In the Line of Duty: Policeman George Kendall

State marker remembering Policeman George Kendall. Upper right – Kendall’s grave in Lake View Cemetery

I’m fascinated by historical markers.

On the way to Lake View Cemetery, I made a stop at the corner of North Main and Harrison Streets in Jamestown to read the markers that were nearby. The first one did not capture my attention, but the second one did. The marker, which stands only a couple yards from the Chadakion River, marks the location where Policeman George Kendall was shot and killed.

Getting back in the vehicle, I did a quick internet search and discovered he was also buried within the grounds of Lake View Cemetery. After making a stop at the graves of Grace Galloway and Lucille Ball, I went in search of George Kendall’s grave. While I did not have a lot to go on, I was able to quickly find his burial location and paused at his grave to pay my respects to the fallen officer – the only Jamestown Police Department Officer to be killed while on duty. Note: Other stops in Lake View Cemetery can be found here: The Lady in Glass and Lucille Ball.

Policeman Kendall had only been on the police force a little over a year, when he and his partner, James Brown, responded to the sound of gunshots at the Shaver Building, which once stood where the marker now stands. When they arrived at the Shaver Building on June 18, 1915, they could not have imaged what they were walking into. A drunk Fred Shaver, who was forty-one at the time, had murdered his father, Hudson, and stepmother, Ruth, aged sixty-seven and twenty-seven respectively.

When Hudson and Ruth began courting, it caused tension between Fred and his father. The Buffalo Evening News reported Fred had publicly proclaimed he would kill his father and his bride to be. Fred’s reason was their relationship was disgracing his mother’s memory – Orlinda, Fred’s mother, had passed away in 1913.

Two weeks before the shooting, Hudson and Ruth had left Jamestown and traveled to Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania and while there, the two were married. When they returned to Jamestown, Fred’s anger boiled over and his threats became louder and more common. Sadly, the Buffalo Evening News records “those who heard did not believe he would actually carry the threats to execution.”

What pushed Fred to do the unthinkable is not clear. Fred’s motive, proclaimed very loudly and publicly, was the disgrace of his mother’s memory. However, local newspapers claim Fred’s fear of loosing his inheritance was the motivation behind his actions. Hudson has amassed a small fortune and the marriage meant Fred was not going to get all the properties his father owned.

Another theory has appeared in modern articles suggesting Fred had also been in love with Ruth. She had ignored his advances and instead married Fred’s father, causing the increased tension between the father and son.

The Buffalo Evening News reports in the June 19, 1915 article another reason that may have caused Fred to snap – Ruth’s past. Less than a year before she was involved in a scandal that had both her and a Jamestown lawyer arrested. Although the scandal had died down, Ruth had recently been engaged to another man during the same time she was dating Hudson. The unnamed young man Ruth had been engaged to had contacted authorities to recover some of his jewelry she had taken. Fred, though he was a known drunk, could have viewed his father’s marriage to Ruth as an insult to the family name, which may have been the reason he objected to it.

That fateful day, an argument broke out between Fred and Hudson. While it is not known exactly what happened, it is believed that Ruth objected to Hudson giving Fred money. Fred responded by shooting Ruth, killing her instantly. Fred then turned the rifle on his father and shot him twice. Hudson managed to get out of the room, but collapsed and died in the stairwell.

Responding to the sound of gunfire, Kendall arrived at the building and entered it while Brown waited outside. Kendall was greeted by the sight of Hudson lying dead on the stairs. Stepping around the body, Kendall continued up the stairwell. At the top of the stairs, Fred ambushed Kendall, fatally wounding him. Kendall started back down the stairs, but tripped over Hudson’s body and fell down the stairwell – he died before anyone could get to him. Kendall was just twenty-four years old.

Fred, who had barricaded himself in the second story room, would appear in the window and yell at the large crowd – between two and five hundred – gathered outside. Knowing the situation could easily become worse, orders were given for policemen to take position and fire upon Fred the next time he came to the window.

When Fred next stepped up to the window to yell at the crowd, police shot and killed him. The newspapers state Fred had committed suicide in what is now referred to as “suicide by police.” Fred’s death was considered a justifiable homicide.

Services for Kendall were held at his home in Jamestown and drew a large crowd of mourners, who accompanied the fallen officer to the cemetery. Kendall left behind a wife – they had been married less than a year. The Kendall Club Police Benevolent Association, the Union representing Jamestown Police Officers, was named in his honor.

I finished paying my respects to the fallen officer before leaving him to rest among the stones of Lake View Cemetery.

Note: A story that I’ve read in a couple places, but have not been able to determine its credibility is: when Kendall and Brown arrived on the scene, they knew one had to wait outside to watch out for responding officer. They flipped a coin to determine who would enter and who would remain outside. Losing the toss, George entered a dark lower hallway and began to ascend the stairs. This account has been repeated, but in the initial newspaper reports, I have not encountered this story.

In the aftermath of the triple murder-suicide, Hudson and Fred were also buried in Lake View Cemetery. Compared to Officer Kendall’s funeral, which was attended by many of Jamestown’s residents, the father and son were quickly and quietly buried in the family plot. Ruth’s body was sent to her family in Steamburg, east of Jamestown, where she was buried with family members.

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