Murder of St. Charles Officers James Lamb and John Blair 1913, Part I

Located on Judiciary Square in Washington D. C. is the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Dedicated in 1991, it honors all of America’s fallen law enforcement officers. Inscribed on the marble walls are the name so more than 17,500 officers who have died while protecting others. Among the five officers honored from the City of St. Charles are the names of James David Lamb (panel 31, W-1) and John Blair (panel 26, W-2), killed in the line of duty 100 years ago.

On the late winter afternoon of Saturday, December 6, 1913, while patrolling near the Wabash Railroad tracks between North Third and North Fourth Streets,

1905 St. Charles City Map
1905 St. Charles City Map

Officers Blair and Lamb came across three brothers, Andrew, Harry and Tom Black (who also went by the name Tom Allen).

Officer John Blair
Officer John Blair
Officer David Lamb
Officer David Lamb

It is not known what these men were doing, but when Officer Blair demanded the men show their hands, gunfire erupted from the three men, killing Officer Blair almost instantly. Officer Lamb returned fire, striking Tom Allen and killing him. Andrew and Harry Black and Officer Lamb began exchanging blows and firing their guns. Officer Lamb was knocked to the ground and very seriously injured, allowing Andrew and Harry Black to flee the scene. Officer Lamb succumbed early the next morning to his injuries. Andrew and Harry Black were captured not long after and sentenced to death.
This is the story of the Officers deaths and the aftermath as reported in the local newspapers of the time, the St. Charles Weekly Banner News.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
December 11, 1913
St. Charles Weekly Banner News

Verdict of Jury “Felony and Murder”. How the Black Murderers Were Captured
At Machen, Mo.

Jury’s Verdict

John Blair came to his death by felony by bullet wounds inflicted upon him by bullets shot by Andrew Black, Harry Black and Tom Allen from revolvers in the hands of Andrew Black, Harry Black and Tom Allan that same John Blair came to his death by felony and murder.
The verdict with reference to Dave Lamb was exactly the same. The verdict regarding the dead negro exonerated Officers Lamb and Blair for having shot him.

How the Shooting Occurred

Although several people witnessed the murder of Officers Dave Lamb and John Blair on the Wabash Tracks between Third and Fourth Streets, last Saturday night, a diversity of opinion exists as to who killed any and all of the three men who fell. The St. Louis papers each contain conflicting stories. The most consistent account which we have so far heard is that given by two boys, Senter Ebeling and Lymann Sheets, who were playing on a lumber pile about 75 feet away from the bloody scene. Senter is the son of Louis Ebeling, our Ex-Fire Chief and Lyman is he son of Mr. and Mrs. Al Sheets, of 1520 N. Second Street. Senter sought shelter part of the time while the bullets were flying, but Lymann saw the whole affair. His story is about as follows:
He says that he and Senter were playing on top of the pile when Officers John Blair and Dave Lamb came down the track walking together south. The boys spoke to them calling them byname as they passed by and the officers responded with a cheerful “hello”. The next thing that happened was John Blair calling in a loud voice to the negroes to hold up their hands. The boys say that it looked to them as though all the men were in a bunch . Two of the negroes obeyed the command of Mr. Blair, and projected their hands and arms in the air, but the third negro got behind the other two and drew his revolver upon Officer Blair and fired. It looked to the boys as though he missed his aim but the shot was a signal to the other two negroes who both fired upon Blair, killing him almost instantly. Officer Lamb, in a flash leveled his revolver at the negro who made the first break and shot him dead. It then seemed to the boys that the two remaining negroes grappled with Officer Lamb and threw him to the ground, fell upon him after they had him down. But during the whole encounter each man seemed to be firing his revolver as fast as he could pull the trigger. The bullets were whizzing in all directions. After the two officers had been laid upon their backs, the murderers ran for about twenty steps and at once slowed down into a walk, making their way toward the Wabash Depot.

