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Salem Pioneer Cemetery ~ Thomas M. Eckhart ~ part of the Marion County Pioneer Cemeteries of Oregon
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Thomas M. Eckhart
BORN: Jan 1866 DIED: 1 Oct 1909 BURIED: 3 Oct 1909
DEATH PLACE: Salem, Marion Co., Oregon
OSBH (Marion County 1909) #2830 - Thomas Eckhart, male, married, b. Ohio, d. 1 Oct 1909 in Salem, Oregon at the age of 55 years, father born in Pennsylvania, maiden name of mother Fisher, interment 3 Oct, undertaker A. M. Clough, informant Mrs. R. M. Eckhart of 655 S. Capt. St.
1900 OR CENSUS - Thomas M. Eckhart, age 34, occupation motorman, b. Jan 1866 in Ohio, is enumerated with his wife of 14 years, Rose M., age 32, mother of 4 children, b. Dec 1867 in Ohio, along with Clarence E., age 11, b. Sep 1888 im Ohio, Stanley, age 10, b. May 1890 in Ohio, Percy B., age 8, b. Mar 1892 in Oregon, and William, age 5, b. Sep 1894 in Oregon.

NOTE - Daily Oregon Statesman has articles about the murder and hunt for the murderer. SEE 1 Oct 1909 1:1, 2 Oct 1909 1:1-2, 5 Oct 1909 1:1-2 and 5:6-7.

BIOGRAPHICAL (Source - "Fallen Salem police officer part of history", by Capi Lynn, for the Statesman Jounal, 1 Oct 2009, pg 1):The final resting place of Thomas M. Eckhart is near the front gate of Salem Pioneer Cemetery. It is marked by a bolster gravestone, with a red-colored granite cylinder resting on its side on a cement base. The style was common in the early 20th century, when Eckhart died. 
His headstone is visible from Commercial Street SE, although the gravity of its presence is lost on most passers-by.
"Thousands of officers have driven by there not knowing the significance," Salem police Deputy Chief Lyle Gembala said.
Eckhart is thought to be the only Salem police officer to have been killed in the line of duty in the department's 152-year history. He was shot while attempting to make an arrest Oct. 1, 1909, and died later that day at the hospital. Thursday is the 100th anniversary of his death.
Gembala has been dedicated to recognizing Eckhart and his sacrifice for more than two decades. He first learned about the fallen officer around 1983 while doing research for law enforcement classes he was taking at what is now Western Oregon University. He has been the unofficial historian of the department ever since.
When I met Gembala for coffee to learn about Eckhart, Gembala smiled proudly as he slid a manila envelope across the table. Inside was a stack of documents nearly an inch thick, including a "Slain Officer Report," a copy of Eckhart's death certificate, and numerous clippings from local newspapers.
"One of the things I want to do before I retire is to have appropriately honored Eckhart," said Gembala, who has served 41 years with Salem police.
Eckhart was 55, married and had five children at the time of his death, and he had been a patrolman for 10 months.
Gembala's research indicates that Eckhart previously served with the department, although the dates are unknown, and that Eckhart also was chief of the fire department at one time.
The Daily Oregon Statesman reported that Eckhart's funeral "was one of the most largely attended of any ever held in the city, people from every walk of life meeting to pay a last tribute to his memory."
The circumstances leading up to his death, the manhunt for the suspect, and the court proceedings that followed have all the makings of a suspense novel.
George Meyers, a 25-year-old unemployed plumber whose family owned Meyers Department Store at the corner of Court and Liberty streets NE, was in trouble with the law because he was late returning a horse to a livery stable. He showed up at his brother Arthur's place and refused to leave.
Arthur Meyers went to Officer Eckhart, who was at a nearby restaurant, and asked him to remove George. Eckhart obliged, believing there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Little did he know that a warrant never was issued.
George Meyers went peacefully with Eckhart, and there is no mention of Eckhart searching or handcuffing the suspect at the time of the arrest.
Eckhart said in his dying declaration, which was printed in the papers, that they walked to the city jail, "talking friendly along the way."
Just outside the jail door, Meyers distracted Eckhart by saying, "someone is there looking in the window." Eckhart looked toward the window and as he turned back to face the prisoner, Meyers pulled a pistol out of his coat and shot Eckhart in the abdomen.
Meyers shot the officer again, in the leg, before he last was seen by witnesses running north in the alley near the 400 block of Chemeketa Street NE.
Eckhart was taken to Salem Hospital, but there wasn't much doctors could do after finding that the bullet had severed both the large and small intestines, and lodged in the small of his back. He gave a statement in the presence of his wife, two doctors and attorney Charles L. McNary — providing details of the arrest and shooting — before he died at 4 p.m. that same day.
Brian Goforth is Thomas Eckhart's great-grandson. Goforth grew up knowing his great-grandfather was a police officer and had been killed, but the family didn't talk about the details.
Eckhart had four sons and a daughter. The boys were in their teens and early 20s when he died. The girl, Goforth's grandmother, was just 5.
"Her big brothers were her father figures," Goforth said.
Goforth, a middle school counselor in Vancouver, Wash., has done his own research and visited the gravesite at Pioneer Cemetery.
He said Thomas Eckhart's wife, Ruth, left Salem within a year or so of the shooting. She died in 1942 and is buried next to her husband.
Goforth said it was fascinating to read his great-grandfather's dying declaration and the legal wranglings of the case.
Meyers surrendered eight days after the shooting, with the Rev. P.L. Larden persuading him to give himself up. The murder weapon, a .38-caliber revolver, was discovered in a wheat bin in Rev. Larden's barn, near Pratum.
Meyers was convicted of murder in the second degree and sentenced to life in prison. But the conviction was overturned by the Oregon State Supreme Court, in part because of inadmissable testimony and the fact that there was no warrant, and Meyers was granted a new trial. This time he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced Feb. 10, 1911, to an "indeterminate period in the state penitentiary."
"I'm not sure how much time he ever served," Gembala said.
Officials at the Oregon State Penitentiary were unable to locate any records of Meyers' imprisonment. They did find a George Meyers who was incarcerated around that time but who did not match the age or physical description of the one who shot Eckhart.
There are no known photos of Meyers or Eckhart.
Salem Police Department has a collection of historic photos, and many of the officers in them are unidentified. It is possible one of them could be Eckhart.
Goforth, the keeper of the Eckhart family history, wishes he had a photo of his great-grandfather.
"That would be my dream come true," he said, "to come up with a photo that positively ID's him."
Goforth is grateful to all the new information he has about his great-grandfather, thanks to Gembala's research.
"It gives me good feeling," Goforth wrote to Gembala, "to know that the Salem Police Department still remembers and appreciates his contributions to the force 100 years later."
The history of the department is important to Gembala, who spearheaded the effort to frame and hang historical photos throughout the department, including the briefing room. In another conference room, there's a glass case displaying old police badges. Next to it is a framed rubbing of Eckhart's name from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
"We wouldn't have the history we have around here," Salem Police Chief Jerry Moore said, "if it weren't for Lyle." 
Thomas Eckhart is thought to be the only Salem police officer to have been killed in the line of duty in the department's 152-year history. He is buried at Salem Pioneer Cemetery.
Thomas Eckhart's name is etched onto Oregon Fallen Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, which was erected in 1991 on the Western Oregon University campus. It was moved to the grounds of the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training in southeast Salem, and today there are 171 names on that wall.
Eckhart's name also is on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
THOMAS ECKHART. The life of one of Salem's brave police officers was ended yesterday afternoon through his being the victim of a murderous attack in the early morning hours. The bullet which caused the demise of good Tom Eckhart was fired from a pistol in the hands of a young resident of this city whose career has not been of the best sort for some month, and who, although at large at the time of this writing, will surely be apprehended and punished. But the punishment of the desperate young man, no matter how severe the penalty, will not bring back Tom Eckhart, good citizen, faithful officer, esteemed by everybody who knew him. It is a sad case, in all its bearings. 
Daily Oregon Statesman 2 Oct 1909 4:2. 

