Patrol Wagon Struck by Rapidly Moving Engine




Feared That Veteran Policeman Will Die – Four Others Injured – Railroad Men Locked Up at Police Station


            The Cowart street deathtrap got in some awful work last night. A switch engine of the Cincinnati Southern railroad collided with the patrol wagon, and Hugh May, one of the oldest men on the police force, will probably die. Besides this officer four other men were hurt more or less seriously.

            Held as responsible for this serious accident and subject to a charge of murder in case of Mr. May’s death are A. C. Mulkey, Burt Richardson, John Grady, colored, and Randolph Clark, colored, all railroad men employed in the switch yard.

            Few wrecks have been more complete than was that of the patrol wagon, and few escapes could partake more of the miraculous than did those of the four men who received only scratches and bruises.

            The accident occurred at about 10 o’clock. Hugh May, the temporary driver, and the patrol wagon had been called to South Chattanooga by way of West Ninth street. As it returned up Cowart street with two prisoners and approached the crossings, May brought the wagon to a stop. The watchman, A. C. Mulkey, waved him across.


            No sooner had he fairly started than and engine running backward, attached to a string of box cars, struck the police turnout. It caught one of the horses and the front end of the wagon.

            Mr. May was thrown from his seat and he fell between the engine and the front wheels of the wagon. The engine was running according to the statement of several eye witnesses, at a rate of about eight miles per hour. Before its speed could be checked the engine had dragged patrol, wagon and horses, with the driver wedged in between, a distance of fully fifty feet.

            Inside of the wagon were two prisoners, Fritz Miller – a white man – and Charles Sutton – a Negro. They were both thrown out. Neither of them knew exactly how. At the door of the wagon was Patrolman Clark and E. W. Morelan, who had entered the wagon at Foust’s stock yards merely to ride to town. They were also thrown out and slightly hurt.


            The wagon was smashed until it was scarcely recognizable as the familiar “black Maria” that has done duty in the city for years. The well known gray horse that has been driven beside “Nig” for a year or more was also a victim of the wreck. “Nig,” with his characteristic good fortune, escaped without a scratch.

            The accident created great excitement. Its unusual character, having for its victim a policeman while in the line of duty and in his charge two prisoners, closely guarded within a tightly closed vehicle, attracted a big crowd.

            As soon as the engine backed away from the wreck and mass of broken bones and pools of blood it had created, everybody lent a hand toward the relief of whoever might be in need of help.


            Mr. May demanded first attention. He was at first thought to be dead. His face was scarred almost beyond recognition and his body was limp.

            Sharp’s ambulance rushed to the scene and the injured man, now found to be alive, was taken at once to Erlanger hospital. Examination there disclosed three broken ribs, a chest badly crushed, serious cuts on head and body and skull fractured.

            Drs. Baxter, Holtzclaw, Johnson, Duncan and Steele were summoned to attend him. At a late hour he was on the operating table and reports from the hospital stated that there was little or no chance of his recovery.


            When May had been removed from the wreck, attention was directed to the others. Miller, one of the prisoners, was found lying near where the wrecked wagon stopped, apparently unconscious. He was covered with blood and a second ambulance was hurriedly called. When he was examined at the hospital it was found that he was not seriously hurt. A bad cut in the face and head was the worst of his injuries.

            Sutton, the negro prisoner, was badly shaken up and frightened nearly to death. He was put into a cab and taken home.

            Patrolman Clark was on his feet directly after being thrown from the wagon, as was also Morelan. Clark was hurt in the leg – how badly he did not realize at the time. Morelan received several bruises and scratches in the face and head, and when he went home last night was complaining of serious pains in the chest.

            Chief of Police Moseley was early on the scene. He drove at a mad pace to the crossing as soon as the report of the catastrophe was turned in. The first thing the chief did was to order the arrest of every man in any way connected with the engine or the crossing.


            A. C. Mulkey, a married man of 51 years, was the watchman at the crossing. He was arrested on the charge of having given the wagon the signal to cross when the engine was moving in that direction.

            Burt Richardson was engineer. He was placed under arrest also. No railroader in the city is more generally known than Mr. Richardson. He has been with the C. S. for several years and has been in several accidents. It is said that he has some kind of superstitious fear of serving as an engineer and has served recently as such strictly against his will.

            Richardson was very much worried and was exceedingly nervous over the accident. When told that he might be held for murder in case May died, he nervously replied: “May is not dead yet.”

            Two switchmen, John Grady and Randolph Clark, were also arrested. All were locked up at police headquarters.

            On the register against their names and under the heading “charge” was written merely the word “hold.”

            It is the determination to make a test case out of this accident. What the charge will be if Mr. May should by any chance recover, was not stated. However, there is no doubt but that a charge of murder will be prepared against some or all those under arrest if the policeman dies.


            Hugh C. May has been on the Chattanooga police force for nearly twenty years. It would have been a full twenty years had he served until next April.

            His service includes periods that have tested the metal of police officers. He has patrolled when the city was dark and infested with the worst of criminals. He served during the summer of 1898 and often met with situations that would severely test any man’s courage. At all times he has proven equal to emergencies. Long service and many trials have rendered him gruff and severe in his manner, but he usually has had cause before resorting to violence in making an arrest.

            He has lived for years on Rossville avenue. He has a family composed of a wife and ten children.


            A surrey is now doing service as a patrol wagon, while the “black Maria” is out of business.

            Following the accident, a search which was made for the pistol belonging to Patrol Guard May proved unavailing. It was probably picked up by some one in the crowd which soon congregated. The weapon was a 41 Colts, of the finest make. Mr. May carried it with him for the first time last night. Before leaving on the fated call he was heard to remark that he had at last secured a pistol which suited him exactly.

