Two Ruffians Beat Officer

     On Thursday, September 9, 1875, George “Mitchell” Gassert and William Salisbury went to Fred Fisher’s Saloon at the corner of N. Jefferson and Morgan (Delmar today).  After ordering drinks, the two young men of unsavory reputation refused to pay for their drinks.  After several attempts to illicit payment, Fisher summoned St. Louis Police Officer John Cummings.

     Officer Cummings, assigned to the Third District, patiently listened to all parties.  After getting all three men’s accounts, Cummings advised Gassert and Salisbury to pay for the drinks they ordered.  After the men refused, Cummings put both men under arrest.


Early St. Louis Police Badge from the Public Domain

     Gassert and Salisbury began resisting arrest, so Cummings grabbed Salisbury and drug him out the side door to the street.  While Cummings was tied up with Salisbury, Gassert struck Cummings on the side of the head with a heavy hickory club.  As Cummings fell to the ground, Gassert and Salisbury punched him several times and fled from the area.

     Initially, Cummings did not think he was greatly hurt.  Several of Fisher’s patrons helped him back into the saloon, where the blood was cleaned from his face.  Fisher summoned Dr. McMasters to examine Cummings.

     Despite Cummings’ feeling he wasn’t hurt too bad, Dr. McMasters stated Cummings’ skull was fractured.  However, Dr. McMasters told Cummings he was leaving on a trip the following day, so he could not bandage his wounds.  Dr. McMasters’ attitude was shocking in his lack of care for an injured officer.

     The patrons started to help Cummings home but he could only make it to his friends’ home at 2607 Lucas Avenue, the home of Officer and Mrs Maloy.  After he rested for a while, Cummings was returned to his home at 1508 Fallon Street by horse-drawn carriage.  Mrs. Cummings cared for Officer Cummings, who died at 5:30 am on Friday, September 10, 1875.  The 38-year-old St. Louis Police Officer was survived by his wife.  All four of their children died in childhood.

     Gassert and Salisbury were seen by several witnesses in the neighborhood around Morgan and N. Jefferson Avenues.  Gassert bragged about hitting Cummings and said, “We out to kill him.”  During their flight, they mistakenly believed several people at a boarding house were laughing at them.  The desperadoes beat one man and threw rocks at several others.

     St. Louis Police knew the men hung out at Atkin’s stable.  When two detectives approached the stable, a man named Ike Beck warned Gassert and Salisbury that the police were coming for them.  Gassert jumped out the window and escaped but the officers caught Salisbury.

     Within the next couple of weeks, St. Louis Police also captured George Gassert.  Both men would be tried for Cummings murder but it looks like the club-swinging Gassert was the only one convicted of the murder.  Gassert was sentenced to 10 years in prison for 2nd Degree Murder.

     Cummings was a Confederate Army soldier during the Civil War.  He joined the St. Louis Police Department in 1873, quit in 1875 but came back on the force two months before his murder.  Cummings supervisor considered him a most efficient officer.

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Sources: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 10, 1875 editions, p. 1, May 5, 1886 edition, p. 4 and May 15, 1887 edition, p. 4

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