James H. Kerse, my great-grandfather, 1857-1921, was born, raised and died in Richmond,Virginia. Not only that, but he served the city well as a police officer for over a quarter century! As the son of an Irish immigrant, I am told that James was definitely identified as an “Irish Cop”! He married his beloved wife, Mary Catherine Botto, herself the daughter of an Italian emigrant. We have a family story about a neighbor who walked by James ‘s house one day and lamented that his Irish friend had gone and “ruined his life” by marrying “that Italian woman”! LOL As I understand it, he loved that Italian woman with every ounce of his being,and she was the practical one, the business woman who allowed him his pleasures of boating, fishing, and hunting with her business savvy and entrepreneurship–she is another story.
James however, as a sergeant with the Richmond City police force for many years, was apparently well thought of, well-respected, and seen as a down to earth, friendly man. He died in 1921, my mother was only three, so she did not know him. How do I know as much as I do about him? Besides family stories, I discovered something remarkable about the Richmond Times Dispatch –not only did it report news, but in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s , it functioned as our facebook of today! We can find amazing stories of the everyday occurences of our ancestors in the paper–in archives in State libraries, as well as on websites like Genealogybank.com where I got all of the articles cited in this blog post.
One of the funniest stories I found about my great-grandfather told of a cow coming to vist him one Halloween night in 1913! This has to be one of the funniest pranks ever pulled by teens or friends on a Halloween night–look at this story! Notice the charm and wit as my grandfather handled this situation! No wonder he was a popular police officer! (click on the image to enlarge it for reading)
As funny as this article is, i know my great-grandfather was well-respected because I found an article about his being wanted as the chief of police. This was published in the Richmond Times Dispatch on March 11, 1905:
Although we know that he was not made the chief, the very proposal shows he was held in high esteem by his peers and superiors.
I wanted to include one last story about my great grandfather James and his son Thomas–my mother’s father– my grandfather. This is the story of James and his son Thomas taking a party of individuals on a weekend excursion aboard ship on the Evelyn, a yacht first owned by James and handed down to Thomas his son. (Thomas later owned another yacht which he named the “Lady Jane”. Evelyn was his first-born daughter of six, Jane was his baby daughter.) It is a wonderful story on many fronts–it tells us about the historic Tangier Island off the coast of Virginia. However, of great interest to me was the fact that the trip took place in 1917–just as we were joining World War I. Notice how this pleasure cruise must deal with the military precautions and activities in the Chesapeake Bay. Stories like this bring this period in history right to our front door!
There are actually several other stories tht I found–about James training his setters to fish as well as hunt! Stories of him actually arresting people on the streets of Richmond, and keeping the peace! It is such a wonderful way to fill in some history–I feel I’ve gotten to know my great grandfather in ways I never expected, Here’s hoping you have the opportunity to find your own family stories!. Have a great day and ek, Helen