Edmonds History: Police reports from 100 years ago

In reading various books and articles regarding Edmonds 100 years ago, I have learned about the tremendous success of the town. Historical accounts document that in 1923, the first scheduled ferry runs across Puget Sound were established. The building of a grand art deco theater occurred, and lots of innovation in and around Edmonds was going on. It seemed like that period was the “Best Of Times.” But that made me wonder. What am I possibly missing?

So I went to the The Edmonds Tribune Review to see if it could enlighten me. I discovered that in 1923, the Edmonds’ police force consisted of only two officers, City Marshall W. H. Otto, and Deputy Sheriff Plymale.

What follows are some of their call-outs or cases as written up in The Edmonds Tribune Review in 1923-24:

Photo courtesy Craig Pullner

Chicken Thieves Nab Forty Chickens

Early Monday morning chicken thieves broke into C. W. Phillips chicken house and stole forty chickens. The thieves must have been professionals, says Phillips, as he and his dog Roscoe were sleeping on the porch less than fifty yards away when the theft occurred.

Shots Are Fired In Road Controversy

Fever pitch in the North Edmonds road controversy was evidenced when shooting is said to have occurred Saturday afternoon. No casualties were reported, however and some assert that no firearms were in evidence at the time.

A restraining order was issued in superior court and was served upon the parties concerned Saturday afternoon by Marshall W. H. Otto and Attorney O. Duncan Anderson. The order is returnable February 18th.

The controversy is over the right-of-way for residents along Second Street, plat of North Edmonds which was recently vacated by the county commissioners.

Side view of 1923 Ford touring car. (Source: Library of Congress)

Car Found Stripped

A Ford touring car was found Wednesday morning by Dewey Leyda, mail carrier on the Edmonds rural route, at the Alderwood – Meadowdale corner, stripped of everything that could be conveniently removed.

After he returned to Edmonds and notified City Marshall W. H. Otto, the car had been removed, either by the thieves or by authorities from Everett.

The license number was 19933, which records show to have been issued to J. H. Davis, 1013 State Street, Everett.

Robbers Enter Hotel Rooms

Monday night, after the family and the roomers had all retired, the Olympic View Hotel was entered by thieves. They went to the upper floors, entered several rooms occupied by guests of the hotel, and stole from them money, which is estimated to be about $25. Some of the guests were awakened by the intruders who talked and stated they were in search of a friend. The thieves left the rooms and the guests knew nothing of the losses till morning Tuesday.

To make a complete job of it, the prowlers went into the dining room of the hotel and prepared and ate a lunch, the remains of which were found in the morning by the landlady.

It is believed by those who have sized up the situation that the work was done by amateurs, as they used matches to light their way in the rooms instead of a searchlight, which is commonly used by the professional burglar.

The authorities have been notified, but as there was no clue on which to work, it is not probable that the lawbreakers can be brought to justice.

Car Is Damaged But Horse Unhurt

A bent fender and other slight damages were sustained by the Dodge touring car driven by Harvey Renn about five o’clock last night in a collision with a horse on which Howard Dent was riding at Fourth and Bell streets.

The horse was able to continue on his way, apparently uninjured.

Early Yost Stage/Bus. (Photo courtesy of Edmonds Historical Museum)

Stage Driver Is Hold-Up Victim – Fred Bacon Is Robbed on Sunday Night by Hold-up Men

Halted at the point of a gun on the Edmonds – Richmond Beach road near Woodway Park, late Sunday night, Fred Bacon, driver of the Yost Auto Company bus, was robbed of company funds amounting to about $25 and $13 of his own money.

Returning to Edmonds by way of Richmond Beach on the last run of the night, with no passengers, Fred was suddenly confronted by a man with a gun leveled on him. As he brought the stage to a stop and opened the door, another hold-up man confronted him, and he was relieved of the cash he had.

The robbers then disabled the bus by cutting the wiring and Fred was forced to walk to Edmonds to get assistance in bringing the bus home. The authorities are investigating.


Trespassing on the property known as the Konerup property on Bell Street is forbidden. Also the parties who took away the doors and locks may save themselves trouble and publicity if they return the same, as they are well known to the owner and the authorities.

Edmonds Jail Cell – permanent exhibit at Edmonds Historical Museum. (Photo by Byron Wilkes)

Seattle Paper Carrier Lodged in Local Jail

The district distributor for a Seattle Sunday paper was lodged in the Edmonds city jail for several hours, Sunday, after being found in an intoxicated condition in his car.

At about eight o’clock Sunday morning a Ford car, occupied by two men apparently asleep was seen standing beside the road on Fifth Street near the city limits. Marshall W. H. Otto was notified, and when he arrived upon the scene one of the men had disappeared. The other, however, was in such an intoxicated condition that he was unable to shift for himself.

The man was immediately placed in jail, and the car loaded with Sunday papers held at Colley’s garage. The newspaper was notified and a man was sent out to redeem the car.

The imprisoned man was the cause of a little excitement later in the day, when smoke was seen rolling from the window of the cell. Mr. Otto rushed into the cell, where he found the man enveloped in a cloud of thick smoke, calmly smoking a cigaret beside a fire kindled in the center of the room with a mattress and bedding. The man was released when officials of the newspaper paid for the damage and costs.

Gambling in Edmonds to Be Stopped Says Roscoe

County Prosecuting Attorney C. T. Roscoe was in Edmonds yesterday when he declared his purpose to clean up gambling in the county, starting with Edmonds.

He called upon Mayor M. C. Engels and City Marshall W. H. Otto while here, and said if the gambling continues in Edmonds, as he has evidence that it exists at the present, a raid will be made and apprehended parties taken to Everett to testify.

