Our Police Protectors
History of New York Police
Chapter 20, Part 2

By Holice and Debbie


Captain Gastlin has vast commercial interests and the traveling public to guard. Hitherto he looked simply after the river fronts during the day time. Now he take care of nearly every pier and ferry day and night. The principal piers and ferries are:

Quebec Steamship Company

Anchor Line

White Star Line

Citizens' Troy Line


Lackawanna & Western R R Piers

Transatlantic Company

Cunard Lines

National Line

Guion Line

Inman Line

Ocean Steamship Company

State Line

Pacific Mail Steamship Co.

Fort Lee Boats

People's Line To Albany

Norwich Line

Albany Day Line

Mercahnts' Line

Pennsylvania Railroad



Empire Freight Lines

Old Dominion Line

Morgan Line

Hudson River Boats

Stonington Line

Erie Railroad

Desbrosses Street Ferry

Pavonia Ferry

Providence Line

Fall River Line

Clyde's Charleston Line

New York Central & Hudson River Railroad

Barclay Street Ferry

Jersey City Ferry

Mediterranean Boats

New Haven Transportation Co.

Pennsylvania Railroad

Philadelphia & Reading Railroad

Metropolitan Line

Cromwell Line

Long Branch Boats

Baltimore Transportation Co.

New York, Havana & Mexico Steamers

Lehigh Valley Railroad

Iron Steamboat Co.

Communipaw Ferry

East River:

Staten Island Ferry

North Shore Ferry

Bay ridge Route

Governor's Island Ferry

South Ferry

Hamilton ferry

New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Freight Pier

Electro Line

Ward's Havana Line

Morgan's Bristol Line

San Francisco Packets

Mallory's Texas Line

Wall Street Ferry

Fulton Ferry

Hartford & Glen Cove Boats

New Haven Line

Sag Harbor & Greenport Boats

Clyde Line

Bridgeport Boats

Central Vermont Railroad

Long Island Railroad

Catharine Street Ferry

Portland Steamers

New Bedford Propellers

Mediterranean Steamers

New York, New Haven & Hartford R. R

Hunter's Point Ferry

Roosevelt Street Ferry

One of the most notable members of the Steamboat Squad is Philip C. Bleil, whose service as a savior of human life have given him a world-wide reputation, and who had been the recipient of a dozen medals from different humane societies in recognition of his self-sacrifice and bravery.

Long before Bleil became a member of the Steamboat Police his coolness and courage in a desperate emergency had won him a reputation. He rescued more than a score of fellow-beings from a watery death. Many of these were cases of accident, but the majority belonged to the class of unfortunate women who seek surcease for their sorrow in the cold waters of the river.

Following is a list of work done by the members of the Third Precinct Police for the month of January, 1885:

Seven persons rescued from drowning after six P. M.
Two persons found drowned.
Fourteen accidents occurring to men employed on the piers, and cared for by the
Three arrests for felonious assault and battery.
Three arrests for petit larceny.
One arrest for grand larceny.
Two men, brought to this city dead, sent to Morgue.
One arrest for cruelty to animals.
One arrest for mutiny.
Twenty-six arrests for intoxication, assault and battery, and small crimes.
Two boys arrested for truancy, and restored to parents from other cities.
One large fire discovered by men from third precinct, and five lives saved.
One fire on East River.
Property taken from prisoners, found and taken from thieves, and restored to
owners, two thousand and one hundred and thirty-five dollars and eighty-two cents.

Honorable mention was made by the Board of Police of the meritorious conduct of Roundsman Thos. Riley and Patrolman Timothy Crogan for saving five lives at the burning of the steamboat St. John, January, 1885.

Previous to the organization of the Steamboat Squad another body of men representing the law was in existence, and still remains an efficient co-adjutor of the Steamboat Squad in repressing crime and bringing violators of the law to justice.

THE HARBOR POLICE.--At first the force consisted of but a few men, whose duty it was to patrol the river front (then much less in extent than at present) in rowboats. As the commerce of the port increased, and the wharves and piers extended northward, it was found that more rapid means of transportation were necessary, and a small steamboat, which was named the "Seneca," was built for the especial service required. This boat caught fire in some unknown manner about four years ago, and was totally destroyed. So furious and rapid was the progress of the flames that it was found impossible to save the records of the force, which extended over a period of many years, and were, consequently, of much interest and value.

A new boat was built immediately, and christened the "Patrol." When not actively engaged, it lies at the foot of Third Street, East River, and serves as the Headquarters of the River Police.

