of the Mobridge Police Department...
Early Law Enforcement
for help usually ring out in any new community. And the response
inevitably is organization for protection against the disaster which
fire and crime threaten. Sometimes, however, this shaping-up occurs
simultaneously with "locking the barn after the horse is
Mobridge's "horses" were not actually
"stolen" before police and fire protection
were inaugurated - although, let us say "the joint had been
cased" ...with a sizable monthly railroad payroll holding out
alluring enticements, and lots of grass and lots of frame building
just waiting to be touched off by a spark.
Mobridge was not much different in law enforcement
problems from any other frontier settlement when the town sprang up
around 1906. And its marshals and constables, who enforced the
early-day laws, gradually evolved into today's police force.
Dekker was one of the earliest known peace officers in Mobridge,
teamed up with A. E. Flick, who was a justice of the peace. The
first person ever arrested in the new town in 1907 was a cowboy who
rode his horse into one of the four "blind pigs" (a term
used in the early 1900s for a bar or lounge) that were operating in
Mobridge before the sale of liquor became legal.
The cowpoke was fined five dollars, with Dekker, the
arresting officer, and Flick, the J.P., splitting the fine, as was
customary in frontier towns. That partnership between law and order,
typified by the justice and the cop, helped maintain decorum in a
community which tended toward disregard for the law.
Each blind pig had an orchestra playing every night,
including Sundays, while most of them had gambling halls in the rear
with dice, roulette, poker and Black Jack tables. On pay days, the
town swarmed with workers out to live it up and those were the only
days when the lone policeman would be busy.
"Burglars battered up the door of Comstock's
warehouse last evening in an attempt to gain entrance, but
failed," reported the Mobridge News on July 29, 1910. "If
such things are going to become common, someone will have to begin
to agitate things so we will have a night police."
Whether or not this comment served as the impetus, a
"night watchman" empowered with police functions thereupon
went on duty.
"Revenuers" - Mobridge-style - are these
representatives of law and order, around 1917.
The kegs seen in the foreground of the picture to the left had been
seized as evidence in an illegal liquor trafficking deal, and their
contents poured off forthwith. The only upshot of that deed was that
the case was thrown out of court for lack of evidence. Seen
in the photo, left to right, are Chief of Police Dan House, Captain
Guy P. Squires, Chaplin of Camp Pontis (and guiding light behind the
establishment of the "Mobridge Purity League"), Judge J.
G. Vawter, and Police & Fire Commissioner Orson Clark.
Heads of the Police Department
The first actual Town Marshal was A. W. Rowlee, who
served in 1907. Jake Busta succeeded him as the first Chief of
Police in 1908, when Mobridge was organized as a town.
Chief Busta dressed in a trim blue uniform to show
he held authority in the booming town.
Other men who headed the Mobridge Police Department
were John Tracy (1909-1910), E. E. Leech (1911), William O'Connor
(1912-1914), L. H. Devine (1915-1916), Dan House (1917), Phil DuFran
(?), Al Anderson (?), Frank Cory (?), John Rogers (1929-1930), John
Byrne (1931-1932), A. S. Hagen (1933-1934), George Erbe (1935-1937),
Harold Johnson (1938), J. L. Caldwell (1939-1944), R. L. Horn
(1945), L. A. Barnes (1946), John "Jack" Hand (1947-1959),
Ed Herman (1960-1963), Philip Erdahl (1964), Kenneth Hlavinka
(1965-1968), James Spiry (1969-1970), Dennis Biegler (1971), Kenneth
Hlavinka (1972), James Spiry (1973-1975), Roy Taylor (1976-1977),
Tim Kwasnieski (1978), William "Brooks" Johnson
(1979-2004), Michael E. Nehls (2004-2012), Justin Jungwirth
H. (Jack) Hand was intimately connected with both the police
department and fire department. He served for many years as both the
Fire Chief (1919) and the Chief of Police (1947).
A May 19, 1911 news item records that the
policeman's salary was being raised to $65 a month. Police officers
in 1956 were paid $256 a month.
A 1961 community survey reported that the Mobridge
Police Department consisted of six full-time police officers. The
employees included one chief, one sergeant, four patrolmen and one
matron on call. Clean, modern jail facilities were provided with
four cells having the capacity of 28 prisoners - 24 men and 4 women.
May 14, 1967, Mobridge's first Civil Defense Auxiliary Police class
graduated in special ceremonies in the City Auditorium. Badges were
presented to the officers by Police Chief Paul Hlavinka.
here to view more MPD historical photos
If you have or know of anyone who has
any historical information about the Mobridge Police Department that
could be displayed on this section of our site, please email the