Michael J. Malone
Douglas County Law Library

Judicial and Law Enforcement Center
111 East 11th Street
Lawrence, Kansas 66044
Phone: (785) 838-2477
Fax: (785) 838-2455

This Month in Legal History

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This page contains the "This Month in Legal History" column as published in the current Michael J. Malone Douglas County Law Library E-Mail Newsletter. The column features a different event from the history of law and jurisprudence of Douglas County, Kansas, that occurred during the month. It is published monthly in the Michael J. Malone Douglas County Law Library E-Mail Newsletter and on the Home page of this website.

Archived entries from this and previous years can be accessed by visiting the This Month in Legal History Archive page on this website.

October 23, 1895 - Constable Smith has his boat stolen.

In the early years, local police officers in Eudora, Kansas, were known as constables. They "wore their everyday clothing, carried a nightstick rather than a gun, and oversaw the city’s jail beneath the city hall. One of their duties was to capture stray dogs and to keep captured dogs at his [sic] home." In 1895, Eudora's constable was a man named Smith. He was apparently an avid fisherman, which was not surprising since Eudora lay on the south bank of the Kaw, or Kansas, River, and was undoubtedly home to many fishermen. The town is approximately 40 river miles above the confluence of the Kaw and Missouri Rivers at Kansas City. Up and down the river, men fished both for sport and as a commercial activity, selling their catch as a source of income. Smith may have been one of the latter, as he owned a boat and a number of fish traps. Fish traps were placed in the river, usually where there was some current, so that the open end pointed upstream. They were designed so that a fish that swam into the open end of the trap would not be able to get back out again. Fishermen would check their traps daily, remove any fish that had been caught, and put the traps back in the water. At the end of the day, a good fisherman made sure to either take his boat out of the water or tie it securely so that it did not drift off. On October 23, 1895, Smith discovered that his boat and the traps in it were not where he had left them. He realized that his boat had not gotten away by itself. It had been stolen. Smith thought he knew where it would go. He determined that the thief would likely head downstream to Kansas City. It is not known if he had a suspicion of who had stolen his boat and traps, if this kind of thing had happened before, of if he just had a hunch, but for whatever reason, Smith traveled to Kansas City, Kansas, later that day to await the arrival of his boat. He was not disappointed, as the next day, October 24th, Smith's boat, along with his traps and the man who had stolen it, floated into Kansas City. The man was arrested, possibly by the Kansas City police, as Smith may not have had jurisdiction to do so himself, and was put in the James Street Jail in that city. He spent the night there, and in the morning, he was turned over to Smith, who brought him back to Eudora, presumably putting him in the jail below city hall. The identity of the thief and what happened to him after being returned to Eudora has not been found, but whatever happened, he likely learned his lesson about not stealing the boat of a man so determined and resourceful as was the Eudora Constable.

From: City Basics: Eudora 101, Where the Wakarusa Meets the Kaw website; and, Kansas City Daily Gazette, v. 10, no. 177 (October 25, 1895), p. 1.

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Created: November 27, 2006; Revised: October 1, 2014