The duties of the Harbor Police are similar to those of the Steamboat Squad, with the exception that the services performed by the former are entirely upon the water. The Police boat is called into requisition whenever a fire breaks out upon the wharves or amongst the shipping, or in any of the streets lying adjacent to the water front. The crew are also called upon to quell mutinies, to arrest quarrelsome or insubordinate sailors, and preserve order generally amongst the vessels lying in the harbor.

The Harbor Police force was brought into existence on the fifteenth of February, 1758, but the service boats were not ready for use until the third of March following, the men being employed in the meantime doing patrol duty along the wharves. The river was so full of ice that it was impossible to use the boats with safety until the fifteenth of March. The number of arrests for actual crime was at fist small, yet the services rendered the shipping interests, intercepting smuggled goods, etc., from the start proved the great utility of the scheme. The boats were directed to overhaul and examine all boats found on the rivers after night; and in numerous instances the observances of this order proved useful. The Harbor Police, in a very short time, became an indispensable auxiliary to the land force. The Harbor Police (Twenty-fourth Precinct) was then in command of Captain A. J. Gilson.

The steamboat and boat's crew are under the command of the Boat Captain, who is responsible for the navigation, management, safe keeping, condition, and the perfect and complete cleaning of the steamboat, engine, boiler, fire pump and hose, crew's quarters, tackle, apparel, and furniture; and also for the action and conduct of the boat's crew.

The boat's crew, in addition to the Boat Captain, is made up as follows, to wit:

1 Pilot, at a compensation of $100 per month.

1 Engineer, at a compensation at the rate of $100 per month.

1 Assistant engineer, at a compensation at the rate of $85 per month.

2 Firemen, at a compensation at the rate of $65 per month.

3 Deckmen, at a compensation at the rate of $60 per month.

The Boat Captain is authorized to employ the pilot, engineers, deckmen, and firemen, subject to the approval of the Board of Police.

CAPTAIN E. O. SMITH, formerly of the Twenty-eighth Precinct, succeeded Captain Schultz in the command of the Harbor Police.

Room 4 is Superintendent Walling's office.

Mr. GEORGE HOPCROFT, Chief Clark of the Superintendent, has his office in an adjoining room. Mr. Hopcroft became attached to Police Headquarters in 1860. On May 1 of the following year he was made a Policeman, and attached to Superintendent Kennedy's office a Chief Clerk, a position which h e has worthily filled under five successive superintendents, namely: Jourdan, Kelso, Matsell, Walling and Murray.

SERGEANT NICHOLAS B ROOKS' office is in the same apartment as Mr.Hopcroft's. He was appointed a patrolman May 15, 1867, and assigned to the thirteenth precinct. He was in the Orange riot of 1871. On November 29, 1878, he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. His assistant is Roundsman Joseph A. Saul.

To those who are conversant with the working of this Bureau, with the tales of misery and despair that are daily reported, it becomes a matter of the greatest surprise how such things can be, and only overcome us like a summer cloud. The records of the book kept by Sergeant Brooks contain food and reflection for the moralist and the dramatist, contain material for tragedies deeper than Eschylus ever wrote. But in the majority of instances, family pride, or a regard for the good name of the lost one, or a felling prompted b y hope that in the course of time he or she may "turn up" all right, seals the lips of afflicted affection. However, the present writer, not being a moralist or a dramatist, but a plain reporter of unvarnished facts, must not indulge in such speculative philosophy. It is enough to say that we are dealing strictly with facts, and facts, too, that are stranger than the strangest fiction.

Sergeant's Brooks estimates that on an average six hundred persons are reported as missing at Police Headquarters every year. Of this number it is safe to say that fully four hundred either voluntarily return to their homes, or are accounted for in some other manner. A certain percentage of the remainder, for reasons best known themselves, bury themselves beyond the reach or knowledge of kith and kin, while the rest receive sepulture in unknown graves. The morgue gathers up the mutilated and unrecognizable forms of some of these. Whether they are the victims of foul play, had died by their own hand, or from accidental causes, except in rare cases, there is no means of determining. Many of the bodies found floating with the tide are, from time to time, identified by some peculiar mark, the texture of the garments, or contents of the pockets, which, but for these, the bodies would be placed among the unknown and pauper dead in Potter's Field. Bu the clearing up of this mystery in a great many instances only serves to create another and a more inscrutable mystery, by provoking the inquiry now such a one came by such a death. But this is a secret closely guarded by lips sealed in death, and consequently never to be revealed. Various and sufficient reasons are assigned for a large class of cases of mysterious disappearances. Generally domestic troubles, mental alienation, financial difficulties, blighted affections, or dissipated habits are at the bottom of it all. Young persons, too, of both sexes, whoa re dissatisfied with parental restraints, run away from home, and are numbered among the lost and missing. The following comparative statement of the ages of this shadowy six hundred has been gleaned from an official source: between fourteen and twenty years, one hundred; between twenty and thirty years, two hundred; between thirty and forty years, one hundred; between forty and fifty years, one hundred; fifty years and upwards, on hundred.

