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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"

Chapter  24 -
Eau Claire Fire Department

by James P. Welsh

Board of Police and Fire Commissioners

(-as transcribed from pages 399 - 401)

The Wisconsin legislature of 1897 enacted a law creating the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners in cities of certain classes in the state.  The law provided for a board of four members, to serve without compensation, to be appointed by the mayor.  Mayor William H. Frawley, at a meeting of the Common Council held on April 28, 1897, made announcement of the following appointments of commissioners:  For term of one year, Matt C. Anderson; for term of two years, Hon. John Ure, Sr.; for term of three years, Hon. Frank McDonough, Sr.; for term of four years, Albert F. Schwahn.

The law did not require confirmation by the council, but Mayor Frawley asked the council to pass upon such appointments.  The nominations were confirmed, two aldermen, Sebenthal and Scallon, voting against such confirmation.  On the evening of May 3, 1897, the board met at the office of Mayor Frawley, but adjourned on account of the absence of one member.  On May 10 they again met at the mayor's office, together with the mayor and J. C. Gores, the city attorney, and formally organized by the election of Mr. Ure as president and Mr. Anderson as secretary.

The board had hardly organized before the commissioners were called upon to act in their judicial capacity.  On May 12, two days after the organization, the chief of police, John Higgins, suspended Patrolman Paul Thompson for sleeping during the period he was supposed to be on his beat.  On June 1 the board gave Patrolman Thompson a trial, found him guilty as charged and dismissed him from the force.  A second case of this nature came before the board on August 3, when Patrolman Frank Nugent was suspended by the chief for neglect of duty.  He was tried on August 12, found guilty and dismissed from the service.  During the summer and fall of 1897 the board met frequently for the purpose of examining members who were serving in the police and fire departments.  The examinations were conducted so as not to interfere with the regular work of the men.  On November 15 examinations had been completed and the respective chiefs of the two departments notified the board of the appointment of the men then serving, and such action by the chiefs was duly confirmed.  The men appointed were as follows:  In the fire department - Joseph Eldridge, assistant chief; James P. Welsh, electrician; John Hancock, James H. Looby, Thomas Wiley, M. F. Tibbitts, Willis E. Herron, James Sullivan, John Kjorstad, G. P. Childs, Frank Ferris, John Dougherty and Joseph De Mars.  In the police department - La Fayette Elliott, sergeant; Frank Harrington, John Taylor, George Wolf, T. J. Gonderzik, Frank Reinhart, Clifford Luce, Paul Branstad, John M. Gallgher.  The board on June 1 had elected George H. Daniels chief engineer of the fire department, and John Higgins chief of police.  May 24, 1897, Dr. A. D. H. Thrane was elected surgeon of the board and still holds that position.

The following citizen have served as police and fire commissioners:  M. C. Anders, 1897 - 1898; John Ure, 1897 - 1905; Frank McDonough, 1897 - 1904; Albert F. Schwahn, 1897 - 1901; George S. Long, 1898 - 1900; George H. Daniels, 1905 - 1912; David Drummond, 1904 - 1908; John C. Neher, 1905 - 1910; John J. Auer, 1901 - 1905.  Present commissioners:  Marshall Cousins, 1900 to date; Louis Running, 1907 to date; James T. Joyce, 1908 to date; John J. Auer, 1910 to date; John Huebsch, 1912 to date.

George H. Daniels, who was appointed to the board to succeed John Ire in 1905, died July 17, 1912, following an operation at Rochester, Minn.  Mr. Daniels, previous to his appointment engineer of the fire department.  Under his administration the department had developed into one of the best in the state.  John Ure, George S. Long and John C. Neher resigned from the board on removal from the city.  At the organization of the board, John Ure was elected as president of the commission and served as such until he resigned in 1905.  He was succeeded as president by George H. Daniels, who served until his death in July, 1912.  James T. Joyce then became president.  Matt C. Anderson, the first secretary, left office in May 1908, and was succeeded by George S. Long, who served until May 1, 1900, when he resigned his membership.  Marshall Cousins was appointed to the board as Mr. Long's successor and elected secretary, which position he has held continuously since that time.

The board, as first constituted, was made up of four members, but a law becoming effective March 30, 1907, increased the number to five members.  A still later law provides for a member of the City Council being a member of the fire and police board.  The council designated John B. Fleming for such position and he is ex-officio member of the board.  Since the first year of the board's existence there have been but few instances requiring the board to act in its judicial capacity.  In the spring of 1908 a controversy arose between the chief of police, Edward J. O'Brien,a nd the municipal judge, Joseph W. Singleton.  The judge filed charges against the chief but failed to press the charges before the board.  The chief replied by filing a report with the Common Council covering relations of the police department with the Municipal Court.

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