The Utah State Archives is pleased to announce that an assortment of arrest and jail record books from the Ogden Police Department have been digitized and are now available online for public access. These record books, dating from 1902 to 1941, document arrests made, and prisoners held, by the Ogden City Police Department. Arrest Record Books and Record of Prisoners Books include: name of person arrested, name of arresting officer, time and place of arrest, charge, and fine or punishment given. The Criminal Record Books and Prisoner Identification Records document individuals held by the police department and may include a prisoner number, mug shot, and the prisoner’s physical description. The two Criminal Record Books available were maintained by two different sections of the police department and contain nearly identical information and photos for the time period they both cover.
Thank you to the Salt Lake Tribune for covering the final Archives Month presentation featuring Robert Kirby.
By Janelle Stecklein
The Salt Lake Tribune
State historians on Friday launched an effort to collect law enforcement memorabilia Utahns might have stored away.
“It’s important to save our law enforcement history because it’s something being lost every second,” said Melissa Coy Ferguson, the manuscripts curator with the Utah State Historical Society.
She said many law enforcement journals, booking documents or other old items of interest are often tossed because people or agencies don’t know what else to do with them. Some are tucked away in attics or garages.
“A lot of times families don’t understand what they have,” Ferguson said.
Recently, as the Archives staff was working with Ogden City to review historic records from Ogden held in the Archives, we ran across some mysterious records. The records were in the format of 24 large glass negatives, 11” x 14”. They had been identified simply as documents from the Ogden City Police Department. In order to determine more exactly what the documents were on these glass negatives, the Archives staff made digital images of the negatives and transcribed the handwritten documents. It soon became clear that the documents were from a criminal investigation.
They date from 1911-1913 and include letters from a dark anonymous figure who signed one of them with the title “The Tall and Short Man”. The letters were addressed to members of some of Ogden’s leading families and included demands for money, arrangements for late-night meetings, and threats of harm. In addition to letters, there were handwriting samples comparing writing from the anonymous letters to known writing of a man named Joseph Henry Martin.
Further investigation into court records, prison records, and newspapers revealed the broader story. Joseph Henry Martin was the apparent ring leader of a gang that targeted wealthy Ogdenites (especially widows), stealing and ransoming expensive jewelry and eventually extorting money with threats of violence. At one point, when the gang felt their demands had not been met adequately, they planted explosives at the house of a member of the Eccles family.
At one of the late-night meetings, police and a Pinkerton detective showed up. A gun battle ensued and the detective and Martin were both shot. Martin escaped, but his injuries gave him away and he was arrested. The police gathered known examples of his writing to compare with the extortion letters. Handwriting experts from out-of-state were called in to testify. In the end, Martin was convicted of assault for the shooting of the Pinkerton detective and sentenced to 5 years in the State Prison. In a second trial he was convicted for robbery and given a life sentence. Despite the life sentence and having escaped from the prison for a time, Martin was paroled in 1920 and he eventually left the state for California.
While much of the story is revealed in newspaper reports of the time, the documents found on the glass negatives are perhaps the most interesting evidence of the events. The letters allow us to hear the voice of Joseph Henry Martin and give us the clearest window into his schemes and the workings of a criminal mind in the early 20th century.