In the 19th century, mining and railroad companies used private police forces to enforce their own brand of justice. And in September 1872, a Coal and Iron Police detective infuriated communities in Luzerne County by abducting a prominent resident and stealing him from Hazleton in the middle of the night.
On August 28, 1904, a Coal and Iron Police agent named Grim forcibly detained J.E. Ulman on a charge of threatening to shoot a Hazleton resident named James Shovlin.
The following is the story from the Scranton Weekly Republican, as copied from a newspaper in Hazleton.
AN OUTRAGE AT HAZLETON
A Prominent Citizen Kidnapped
Our community was startled yesterday morning, says the Hazleton Adviser of Wednesday, by the announcement that J. E Ulman, esq., one of our most respected and law-abiding citizens, had been summarily arrested by Policeman Grim, of the Coal & Iron Police force, and hurried off to Wilkes-Barre, on a special warrant issued by Justice Philbin, on oath of James Shovlin, of Hazleton, who charged Ulman with threatening to shoot him.
Mr. Ulman was not allowed to give bail for his appearance, neither was he permitted to confer with counsel, and he was even denied the privilege of seeing his family. Such a summary arrest aroused the indignation of our citizens, and they expressed their feelings in no unmeasured terms.
The charge was too trifling to warrant such procedure, and while we would not interfere with the execution of the law, we do condemn that officer who will use unnecessary force in the execution of a writ, or who so far forgets himself as to refuse the most common courtesies due the most criminal of offenders.
Again, we question the power of a Justice of the Peace to issue a special warrant. The law is not intended to be arbitrary, and recognizes the rights of the meanest criminals, it also qualifies the manner of arrest.
Mr. Ulman had the right to a hearing in our borough. But no, this would not answer the purpose. He must be dragged to Wilkes-Barre, and, if possible, thrust into prison, in order to degrade him still more.
Fortunately, his friends at Wilkes-Barre were apprised of the affair, met him at the depot, and do demanded a hearing at once, he promptly gave bail in the sum of $1,000 for his appearance to answer the charge, and this morning he returned to his home, and received the congratulations of his friends. He assures us that the affair will not end here, and as the case more fully develops, may we be there to see.
The story reveals the power that the Coal and Iron Police held in the Coal Regions during the 1870s. This power only grew as the decade passed and a series of strikes led to outbreaks of violence. In the 19th century, these private police forces continuously intimated workers, protected company property, and forcibly broke up strikes. They became an infamous aspect of life in the anthracite coal fields during this era.
Featured Image: A Coal and Iron Police station in the Coal Region in the 1870s (Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper)