During the early morning hours of September 10, 1852, Third Ward Watchman Stoddard entered the Blue Anchor Saloon, a troublesome bar very often frequented by criminals located on Front Street near Washington Street. As he entered, a man making a racket inside spotted him and ran from the establishment through a side door. Watchman Stoddard chased him to a patch of bushes, but lost him.
Watchman Stoddard came across Lieutenant Hazen, explained what had happened, told the lieutenant of his belief that the suspect was a counterfeiter, and asked to be relieved of standing roll call at the end of the shift so that he might search for whatever it was that the suspect deposited in the bushes. He would then go home and bring into the stationhouse the next night whatever he found. Lieutenant Hazen agreed.
A couple of hours later, about 5 a.m., a workman reported to Lieutenant Hazen that a watchman was found stabbed to death on Pearson Street between Third and Front Streets, which was very close to Watchman Stoddard’s home on Front Street. Lieutenant Hazen responded and found Watchman Stoddard stabbed in the abdomen and lying in a gutter. He had discharged his revolver once but there was no evidence that his shot took effect.
Watchman Stoddard was survived by a large family who was left destitute without him. His funeral was one of the finest and largest in the city to that time More than 800 police and firemen, both of which organizations he belonged to, escorted his remains to a cemetery.
Initially, a man identifying himself as William F. Chaffee (or Schee) and another man were arrested on suspicion of the killing. By September 13, 1852, police had determined that Watchman Stoddard was actively investigating Chaffee for counterfeiting and that he and others were due to meet Chaffee on the next morning. However, they were acquitted by the Mayor without an indictment due to a lack of evidence against them.
Eventually, detectives learned that the man that ran from the bar was Louis Dollman, a notorious counterfeiter. Later it was determined that Dollman was wanted also for a train robbery in the Village of Carthage. He was found in St. Louis, Missouri. When officers went to arrest him, he put up a fight and was killed in the engagement. They recovered the loot from the train robbery.
Watchman Stoddard’s murder was never officially solved.
Over the years, the Cincinnati Police Department had two listings – “John Strawther” in 1846 and “Joseph Stowder” in 1852 – which have been determined through intensive research by the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society to be one man, Joseph Stoddard or Joseph Stowder, who died during 1852. Newspaper accounts of the day additionally gave the watchman’s name as “Joseph Strowder” and “Joseph Strawder.” City directories list “Stowders” on Front Street where the watchman was reported to live. We may never know the actual spelling, but will continue to try to ascertain it.
If you have any information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding this officer, his family, or incident, please contact the museum director at Director@police-museum.org.
This narrative was revised September 7, 2012, by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society President; with significant research by Cincinnati Homicide Detective Edward W. Zieverink III (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Historian; Joyce Meyer, Price Hill Historical Society historian; and Donna M. St. Felix. All rights are reserved to them and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.