History of the Cowlitz County Peace Officer

Cowlitz County has had a colorful history. Through it all, the Peace Officer has always been there. From the first Sheriff who who had to perform a public hanging to the deputies who had to corral a maurading elephant. Join me as I gather the facts and true stories that describe the journey of the law enforcement officer in Cowlitz County from 1854 through today.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Thus Far....

This all started as an idea for our local Citizens Academy. All I wanted to do was give a quick presentation regarding the history of our local law enforcement as kinda of a pre-cursor to tours we give at the jail, Hall of Justice, and the Communication Center. So I set out to explore the history a little and it became painfully evident that there was no single source of information. It seems nobody has ever compiled a complete history of law enforcement in Cowlitz County!

I contacted the director of the Cowlitz County Historical Museum, David Freece, and asked if he had any photos or artifacts that I could use in my presentation. He said that he had some, but not much. So I went to the Museum with Mark Nelson and we looked over some photos and a few artifacts. What really got my attention was the night stick used by the first town marshal of Castle Rock and the ball and chain that he used to restrain drunk loggers after he "laid them out with the night stick" dating back to 1903. The night stick was from Scotland Yard and had obvious signs of "use" and the 40 lb ball attached to the old chain and shackles was truly remarkable. That's basically when I got the bug.

What I've discovered thus far is facinating. For example, the Museum provided a photo of the first public hanging in Cowlitz County and I've since learned that there were three documented hangings in the County all conducted by the Sheriff. The last hanging, which occured in 1901, was actually delayed because the seated Sheriff at the time, A.F. Kirby, didn't want to do the execution. So, he asked the presiding judge to delay the sentencing until after the election of 1901 so the incoming Sheriff, Elmer Huntington, could do the hanging. Sheriff Huntington, as it turns out, had no idea how to hang anybody so he deputized someone who had experience hanging people in the south (mainly because he was the only man around who knew how to tie a hangmans noose). In their effort, something went awry and the condemned man, Martin Stickles, was nearly decapitated as he fell through the gallows. ~ DcU

Welcome To The Past.

In 1854, Cowlitz County was created in the Washington Territory with Monticello named as the County seat. In 1889, the territory was admitted into statehood with pioneers streaming in from the east. With these new settlers, law and order soon followed and history began to unfold. But there's one piece of history that most citizens of Cowlitz County are probably unfamiliar with. That's the history of law enforcement.

From the first hanging in Kalama in 1892 to D.B. Cooper jumping from an airliner over Ariel in 1971, the history of law enforcement in Cowlitz County is vast and colorful. So I hope you'll join me as I dig into the past to bring to the community an understanding of how law enforcement has evolved over the years to become what it is today. ~ DcU