Story of the Capture

The capture of Andrew and Harry Black, the desperate negro murderers, who laid Officers John Blair and David Lamb to their graves, was a highly exciting adventure and the three young men had successfully effected it deserve the most hearty gratitude of this community. They were Mr. T. S. (Tate) Isenmann, 22, Ed Isenmann, age 25 and M. Pumphery, age 27. The latter is a traveling man selling hay presses, whose family is at Moberly. He had been staying at Machens for several days, previous to last Saturday night.
Mr. J. H. Machens and Ticket Agent Ed Beck also came in for most valuable service leading up to the capture. Mr. Machens, it was, who planned and directed the whole affair and Mr. Beck was on the spot with a lantern almost before the echoes of the gun shots had died away.
M. J. H. Machens, who was in town Sunday, gave the following account to a reporter of the Banner-News.
He said that as soon as Mayor Olson telephone to him that the two bloodthirsty murderers were headed in the direction of Machens, he went over to the saloon and called for volunteers, who would be willing to assist in their capture, but could secure none but the Two Isenmann boys and Mr. Pumphery. These were more than willing to undertake the work. Mr. Machens, himself remained in the telephone exchange of the Machens and West Alton Telephone Company and kept track of the progress of the two negroes. This telephone line connects with all the farm houses for several miles in the direction of St. Charles and at intervals along the way the farmers would keep him posted as to just how far the murderers had walked. After they left Black Walnut he gave word to the three brave men who were to intercept them, and they proceeded to a pile of ties about 200 yards distant from the depot behind which they waited until the negroes came into view. Tate was armed with a rifle. Ed had a revolver and Mr. Pumphery carried a shot gun. When the negroes were, according to all calculations about due to arrive a freight train came thundering by. The boys couched in the shadows of the ties and peered anxiously about them. Just as the caboose swung by they caught sight of their men coming up the opposite side of the track some fifteen yards away. They waited until they were about opposite the pile of ties and then with a yell called to them to hold up their hands. Instead of obeying, the two men grabbed their revolvers and began to run, evidently making for the railroad dump, where they could be protected and give battle. At that the boys let loose, and the real fireworks began. One of the men fell in a heap, as it turned out afterward, badly wounded and the other one stood still and held up his hands, bellowing loudly “Don’t shoot any more, I haven’t got no gun!” By that time J. H. Machens and Ed Beck were on the scene. Mr. Beck had brought a lantern and it was soon discovered that the one negro was so badly wounded that no harm need be feared. His revolver was found in under him. The crowd from the saloon had gathered to the spot almost by magic, so it seemed, and the disabled wretch was leaded on a freight car door, serving as a litter and carried to the depot. The other one was handcuffed and put under a strict guard. The latter had no weapon, but Sunday morning, his revolver was found in a wheat field near by where he had thrown it when he saw that discretion was his card to play.
The men were held until the arrival of five deputies who early Sunday morning took the prisoners to St. Louis. After the capture the first deputy on the spot was Fred Ferber of Orchard Farm; next came Phil Rupp who traveled all the way from Black Walnut on foot and after that Waldo Hines, John Grothe and W. S. Heady drove up in their automobile.

St. Peters Ready to Help

St. Charles finest acknowledge with thanks the helping hand extended in the time of need by citizens in every part of the county who last Saturday night armed themselves and made bold to capture the assassins of our two noble police officers. David Lamb and John Blair, who sacrificed their lives for the protection and welfare of the people of this city. St. Peters was one of those towns whose citizens responded most bravely and had the two murders come to that neighborhood as indeed they at first were headed, they would have been captured without a doubt regardless of the risk of life involved, just as they were at Machens, Mo.
When the two murderers first left St. Charles, they took a westernly direction and were seen near Elm Point. Afterwards they cut across Judge Dierker’s farm and reached the M. K. T. tracks. During the early part of the evening, however, it was supposed they would pass through St. Peters. Nightwatch Steve Hopkins took the evening train west, riding on the engine so that he could keep a better outlook of the intervening country. With him was Bert Robinson, a young man also of wholesome courage. At St. Peters they found a crowd of sympathetic armed men already on guard. Later in the evening, when it was learned by telephone that the murderers had been captured, Mr. Hopkins and his companion returned to St. Charles on foot, arriving at 12 p.m.

The Inquest

Among those who testified at the Coroner’s inquest this morning were Senter Ebeling, 12 years old; Lyman Sheets, 13 years old; Dr. B. P. Wentker; Wm. Fischer; Mrs. Hatfield; Sam Harris, colored.

Teresa Young, colored, who resides in the Cob Pipe factory, testified that the three assassins had visited her at about 2 p.m., on the afternoon of the shooting.

Did they Murder Eichorn?

