Fred was born on July 31, 1844 in Prussia to Alfred (of Russia) and Isabella (of German) Karsch. The family immigrated to the United States, arriving in New York on January 29, 1864. By 1870 they had settled in Nashville, Tennessee. Fred moved to Cincinnati in 1878 or 1879 and kept a bar at 269 Vine Street. Within a year, he was working as a Patrolman for the Cincinnati Police Department.
On November 3, 1880, at 10 p.m. Patrolman Karsch and Patrolman Patrick Rainey were attracted to a crowd of people on the sidewalk east of Broadway on East 6th Street in a neighborhood known as Bucktown. They were being loud and disorderly, still celebrating the election of Republican James Garfield on the previous day. The officers dispersed the crowd and Patrolman Rainey followed two disorderly men as they left the area west on 6th Street.
As Patrolman Rainey was returning, he heard 36-year-old Charles Marshall, a former saloon keeper and well-known desperado and murderer, yell, “No God-damned police can make me disperse! I’ll shoot the first God-damned son of a bitch that touches me.” Rainey also responded.
Patrolman Karsch followed Marshall toward the curb and Marshall drew a British Bull-dog .42 caliber revolver and turned. Patrolman Karsch grabbed Marshall and Patrolman Rainey grabbed the pistol. Marshall began firing. The pistol had a short barrel and Patrolman Rainey had little leverage to hold it. While he held it with his left hand, he was striking at Marshall with a billy club in his right hand. Of the three shots, the first went wild and the next two went into Patrolman Karsch’s leg and abdomen and through his liver. Marshall yelled again, “God- damned police! Son of a bitch!” Patrolman Karsch said to Rainey, “Partner, don’t let him go. I’m gone.” Finally, a blow from Rainey’s club knocked the revolver from Marshall’s hand.
Patrolman Lawrence Crambert, seeing and hearing the struggle and shot, came to assist and arrived within a minute. Rainey told him that Marshall had killed his partner. Crambert went to Patrolman Karsch, who was still standing, and asked if he was hurt. He replied, “Yes, I’m killed.”
Patrolman Karsch collapsed and the officers carried him to Hellman’s drug store on the northeast corner of 6th Street and Broadway. Dr. Jacob Trush, of 140 Broadway, responded from his home to treat him. By then, Patrolman Karsch was unconscious. The doctor administered brandy, but with no effect.
Lieutenant Thomas ordered a teletype sent to the City Hospital for an ambulance. Bucktown was such a dangerous neighborhood that no one wanted to enter the area. Forty minutes later, when no ambulance had arrived, he sent for a hack which was almost equally as slow in coming, but he was eventually transported to the hospital.
Patrolman Karsch died at 5 p.m. on the next day, November 4, 1880. He left a wife and two children, Mary Anna Ellen Karsch and Joseph H. Karsch.
The funeral for Patrolman Karsch took place at 2 pm on November 7, 1880. For an hour his body lay in state in council chambers as 5000 people of all colors and conditions viewed the body. Over the casket was a silver plate inscribed, “Frederick Karsch – Died November 4, 1880 – Aged 36 years, 3 months, 5 days.” The funeral cortege left the City Buildings and went up Vine Street. He was escorted by two companies of police. Pallbearers included Captain Meyer, Inspector of Police, Lieutenants Borck and Thomas, Sergeants Thornton and Robinson, and Patrolmen Webb and Rainey. The hearse carriages contained the Mayor, Chief of Police, and their clerks. He was buried without a grave marker in Vine Street Hill Cemetery.
The Hamilton County Prosecutor on November 23, 1880, announced that a Grand Jury had ignored the Marshall case deciding there was insufficient evidence upon which to find a true bill against him. On December 11, 1880, Marshall responded to the office of the Police Chief demanding the return of his revolver. He was arrested for carrying the weapon concealed on the night he murdered Officer Karsch. The disposition of the case is not known. One year later, he killed another man and apparently no justice was meted out then either.
During the primaries for the 1883 election, Marshall wanted his name on the Republican ticket. His name was not listed and he blamed his would-be opponent, Albert Anderson. On the date of the primaries, August 15, 1883, Marshall caused a ruckus and again pulled a revolver. Before he could use it, Anderson stabbed him with a pocket knife. Marshall died on the way to the hospital.
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 on October 31, 2014 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society President, with research assistance and information from Joyce Meyer, Price Hill Historical Society Volunteer. All rights are reserved to them and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.