When a missing person is reported at Police Headquarters, the method or routine adopted is this:

The name and general description of the missing one are telegraphed from Police Headquarters to the several Police stations, notifying members of the force to institute a search for the person named and described in the dispatch. This is called a general alarm. The books containing the records of arrests and accidents are scrutinized; a slip containing a history of the case is given to the press reporters stationed at Police Headquarters, and they supply their papers with the news. If the case is deemed of sufficient importance, that is, if there are suspicions of foul play, or that the missing one has absconded, the matter is placed in the hands of the Detective office.

The Superintendent of Police also printed forms, with a list of the names of missing persons, to each of the Captains, instructing them to "ascertain whether the following named persons, reported as missing, have returned home or been heard from." This memorandum is made monthly, and is to be returned, with a report made opposite each name.

A description of the missing person is also furnished to the Superintendent of the Morgue.

In Rooms 5 and 6 are located the Detective offices.

Architect NATHANIEL D. BUSH has his office in a room adjoining. He has been Architect to the Department since 1862. He built, reconstructed or repaired the north end of the Police Headquarters, and the First, Fourth, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Fourteenth, Sixteenth, Twentieth, Twenty-first, Twenty-third, Twenty-fifth ("Broadway Squad,") Twenty-seventh, Twenty-ninth, Thirtieth, Thirty-first, Thirty-second, and Thirty-third Precinct Station Houses, as they now stand, and he is now engaged on plans for the new Twenty-eighth Precinct Station House. He is nothing if not thorough.

At the time that Mr. Bush came into the Department as architect, in 1863, he found the Police station houses in a very crude condition. But little had been done in the line of "modern improvements," and they had been run up, so to speak, to meet pressing emergencies, and without much, if any, regard for the comfort of the men, or the sanitary or architectural advantage of the houses. Mr. Bush went to work at once with characteristic energy, and in a few years our station houses began to put on very different appearances. The old ones were repaired and remodeled, and new ones designed; and thus the work went on, until to-day these station houses are models for all others over the United States. Mr. Bush, in his day, designed and built all the new station houses, and rebuilt the old ones. Some of the best specimens of his work are illustrated in this book, for instance, the First Precinct, Thirty-second Precinct, Fourteenth Precinct, Sixth Precinct, Twenty-ninth Precinct, Twelfth Precinct, etc.

JAMES MATTHEWS was appointed Police Commission March 11, 1881, to succeed General William F. Smith, retired.

ON May 1, 1882, he was re-appointed for a full term, that being the date when General Smith's term expired. General Smith's resignation gave Mayor Grace an opportunity to appoint his successor without confirmation by the Board of Aldermen. General Smith was originally appointed Police Commissioner by Mayor Wickham, May 1, 1875. He was removed by Mayor Cooper and Governor Robinson, August 5, 1879, under charges, and James E. Morrison was appointed by Mayor cooper to succeed him. Mr. Morrison resigned November 24, 1879, and John R. Voorhis was made his successor. In the meantime General Smith appealed tot he courts for reinstatement, and, on the tenth of June, 1880, his appeal was granted by the Supreme court, thus ousting Mr. Voorhis. Mr. Matthews was, therefore, the fourth man who had held a Police commissionership during a single term. Resigned May 9, 1885

Commissioner STEPHEN B. FRENCH, President of the Police Board, has his offices in Rooms 3 and 4.

The following interesting sketch of Commissioner Stephen B. French is taken from a publication, the "History of Suffolk County:"

"STEPHEN B. FRENCH was born in the town of Riverhead, Suffolk County, N. Y., January 16, 1829. His father, Peter French, was born in Montreal, Canada, and was of French Huguenot descent. His mother was a descendent of one of the original Dutch families who first settled in Orange county, N. Y.

"The parents of S. B. French removed in 1831 from Riverhead to Sag Harbor, where, until his thirteenth year, he attended school. He then entered the office of Captain John Budd, who as actively engaged in the whaling business, and with whom he remained some eighteen months. Afterwards he entered the employ of Thomas Brown, a very energetic merchant, who pursued the like business.

"The bewitching desire to sail on the sea impelled him to ship for a whaling voyage, which continued three years. On this voyage he visited Brazil, Chili, the Sandwich Islands, and many other island of the South Pacific. Returning home in June, 1847, in the ship "Aeasta," of Sag Harbor, he had resolved to follow whaling as the business of his life. His father died while he was on the voyage. An elder brother was following the sea. The urgent entreaties of his mother, and his reverence for her, constrained him to remain at home and engage in mercantile pursuits.