It is said that the St. Louis police now believe that the three Black Brothers were the murderers of Otto Eichorn, who was shot and killed in a saloon at 3404 Lawton Avenue, last Thursday. The Globe-Democrat quotes Arthur Moore, a colored man of St. Charles, as saying that the Black brothers were bragging that they had killed a white man on Lawton Avenue.
This seems to be in harmony with the actions of the murderers all day Saturday. If the St. Louis officials are right in their suspicions it can readily been seen why the Black Brothers were bold. They had made their escape after shooting Eichorn and imagined that they could shoot anybody else and do the same.

Bullets Got From Negro

Coroner Belding cut into the body of Tom Black, which was taken to the Dallmeyer Undertaking establishment and uncovered the bullets in his body. A bullet in his shoulder was found to have come from the revolver of John Blair and the one in his head from the revolver of Dave Lamb. Mr. Blair shot a steel bullet and Mr. Lamb a lead bullet, thus the facts of the case in this instance were easily determined.

Lynching Forestalled by Mayor

Mayor Olson deserves great credit for instructing Mr. J. H. Machens to take the prisoners into St. Louis. If they had been brought to St. Charles that night there would have been one of the prettiest lynching parties ever seen, and another blot, which St. Louis papers so gladly herald, would have been added to the fair name of St. Charles. If Deputy Rupp and others had made any effort to protect the prisoners as their oaths of office require, white blood, as well, might have been shed.

Funeral Arrangements

Officers David Lamb and John Blair were about the same age. Mr. Lamb was 41 years, 3 months and 21 days old and Mr. Blair was 41 years and 21 days old.
The bodies of both policemen, which had been taken to the Steinbrinker Undertaking rooms, were Sunday afternoon removed to their homes the remains of Mr. Blair being taken to 414 Montgomery Street and those of David Lamb to 2027 N. Fourth Street.
Mrs. Blair has no living parents although she is one of a large family of sisters and brothers. It is common knowledge that she and her husband were sweethearts in the true sense of the word, and the blow comes especially hard. Naturally she is in a prostrated condition. The couple had no children. The remains of Officer Blair will be taken to Briscoe, Mo. Tuesday for burial.
As is well known, Dave Lamb leaves a widow and a family of children. One is his own child and the rest were by his wife’s former husband, who strange enough was killed suddenly, likewise, by an accident, but not murdered, some years ago, during the construction of the Highway Bridge.
It is understood that Mr. Blair carried $2000 insurance, and Mr. Lamb carried $1000. Mr. Blair was a member of the Woodman Lodge.
Dave Lamb was especially fond of his little daughter, Rona. On the evening he was killed he kissed her good-by and waved to her as he departed turning back several times to throw kisses and beckon lovingly. The little girl, five years old, stood in front of the house and watched her father out of sight.
At first, when the news came that her father had been hurt and carried to the hospital she could not understand the situation clearly but someone said that he had been shot, she seemed to realize the tragedy and broke forth in screams followed by pitiful sobs and saying “I always told him to be careful or he would be shot”.
Mrs. Lamb is bearing up as bravely as possible under the terrible strain as well as her son, Brayton, and her other children, and she like Mrs. Blair has the profound sympathy of everybody in this community.
Mr. Lamb died in the St. Joseph’s Hospital Sunday morning at 4:45 o’clock. From the time he was brought there by the ambulance almost to the time he died, he prayed aloud that his little daughter, Rona might be brought to him, but the request seemed to be an unconscious one as he was unable to recognize her.
The coroner, upon examination, found that Mr. Lamb had received two wounds; one of them was on his shoulder and the other one was through the back of his head splitting open the bottom of his brain.
John Blair had received five wounds. One bullet went through his ear, one grazed his shoulder, one went through his throat, another near his stomach and another plowed a furrough in his face.
The coroner found that one of the bullets that hit Blair was a 44. He did not succeed in obtaining any other bullets from the bodies of the dead policemen.
The funeral of Officer Lamb will be held Tuesday afternoon at 2 o’clock from the Baptist Church, this city, thence to the City Cemetery.

Continued in Part II

Published in Vol. 28, No. 4, October 2010 Saint Charles County Heritage, The Bulletin of the St. Charles County Historical Society


These articles are taken verbatim from the noted St. Charles historical newspapers. Some of the language quoted are in this day and age considered “politically incorrect.” By quoting these articles, I am not condoning the use of any offensive terms and the usage only reflects the time period of the murders.


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