Mr. Roscoe went even so far as to declare that if the city authorities do not take more drastic steps to enforce the gambling laws he would make charges against them for malfeasance in office.

As construed by Mr. Roscoe gambling is any game of chance where anything of value is object, whether it be actual money or not. Candy and gum slot machines and the like, however, he does not construe to come under this head.

Seriously Injured In Delayed Blast – Ray Dehlberg Victim of Blast Wednesday Afternoon

Ray Dahlberg of Meadowdale suffered two fractures in each arm, many cuts and bruises and possibly the loss of the sight in both eyes, Wednesday afternoon, as the result of a blast under a stump which went off when he returned to investigate, after the fuse had been lighted.

He had set three charges of dynamite under a large stump, and when only two of them exploded, he thought he had failed to light the other, and approached the stump when the blast went off.

He was thrown to the side of the road where he was picked up by Mr. Carpenter, an Everett millman, and brought to Edmonds. As no doctor was available here at the time, the delivery truck of the Edmonds Hardware company was used to take the young man to the Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle.  He was accompanied by Sheriff Deputy Plymale and Carl Callahan.

Author’s note: Sadly, the following week’s newspaper reported that the blast victim had died from his injuries.

Accidentally Shot

While James Otto and Frank Parker were practice shooting in the City Park last Sunday, Eugene Johnson, a member of the picnic party was accidentally shot by Parker. The injured boy was taken to the Providence Hospital in Seattle, where the bullet in his leg was located by X-Ray and removed. The wound while painful is now thought to not be serious. The gun used is a .22 special. The authorities have ruled it an accident.

A still (Source: Library of Congress)

Still Found In Maplewood

In a tunnel 150 feet long and 40 feet underground, Edmonds police and a party including King County deputies discovered three stills with a total capacity of 400 gallons under the R.O. Phillips home in the Maplewood district, two miles north of Edmonds, Monday night.

Mr. Phillips, 33, arrested with two other men whose names were not given, was transferred from Seattle to the Snohomish county jail in Everett on Tuesday, where he is said to have admitted ownership of the elaborate distillery.

The raid was made on a tip from Seattle, according to reports. The stills were found to be in a partly dismantled condition as though being prepared for moving. It is believed that they had been in operation at least a year.

Phillips pled guilty to a charge of possessing a still and was fined $200 and costs by Justice Andrew Johnson, Wednesday.


Yost Garage circa early 1920. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

Thieves Crack Garage Safe – Tie Watchmen and Escape with $500 in Loot

Four or five masked bandits early Monday morning entered the garage of Yost Auto Company, tied and gagged the two men on duty, Chas. Arrowood and George Jones, blew open the safe and escaped with about $500 in cash and a Buick seven passenger touring car.

At about 2:30 in the morning the two men were confronted by four men with blue handkerchiefs tied over their faces below their eyes. At the point of a gun they were commanded to lie on the floor where their feet were tied to their hands and greasy rags found in the garage tied in their mouths as gags.

Upon the complaint by “Bud” Jones that the floor was cold, the robbers rolled him up in some blankets taken out of Ed Woodfield’s truck.

Before the work of tying the men was completed, one man began preparing the nitro-glycerin which was used to blow the door off the safe. Such a heavy charge was used that the door was thrown across the office tearing off the backs of two chairs in its path, through the plate glass window and almost out to the middle of Dayton Street.

Several neighbors heard the explosion but thought it to be the men working in the garage.

Before the robbers could make their get-away, Guy Temby, unaware of any disturbances, drove up to the garage to get some gas. He was immediately marched into the garage and tied up with the workmen.

Then, taking the seven-passenger Buick car used by the company as a hire car, the thieves departed in the direction of Seattle.

A few minutes after they had left the men succeeded in freeing themselves of the gags and by their cries attracted the attention of Gus Warner who was passing, and he released them.

Geo. W. Yost, manager of the firm, was summoned and he reported the robbery to the Edmonds, Snohomish and King county officials.

At about eight o’clock in the morning the discovery of the deserted car at the University stadium was reported. On the door was found written the number 495 which was divided by four.

No further trace of the thieves has been found.

Author’s note: According to historical accounts, Edmonds didn’t crack down heavily on gambling. The city council did establish a fine system for various forms of gambling if establishments were caught, but it appears that no serious attempts were made to shut down the gambling activities. Instead, the city seems to have appreciated the extra revenue garnered through the fine system.

There were multiple incidents reported of poultry thieves, elementary and high school break-ins and other attempts to rob at gunpoint the drivers of the region’s buses and stages.

— Article researched and written by Byron Wilkes. The research was aided by the Edmonds Historical Museum, The Sno-Isle Genealogy Society and the Lynnwood Library.

  1. Interesting how similar these incidents are to our present day incidents. My takeaway is dealing with the feeling of entitlement mixed up with having freedom. Robbing people, taking what isn’t yours, or using is all about “Me! Me!” Sounds like an underlying issue that humans have always dealt with and your research shows that it isn’t just “these times”, but humans who only think of themselves. More outside the box thinking to minimizing or deal with these problems?

  2. Thank you for your thoughts. There definitely are some similarities between the crimes of a hundred years ago and today. I have to admit though, that some of the means and methods that were used one hundred years ago made me laugh.

  3. Very well written and interesting article. Byron, between you and Betty, I am learning a great deal about this area where I have resided for many, many years! Thank you for your research.

  4. Nice Article Bryon. Just an FYI The Ray Dahlberg (which is spelled incorrectly) was my great uncle, and the tree stump they were removing was on our piece of the property. He was only 21 years old. Sad day!

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