Served: 8 years
April 13, 1841 to June 25, 1950
Peter Davison was elected to the position of Constable of the 3rd Ward on April 13, 1841. He was continuously elected to Constable every two years and lived with his wife on the north side of 5th Street between Main and Sycamore.
John C. Walker was born in Shelby County, Indiana, February 11, 1928. His family moved to LaPorte County, Indiana where he became prominent in Democratic politics at a very early age. Due to failing eyesight, during January 1849, Walker (22) traveled to Cincinnati to be treated – where his uncle, Judge Timothy Walker, was the editor of the Cincinnati Gazette. He travelled with a large Bowie knife on his person which was given to him by a friend in Indiana.
On June 18, 1850, Walker’s sight was restored sufficiently for him to attend the Van Amburg’s Circus that had set up in the vacant block bounded by 12th, 13th, Vine, and Race Streets. The event was very crowded and he left his friends, who were seated, to stand closer to the ring.
Also on the night of June 18, 1850, the circus had hired Constables Phillip Miller and Alexander Delzell to keep order at the circus. Between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. a significant crowd had formed along the ring – too close to the performers and blocking the view of the seated patrons. Walker was one of them crowding the ring and he had been told multiple times by multiple officers to not stand there and to take a seat. Constable Delzell was one of those officers. After telling the assembled to move back, he looked back and saw that Walker alone had ignored him. Then, on the way to another errand, he told Walker again to take a seat and Walker still stood at the ringside.
Finally, a third time, Constable Delzell ordered him back, he refused, and Constable Delzell grabbed him by the collar and pushed him back some ten feet. Walker put his hands to his bosom and Constable Delzell excitedly said, “You damned rascal! If you draw a pistol or a knife on me, I’ll kill you!” Walker continued to withdraw from a scabbard a large Bowie Knife. Constable Delzell saw it, clutched him, and the both fell to the floor. Constable Delzell, who was unarmed, punched Walker and both fell to the floor. There, Constable Delzell determined that he could better control him, but unknown persons pulled the officer up by his pants and Walker pulled the knife free and sliced Constable Delzell across the abdomen.
Upon seeing all this unfold, Constable Davison, with two other officers behind him, ran to the fracas. He rushed in, pulled Walker up from the floor, and Walker then stabbed him in the abdomen. Davison then tried to strike Walker with his cane, but other patrons interfered and Walker briefly escaped. Davison yelled, “Stop him! He stabbed or cut me!” Constable Delzell yelled, “He cut me, too.”
Two other officers, Constable Miller and Deputy Sheriff Charles Broadwell, stopped and arrested Walker.
Constable Davison was carried to the home of Nathan Marchant (later a Cincinnati Police Court judge), on Seventh Street. His wound involved his stomach, liver, and intestines. He died there on June 25, 1849.
Constable Davison left a wife, Elizabeth (Eliza), to whom he had been married for 21 years, and a son. The son drowned in the Miami canal the next year on May 21, 1851. Mrs. Davison lived alone after his death and worked as a nurse.
Constable Delzell lingered near death for many weeks, but he recovered.
Meanwhile, Walker was charged with Stabbing with Intent to Kill Constables Delzell and Davison. On June 26, 1850, Walker, while free on bond, was arrested again and Mayor Henry E. Spencer held a preliminary hearing. Mayor Spencer held him over for the grand jury on a charge of Manslaughter. The Hamilton County grand jury indicted Walker on a charge of Murder.
A.G.W. Carter prosecuted the case. Four attorneys defended Walker, but it might as well have been five. Fellow Democrat, Judge Warden, in charging the jury, all but directed the jury to acquit Walker – which they did “after a few moments” of deliberation, according to a local newspaper.
Within a year, Walker was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives. During 1856, he was nominated (and declined) to run for Lieutenant Governor of Indiana on the Willard ticket. During the Civil War, he joined the pro-slavery and pro-Confederate Knights of the Golden Circle (along with Jesse James and John Wilkes Booth). When other members were arrested, he fled to Cuba, then to Europe, where he studied medicine. In 1872, he returned to the United States and Indiana, practiced medicine, and eventually was appointed to head up the female insane asylum of Indiana. He died there in 1883.
We do not know where Constable Davidson is buried. If you have information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding this officer or incident, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at Director@Police-Museum.org.
© This narrative was revised July 6, 2016 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society Presdident, with research assistance by Cincinnati Homicide Detective Edward W. Zieverink III (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Historian. All rights are reserved to them and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.