Served: 33 years
1913 To January 17, 1939
William was born May 17, 1874, in Princeton, Butler County to John, a carpenter, and Henrietta Simpson. His father died when he was barely 2 years old and his mother when he was 14. William took a job as a carpenter and brick layer at the Coke Otto Company in Coke Otto (later New Miami).
In addition to the coke plant, William also served in a law enforcement capacity, probably as a constable and/or assistant constable, in Coke Otto and/or St. Claire Township since 1913. Constable Simpson, during 1922 and probably since 1919, also served as a Federal Prohibition Officer.
1923 and 1924 were bad years for the Simpsons. On March 1, 1923 his 2-year-old son, Howard, got hold of lye, ate a piece, and suffered terribly for months. He died on June 19, 1923 to the great sadness of his parents and 8 siblings.
Then, on November 19, 1923, Coke Otto Squire William Hanley was meeting with Constable Simpson in the Block House Café. The Squire and James Philpot of Manchester became embroiled in an argument which ended with Philpot shooting the squire, and Constable Simpson shooting and killing Philpot. Constable Simpson was charged with Manslaughter, a charge which would hang over him until February 1924 when he was exonerated.
Then, on November 23, 1924, Louis, his only other son, was a passenger in a car that wrecked and turned over, killing Louis instantly.
In his 12 years, Constable Simpson had seen much and investigated a lot of violence in the region, including murder investigations and arrests. Then, on June 20, 1925, while reading a search warrant on Augsburger Road in Coke Otto, Prohibition Agent Wilbur F. Jacobs was shot through the head and killed instantly. Five months later, on November 10, 1925, while Prohibition Agent Robert Gary, also while reading a search warrant, was shot through the neck at a café at 328 Court Street, 3 miles from New Miami, killing him instantly. Six months later, on May 22, 1926, while Constable Simpson was reading a search warrant to Edward Thompson at his home in Coke Otto, Thompson pulled a butcher knife and cut Constable Simpson’s neck. Thompson escaped, but was arrested a week later by Sheriff Luther Epperson. Constable Simpson survived.
By 1927, Constable Simpson was such an icon in Coke Otto, he was re-elected annually without any campaign expenses. By 1928, the leaders of the unincorporated Coke Otto determined to incorporate as New Miami Village at the beginning of 1929. On August 25, 1928, Constable Simpson filed to run for Marshal of the new village. He was elected and attended the village’s first Council meeting on January 2, 1929.
During 1931, Marshal Simpson decided to try for Mayor, and during November he was easily elected. He was re-elected in 1932. After some trouble with a deputy marshal being charged with assault for fracturing a boy’s head during an arrest, Mayor Simpson lost the election in 1933. For a year, he was out of politics. However, he was soon re-elected to Marshal.
His wife, Myrtle Simpson, contracted uterine cancer and died at 3 a.m. on July 10, 1938.
By January 1939, Marshal Simpson was still working as a carpenter and bricklayer at the renamed Hamilton Coke and Iron Company. His Deputy Marshals were Andrew Cain and Jerry Sowell. He had been serving his community for 33 years.
As the village of New Miami was incorporating in 1929, 9-year-old Hiram York of Hamilton was already a juvenile delinquent. He and a friend took a .22 rifle out of a house and into a wooded area where Hiram accidentally shot himself in the hand. During 1931, at 11, he ran away from home. On July 1, 1932, at 12, he admitted to four burglaries of the Horn Kraus Lumber Company.
By January 1937, at 16, York was a member of a Hamilton gang numbering 12 juveniles and 1 adult. On January 6, 1937, he was arrested with fellow gang members, Arthur Meyers (17) and John Frazee, (17) and with many items of property taken in numerous thefts from autos and shoplifting. All three were sentenced to indefinite sentences at the Lancaster Reform School.
They appear to have all been released within a year or so and promoted themselves to burglars. During a burglary at a service station in Richmond, Kentucky, in the summer of 1938, they stole a Luger Model P-08 .30 caliber pistol. Since then, they had taken turns carrying the pistol. On January 13, 1939, it was Frazee’s turn.
On the morning of January 13, 1939, Frazee, Meyers, and York – now adults – and a 16-year-old New Miami boy, Albert Helton, broke into the Spradling Café on U.S. Route 127.” The owner, Arthur Spradling, and his family lived in the house next door. The burglars were discovered by Arthur’s mother, Miss Marie Spradling. At 5 a.m., Arthur phoned Marshal Simpson.