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, Local No. 1065, has drawn up the following resolution out of respect to Thomas M. Eckhart, who was murdered in this city: We, your committee appointed to draft resolutions of condolence, beg leave to report: Whereas, Owing to the unfortunate chain of circumstances that led to the removal of T. M. Eckhart from our midst, and: Whereas, We have a deep feeling of horror at all times for the acts of the assassin, and: Whereas, We feel that in his death, we have lost a friend, his family a loving husband and father, and our city an efficient officer and protector, therefore be it Resolved, That we deem it proper that we as members of Local Union No. 1065, of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Jointers of America do extend our deep sympathy to the family of the deceased in this their time of bereavement. 
Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be spread on our minutes, a copy sent to the family of the deceased, and a copy sent to each of our daily papers for publication. J. F. Wisner, A.W. Dennis, E.L. Briggs, Committee. The foregoing resolutions were unanimously adopted in open meeting of Local Union No. 1065, October 2, 1909. Wm. Short, President, J. F. Wisner, Recording Secretary. 
Daily Oregon Statesman 5 Oct 1909 5:6. 

The funeral of Patrolman Thomas Eckhart held Sunday afternoon was one of the most largely attended of any ever held in the city, people from every walk of life meeting to pay a last tribute to his memory. The floral offerings were especially beautiful. Dr. J. R. Comer, pastor of the First Baptist church, who conducted the services, spoke feelingly of the splendid record of Mr. Eckhart as a citizen and an officer. The Woodmen took part in the services, which were extremely impressive. Interment was in I. O. O. F. cemetery. 
Daily Oregon Statesman 5 Oct 1909 8:5.
Thomas M. Eckhart 
1864 - 1909
1900 OR CENSUS (Marion Co., Salem, ED 132, sheet 1B)
DOS 2 Oct 1909 4:2 
DOS 5 Oct 1909 5:6 
DOS 5 Oct 1909 8:5

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