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5-3-17

THE DEATH OF A LAWMAN
Local deputy was killed in 1917 saloon shootout

by Ivan Foley
Landmark publisher

Now there are two.

Until very recently, it was believed there had been only one Platte County Sheriff’s Department officer who had died in the line of duty in the history of the department. It has long been reported that the only officer from the department to ever be killed in the line of duty was Sheriff John Dillingham, who died on Aug. 20, 1900.

Dillingham was shot and killed near Farley after pursuing a suspect who had murdered members of his family and shot patrons of a local store.

But thanks in large part to social media, new information has revealed a second one, and the sheriff’s department would like to get in touch with anyone who has family ties to this fallen officer.

Nearly 100 years ago, on June 23, 1917, Edward “Patsy” Culver, a deputy sheriff, was killed in an exchange of gunfire at a saloon in a community known as Drydale. Drydale was known to be a “vice” community, with a lot of unsavory activity, according to research by the sheriff’s department.

Accord-ing to that research, Drydale was an unplatted and unincorporated community located south of what is now the Hwy. 45 Spur.

“The newspapers identify it as a mile east of Stillings,” says Major Erik Holland of the sheriff’s department. “Looking at the old maps from that time, there was a post office at Stillings and a railroad going through there. We estimate it to be somewhere in the area of the Hwy. 45 Spur or possibly down to East Leavenworth on Hwy. 45.”

The town of Drydale had a reputation. And not a good one.

“At the time Kansas was a dry state, so it appears Drydale was a town that kind of came into being for bars and vices that were not available across the state line,” Holland explained.

HOW IT HAPPENED

Deputy Culver, age 60, died that night in a shootout with a gunman by the name of William E. Harvey, age 40, of Leavenworth.

Reports indicate Culver was the second officer on the scene of a disturbance at a saloon in Drydale at about 6 p.m. on June 23, 1917.

The initial officer on the scene was Deputy Joe Mossbacher. Mossbacher reported that he had heard a “quibble” in the rear of the saloon. Mossbacher then entered the saloon through the back door.

“I raised my billy club but someone grabbed my arms from behind, and then Harvey snatched my gun and shot Patsy one time. Patsy fired four times,” is how Mossbacher described what occurred.

Harvey died at the scene. Deputy Culver died later while he was being transported to a hospital in Leavenworth.

In a far cry of how the aftermath would play out today, a coroner’s inquest--an investigation into the death--was done immediately with Harvey’s body still there at the saloon. The prosecutor and the coroner eventually arrived on the scene after traveling there from the county seat in Platte City.

“In those days they would summons jurors to review evidence and make a ruling on the death,” Holland explained.

Six jurors were picked from the crowd at the scene. Reports list those jurors as Thomas Larison, Floyd Cox, B. Folk, George F. Offutt, William Ode and Harley O’Rourke.

“It’s interesting that the county today has some streets with the same names as the last names of those jurors,” Holland observed.

Even back in 1917, the First Amendment was important. One deputy had escorted a Leavenworth Times reporter from the scene at gunpoint.

“And then somebody told them, ah, you might not want to do that,” Holland said.

And newspaper editorials soon followed the notable shootout at the saloon.

“There was much criticism in news articles aimed at the sheriff for not taking Drydale to task. The sheriff’s department then took pains to let the newspapermen know they intended to better enforce the law in that town,” Holland said.

So when did Drydale dry up?

“I’m guessing if the media articles are any indication, I’m guessing shortly thereafter,” Holland said. “1917 was in advance of Prohibition. If the sheriff didn’t give Drydale more attention like the newspapers were calling for, I’m guessing Prohibition was the nail in the coffin of it,” Holland added.

Prohibition in the United States began in 1920. It was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. It remained in place until 1933.

THE RESEARCH

Holland said the shooting that killed Culver came to the attention of the sheriff’s department from a Facebook page dealing with the history of Beverly and Tunerville, that general area. Soon afterward, the sheriff’s department reached out to The Landmark for information, and the newspaper has guided the sheriff’s department to the Missouri State Historical Society in Columbia to try to find any Landmark articles from the 1917 incident.

The Landmark has bound copies in its Platte City office of every issue dating back to the early 1930s. Prior to that, nearly every issue of The Landmark is archived in some form at the state historical society.

In researching Culver’s death, the sheriff’s department found articles from The Leavenworth Times and the Leavenworth Post dealing with the incident.

Authorities want to honor Culver. With that in mind: “Anybody with familial knowledge of Culver or the incident should contact the sheriff’s department,” Holland said.

He said the sheriff’s department is in discussions with state officials in Jefferson City about possibly trying to rename the Hwy. 45 Spur in Culver’s honor, since the actual location of the incident would be a little removed for a traditional marker.

They have also begun talks with the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial in Washington, D.C. and the state memorial in Jefferson City on the grounds of the capital building “about getting him recognized and added to those walls,” Holland explained.

Both memorials do annual services where officers who have fallen in the previous year are honored.

Research shows Culver was not married. It indicates he had been a deputy for four years. He was stationed at Drydale inside of Lee Township.

“I don’t know if there is any surviving family. That’s one of the things we’re going through right now,” Holland said.

“We want to recognize anybody that was an officer that lost their lives in the line of duty. With this being the 100th anniversary of his death, that’s what got the wheels in motion on this research.”

Retired Platte County Sheriff’s Department Mike LeTourneau and current Cpt. Tony Avery, as well as Holland, have been involved in researching the situation involving Culver.

Culver is buried at the Graceland Cemetery in Weston.

“That’s the same cemetery where they did the ceremony for Det. Brad Lancaster,” Holland said.

Lancaster was a detective for the Kansas City, Kan. Police Department who was shot and killed May 9, 2016 in the line of duty. Prior to working for KCK he had been with the Platte County Sheriff’s Department. He had been a Weston resident.

NATIONAL LAW ENFORCEMENT WEEK

National Law Enforcement Week is May 15-21. The Platte County Sheriff’s Department will honor all officers killed in the line of duty by participating with other agencies across the country. There were 144 officers killed in the line of duty during 2016, two of which were Missouri officers.

Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS) is an organization that works nationally with surviving families of officers killed in the line of duty. They have supplied blue ribbons to attach to car antennas to honor all officers killed in the line of duty. Platte County Sheriff’s Office patrol officers will have the chance to honor slain officers by displaying the blue ribbon on their patrol vehicle antenna.

Members of the public who wish to join the sheriff’s office in honoring these officers may obtain a blue ribbon, while supplies last, by stopping by the sheriff’s office Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from May 15 through May 19.