RUPERT – Somebody broke into the county jail.
The only thing missing was a lot of booze lawmen took away from bootleggers days before. The only witness to the crime was one drunk prisoner so soused he couldn’t name the men who had broken in. Shortly after, the Sheriff, two attorneys and the county clerk were arrested for the crime. And then the prosecution, for some unexplained reason, dropped the charges.
Later that year thieves broke into the Rosecrans Meat Market on the Square where they stole $10. Days later, the same group broke into Frank Scherrer’s Acequia store and got away with three cents.
Such is what law breakers were up to in 1913 when Rupert created its police department. In April of that year, the city appointed Fritz Endter to serve as the police chief and he did so for the next 20 years. At one point he was the only police officer in the community. He carried with him a “black jack” to help make bad guys behave. By the 1920s a gentleman by the name of Hoopes served as the night patrolman and a few years later the city hired J.D. Benson to also serve as a night patrolman.
To honor these first police officers, the Rupert Police Association is asking residents for any information and pictures about those men who served during the past 10 decades and especially those who served during Rupert’s beginnings. Lt. James Wardle is helping to oversee the compilation. The culmination of that research will result in ongoing events to honor those men in 2013.
“We thought it would be kind of special to do the 100 year celebration of the police department for the city of Rupert,” he said. Wardle got the idea for a commemoration during the 2006 City of Rupert’s 100th celebration where he read that the city formed its police department in 1913.
After Minidoka County Museum officials learned about the upcoming anniversary, they created a Rupert Police centennial display. Inside the display are pictures of Endter. It also shows pictures of law enforcement after they shut down a moonshiner’s operation. It includes some of the equipment used to fight crime.
While early law enforcement officers didn’t have much in the way of technology, their biggest asset was people, Wardle said. Even today with instant communication, cell phones and DNA testing, you won’t get very far unless someone is willing to talk.
“In small communities everybody knows everyone. A lot of the police work is because of the citizens, and so I’m sure it was the same thing during that time - word of mouth. That’s how things got accomplished,” he said.
Minidoka County was truly the Wild West prior to 1913, and numerous murders were reported back then. For some reason, the old Rupert Pioneer didn’t make mention of any homicidal incidences throughout its entire 1913 issue. Yet, for years following, the paper reported law enforcement repeatedly hauling bad guys off to jail. In one case it reported a man being released from prison after having served 12 years of a life sentence for murdering a neighboring farmer over water rights. Originally sentenced to hang, the man eventually wound up in an insane asylum.
“Warden Snook informed the board that the murderer is suffering from softening of the brain,” reported the Rupert Pioneer.
In 1915, a Rupert Hardware salesman became so incensed after a Minidoka City woman rebuffed him, that he killed them both. Three years later a sheriff was removed from office after he put aside “love of the country and honor for the flag” by arresting three men for “seditious utterance.” It wasn’t clear what had been said but it may have had something to do with freedom of speech.
“They (sheriff’s deputies) cannot reasonably expect the unbiased man or woman with real American blood coursing through their veins to consider the incident lightly,” wrote the Rupert Pioneer.
Five years later, during a contentious election year, someone threatened to burn down the newspaper office.
“A dastardly deed was ever conceived in the mind of some drunken mongrel of a cur,” the paper reported without specifying who the “cur” was.
Its stories like these that the police association is looking for and to get those from the descendants of the men who hunted the criminals would add to the celebration. In the meantime, the police association is planning its third annual “Summer in the Park” scheduled Saturday, June 18, on the Square. Craft booths will be set up and raffles will be held.
“It’s to bring the community together. It’s a chance for the community to meet the police offers and have a good time,” Wardle said.
If you have any information about past Rupert police officers, stories or photos contact the Rupert Police Department at 434-2330.