In 1872, Jamaica Plain was part of the Town of West Roxbury, and its police station was based in what is now a condo building at 28 Seaverns Ave. According to a police incident log for several months of that year preserved in archives, it appears that police work of the time consisted mostly of squaring off with drunken ruffians.
The following is a transcript of the police report in its original language. The town jail described in the opening probably was in the former Town Hall, since demolished, that once stood on Thomas Street where the municipal parking lot is today.
This record was transcribed in 1989 by the late Walter H. Marx and is reprinted with permission of the Jamaica Plain Historical Society.
“The cells are built of wood, and the danger of their being set on fire is very great. There are no conveniences for the comfort or cleanliness of the prisoners. The ventilation is bad. We have as many as ten prisoners and lodgers crowded into the cells of a night. Many of these prisoners are brought in with damp and filthy clothing, which with the fumes of bad whiskey make the place anything but agreeable or healthy.”
April 18th-The town all quiet during the night.
April 28th-Town all quiet except we had a ruf and tumble with force men. They were drunk; they had been to Canterbary to a wake and they were noyse and desputed our right to hale them after hours. We thretened to loock them up; one of them, Edward Salby, shoed fight. We had to take him towards the Lockup. He begged of and promised to do better for the future. We let them all go home.
May 11th-Town quiet except Samuel Chamion was drunk and noyse down on Few. St., and when he was requested to stop his noise and go home, he shoed fight. But he was subdued after he had thretened vengence on all the watch. He was taken to the Lockup up in a carriage and was left thereto reflect on his good behaver. He was let out to go on his way in the morning rejoicing.
Night of the 13th-Town all quiet. Mike Kelly was drunk and had lade him down to repose on the street. We had to put him in the Lockup so that he might have better quarters.
June 2nd-Town all quiet during the night. Charles Williams opened a drinking saloon on the corner of Stan Lane. He gave the boys a free blow: they drank a barrel of Beer and then they left for the streets. They got into a fight. There ware no room for them in the Lockup, for it was all full of poor travelers. There was a blinde coulard woman, a woman and three children, and fore men. The boys had there fight on Green St. Edward Duffy and Joseph Kingsley was drunck and noisey. John MacDonald and a man by the name of Heley was drunck and noisey. Had to send them all home, for we found that we had no accomodations for them, our own Lockup being too small for once.
June 17th-Town all quiet during the day. There had been a good deal of noise, through the day being Sunday. There was drincking and fighting. George Curley from Roxbury and a man from Canterbary by the name of Tracey. Mr. Frank Weld had to arrest him and put him in the Lockup, but he brukeout the next day and got clear.
June 22nd-Town all quiet. Patrick Leonard was drunk; had to take Leonard to the Lockup. Let him gow in the morning on condition that he would go and take the pledge.
August 4th-Town all quiet during the night except there was a dance at Cantabary, being Saturday night. I thought we had better go over and see what they were doing. I had with me Joseph H. Row, and we found the house and a great many people, men and women. When a man at the door spoke, I asked him if he was the propreter and he tolde me that I had not founde out. I picked his name. He refused to tell me. I tolde him to come in if he belonged to the house, but he refused and used some hard language, for which I threatened to handcuf him.
He with others sprang at me, got me out of doors, renched away me billey, commenced to beat. Two with a board came at me with sticks and stones, nocked me down senseles. They cut three places on my head, bruses on my back lages and arms. Beat raw consierarebe about the bodey. We got away from them. One man chased me some wase and tryed hard to hit me again. He had one of our billyes.
Officer Chase was sent for to quel some desterbence at a wake. He arested Thomas McDonald, who shoed fied and struck the officer. Chas nocked him down with his billey. Then a crowd gathered around and beat the officer and rescued the man away from him. Thus endeth the night of the forth & the mornog of the fifth of August.