James M. Shepard
Rank: Detective
End of Watch: February 2, 1887
Tour of Duty: 21 years
Assignment: Precinct 1


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 force.

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 dwelling.

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 called .

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, 1883.

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 Department.

(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