Angeles who is also a poet and says he is one of a growing number of officers who have something to say in verse. So he is trying to organize these poet-police officers into some type of national cop-poets-society.  If this should come to fruition, I will suggest they make a special place in their ranks for Toledo Policeman Dell Hair, the nation’s first cop-poet, at least the first one who was nationally recognized for his verse. While not considered a great poet, he was popular and was published numerous times in the course of a career that included walking the dark streets of downtown Toledo, fighting crime while composing rhyme.

 He was born Adalbert Hair on a farm near the small western Michigan town of Morrice back in 1871. Always the romantic, he left that community behind as a young man to join the U.S. Army Cavalry Regiment in the American West where it is said that he helped put down down the last of Geronimo’s Apache uprisings. From there, Hair eventually made his way to Toledo where in 1906, he joined the ranks of the Toledo Police Department. This of course was long before squad cars, so Hair spent much of his time on foot as a patrolman. While he was on duty, it is reported that he not only worked out poems in his head, but, often gave those suspects he arrested, on-the-spot renditions of his verse, as he hauled them back to the police station.  From those many days and nights on the streets, in 1908, he published a collection of poems that he wrote entitled “Echoes from the Beat”.

 About a year later, Hair left the Toledo Police Department, under controversial circumstances, and formed his own downtown private security company, which was really a poetic way of saying he hired out as a night watchman to check on downtown stores. But he did it well, and did it for many years until he died. All the while, writing and publishing his poems and even becoming involved in city politics.  A Toledo New Bee article in 1909 reports that Dell Hair spoke to a political rally in a campaign against Toledo Mayor Brand Whitlock, in which Hair claimed he was fired by the police department because Whitlock, also a writer, was “jealous of his literary accomplishments”. Hair was not shy about voicing his opinions and was outspoken on many issues of the times, often putting those concerns about city problems into iambic pentameter. He was also popular with many in the city, especially the downtown merchants whose stores he protected at night.  Hair even tried running for mayor in Toledo in 1915, but returned to his police work and his poetry.  Dell Hair, lived at 1005 Salem Street in Toledo and was married to his wife Charlotte, had several children and continued writing poetry and staying on the downtown beat, until his death from the flu in 1932.

 During his lifetime, he wrote and published many books of poetry. Many of which ares still available on E-bay and other used book sites. Some of the titles to look for are “Roses and Thorns”, published while he was in the Army, also “Songs of Darkness, Light and Death” from 1895, “Nature Beautiful”, published in 1929, “Violets and Thorns” and “Echoes from a Dell” in 1922.  Dell Hair was described by those who knew him, as a large man in stature, a big and burly guy who, despite his love of poetry, always put his respect and admiration first for his fellow officers and firemen. In dedicating “Echoes from the Beat”, he wrote : “In honor of the great love I bear for the police and firemen who, ​​without hesitancy, risk their lives for the welfare of others, I dedicate the third volume of my ​​poems”.​

 Just what motivated Dell Hair to be a cop and writer of poetry, we’ll probably never know for sure, maybe he didn’t know either. But Jessee Fourmy, the cop in Los Angeles who I mentioned at the start of this story believes it has to do with a cop’s natural instinct to study and understand human nature. He says they are seekers of truth, which also the goal of the poet.

 Fourmy says there are so many cops now writing poetry on the West Coast, they have started their own journal called “Rattle”, in which former Portland police officer-turned-poet James Fleming writes that”Cops and poets are intruders into other people’s lives. They both probe for character, motive, history. They both want to know what people are up to. A person of interest can end up in a poem or in jail.”

 And a police poem can end up in an editorial. In fact, the Toledo Blade used one of Dell Hair’s old poems in 1964 when controversy arose over the old Spielbush Fountain at the Civic Center at Spielbusch and Cherry Streets. The decaying old stone structure was destined to be torn down, despite the cries of those who wanted to save it. The Blade proposed that a marker be erected near the site of the fountain with a poem from Dell Hair, in which he waxed profoundly about how the fountain not only quenched his physical thirst, but satisfied his muse of inspiration. This from the “Echoes from the Beat”

 Old beautiful fountain so holy and good,adorning the place where the old market stood.

Where mammoth iron bars were bolted in rows, Where horses fought flies now a green carpet grows.

Thy dome is not lofty, thy cups are not gold,The people here flock like sheep to the fold.

Mothers to children, for pitchers will call, There is plenty to spare and enough for us all

On every morn between three and four, I quench my thirst from thy bountiful store

As in the tin cup, I thy purity view, A short little verse is whispered for you

Oh beautiful fountain this is my song of the memory erected to one that is gone

All thanks to the son who lowered the rod, that brought to the people one blessing of god.

To this writer’s knowledge that marker was never placed at the site and the Spielbusch fountain is long gone. But the words of poet-policeman Dell Hair live on. Likely will outlive all of us as his verse is passed from generation to generation, perhaps a little dusty with time, but still there, to drink in, like a fountain that just keeps flowing.

