Cleveland Irish: Cops and Robbers
By Francis McGarry
As a fellow who fancies himself a historian of some sort or degree, it behooves me to recall things. All types of things really. Practice is how you get to Carnegie Hall.
Carnegie was a Scot and a Pittsburgh guy who sold Carnegie Steel to J.P. Morgan and it became U.S. Steel. It also made old Andy richer than Rockefeller for a few years.
Rockefeller’s ma was “Scots-Irish” and is buried in Lake View Cemetery. She saw the value of the protagonist and antagonist, and not just rich folks seeing who can be richest folks. Cleveland friends of mine refuse to use Heinz ketchup.
In the previous pandemic installments of this article, we explored the introduction of the plea bargain in U.S. and world history and the role the Irish played in this history. That story also has what would appear to be oppositional positions. Cops and robbers were both necessary to make the plea bargain increase in usage, and a few lawyers. Today we look at the police in Cleveland, their role in the growth of our city and the Irish role in the growth of the CPD.
In 1898, the Cleveland Police Department published their history, with the assistance of Thomas A. Knight. His job was not simple in gathering data from old officers who had direct connection to the times of City Marshals and a “reticence only natural to men whose simple modesty is one of their many qualifications as a good officer.” Other sources supplied disconnected stories that were more indicative of their matured memory than the history of Cleveland.
As Grannie says, “at her age she can only remember the past.” That is not the first time that quote has made it in these lines, and would wager not the last.
The History of the Cleveland Police
Coincidentally, the publication of the history of the CPD has advertisements from every brewery and saloon in the city. The Cleveland and Sandusky Brewing Company had ten branches, nine in Cleveland and one in…you guessed it, Sandusky. Standard Oil has an ad as well. E.A. Abbott was the Director of Police, appointed by Mayor Robert E. McKisson in 1895.
McKisson built five new bridges over the Cuyahoga and made the river viable for steamers. He is in Lake View as well; it’s like anybody who is anybody gets buried on the Eastside.
George E. Corner was the Superintendent of Police. Corner got his street rep when he was a patrolman. He shot and killed George Foster, the head of the “notorious Foster gang.” George had escaped from Columbus and his fifteen-year sentence.
A.S. Gates was Deputy Superintendent of Police and John Vanek was Secretary. Vanek was born in Bohemia and the other three were born on the east coast and made their way to Cleveland.
M.F. Madigan was a police Captain, born in Ireland. As a patrolman he worked in the 4th precinct, on the west end of the viaduct. M.F. arrested the Connelly gang while clubbing Mr. Connelly, who had pulled his pistol. He was acting Deputy Superintendent after Deputy Superintendent James McMahon.
Michael English was also a police Captain, born in Ireland in 1844. In 1894, English and 50 of his officers beat back a May Day parade on Scranton Avenue when the march became violent. The officers were hit with hurling bricks and general projectiles. They eventually quelled the “incipient riot.”
Lieutenant John O’Loughlin of the 2nd precinct was a native Irishman, as was Lieutenant John Burns of the 7th precinct. Detective “Jack” Reeves was born in Ireland and two of his detectives, A. McMillen and James Doran, were born in Canada but of Irish decent. Detectives McMillen and Doran arrested the gang of burglars who shot and killed police Sergeant Sheehan on the West Side.
Sergeant J.J. Doyle and Sergeant Edward Corrigan prevented the robbery of the South Cleveland Bank by members of the Blinky Morgan gang. All Irish fellows, cops and robbers. Corrigan was born in Ireland in 1852, Sergeant M.J. Regan was born in Ireland in 1851,
Sergeant Cullen was born in Ireland in 1850, Sergeant Commerford was born in Ireland in 1860, Sergeant McElhaney born in 1852 to Irish parents. Adjacent to their bio’s is an ad for H.F. Cavanaugh’s Buffet, dealer in all kinds of imported and domestic family liquors at 257 Superior. It’s open day and night. Just down the street from the Oyster Ocean Café, Hannan and McGlade proprietors, “Ladies and Gents Dining Parlors.”
The CPD had 295 patrolmen in 1898, who “had to be physically perfect and mentally bright.” Thomas Knight might take some literary license in comparing the Cleveland Police Department to the Praetorian Guard, but when in Rome…
The force had come a long way since George Kirk was elected City Marshal in 1838, with 143 votes to A.N. Gray’s 44 votes. Kirk was allowed to keep 2% of all fines collected. The City was home to twelve precincts each with a station house, “most of which are modern.”
The city prison at Central Station, Champlain, and Seneca, had eighty seven cells: male prison, forty cells; boy’s prison; ten cells; special prison, sixteen cells; female prison, eighteen cells, detention prison, two cells and a hospital cell. Champlain and Seneca is now West 3rd and Prospect geographically, but 1898 Cleveland was not built like it is today.
CPD also had a “Citizens’ Squad” of officers who would dress as normal Clevelanders and “deceive crooks” who would flee when a uniformed officer is noticed. This branch is not a favorite of the department. The author notes that “there are not a few patrolmen who detest this branch of service.”
No officer detested the Police Pension Fund, which was established in 1881. In 1898 the balance was $118, 085.15, or $3,686,262.70 today, a tad bit more than 2%.
The history of the Cleveland Police Department published in 1898 illustrates the various positions that the Irish occupied on both sides of the law. That is demonstrated from the names preceded with segreant and those followed by gang. These social and legal roles allowed for transitions in policing and sentencing. The plea bargain is one of these innovations that had shared utility for Irish with a common legal history.
*Francis McGarry holds undergraduate degrees from Indiana University in Anthropology, Education and History and a Masters in Social Science from the University of Chicago. He is an assistant principal and history teacher. Francis is a past president of the Irish American Club East Side. He is the founder and past president of the Bluestone Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.