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Meet the Folks - Ep. FO7 - … of Oak Springs - Town Marshall Fetter
The Town Marshall made a difference in town
Town Marshall Andrew Fetter began on September 1, 1880
Fetter was hired by the Town Council to deal with a growing drunk and disorderly problem in town. He had previously served as a County Deputy Sheriff, including covering Oak Springs on occasion. Within 60 days in office, his full-time presence had demonstrated that the Town Council had made a good decision. In addition, he was able to do investigations of vandalism and other petty crimes that had gone unchallenged in the absence of regular local law enforcement. A single man, 34 years old, Fetter resided at the Duncan Boarding House, and walked the streets of Oak Springs regularly, greeting visitors and locals alike, and generally letting it be known that he was on duty, day and night.
Oak Springs, in 1881, was seven blocks long north and south. It was 4 blocks wide, 2 blocks on either side of Central Avenue, except south of Patton Road where it extended a couple more blocks each way. The Marshall lived near the south end of town, he worked out of the Town Hall near the north end of town, and so he had adequate reason to cover the entire town without going out of his way. This warm August day in 1881, Fetter had just left the Town Hall and walked the half block north to the Freight Station and Telegraph Office.
Fetter: Any news for me today, Bernie?
Bernie Cox: Not a thing, Marshall. The wire has been as quiet as can be, and there was nothing for you on the last freight wagon. You expecting something?
Fetter: No, not really. It has been very quiet for a few days. I thought maybe you had heard something I should know that hadn’t gotten to me yet.
Cox: Not a thing… oh, wait a minute. I recall that Mathias Tombridge mentioned when he was in the other day, to pick up a package, that his outhouse had been tipped over.
Fetter: There you go. That is something I need to know. That would be the fourth one in the last month. The others were in the same general area. I’d better go talk to Mathias or Callie, and get any details I can. Thanks for the tip, Bernie.
A common target of vandals
The Marshall followed up on the tip
Fetter walked a couple of blocks south, and then a block west to visit with Callie Tombridge, He knew Mrs. Tombridge was quite pregnant, and hoped she would be at home, and not trying to work somewhere. He was in luck and she answered his knock on the door. She asked if they could sit in the chairs on the front porch to talk, when he said he needed to speak with her for a minute.
Fetter: I understand your outhouse got tipped over recently. I assume it wasn’t the wind?
Callie: No. Mathias said it was pushed over. He said he was sure it would have taken two people to do it. We can’t imagine while anyone would do such a thing!
Fetter: Young folks with too much time on their hands, most likely. Up to no good. Yours is the fourth now that I’ve heard of in the past month. I’m afraid we have a pattern here. Can you remember what day it was? Do you folks have any idea what time it might have been done?
Callie: It was last Monday night. And yes, I can tell you what time it happened. It was between about 10 o’clock and midnight. I’d been out at 10, wasn’t feeling well. My husband also had to go late, about midnight, and he found it overturned. He was really upset, as you can imagine. And, he had to be on the job with the construction crew early Tuesday morning. He was fit to be tied, for sure.
Fetter: That certainly would create a vivid memory
Rev. Boyd came with a lantern
Fetter planned his approach to catch the vandals
Marshall Fetter understood that everyone in town knew that he usually was down around by the tavern in the late evening to ‘look after’ any drunks that couldn’t take care of themselves. Perhaps he had been too obvious, and this had opened up the opportunity for some mischief seekers to do their mischief when he wouldn’t be around. He also recalled that each ‘turnover’ incident had been on a Monday night. He decided to take a chance, the next Monday night, and stake out the area where there had been a problem the weeks before. He hoped he was wrong; but then, again, he considered the mentality of the persons he might be dealing with and decided to give it a try.
The Methodist parsonage in the southeast corner of Block E gave him a good vantage point. He had alerted Rev. and Mrs. Boyd that he would be prowling around. They had suggested that their carriage barn provided a great place to observe, and listen, for the possible activity he was watching for. He took up his position a little after 10 on that Monday evening. It was less than an hour when he detected shuffling feet and saw two shadows dart around the corner of the house directly to the north. Their outhouse wasn’t more than 75 feet from where Fetter was waiting in the shadows and there wasn’t even a fence in between. He waited, and watched. There was no moon, but his eyes had already become accustomed to the dark. It was a clear night, and the stars were out. He could see their movements as they worked their way toward the outhouse. Could he really be this lucky, Fetter wondered?
As soon as the two figures stopped, near the outhouse, obviously assessing which way to push, Fetter started that way and shouted, “Do not move. This is Marshall Fetter. My gun is pointed right at you.” It wasn’t, of course, but they didn’t know that. Fetter’s pace quickened, as he got closer. The two figures had actually stayed motionless. “Do not move. You are under arrest. Hands on top of your heads.” Getting closer, he noticed they were neither one very tall. They were youngsters. He could swear they were both shaking, but he didn’t really stop to check. He pulled them out nearer the street. Rev. Boyd arrived about that time holding a lantern high that lighted the area.
Boyd: You actually caught them, Marshall.
Fetter: Appears so. Who do we have here?
Clarence Gower: What’d we do Marshall? We didn’t do anything?
Jimmy Truesdale: Don’t tell my parents, please…
Boyd: The shorter one is Jimmy Truesdale, Marshall. I think the other is Gilbert Gower’s boy. What’s your name son?
Gower: Clarence, sir. Please don’t tell my father. He’ll beat me for sure.
Truesdale: Please don’t tell my parents. Please. Please.
Fetter: Can you walk with me to the Town Hall, Rev. Boyd?
Boyd: Happy to do that, Marshall.
… to be continued…
Note from the author
This is the seventh episode of the short story (FOx) series, Meet the Folks | … of Oak Springs. Each episode will explore, at first hand, some folks who lived in Oak Springs c. 1880. The stories are set in the Ozarks Mountains setting of “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga historical fiction. These episodes are around the 1880 time frame, following by a couple of years the 40 episodes of “The Kings of Oak Springs” stories. That series had followed the time period of the “American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)” collection of short stories. Some of these earlier stories are published on The Homeplace Saga blog, found at the link, below. These FOx episodes provide depth and background stories for the entire "Saga" series. “The Kings of Oak Springs” Episode 41 has now resumed the stories as 1882 began.
The first 40 episodes of the King Family series have now been compiled into eBooks, titled: "The Kings of Oak Springs" Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. See the link, below, to get yours.
“The Homeplace Saga” historical fiction family saga stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”