Yester-Heroes: More growth – changing police terminology 

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Stories from the History of Nashua’s Police and Fire-Rescue Departments.

If you were a Nashua Police Officer walking a beat in the mid-1870’s, this is what you would have seen, looking north on Main Street standing just south of Park Street.

By 1872, Nashua had seen explosive growth for 50 years! Due to the increasing rail traffic, vagrants who “rode the rails” came to Nashua causing petty crime to soar. So much so that not only was the “House of Correction” in Nashua used (this would later be the Nashua Country Club) but miscreants were also sent to the Manchester Jail and the County House of Correction in Wilton. Some of the offenses seen on this report that had not be noted before are Truants, Escaped Convicts, Fornication, and Malicious Mischief. Total arrests resulted in fine payment total of $867.54

The highest paid men on the police department in 1872 were J.B. Foisie and J.W. Kendall at $765 per annum. (Note: $765 in 1872 is worth about $19,000 in 2023 dollars.) The lowest paid was C.T. Robinson at $148 per annum. It is unknown how many hours each worked to earn their respective amounts. By comparison, the City Marshal, S.H. Mordough, was paid $500 per annum. The department also noted in their Schedule of Property, 8 pairs of handcuffs, 8 revolvers, 6 pairs of nippers, and 21 silver badges. (Note: Nippers were an early form of arm restraints used by police, made obsolete by the modern-day hand cuffs.)

In the police report for 1873, City Marshal Mordough makes the following notation:

“The whole number of lodgers (vagrants) for the past year has been eleven hundred and ninety-one persons. Of this number, 768 were Irish, 251 Americans, 77 French, 58 English, 26 Scotch,  5 Blacks, 4 Germans, and 2 Swedes. This number were mostly tramps looking for work. They were provided with lodgings, supper and breakfast in the basement of the City Hall Building, at the expense of the city.” (Note: A meal for a single male vagrant usually consisted of cheese and crackers. Women and children were given something “more substantial” although exactly what that consisted of was never mentioned.) 

In 1874, E.P. Brown is again City Marshal. (He had been Marshal in 1872.) It is unknown, these many years later, how the rank and file of the police department viewed the constant changing of top management within the department but it had to be very disconcerting. During this period there was 557 people arrested including 377 “foreigners” and 180 “Americans.” It is unknown what the criteria was for determining “foreigners” from “Americans.”

By the mid-1870’s Nashua’s textile mills were running strong. Nashua Manufacturing alone was running eighteen-hundred looms. Mill workers could go shopping at any one of 40 grocery stores, all clustered in the downtown area. If a woman wanted a new dress, twenty-two dressmakers were listed in the city directory. If she wanted a new hat, there were eleven milliners. If one had a taste for music, there were twelve music teachers in the city. Despite a state prohibition on liquor, and the constant drumming by those women of the Temperance League, one could get a drink at any one of ten Nashua saloons, three of them right on Factory St. And there were ice cream parlors for those who enjoyed a lighter fare. 

By 1875 Thomas Banks was City Marshal once again replacing E.P. Brown. And again, the nomenclature changed regarding the terminology for police officers. The term “Special Police” was dropped in favor of “Patrolman.” The term Night Watchman was still used but now they were divided by “Regular” and “Extra Men.”

During this period there was 363 people arrested. Offenses that started to see more frequency included breaking and entering, adultery, fornication, bastardy, keeping a house of ill fame, noisy and disorderly house, attempted rape, truants, incest, fast driving, and avoiding a railroad fare. City Marshal Thomas Banks said that the extra Police and Watchmen was a response to a rash of burglaries early in the year, and as the spring and summer approached, police were required to quell rowdy men and boys on Sundays when they had a day off from the factories. 

This fiscal year the Police Dept. purchased an unknown quantity of badges for $19 and an unknown quantity of service revolvers for $66.90. 

Excerpted from “Nashua’s Finest: The History of Law Enforcement in Nashua NH” 


Yester-Heroes author Gary Ledoux grew up in Nashua’s Crown Hill area, attending Nashua schools and graduating from Nashua High in 1970. He attended NH Vo-Tech for a time, then moved to Amherst, then Manchester, and Weare. He served as a volunteer on the Amherst Fire Dept from 1974 to 1977. A career in the automotive business took him to Florida and then to southern California. After 48 years, he retired in 2017, moving back to Florida with his wife, Rachel, and two dogs. He has published seven books, including two about Nashua history, and has been a contributing editor or contributor to 10 different magazines. Gary can be reached at mayorclum@yahoo.com


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