In 1791, Cornelius Hogeboom earned an honor no one would knowingly seek when he became the first recorded American lawman killed in the line of duty. As LEOs nationwide honor their fellow officers killed in the line of duty over not only this past year but all the years following Sheriff Hogeboom’s death, his story shows that little has changed in almost 225 years.
Little is known about Sheriff Cornelius Hogeboom – mainly because such record keeping was sparse at the time and newspapers were a luxury. Those accounts which are available describe him as well liked and a veteran of the Revolutionary War. He had only been Sheriff of Columbia County, NY for 2 years – but that would not be unusual given the fact that the war had only recently ended. More important is the description of how and why he was murdered.
On a morning in 1791, Sheriff Hogeboom had ridden to a local farm to serve a writ of ejectment against a tenet farmer, reportedly for failure to pay rent, and auction personal possessions in an attempt to recover monies due. It appears a deputy had previously attempted to serve this same order, but retreated when confronted by hostile friends of the farmer. So, it fell to the Sheriff to complete the unpleasant but necessary task.
Sheriff Hogeboom also encountered difficulties in serving the writ as it was reported a deputy had either completed the wrong paperwork or failed to provide the required paperwork to the Sheriff that morning. Hogeboom determined the eviction and auction would not be held until the situation was investigated and was attempting to leave when the farmer became confrontational, firing shots into the air. Hogeboom’s brother, who was riding with him that day, later reported that, following the shots, a horde of citizens dressed as Indians charged the Sheriff before someone, most likely the farmer, fired a fatal shot into Hogeboom’s chest.
In the days that followed, 14 individuals were identified as participating in the attack. 10 men were arrested and charged with Hogeboom’s murder and the remaining suspects reportedly fled to Canada. Despite being well liked, Hogeboom became not only the first American Lawman to be killed in the line of duty but also the first to see justice fall victim to social sentiment when all 10 suspects were later acquitted of all charges. Then, just as now, law enforcement officers were seen not as men or women simply doing their job but as an extension of the government and all that was wrong with “the system.” It was not the farmer’s fault he fell behind on the rent or that he incited a riot resulting in Hogeboom’s death; it was the Sheriff’s fault he picked a job which put him at odds with citizens who might do him harm.
In the 225 years since Sheriff Hogeboom was gunned down, the United States has lost 22,479 LEOs, adding 33 officers to this final tally so far this year alone. If you have an opportunity to visit the National Law Enforcement Memorial, stop at panel 13-E:27 and say a special “thank you” to Sheriff Cornelius Hogeboom , End of Watch 10/22/1791, for paying the ultimate price.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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