Title: Police officer
Birthdate: October 25, 1846
Death Date: October 3, 1887
Plot Location: Section 129, Lot 8

Screenshot (438) Johnston

Other than his birth in New Jersey, William’s early years are undocumented until he was 22 years old and became the groom of Anna McManus. The wedding ceremony was in her home, conducted by a minister from Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church on May 24, 1869. That’s where they were living the following year when the census was taken. 

Four children were born over the next ten years as William worked as a conductor on the railroad, letter carrier for the post office, and a lamplighter for Philadelphia Gas Works. That was the man that walked through a neighborhood at dusk extending a wick on a long pole to ignite the gas street lights.

In a sense, that lamplighter was also a kind of night watchman, and perhaps that’s how William decided to become a police officer. It became official on May 1, 1884 but ended just before his 41st birthday, as reported in this news clipping.

What apparently was a random act of violence made headlines for several days because the assailant was never caught. A few minutes after the shooting and a few blocks away, another officer tried to stop a suspect who was running away. Shots were fired by both men but they both missed.

The outpouring of support began with an overflowing crowd on the day of William’s funeral, and it continued with fundraising to support his family. The Mayor’s Office announced a $500 reward for the capture of the felon, with the mayor contributing $100 to the benevolence fund. John Wanamaker, the department store owner, gave $200, and between the police and the public, $4000 was raised in three weeks. 

Adding to the tragedy, two thieves must have heard about the cash and ransacked Anna’s home while she was out for an hour. They didn’t find what they wanted, but the family moved shortly afterward to a smaller house. Anna lived until 1911 and was buried alongside her husband.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

Support the Friends of Mount Moriah

Help us in our mission to restore and maintain the beautiful Mount Moriah Cemetery by donating to our cause or volunteering at one of our clean-up events.