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John Corridan


Posted By: Maggie C. (email)
Date: 8/4/2008 at 20:46:22

Newspaper article out of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, written by Carl L. Hogendorn, editor for the North English Record. 19 Sep 1948 -
It was an Early-Day Law Enforcement Agency.
North English - Two-way radios, fast squad cars, highway patrolmen, crime laboratories, fingerprinting and secret agents are all modern, effective means of combating crime.
Back in the old days the pioneers knew nothing of these things - but they still had to guard their homes and belongings against men who would rob and kill to get something for nothing.
A recent visit between two old-timers here brought to light an old-time organization whose purpose was to combat crime in northern Keokuk county and southern Iowa county, as well as the northwestern part of Washington county.
The last two remaining members of this organization are James Hudson of north English and John Corridan of the Little Creek neighborhood north of Kinross. Corridan has been ill for some weeks, and Hudson recently went to Little Creek to see his old-time associate. Their visiting centered around that early-day organization of crime-busters.
Hudson hunted up the constitution and by-laws of the organization. The group of farmers had banned together and called themselves the Union Horse Company of Lime Creek Township (Keokuk County). The Company was organized in June 1889. The original members were all farmers in the Kinross community; Martin Stapleton, William McGahan, William Hull, John Boyd, John Griffith, John O. Duer, Johathan Duer, Josiah Duer, Joseph Adams, Ira Adams, Frank Adams, J.R. Huffman, Vic Carris, Issac Carr, W.A. Davisson, John Millhouse, J.H. McIlvain, James Coffey, William Griffith, William McDowell, Joseph Wellman, Harman Henkle, William Wadkins, Martin Slocum, Martin Hoyt, Walter Hoyt, C.L. Wakelee, Ezra Squire, Joshua Stinchcombe and T.J. Taylor.
The first paragraph of the little booklet containing the constitution and by-laws given each member, has this to say: "Whereas, the stealing of horses and the commission of other crimes are becoming so frequent, so much so, that no property of any kind is safe. Therefore, we, the undersigned, in order to form a more perfect union, the better to protect ourselves against such outlaws and thieves, do ordain and establish the following constitution for our government."
Section I of article I states: "This organization shall be known and designated by the name of Union Horse Company, for the detection and apprehension of horse thieves, and other persons charged with any crime or misdemeanor whatever."
Other articles of the booklet set forth meeting times, officers and their duties, dues and duties of members.
As to membership the booklet states: "No person shall be permitted to become a member of this company unless he is a free white male, over the age of 18 years, and must be of good moral character."
Some of the by-laws are interesting. A member missing a meeting was fined 20 cents; for discussing anything other than the business at hand the fine was 10 cents; any member known to be breaking the laws of the state of Iowa was immediately expelled from the organization.
To show that the Union Horse Company meeting were a place for serious business, one by-law reads, "When the president is putting a question or addressing the meeting, no member shall entertain any private discourse, nor walk across nor leave the room unnecessarily, and when... (paper was folded here and heard to read)...any other member entertain any private discourse or pass between the speaker and the president."
Each and every member of the company had to keep a correct description in writing of his horses and mules so as to be able to furnish a list thereof (provided they or either of them should be stolen) to any person ordered to search of them.
A certain sign would be used by the group so that they would be able to recognize each other in the dark. In order to outsmart outlaws and thieves these signs would be changed occasionally at meetings. No member was allowed to use the signs or special passwords except to test doubtful members.
Members could be expelled from the organization for using profane language after the third offense. The company was especially tough about intoxication. No member could enter a meeting with liquor on his breath, and if one showed up intoxicated he was immediately expelled from the company.

* * *
About 1890 the Union Horse Company took in its last members. They were: Bill Cox, John Herr, George Herr, Sam Shafer, Anthony Kelly, Pat Kelly, Tom McCann, John Corridan and James Hudson.
Outlaws and thieves apparently developed a deep respect for this pioneer FBI and crime began to lessen as soon as word got around that the farmers had formed a tough, protective organization.
A great number of petty criminals were caught and brought to trial.
But for Hudson and Corridan, the proudest memory of the old Union Horse Company was the time a large band of cattle rustlers in this community was broken up. Some of the rustlers were caught and punished and some left the country never to be heard of again.
Hudson recalls that the Company dissolved about 1905, "because, criminal was a mighty scarce article around here, and anyway the county law officers were beginning to take over."
And thus ended another chapter in the history of early Iowa.


Keokuk Documents maintained by Lynn Diemer-Mathews.
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