'In valor there is hope'
DONALD R. SERFASS/TIMES NEWS Lansford Police Officer Brian Horos, left, and Officer Chris Ondrus, display the pencil etching of fallen Officer Morgan Morgans' engraved name as seen on the Fallen Officers Memorial, Washington, D. C.
From the very inception of the Borough of Lansford, its officers of the law have forged a reputation for going the extra mile to protect and serve borough residents.
So it was no surprise when town council immediately called a meeting to deal with the loss of the only Lansford policeman to die in the line of duty. Officer Morgan Morgans ended his watch and left this world about 4 a.m. on October 9, 1912, two hours after suffering a single gunshot wound to the forehead. He had gone to investigate a reported break-in at the Ridge House, a downtown tavern and residence.
Morgans was 30 years old and a resident of 203 West Abbott Street. He was a respected officer, described as "careful, conscientious and a fearless. " He stood six feet tall, weighed at least 200 pounds, and was known for his toughness.
The Tamaqua Evening Courier reported: "Mistaken for a burglar, Morgan Morgans was shot and fatally wounded by Miss Florence Thomas, an 18-year-old school girl."
But Morgans' grandson, William Morgans, 85, of Easton, claims it wasn't an accidental gunshot fired by a school girl. Instead, it more likely was deliberate, an execution, perhaps by the reputed Molly Maguires.
"He was murdered. There is no way it was an accident. I have no doubt in my mind," says William Morgans. Members of the Lansford police department are inclined to agree. Early recorded information about the case just doesn't add up, they say.
Research continues into the death and additional details have been uncovered in official borough records, thanks to perseverance by members of the police department.
"I wondered whether or not there'd be minutes on his death," said Officer Chris Ondrus. That curiosity sparked a search of old journals. "They were in the basement of the firehouse with old records kept since the incorporation of the borough," he notes.
Ondrus managed to find a needle in a haystack when, while reviewing the century-old records at the former borough hall, he discovered documentation about Morgans' death. It took Ondrus only one-half hour to hit paydirt.
According to records, Morgans was paid $75 per month as night-time patrolman at the time of his killing.
Just hours later, town council called an emergency meeting. According to the minutes of October 9, 1912: "A special meeting of council was held in the council chambers for the purpose of making arrangements for the relief of policeman Morgans' widow and such other business as might come before council.
"On motion of Williams and Morgans, there be a committee appointed to draw up resolutions along with the solicitor and to make arrangements to take up a subscription for the relief of the widow of the late policeman Morgans.
"Committee appointed is Williams, Morgans and Davis."
Warren Holmes was appointed temporary policeman. Holmes was paid $70 a month. The minutes were signed by Robert Bacon, secretary pro-tem.
However, in the excitement, members of town council forgot one important gesture.
"They didn't even give him a moment of silence," says Officer Brian Horos. Members of council likely were so stunned they just hadn't thought to do it.
Ondrus said Morgans' replacement, Holmes, also was listed as a high constable for which he received $12 a month. Holmes' role as temporary policeman was short-lived.
"The following meeting on October 16 is when they put George Eames in as night patrolman," says Ondrus.
Interestingly, finances were modest in those days. At the time, town council showed a balance on hand of $402.07. Receipts totaled $615.23 and and expenditures were $602.92.
Morgans is listed on the Internet's Officer Down Memorial page with this tribute: 'Policeman Morgans was shot and killed while investigating a burglary in progress. He had served with the agency for 4 years and was survived by his wife and four children.'
The site confirms his official End of Watch as October 9, 1912, due to gunfire.
A mention of the coroner's inquest was found at the Carbon County Courthouse by Officer Dave Midas, who made a photocopy for the police department. The inquest doesn't include medical details but corroborates the timeframe of the shooting and confirms the quick investigation.
Officer Morgan Morgans is far from forgotten at the Lansford police department.
When Chief John Turcmanovich traveled to Washington, D. C., for a DARE conference, he visited the Fallen Officers Memorial and made a pencil etching of Morgans engraved name. The memorial carries the motto 'In valor there is hope.'
That etching done by Turcmanovich and a copy of the only known photo of Morgans have been framed and now occupy a prominent location on the west wall of the Lansford police station. There, LPD officers pass by Morgans' photo every day, including additional officers: Det./Sgt. Jack Soberick, Timothy Wuttke, Joshua Tom, Jeffrey Ohl, Robert Shubeck, Amie Barclay, Robert Shubeck, Jason Helmer and Brian Zulic
Through that tribute, members of the Lansford police department have created a timeless memorial to a fallen comrade, ensuring that Officer Morgan Morgans continues to watch over his department and the town he loved.