Anaheim police discover town marshal who died in line of duty in 1880s


Anaheim Town Marshal Rudolph Bohn was brutally beaten and died from his injuries after serving just a year as the city’s chief elected officer in 1884.

He’s the second Anaheim officer to die in the line of duty, and was Anaheim’s ninth chief.

But until recently no one alive today knew Bohn held that role.

City officials were gathering numbers for Chief of Police Jorge Cisneros’ swearing-in ceremony when Anaheim Heritage Services Manager Jane Newell noticed a discrepancy in the collection of elected town marshals and appointed chiefs.

“I was following the list along and checking people off and went, ‘Wait a minute, here’s a name that I’m not seeing,’” she recalled. “This guy isn’t acknowledged in there.”

Anaheim Town Marshal Rudolph Bohn was recently added to the list of chiefs and line-of-duty deaths in Anaheim.
Photo provided by Rick Martinez

Newell counted 36 Anaheim chiefs, but Anaheim Police Sergeant Rick Martinez had a list of 35.

“We did not know Rudolph Bohn existed,” said Martinez, who compiles the agency’s historic yearbooks and serves as the department historian. Records show Bohn served as night watchman from 1875 to 1884 and as the Anaheim township constable from 1879 to 1885.

Bohn, who was elected to two one-year terms in 1884 to 1885, was “murderously assaulted” while taking two men to jail at about midnight and spent most of his second term unable to work.

“So, we had this missing guy that no one knew about, and it turned out he was a pretty interesting guy,” Newell said. “You never know what’s going to send you on one of these journeys.”

Now, Martinez is working to add Bohn to police memorials in Los Angeles (Anaheim was part of Los Angeles County back then), Sacramento, and Washington, D.C. Bohn will also be included on a photo wall of past chiefs currently being designed by the police department in honor of its 150th anniversary in 2020.

“Rick did the majority of the research,” Newell said. “He really likes to dig in and go for the actual real sources and dig out documents. He goes the whole nine yards.”

Newell and Martinez are publishing a first volume of Anaheim’s law enforcement history as a reference book for the Anaheim Heritage Center.

In 1885, Martinez said, “It was like Mayberry. Anaheim was so small.”

The city, he said, was bounded by North Street, South Street, East Street, and West Street — that’s where everything happened.

“Marshal Bohn arrested a couple of guys right here and was proceeding to take them to the jail,” Martinez said, pointing out that the jail was located near what’s now Cypress Street and Lemon Street. “Somewhere near the jail yard they turned on him. Snatching his club, they struck him on the head knocking him senseless. He got beat up.”

This image shows the Dreyfus Winery, where Town Marshall Rudolph Bohn was found wandering hours after being beaten senseless by two men he was trying to take to jail in the 1800s.
Photo provided by Rick Martinez

Bohn was left for dead, but he didn’t stay down long. Hours later, he was found stumbling near Dreyfus’s Winery a mile away.

A doctor spent two hours sewing the wounds on Bohn’s head, and the town marshal was expected to live.

The next day, April 27, Bohn was elected to his second one-year term as town marshal.

But he was not able to return to work to serve his second term. Instead, his condition became critical and he returned to Mississippi to recover with his family.

Bohn died from his injuries in 1886 at age 50, about a year after the attack.

“That was really sad to me,” Martinez said. “He was forgotten over history. A law enforcement officer that ended up dying from injuries he received in the line of duty, and he’s forgotten. We want to make sure we remember Rudolph Bohn, that he existed.”

Anaheim’s line-of-duty deaths include Town Marshal Charles Lehman, who died in 1872 after being shot responding to a disagreement over a card game; Pilot Gary Nelson, who died in 1975 in a helicopter accident; and Officer Robert Terrell Roulston, who died in 1988 in a motorcycle accident.

“Honoring the deceased officers, officers take that very seriously,” Martinez said. “It’s just human nature.”