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
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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