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· John Quincy Patten (1855-1922)
It’s Friday, October 14, 1927, in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Julia Whiteside, 59, enters Carey Cold Storage, Main Street at C, carrying an empty gallon bottle, when she recognizes a lady who has just filled a jug with delicious apple cider made at Willowbrook.
“Ophelia Cornelia, how are you?” asks Julia.
“Why, Julia, I’m fine, how are you and Houston?”
“We’re doing well,” responds Julia.
“I just received a letter from my sister, Irene. She’s still in Arizona, but I’m trying to get her to return to Hutchinson.”
“That would be nice,” said Julia, “if she hasn’t been spoiled by the weather. Irene made a huge difference while she was here. She was certainly dedicated to assisting all girls who needed help.”
“That was her mission in life,” replied Ophelia, 78. “People remember her as the city’s first police matron, but she helped women and children for years. It was progressive of the city to have her move her office to the Women’s Public Rest Room” (a shelter for women and children).
“Houston,” said Julia, “I visited with Ophelia Cornelia today while I was purchasing apple cider.”
“Ophelia Jackson?” asked Houston.
Julia stared at him for a few seconds before answering. “How many Ophelia Cornelia’s do you know?”
Houston laughed. “Guilty as charged,” said the retired attorney and former pro tem judge for Reno County.
“I remember Irene Fallis becoming the first police matron for the city,” said Houston. “This was after John, her husband, died. She looked after girls in trouble and female prisoners.
“She was a prominent member of the First Avenue Baptist Church and a devoted member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She was always interested in improving the lives of girls and women.
“Between Irene and Chief John Patten, the city worked hard to enforce their ordinances. Irene was relentless. She visited dance halls and movie theaters to be sure young women weren’t going too far, or spooning with the men. She helped unemployed and desperate women find housing and jobs.
“Irene was so small and frail looking,” said Julia. “But she got the job done. I recall her walking some masculine offenders to the jail.”
“Chief Patten wasn’t idle in his pursuit to make Hutchinson a safe place,” said Houston. “I remember him having his men arrest jay drivers for making unsafe turns at corners, and owners of horses were held accountable when they allowed their animals to stand for hours in the hot sun.”
“Yes, the chief believed the little things could cause bigger problems,” said Julia. “He even enforced ordinances about keeping the sidewalks clear after a snow, and for cracking down on citizens when guns were fired to celebrate the New Year.”
“And cyclists riding their wheels on the sidewalks, and residents who didn’t keep their chickens put up,” added Houston. “Of course, he also made arrests for possession of illegal whiskey, property crimes, and crimes against people,” added Houston.
“I think the city took advantage of Irene,” said Julia. “She was working all the time, but they wouldn’t even buy an automobile for her use. Streetcars didn’t give her enough flexibility to respond to emergencies. When John Patten was police chief, didn’t he have a car?”
“Remember, when John Quincy was sheriff he had a horse, but he was reimbursed for prisoner trips and the like,” said Houston. “That was back in the 1890s. More recently, I think the last sheriff, Jesse Langford, convinced the county commissioners that they could save money by purchasing some automobiles for the officers to use, rather than be reimbursed for mileage.”
Julia Maria Bacon and John Quincy Patten were both born and raised in Indiana. Bacon Patten marriage certificate They married in 1880, moved to Iowa for four years, before settling in Reno County in 1884 to farm. The Patten’s improved their 240 acres in the Arkansas River Valley east of Hutchinson.
The year 1893 was a memorable one for the Patten’s. A boy, Hiram, was born in August, about the time John Quincy was being selected as Reno County’s Republican candidate for sheriff. Patten was voted sheriff in the general election in 1893, and re-elected by a wide margin in 1895. For both terms, Patten’s popular undersheriff was Ed Metz.
Our Union newspaper Patten move to jail Hiram was raised for his first four years in the sheriff’s residence which was attached to the county jail at 15 Avenue B east. In 1908 the Patten family moved to Hutchinson to give Hiram better educational opportunities where he attended Hutchinson High School. In 1912 he attended the College of Emporia where he met Grace M. Brown of Coldwater, Kansas. They married in 1916.
“Our memories are strange things,” said Houston to his wife, Julia. “I still remember the day back in 1911 when Chief of Police Patten shaved off his mustache, and the reaction he received at work.”
“It’s interesting how people still think of the military mustache as being a required accoutrement of a police officer,” said Julia.
“When the chief showed up to work clean shaven, the officers pretended they didn’t recognize him,” said Houston. “They kept a close eye on him, accusing him of being a tramp. Later in the day, when the chief was at the fire station, Walter Jones, the city attorney, prepared an arrest warrant for the alleged criminal.
“Detective Duckworth arrested the chief.” At this point Houston chuckled at what was next. Sounding like a county attorney, Houston spoke as though he had memorized the warrant:
“Whereas J. Q. Patten did then and there unlawfully and willingly deface, injure and destroy certain public property of the city of Hutchinson, contrary to the form or the ordinance in such cases made and against the peace and dignity of the City of Hutchinson.”
“Did he plead guilty?” asked Julia.
“At first he refused to, but Duckworth warned him that if he didn’t cooperate, the costs would get heavier. At that point, Patten plead guilty.
“After some deliberation, Judge Hoagland said: ‘I wish to make an example of you and I hope all men with mustaches will hereby take notice that unless their friends have sufficient notice, they must continue to wear their lip adornment. Therefore I fine you one box of the best apples to be found in the city by noon tomorrow.’”
“Did the chief pay his fine?” asked Julia.
“Yes, he paid up. I still remember the crisp, delicious taste, and the fun of it all. Unlike some high officials, John Quincy could take a joke.”
Until next time, happy writing and reading.