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The Carthage Press
  • Dickey documents the history of CPD

  • A city that goes back more than 160 years has accumulated stories that could fill many books.
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  • A city that goes back more than 160 years has accumulated stories that could fill many books.
    A city's police department, which finds itself in the middle of the big events that make up a city's history, can almost invariably point to a colorful history all its own.
    Carthage Police Sgt. Doug Dickey took on the challenge of assembling the history of the Carthage Police Department and has produced a 144-page book, buy that same name, which is now available online and at the Powers Museum.
    The History of the Carthage Police Department was a three-year project that uncovers some surprising facts and fills in details of some of Carthage's most notorious characters and incidents.
    Dickey said uncovering the details of incidents involving the police department was surprisingly difficult, especially when one starts looking back past the 1940s and 1950s.
    Filling the gaps
    "What really bothered me was how, when you got to about the 1950s and further back, there was very little that you would find in the newspaper about what the police department was doing, unless it was a big story of some type," Dickey said. "A lot of the research involved trying to find (Carthage) Press articles and the Jasper County Records Center was invaluable there. Steve Weldon, who runs the records center, was a tremendous help going through a lot of (Carthage Photographer) Carl Taylor's photographs and the clippings that had been pulled out, so those were a lot of help."
    Dickey's book includes a brief history of law enforcement in Jasper County before the Civil War, then after the Civil War as the county and Carthage were rebuilt.
    Local law enforcement in Carthage got its start in 1873 when Carthage was chartered as a third class city and residents elected a city marshall for two year terms.
    Before that, the Jasper County Sheriff served as law enforcement for the city and county.
    "I think for me the most fascinating thing I found out was that in 1873, when the city appoints a marshal, there are approximately 3,000 people in the city of Carthage — one officer," Dickey said. "There was one police officer and it stayed that way for a number of years until they appointed night watchmen."
    A different world
    Dickey said the world was much different in the days before the automobile or the telephone.
    "People were much more self-sufficient," he said. "As opposed to now when you have police chiefs in major cities that are saying if someone is trying to break into your house, lock your doors and call 9-1-1, don't do anything, let the police handle it. In those days, the fact that there was marshal was a convenience because everyone pretty much took care of themselves.
    Page 2 of 2 - "In those days, the fact that there was marshal was a convenience, because everyone pretty much took care of themselves. If you caught someone breaking into your house or your barn or whatever, you went out with a shotgun and you took care of it. If you shot them, okay. If you captured them, you sent your son to go knock on the marshal's door and tell him I just caught a burglar or I just caught someone rustling my horses, and the marshal would come to arrest him. That was his job, to come and arrest the person."
    Dickey's book includes stories of particularly notorious event, including the shooting death of K.E. Baker, the famous coach, teacher and business man foe whom the Carthage Tigers football stadium is named, on Feb. 2, 1971; the 1904 off-duty shooting death of police officer Ed Gaffaney by another off duty officer who accused Gaffaney of reporting to the marshal that he was drunk on duty; and the train hijacking that was defused in Carthage in 1985.
    Christmas party
    It includes a short entry noting that the Carthage Police Department's annual LaVerne Williams Christmas Party for Kids has actually been going on and hosted by the police department for much longer than originally thought.
    "One of the things that came to mind when planning the Children's Christmas Party, we knew that LaVerne Williams had done so much work on it to the point that it now bears his name, but we didn't actually know when it started," Dickey said. "We got a picture of the officers that were involved, it was Chief James Turner, Bill Cox, and Larry Schooling. They were planning the 13th annual Children's Christmas Party, this is from a (Carthage) Press article, in 1972. We knew when LaVerne had been working with it that it went back much further, but that was just it, until we actually researched and found out, there was nobody around who knew."
    In his forward to the book, current Carthage Police Chief Greg Dagnan notes that "organizational stories define us."
    "Knowing where we have been helps us explain our current successes, our failures and our future destination," Dagnan wrote. "So when someone wants to tell me a story, I always stop what I'm doing so I can absorb every word. People who have been eyewitnesses to department history are a valuable resource that we will not be able to access indefinitely."

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