            Mr. May was driving in place of Sam Light, the regular driver, who did not report for duty last night, giving as his reason that he was disposed. Had he been on duty he probably would have been injured in the place of Mr. May.

            Evan Hartman, foreman of train crew of engine No. 145, of the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis railroad, was arrested at the Western and Atlantic crossing at Market street on the charge of blocking the crossing. The arrest was made by Patrolman Conley.

            The officer claims that the train under Hartman’s control blockaded the crossing for over ten minutes compelling the ambulance which was conveying Mr. May to the hospital to wait until the train passed the crossing. Officer Conley claimed he ordered the man to open the blockade but all orders were disregarded. The ambulance driver also begged the train crew to let him by as he was carrying a man who was seriously injured to the hospital. No attention it is claimed was paid to the orders and pleadings of the officer and driver. Patrolman Conley then placed the man in charge under arrest.

The Chattanooga Daily Times Saturday, September 15, 1906




Death of Hugh May Causes Sorrow Among Police




Trainmen Put Under Bond – Officers May Be Kept on Duty Constantly at Crossings Hereafter


            As the result of injuries received in the collision between a patrol wagon and a switch engine of the Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific, at the Cowart street crossing on Friday night, “Uncle” Hugh May, affectionately termed “the grand old man” of the police department who was driving the patrol wagon at the time, died at 3:30 o’clock yesterday morning at Erlanger hospital. Around him were gathered Drs. Holtzclaw, Baxter, Duncan and Steele, who had labored valiantly through the night in a vain attempt to save his life. The telephone at the hospital was kept busy for hours by his fellow patrolmen, superior officers and friends, inquiring anxiously as to his condition, and hoping against hope for his recovery. In spite of his miraculous strength and iron constitution, his age and injuries were too much for human effort to counteract, and he sank to rest in the early morning.

            “Uncle Hugh,” as he was familiarly known by all of the department and by his close friends, at the time of his death was on the shady side of life. In his earlier days, and even at the time of the accident he was considered one of the most powerful men physically in the department and perhaps in the city of Chattanooga. Fear was unknown to him and he never failed to go where duty called him; no matter whether it was to quell the most disorderly crowd, or to arrest some desperate character he would walk in single-handed. During the past four years, rheumatism had made great inroads on his strength and had made him less quick and alert than he was in the days gone by. For this reason, Mr. May asked to be assigned to duty as patrol guard, which position he had occupied for the past three years.

            MR. MAY’S LONG RECORD

            Mr. May was born in Knox county, Tennessee, about fifty nine years ago. He spent his boyhood and early manhood on a farm about fourteen miles from Knoxville. He removed to the vicinity of Chattanooga about twenty-five years ago and purchased a team and wagon and engaged in the dryage of lumber. He continued in this occupation for about a year. He then removed to Moccasin Bend, where he again engaged in farming pursuits. While farming, Mr. May also taught a singing school near Moccasin Bend, and many of the residents of that district remember him in the relation of teacher with the greatest of pleasure. He remained in the Bend for about three years when he again came to Chattanooga and engaged for a short time in the draying business.

            On March 23, 1887, he became a member of the police force. At the time he was placed on the pay roll of the city three other men who are now with the force were appointed with him, and have worked side by side with him for the past nineteen years. These three who have grown old in the service of the city in the capacity of protectors are J. W. Woy, J. T. Fry and John Varnell. The latter left the force a few years after he was appointed, but was later reappointed.

            During his service in the police department Mr. May spent the greater part of his time in South Chattanooga, patrolling for years the beat along Montgomery avenue, where all violators of the law soon learned to know and fear him.

            During the nineteen years in which he had been with the city police force, despite the number of dangerous places in which he had been, he had never shot a single person, always relying on his strength and manhood. Many a man who has foolishly resisted when arrested by Mr. May, has felt and remembers a well directed blow from the fist of the patrol guard.

            Mr. May had been married three times and is survived by ten children, seven by his first wife and three by his last wife. Some thirty-five years ago he married Miss Minnie England of Knox county, Tenn. Will, Henry, Charles and Hugh May of this city, Strother May of Virginia, Miss Minnie May, who is now visiting in Louisville, Ky., and Mrs. Mamie Miller were the fruits of the first union. Mrs. Minnie May died about seventeen years ago in this city. Some fifteen years ago Mr. May married Miss Mollie Johnson. No children resulted from this union. About fourteen years ago Mr. May again embarked on the matrimonial sea and married Mrs. Tennie Keller. Three children, Maggie, aged 13; Frankie, aged 8 years, and Nellie, aged 6 years, survive this union. His last wife and a step-son, Cleve White, aged 21, also survive him.


            The funeral of the officer will be held from the residence on Rossville avenue this afternoon at 2:30 o’clock. The interment will be in Forest Hills cemetery, Rev. Dr. J. W. Bachman, pastor of the First Presbyterian church, will officiate. The following members of the local force will act as pallbearers:

            S. H. Bennett, John Woy, Joe Pogne, M. M. Broxton, Joe Cummings, H. A. Krichbaum, James Harris, Joe Anderson, N. Carleton, Will Burk, A. L. Clark, John Gorman, C. M. Rape, C. L. Barnett, J. T. Fry and Ed Boydston.

            The services at the house will be in charge of the police department and as many of the patrolmen as can attend will do so. The services at the grave will be under the auspices of the Woodmen of the World, of which organization he was a prominent member.

The Chattanooga Daily Times Sunday, November 16, 1906


Submitted by Dennis C. Wilson