Spring cleaning leads to historical discovery
By Brian Stanley firstname.lastname@example.org May 5, 2012 10:12PM
Chief Charles Blood | Courtesy of Joliet Area Historical Museum
Updated: June 7, 2012 8:09AM
During a recent spring cleaning at the Joliet Police Department, some officers came across the oldest report in their archives.
A signature from City Clerk Robert Kelly indicates items 2936 and 2937 were filed about a month after the events occurred in January 1888. The investigation report and witness testimony are both typed and handwritten on packets of paper that have been folded up for nearly all of the last 124 years. It appears the municipal government was using both fountain pens and dip pens at the time.
Industry boomed following the Civil War and the population had tripled in the past 20 years. Nearly 25,000 people lived here and worked in large plants, breweries and factories.
Among them was John D. Paige, who was born in 1837. The Joliet Fire Department says Paige came to Joliet from Oneida County, N.Y., at the age of 7. Bicentennial Park claims he was 20 and walked here from Wisconsin. Both agree he was carrying a dollar in his pocket.
Paige is credited with developing the process of bottling flavored beverages with pressurized gas, inventing “soda pop” in a store along Bluff Street’s Merchants Row. A plaque near the store’s underground cellar, which still stands at Bicentennial Park, claims that occurred during the 1850s (just after the young man arrived from Wisconsin), while the fire department puts it at 1869 (long after the kid came from New York).
Written in pencil, Paige’s signature is the first one on the investigation report, as historians agree he was mayor in 1888. Paige already had Joliet Township assessor and township supervisor on his resume, but he’d also served as the city’s first fire chief.
Before Paige was appointed fire marshal at a salary of $200 a year in 1877, volunteers would respond to the station if a watchman rang a bell after spotting smoke. Volunteers were expected to supply their own horses to pull the city’s pumper and steamer to the blaze before Paige hired 21 firefighters and bought horses.
After six years, Paige moved over to become police chief, leaving John Swanson in charge of the fire department. And when Paige became mayor in 1887, Swanson was replaced by Frank Kramer.
Regretably Kramer’s life seems less-documented, but the Joliet Republic And Sun (one of the city’s four daily newspapers in 1888) describe his statements as “frank and manly.”
“Mr. Frank Kramer is an excellent fire marshal. We could not get a better man. He is a soberer man than the last one,” the R & S wrote, possibly explaining why Swanson was replaced. “He has been for years in the department and possesses the confidence and respect of everyone.”
Mayor Paige’s choice to succeed him at the police department was another firefighter who’d worked for him in the soda pop business — Charles F. Blood.
Chief Blood (you have to love that name) was born in Aurora, N.Y., on Feb. 14, 1844, and served directly under General Philip Sheridan in the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac.
While attending school after the war, Blood married Miss Caroline Foncannon before coming to Joliet in 1872. After bottling soda and fighting fires for Paige, Blood also served as his deputy assessor where “he was found to be very useful in those positions, being energetic, fearless and accurate,” according to a contemporary biography supplied by the Joliet Area Historical Museum.
With everyone wearing so many hats their schedules must have been busy, but Blood and Kramer apparently still had time to socialize, as the documents show.
Oh, another thing worth mentioning about Joliet’s oldest police report: unlike the mayor, the police chief and fire chief aren’t the investigators.
They’re the suspects.
Next week: The charges against the chiefs.