The History of Springville Police Department
Springville Police Department began with the appointment of the first Town Marshal, Cyrus Sanford, back in 1853. When needed, the town marshal could appoint deputies to help perform his duties, but for the most part he was the lone lawman in the town.
‘just-one-lawman’ organization lasted for about fifty years. The first recorded marshal, Cyrus Sanford, served from 1853 to 1859. Sanford was the first of 41 City Marshals. After six years of service, Cyrus turned the reigns over to Thomas Dallin. In all, twenty-two men served as Springville’s marshal from 1853 to the turn of the century. By the end of the next century, another 19 men would fill the position of Town Marshall.
By City statute, the Town Marshal was given the title of Chief of Police, then later the position became the Director of Public Safety. Springville’s longest serving Chief of Police was Leland Bowers. Chief Bowers came to Springville from southern California in 1974. He served until his retirement in 1995 (21 years).
Twice in the history of Springville Police Department, men have paid the ultimate sacrifice for the community. The first was Levi Washington Davis. Davis was twenty-four years of age when he was called upon to join a posse. The date was April 27, 1860. The posse was heading out to arrest a rustler by the name of Jack Cole. Cole was hiding out at his father’s home in Springville. He was also an escapee from a federal prison.
Once Cole was located (sleeping in his father’s home) the town marshal instructed him to get ready, that he was under arrest. Cole picked up his gunbelt and strapped it on. When ordered to put the weapons down, Cole instead pulled out his gun and began to fire, taking deadly aim at Levi Davis. As Levi fell, mortally wounded, the rest of the posse opened fire. In spite of their best efforts, Levi Davis, who had walked to the territory from Nauvoo Illinois, died May 7, 1860.
Silas E. Clark was the next law officer to lose his life in the line of duty. The year was 1897. Utah had joined the Union as a full-fledged state just the year before. Springville had a railroad station, and like other communities in Utah, was experiencing crime associated with rail shipments. A gang of thieves had broken into rail box cars as they sat overnight in Springville. The thieves made away with peanuts and tobacco… and Marshal Clark was gathering a posse to try to put an end to the crime spree.
As the posse gathered, one of the young men called to help was checking his sidearm. Suddenly the gun discharged. The bullet slammed into Marshal Clark’s abdomen, cutting through his internal organs. He was rushed to the local doctor who performed surgery to try to remove the damaged organs, but infection set in. Clark died several days later. The names of both Levi Washington Davis and Silas E. Clark are now included on the law enforcement memorials in Salt Lake City and in Washington DC.
Sometime after the turn of the century, Springville Police Department began to hire more than one person at a time… just one or two at first, to help the marshal with his duties. By the 1940’s the name was officially changed to the Springville Police Department, and the marshal became the ‘chief.’ The police department itself was housed in the City Hall building, somewhere between the current City Hall and the Fire Station. By 1950 the police officers moved out of the old City Hall and into a building across the street which had been used by a monument company. The jail cell remained at City Hall however, until the old building was demolished and a new city and Police/Fire facilities were built in about 1965. The old jail was hoisted by crane and lowered into the basement of the new police building. Prisoners were kept in the jail, even as construction continued on the then-new building… and passersby were able to look in and say ‘hello’ whenever they wanted. (When that building was replaced, one of the cell doors was taken to the pioneer museum on Main Street for display.)
Once the new building was completed, prisoners were housed upstairs in a steel-lined jail, and the old cells became the Department’s evidence storage room.
Calling a policeman for help has changed drastically over the years in Springville. Once telephone service came to town, citizens could call the local operator and ask for the police. The operator would flip a light switch, which would then turn on a light at 200 South Main. The light would signal the officers and they would stop to call the operator to see what was needed! Not exactly like calling 911 today… Eventually officers drove City-owned police cars equipped with a two-way radio. During the night, Utah Highway Patrol would dispatch officers, and during the day a fireman would answer the phone then dispatch the officers.