Within eighteen months came the startling news of the gold findings in California. On the eighth of February, 1849, Mr. French sailed in the ship "Sabina," in a company of ninety, from Sag Harbor, bound for San Francisco. Rounding Cape Horn, they reached that port August 8, 1849. Then commenced a life full of adventure, arduous, and changing fortune; working on Denison's exchange, ascending to the mines in a whaleboat, digging for gold, returning to San Francisco, and keeping a hotel there, running a vessel thence to the Sandwich Islands, projecting an express to the northern mines, starting a store in Marysville, making and losing in five years two or three moderate fortunes. He sailed for the Sandwich islands, and found there, as shipmaster, his brother, whom he had not seen for eight years; and returned home in the same ship, reaching Sag harbor in June, 1854.

As might be anticipated, the visit home strangely lengthened out from week to week, until his marriage with a young lady, pure, beautiful, true and accomplished, whom the angel of death early summoned to the land of the blessed. During these yeas Mr. French was engaged in mercantile life as on the firm of H. & S. B. French.

After the death of his wife, in 1865, he sought to forget his grief by interesting himself in politics and public affairs. He had bee a Whig, and always afterwards a Republican. In 1868, on the resignation of Joseph H. Goldsmith, as treasurer of Suffolk County, he was appointed to fill the position thus vacated. He was elected to this office in November, 1869, and re-elected in 1872, running hundreds ahead of his ticket. In 1874, as a candidate for Congress, he was defeated although carrying the district outside of the vote in Long Island City. In 1875, as a candidate for County Treasurer, he was carried down, in the overwhelming defeat of the Republican party, by the meagre majority of twelve votes, running nearly six hundred ahead of his ticket. In February, 1876, he was appointed appraiser at the port of New York by President Grant. He removed to New York, in March 1877; was appointed Police commissioner of that city in May, 1879; was elected President of the Board in the year following, and still holds the position.

Trained in the hard school of adversity, and subjected to conditions fluctuating and carried, tried in the perils of sea and land, on the shores of the Pacific and Atlantic coats, few men have gained the large experience in a long lifetime which has been crowded into the few years of the early life of this man. Mr. French has great rapidity of perception strong powers of concentration, large capacity of endurance, and almost intuitive knowledge of the material and immaterial facts of a case. He has extraordinary executive capacity, as well versed in human nature, with rare tact to adapt himself to changing circumstances in human affairs. He never forgets a favor or forsakes a friend. His sympathies are with the masses of mankind, and their aspirations for freedom, education and mental culture; his character is positive; his convictions are decided; his action is prompt and resolute, and sometimes impulsive; his great generosity and kind heart are best known to his intimate friends.

He is short in stature, well knit in frame, athletic in physical development. The dark, luminous eyes, that gleam under a capacious forehead, tell of the thought, penetration, energy and daring he is so well known to possess. There is great magnetism to his friends in his very presence, with something like unconscious defiance to foes. His positiveness is as attractive to the one as repellent to the other. As an organizer, his capacity to master a multiplicity of details, to judge of men as agents of conception, conjoin to fit him admirably for the position he now occupies as chief of the Commissioners of Police in the empire city of this continent, and as a power in any political party to which he may belong."

The term for which Mr. Henry Smith was appointed a Police commissioner expired on the first day of May, 1877; he died before the expiration of that time, and Mr. Joel B. Erhardt was appointed to fill the vacancy thus created. Had Mr. Smith lived, his term of office would have expired on the first day of May, 1877. Under the provision of Section 25, Chapter 335, laws of 1873, the successor of Mr. Smith or of Mr. Erhardt was entitled to the office for six years from the first day of May 1877, or until the first day of May 1883. Mr. Stephen B. French was appointed a Police Commissioner on the twenty-sixth day of May, 1879, succeeding Mr. Erhardt, who, up to this date, had continued to act under no other appointment than that by virtue of which he was to serve the unexpired term of Mr. Smith. Mr. Erhardt continued so to hold over until Mr. French's appointment, thereby holding into the term of his successor. On November 24, 1884, Stephen B. French was appointed for the term of six years from the first day of May, 1883, to succeed himself. Mr. McClave's certificate was for the balance of the unexpired term beginning with May 1, 1884, and ending May 1, 1890. The certificates had been duly entered on the minutes. A motion was made and adopted making Commissioner McClave Treasurer in place of Mr. Mason, and assigning the latter's rooms and his membership on the various committees to him.



Our Police Protectors, History of the New York Police, Published for the benefit of the Police Pension Fund, by Augustine Costello, Published by Author, 1885.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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