Shot in the Line of Duty, 1906, George J. Hanlon

Oregon City Enterprise, April 27, 1906

NIGHT OFFICER HANLON MURDERED

Night police officer George J. Hanlon was fatally shot at 3:20 o’clock Tuesday morning by a burglar whom he was attempting to arrest. Following the shooting a special electric car was procured and the wounded man was placed aboard en route to a Portland hospital. Hanlon died before Milwaukie was reached and the body was brought back to this city and placed in the morgue where an inquest was conducted by Coroner Holman.

About 3 o’clock Tuesday morning, Frank Trembath and other fishermen were returning from the river, discovered a burglar in the act of ransacking the confectionery store of J. E. Wassom. They notified Officer Hanlon, but before the store was reached the burglar had left the building, going towards the depot yards. Pursuit was given and the burglar was traced to Water Street when Hanlon and Frank Trembath undertook the capture of the desperado. Going around the block, the two men met the burglar simultaneously. Approaching him, Officer Hanlon informed the fellow that he was under arrest. Immediately the burglar opened fire with a 44-calibre revolver that he carried in his right hand pocket, shooting two times, both bullets lodging in Hanlon’s abdomen or intestines. Being unarmed, Trembath ran, whereupon the burglar fire three times at the fleeing man, one of the bullets coming dangerously close to Trembath’s head. The burglar then disappeared.

Although mortally wounded, Officer Hanlon walked a block distant to Main Street and it was then that a special car was summoned from Milwaukie. Before he died, Hanlon gave a good description of the murderer, whom the officers know is Frank Smith, who escaped from the municipal court room at Portland the day before. The description of the murderer by Trembath, who accompanied the dead officer, tallies with that of Hanlon and that furnished by the Portland police who requested the Oregon City officers to be on the lookout for the escaped man. A man answering Smith’s description is known to have been in this city early Monday evening and the officers were looking for him.

Tuesday afternoon Coroner Hanlon conducted an inquest, the jury finding that the deceased came to his death from gunshot wounds purposely inflicted by an unknown man. Dr. H. S. Mount performed a postmortem examination that revealed that the officer was shot twice through the intestines, either one of which would have proved fatal.

Mayor Caufield early Tuesday authorized the offer by the city of a reward of $250 for the arrest, dead or alive, of the murderer. The following is a description of the man who did the shooting; Height 5 feet 9 inches; aged about 28 or 30 years, smooth shaven, dark complexion; dressed in salt and pepper coat and vest, black pants with striped black shirt, with light necktie with pearl stickpin. The murderer may have three watches – two ladies’ gold filled hunting case watches and one gent’s silver open-face watch – the product of his burglary of Wassom’s confectionery store.

Some time Monday night the grocery store and post office at Oak Grove were entered and ransacked and it is possible that this burglary may also be the work of Smith.

The authorities have been unable to find the slightest trace of the murderer who was last seen in the vicinity of the Southern Pacific depot. It was reported here Tuesday evening that a man supposed to be Smith, was surrounded in a warehouse near New Era, but this rumor proved unfounded for upon searching the building it was found to be entirely deserted.

Officer Hanlon was aged about 50 years and had been a member of the city police force for one year. He came to Oregon City two years ago from Chicago, where for eight years he was employed as a guard at the Bridewill. He was considered a careful and fearless officer, conscientious and faithful in the discharge of his duty. Besides his wife he leaves one young son.

Funeral services over the deceased officer were held at St. John’s Catholic Church Thursday morning and interment was made in the Catholic cemetery.

Footnote: The following day, Saturday April 28th, a posse located Smith at Woodburn. In attempting to capture Smith, Clackamas County Sheriff John R. Shaver was shot and killed as was Woodburn resident O. D. Henderson. Smith again escaped. On May 1st he was spotted near the railroad tracks between Canby and New Era by New Era resident David McArthur. He notified Oregon City that he was watching the suspect and requested assistance. More men arrived within the hour and according to McArthur, the posse threw several lit sticks of dynamite into the tall grass where Smith was concealed. After the explosion McArthur, a Civil War veteran, heard several gunshots and was advised that Smith had been killed.


The first payment to George Hanlon as “Special Police” was recorded in the April 5, 1905 City Council minutes – a partial month at $36.00

From the May 2, 1906 City Council meeting:

  • The Council unanimously approved issuing a Check to Mrs. Mary Hanlon for Officer Hanlon’s full April salary, $60.00.

Whereas George J. Hanlon, formerly Nightwatchman of Oregon City, was always a faithful officer, and was always found at his post of duty, and whereas said Geo. J. Hanlon while in the faithful performance of his duty as said officer, was brutally shot down and killed by one Frank Smith on April 23rd, 1906.

Now therefore be it resolved by the Council of Oregon City, in regular session assembled, that they hereby express their appreciation of the faithful performance of duty by said officer Geo. J. Hanlon during his official career, and that said Council and each of the members thereof hereby extends to the widow and family of deceased their sincere sympathies.

And be it further resolved that a copy of this resolution be spread upon the official records of Oregon City and that another copy thereof be published in the city papers and that an additional copy be furnished the widow and family of Geo. J. Hanlon.

Hon. E. G. Caufield, Mayor

Councilmen Present: Wm. Andresen, Henry Brandt, M. Justin, A. Knapp, W. R. Logus, E. P. Rands, D. C. Williams.

Absent: J. N. Harrington, H. E. Straight.

  • Upon motion the Recorder was instructed to extend to the Oregon Water Power & Railway Company the thanks of the Council for said company’s furnishing of a special car free of charge April 23, 1906 for the conveyance of Nightwatchman Geo. J. Hanlon to the Portland Hospital after he was shot by Frank Smith.

The following payments by the City were approved in the June 6, 1906 minutes:

  • R. L. Holman, funeral expenses for Geo. Hanlon, $77.50
  • E. G. Caufield, ambulance for Geo. Hanlon, $3.00

Oregon City Courier, November 23, 1906

  • The City Council held a special meeting Wednesday night and Mayor Caufield appointed Councilmen Knapp, Andresen and Justin a special committee to canvass their respective wards with the object of raising money by subscription for the relief of the widow of Policeman George Hanlon, who was killed by Desperado Frank Smith, while on duty. Mrs. Hanlon is in rather straightened circumstances and the mayor will also confer with the city attorney to see that the city can legally make an appropriation from the general fund for her relief.

Oregon City Courier, December 14, 1906

  • Councilman Albert Knapp is circulating a subscription paper for the relief of the wife of the lat Policeman Hanlon, who was killed by Deperado Frank Smith. More than $150 has been subscribed.

From the December 12, 1906 minutes:

  • Upon motion Councilman A. Knapp was appointed a committee of one to present the money recently contributed by citizens to Mrs. Mary Hanlon, the same to be presented to her before the coming Christmas.
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