Marshal Simpson called in Deputy Marshal Cain and then walked to the store; though his right arm was in a cast from a recent fracture. Cain responded in his car and within 1 block of the café, cut his engine and coasted in. He quietly met with Simpson then went to the back as Simpson went to the front.
Frazee was at the front as a lookout and as soon as he saw Marshal Simpson he started firing. Two bullets hit Simpson in the chest and casted arm. Marshal Simpson returned four shots before collapsing.
Immediately after, Deputy Marshal Cain saw Meyers, who was the lookout in the rear. Cain fired at him with his shotgun as he tried to escape. Meyers was hit in the wrist with a pellet, fell to the ground, rolled ten feet, and then got up again and ran away. The five disappeared in the vicinity of the Hamilton Coke and Iron Plant.
Deputy Marshal Cain rushed to the front and found Marshal Simpson wounded. Marshal Simpson said to him, “Well, they got me this time, buddy.”
Marshal Simpson was transported to Mercy Hospital in Hamilton, Ohio where physicians found a bullet just above his heart.
The burglars fled in a car and drove around aimlessly for a while. York discarded the pistol on Eaton Road. They took Helton home and then took Meyers to Covington where his arm was treated.
Simpson was reported in serious condition the next day, January 14, 1939 and in critical condition days later. He died at 6 a.m. on January 17, 1939 of a bullet wound to the left chest and lung with hemorrhagic infiltration and hemothorax of the left pleural cavity.
He was predeceased by his sons and wife. Marshal Simpson was survived by his daughters, Marie Waller, Margaret Miles, Mildred Green, Fern Simpson, Virginia Simpson, and Verna Dunown; 10 grandchildren; and 5 siblings. Funeral services were held at his home at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 19, 1939 with burial in Greenwood Cemetery.
State Highway Patrol and Sheriff Charles B. Walke launched a manhunt.
Helton, York, and Frazee were arrested by Hamilton Police on January 17, 1939 on a tipoff by Herbert Davis, Mayor of New Miami that Frazee had been much interested in a former robbery at the Arthur Spradling cafe. Meyers and York were known associates of Frazee.
After six days of interrogation, Helton broke while talking to his father in the office of Paul Baden, Butler County Prosecutor. When confronted with Helton’s confession, York confessed to Sheriff Frank Walke and County Investigator Frank Clements. Then Frazee confessed and admitted to having been the triggerman. Frazee then asked, “Why not tell about Meyers?” Meyers was arrested at his home and confessed. The .30 caliber Luger pistol was recovered on Eaton Road where York hurled it after the shooting.
The adults were charged with First Degree Murder and arraigned by New Miami Mayor Herbert Davis on charges of Murder on Friday evening, January 20, 1939. All entered formal pleas of not guilty and were bound over to the grand jury. The case went to the Grand Jury on January 30, 1939. On February 1, 1939, the grand jury returned indictments on the adults.
Helton was tried in Juvenile Court. On March 25, 1939 he was sentence to the Lancaster Reform School until his 21st birthday by Juvenile Judge Gideon Palmer. He served little more than 4 years.
Meyers pleaded innocent before Judge P. P. Boli. He was scheduled to plead to 2nd Degree Murder, but changed his plea. We do not know how he was convicted, if by plea or trial, but before April 9, 1939, he was sentenced to Life Imprisonment. He was paroled during 1954 after only 15 years.
York pleaded guilty to 2nd Degree Murder. On March 22, 1939, he was sentenced to Life Imprisonment. On May 10, 1947, he escaped from the London Prison Farm. He was found and arrested at 111 W. 3rd Street in Cincinnati by Cincinnati Detectives Harry Batter, George Rees, Lawrence Gagliano, and William Donovan. He was paroled during 1955 having served only 16 years.
Frazee was due to go on trial on March 23, 1939 before a three-judge court, but instead pleaded guilty to 1st Degree Murder. He was sentenced to Life Imprisonment without the possibility of parole on March 26, 1939. On February 28, 1960, Ohio Governor Michael V. DiSalle “reduced the charge” making him eligible for parole and was released after 21 years.
If you have information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding this officer or incident, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at Memorial@police-museum.org.
This narrative was researched and revised May 20, 2018 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Memorial Committee Chairman. All rights are reserved to him and the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum.