March 26, 2014

Policeman Kills Former Chief-of-Police Candidate, 1897



[December 31, 1897] -


Shot and Dangerously Wounded by Policeman Colyer in Somerset.

SOMERSET, Ky., Dec. 31.-- Jas. Wickersham, who was a candidate for chief of police at the November election, was shot and dangerously wounded by Policeman Robert Colyer in front of the depot Thursday evening.  The trouble leading up to the shooting grew out of an alleged disturbance raised by Wickersham and several companions who are said to have been drinking earlier in the evening, at which time Colyer warned them to desist.  It is alleged they threatened him and Colyer, who is a man of nerve, anticipating trouble, armed himself with a double-barreled shotgun for an emergency.  They met later in front of the depot, when it is alleged Wickersham called Colyer a vile name, at the same time pulling his gun and started toward Colyer, who claims he shot him in self-defense.  The shot struck Wickersham on the left side, shattering the bones of his forearm and entering the abdomen, which was badly torn.  The intestines being perforated.  The surgeons are doubtful about being able to save his life. [1]


[December 31, 1897] -


Somerset, Ky.  Dec. 30. -- Jas. Wickersham, who was a candidate for Chief of Police at the November election, was shot and dangerously wounded by Policeman Robert Colyer in front of the depot this evening.  The trouble leading up to the shooting grew out of an alleged disturbance raised by Wickersham.  Colyer claims that he shot in self-defense. [2]


[January 4, 1898] -


A dispatch from Somerset says that Policeman Robert Colyer shot and fatally wounded James Wickersham Thursday night.  Wickersham had been drinking and raising a disturbance.  Colyer claims that he attempted to quiet him, when he pulled a gun.  Colyer says he backed to where he could get hold of his shotgun and fired twice at Wickersham, one load taking effect in the left arm and the other in the bowels.  He used buckshot, and some 17 of the shot took effect.  Wickersham was intoxicated.  He recently made a race for chief of police, and was only defeated by a small majority.  Colyer has been a policemen about five years, and has been a little too handy with his pistol.  Wickersham kept bar in Stanford a long time for P. W. Green.

Since the above was put in type we have received a letter from V. R. Coleman, in which he says that when Wickersham was shot he was climbing the steps at the depot and was looking back, when Colyer says he demanded that he throw up his hands, Wickersham declined to do so and Colyer fired.  Wickersham staggered to the right and Colyer fired the other barrel of his shot gun.  After he received the first shot Wickersham pulled his pistol and when he was picked up he had it cocked in his hand.  He was removed to the hospital where he died at 9 P.M. Friday.  When he was told that he would die he made a statement that he was not expecting trouble at the time he was shot and did not see Colyer at the time he fired on him.  he had never made any threats against Colyer and always regarded him as one of the boys.  He talked to his friends about funeral arrangements and was conscious to the last.  Wickersham leaves a young wife and child and much sympathy is felt for them.  Colyer's examining trial was set for yesterday. [3]


[March 25, 1898] - 

On the Pulaski circuit court docket, there are 607 cases, 237 of them being for criminal offenses, 18 for felonies, including four murders.  The case of Robert Colyer for killing Jim Wickersham will likely be tried.  Court is now in session. [4]


[March 29, 1898] -

Court has now been in session for a week and many cases have been disposed of.  The most important one tried was Satterfield for the killing of Smith at Burnside last summer.  The case was given to the jury Saturday morning and at this writing (Sunday) no verdict has yet been returned, though the general opinion is that a good size term in the pen will be his reward.  The grand jury found an indictment for murder against Robert Colyer, for the killing of James Wickersham, and his trial is set for next Thursday.  A great number of indictments have been returned so far, a majority of which, we are informed, are for toting fire arms and bartering mean whisky.  A couple of more murder cases are yet to be tried, besides a heavy docket of civil cases and the full term of four weeks may be taken up by the court.   V. R. C. [5]


[June 22, 1898] -

John Perry Colyer, who shot Catron, is a brother of Robert Colyer, the policeman who shot and killed James S. Wickersham at this place last December.  Robert Colyer was tried at the March term of the Pulaski Court and acquitted.  Catron was a warm friend of Wickersham's, and took considerable interest in Colyer's prosecution.  This resulted in ill-feeling, which no doubt caused today's tragedy.  Robert Colyer, after his acquittal, moved to Arthur, Ill., where he now resides. [6]


[1] "Jas. Wickersham." Daily Public Ledger, Maysville, Ky. December 31, 1897. Page 4. LOC.

[2] "Probably Fatal Shooting at Somerset." Morning Herald, Lexington, KY. December 31, 1897. Page 5.

[3]"Wickersham Shot." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, Ky. January 4, 1898. Page 3. LOC.

[4] Excerpt from "News in the Vicinage." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 25, 1898. Page 1. LOC.

[5] Excerpt from "Somerset." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 29, 1898. Page 1. LOC.

[6] Excerpt from "Killing at Somerset." The Hartford Herald, Hartford, KY. June 22, 1898. Page 2. LOC.


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