In the Line of Duty: Sergeant Mark Prynn

Grave of Sgt. Mark Prynn, IOOF Cemetery, Salisbury

I arrived at the IOOF Cemetery in Salisbury to pay my respects to a fallen police officer who rests among the stones of the sacred piece of land. Entering the cemetery, I made my way slowly through the cemetery, scanning the stones for the grave I sought. My father suddenly announced he had spotted the tombstone a short distance from the roadway.

With nobody around, I parked on the roadway and walked over to the stone. The top was marked with a masonic emblem and below was the announcement he was born in Cornwell, England. At the vert bottom of the memorial it was noted he had been a sergeant for the Pennsylvania State Police, Troop C. Prynn was a rising star of the police force, but found his career cut short due to a tragic accident.

Born November 19, 1879, at Tywardreath, England, Mark Anthony Prynn served as a police officer in London before joining his family and immigrating to the United States in 1903. Two years after arriving in the United States he was naturalized at the Somerset County Courthouse. During his time in Somerset County, the family lived in Elk Lick where he found work mining coal.

In March 1905, Prynn was elected as a Somerset policeman by the Somerset Council. On December 15, 1905, at the age of twenty-six, Mark was enlisted by Captain William P. Taylor in Reading as a member of Troop C. He was promoted to Sergeant on July 18, 1907. The Mount Carmel Item described Prynn in an August 3, 1907 article as being “of medium height and slender build, but he is a bunch of brain and energy and courage – just the kind of a man needed in a crisis.”

The crisis the Mount Carmel Item was referring to was Prynn’s first major case as Sergeant with the arrest of fourteen members of The Black Hand Society in Marion Heights, Northumberland County. Prynn led the constables as they raided homes and businesses to arrest those in the plots of inciting riots, planning murders of local businessmen, and carrying illegal weapons. Prynn “handled the case with remarkable skill and executive ability.”

Despite the potential Prynn was noted for, his career as a State Police Officer was short lived. On January 26, 1909, Sergeant Prynn was accompanied by Private Reginald Gibson to arrest Charles Razinski – also spelled Rogawniski – who was residing at Gilbertson. Razinski was wanted for questioning about the shooting death of Frank Mescavage during a brawl earlier that evening in Mahanoy City.

There are two slightly differing versions of what happened that evening.

The first version, comes from his death announcement in the February 11, 1909 edition of The Reading Times. As the duo were nearing Razinski’s home near Gilberton when they spied a man crouching along the road. Gibson’s horse reared and Gibson landed heavily on the pommel of his saddle, causing the pistol to discharge.

The second version of what happened that night was the one that was sent out over the wire to newspapers around the state. This version, which is the most common one repeated in the newspapers states the duo had arrived at Gilberton and had found Raziniski. Prynn got down from his horse and was in the process of handcuffing Razinski when tragedy struck. Gibson was removing his pistol from the holster to cover when his pistol discharged, striking Prynn.

The ball hit Prynn in the left forearm. Prynn acknowledged it was an accident and was not concerned about it as he continued on to arrest Razinski.

Prynn was taken to Ashland Hospital, where he was expected to recover. Despite doctor’s care, Prynn developed a major infection that turned into blood poisoning. Sergeant Mark Prynn died February 9, 1909 at the age of twenty-eight.

Sergeant Prynn had been with the state police for three years and two months before his passing. His body was taken by train to Elk Lick and was buried IOOF Cemetery in Salisbury.

I finished paying my respects to the officer whose career was cut short by a tragic accident, leaving him to rest among the other memorials of this garden of stone.

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