BELFAST, Maine — More than 150 years ago, a Maine man who was part of a Civil War-era police posse was killed by outlaws in a violent gunfight on the banks of the Sebasticook River.
Despite the dramatic circumstances of his death, history has largely forgotten him.
But Belfast Police Chief Mike McFadden hasn’t. He wants William J. Jenkins of the Somerset County town of Detroit to be recognized on the Maine Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Augusta, and for Mainers to know his story.
“We may never know whether Jenkins was a police officer,” the chief said last week. “What we do know is that he most certainly died as a police officer, and that’s what matters.”
The bloody events that unfolded in June 1863 came to McFadden’s attention this year when a retired police officer from Cheyenne, Wyoming wrote him a letter. Rick Walsh has a hobby of collecting historical information about police departments and frequently stumbles upon stories from other police agencies around the country, the chief said.
Walsh had found out some things about Jenkins, and McFadden asked Megan Pinette, the president of the Belfast Historical Society & Museum, to help nose around and see what she could learn. What the two uncovered sounds like the stuff of fiction.
But it wasn’t, the chief said.
“It’s something they make movies about.”
Outlaws on the run
The story discovered through old newspaper clippings and other sources began on June 21, 1863, when then-Belfast Police Chief Charles O. McKenney answered a call about two men, reported to have deserted from fighting in the Army during the Civil War. They were wanted in connection with horse-stealing and store-breaking.