On the evening of Saturday February 26, 1887 Det.
James Shepard had gone to the area of (West) Ferry near Herkimer to
conduct an investigation. While at this location the weather had
suddenly taken a dramatic turn, with winds reportedly reaching gale
Seeking shelter from the severe weather and extremely violent winds Det.
Shepard went to a house at 238 Ferry. This structure was under
construction and Det. Shepard took shelter either just outside or in the
The force of the winds was such that "the house, which was
unoccupied, was wrecked by the squall, which blew it to pieces"
trapping Det. Shepard under the rubble. Once the structure had collapsed
officers from Pct. 5 were notified, being told an individual had been at
the house when it collapsed.. The officers made an immediate search of
the house as it lay in ruin. They were horrified to find that the
critically injured individual in the house was Det. Shepard. Shepard was
taken to a residence across the street and an ambulance was immediately
Prior to the arrival of the ambulance or any medical assistance Det.
Shepard had died.
James W. Shepard had led an interesting life and became a legendary
figure within the Buffalo Police Department.
Shepard was born in 1840 and grew up in Hamburg, N.Y. He was a veteran
of the Civil War, serving with the 44th New York Volunteers. During the
war Shepard and the 44th Volunteers saw considerable action. During the
Battle of Malvern Hill he was wounded and lay on the battle field for
seven days. He was taken prisoner by the Confederacy where he was held
as a prisoner in Libby Prison(2).
On May 7, 1866 he was appointed to the Niagara Frontier Police
Department (which was the predecessor to the Buffalo Police Department).
In June 1880, Shepard was appointed to the rank of Captain for Pct.1. On
December 28, 1888 Shepard was appointed Superintendent (3) of the
Buffalo Police Department. He served in that capacity until May 10,
From May 10, 1883 until his end of watch, Shepard maintained the rank of
Detective. He served in the notoriously tough 1st Precinct, which had in
its' boundaries the infamous (Erie) Canal Zone.
Along with his partner Det. Patrick Mack, the two became rather well
known as tough but fair officers.
At the time of his death, Det. James Shepard was 46
years of age having served 21 years as a member of the Buffalo Police
(1) This was the sixth and last of the Seven Days' Battles. On July 1,
1862, Gen. Robert E. Lee launched a series of disjointed assaults on the
nearly impregnable Union position on Malvern Hill.
(2) The most famous prison of the Civil War was located in Richmond,
Virginia. It consisted of three tenement (loft style) buildings, each
110x44 feet, 4 stories high. During the war, Libby had held over 125,000
men, mostly Union officers. Other prisons are known for their death
toll, but none could match the number of inmates Libby held.
(3) Equivalent of present day rank of Commissioner of Police
Source: The Buffalo Express - February 27, 1887,
Front Page article The Buffalo Evening News - February 28, 1887, Front
Page article The Buffalo Times - March 1, 1887, page 4 Death
Certificate: James Shepard