 

 

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Update on the sad tale of “Owney the Postal Dog”

After a review of the Toledo Blade article regarding this sad episode from  June 11 of 1897, it appears the name of the policeman who shot Owney was not Fred Free (or Freeman), but was a Patrolman Smith(no first name given). It also seems that Owney was not killed immediately after he reportedly bit a mail clerk at the train station, but his execution was delayed until the next day owing to the fact that the first policeman who was ordered to shoot the globe trotting pooch, refused to do so.   As a result, so states the article, that Postmaster Brand had Owney chained to a post until the next day, and then..

“Shortly after 4 o’clock yesterday, Patrolman Smith took the dog to an alley behind the police station and with a shot put an end to the career of the famous pup.”

Sgt. Beth Cooley, at the Toledo Police Museum says she is searching for the records of a Patrolman Smith who might have served on the department at that time. The Chicago Tribune had reported that the officer who shot Owney was Fred Free, but after some research into the records, Sgt. Cooley says there was no Fred Free on the department, but there was a Fred Freeman who was a Toledo policeman during that time. That could have easily been the mix-up, but the Blade said the executioner was a Patrolman Smith.

It’s also noted from this article that it had been decided before Owney was executed to have his remains stuffed and mounted and sent to the Post Museum in Washington D.C. Perhaps this was an atempt to mollify the thousands of postal clerks and others around the globe who loved the dog, as it was noted by the Blade reporter at the time that Owney’s tragic killing would “bring down the wrath of the heavens” upon the heads of those involved in Owney’s death.

Not sure if such wrath was ever visited upon Toledo.

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Owney the famous postal dog met his tragic demise in Toledo

Some historical events Toledo can lay claim to and be proud of,  others,… not so much.  The Owney the postal dog story is one of the latter. This week, the U.S. Postal Service will pay tribute to the famous little postal pooch by honoring him with his own postage stamp which will officially celebrate Owney as one of America’s great animal heroes, if not the first.  If you don’t know the story of Owney, it all started by in 1888 when this scruffy Irish-Scottish Terrier  mongrel took up residence in the Albany, New York post office.  It is recounted that Owney loved the scent of the mail bags and began riding the mail wagons and then one day hopped onto a rail car and started riding the trains. It was here where Owney’s legacy was carved.  Within a few years, Owney managed to travel on these cars quite extensively and quite independently, and as he appeared at various postal stations along his routes, postal employees would affix a postal tag to his harness and collar.   He soon became laden with hundreds of tags as he routinely criss-crossed the United States on the rail cars. He even ventured in 1895 on an international journey and showed up in Japan, parts of Asia, and Europe until he safely returned to the U.S. and his home in Albany.  In short Owney was a star , perhaps the first “dog-star” in the United States long before Lassie and Rin-Tin-Tin.  He was beloved by postal employees and members of the general public alike who wanted to get a glimpse of this famous world traveling mutt.

But not everyone loved Owney. In April of 1897, the Chicago Postmaster was disgusted by Owney’s presence on the rail cars and postal stations, calling him a mongrel cur who was nothing more a nuisance to employees and that he should be banned from the rails. His remarks were widely reported at the time, and who knows if his sentiments were shared by others.  A few months later, on June 11th, 1897, Owney had made his way to Toledo and it would be his last. There are several varying accounts of what took place, but according to the Chicago Tribune, when Owney got to Toledo’s Union Station, a postal clerk called a newspaper reporter and photographer to get some pictures and a story. The clerk had chained Owney up to a post to keep him there while awaiting the arrival of the photographer. One account says that Owney detested being tied up or restrained and starting protesting loudly and when the clerk tried to get him to quiet down, Owney bit him on the hand. That action prompted the Toledo Postmaster, Rudolph Brand, to call for a policeman to come to the scene and that an officer named Fred Free, shot and killed Owney while he was still chained to the post.  The Chicago Tribune called it an “execution”.  While other newspaper accounts(perhaps engaging some damage control), said Owney had been running loose and “had gone mad” when he was shot.   We may never know exactly what happened in Toledo, or why Owney met his fate that day, but Owney’s legacy was hardly forgotten. When word surfaced around the nation that the famous mail-pooch’s stamp had been cancelled,  mail clerks throughout the country raised funds to have the cinnamon colored terrier  stuffed and preserved. His mounted body was eventually given to the Post Office Department’s headquarters in Washington.   It remained there, on display, until 1911, when it was transferred to the Smithsonian in Washington where Owney has been on display in a glass case, ever since.   Now 114 years after his death in Toledo, Owney is not only getting his own postage stamp, but his mounted remains have been restored and his exhibit, which includes hundreds of his postal tags will be displayed prominently at the museum.

If you know more about Owney’s travels and experiences in Toledo, including his death, please share. I will post any additional material here.

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Filed under Famous Animals of Northwest Ohio, Uncategorized