Woodyatt Family
Dixon, Lee County IL


Probably the most famous name in the history of law enforcement in Dixon is Woodyatt. There have been four generations as law officers in Dixon. Sgt. John Woodyatt, and his son, Patrolman Larry Woodyatt, make up two generations now serving as policemen. John's father, Howard Woodyatt was a Dixon policeman. The most famous of the Woodyatt family, however, was William H. Woodyatt, who served the city 38 years as city marshal and later, police chief.

The exploits of the first Woodyatt border on the legendary. Old newspaper accounts of his activities aren't quite up to those of a Wyatt Earp or Matt Dillon, but nevertheless indicate he was a thorn in the side of some of Dixon's early - day offenders. In 1882, the city was infested with tramps, who, according to reports, entered Dixon homes and took anything they could lay eyes or hands on. The paper tells of break-ins at night in the business community. As many as 25 of these men gathered at one time in a "hobo jungle" in the woods near the railroad tracks.

Woodyatt, city marshall, had the job of keeping these men under control and, with city council cooperation, Woodyatt began doing the job so well that Dixon became a place of terror for the wanderers. Records indicate the city ordered a goodly supply of balls and chains and when one of these hoboes was caught acting out of line, he was given a ball and chain and put to work in the city's street improvement program.

A report of one of Woodyatt's adventures tells of his finding a stolen coat stashed in the railroad depot. Like a more modern policeman, he 'staked out' the site, waiting for the thief to return for the coat. When the man did, Marshal Woodyatt pulled his gun, but was shot in the hand by his own gun during the tussle, and the thief fled. He was later caught and put to work on the city streets. The Telegraph editorially came to Woodyatt's defence when a move was reported to cut his salary.

Said the newspaper -- "His salary of $60 per month is too small. Hardly a week passes when he does not arrest some fellow whom it is worth a man's life, to say nothing of the salary he received, to handle. Only last week he took a knife from a drunken rowdy at great danger to his own life. It is but a short time since he, int he night, dodged a slung shot and arrested a rough, who would have killed him, only for the officer's intrepid daring a quick action."

Marshal Woodyatt first took the job of enforcing the law in Dixon in 1878. He served until 1886, when he resigned. He returned in 1895 as marshal and served in that post until 1906 when a police department was formed in Dixon. He was police chief in the first department. Woodyatt served 38 years.

Daniel McKenney was another long-time lawman of the early days. He served as marshall from 1865 through 1870. Charles F. ball took office in 1889 when George M. Berkley was removed from the job and served thorugh 1894. Earliest records indicate James Hatch Jr., was constable in 1853. Ozias Wheeler in 1854 and 1855. Hatch returned in 1856 and split the duties with William Stackpole in 1857. Orlando Herrick was constable in 1858. Others to serve in those early days were Amos P. Curry, E.A. Snow, Edwin F. Bennett, James M. Van Arman, William Stevens, James W. Kent, Joseph R. Morrill, Perry Walker, Edward Sterling, William Coffey, and H.T. Matthews.

The Dixon Evening Telegraph Feb. 28, 1976

John G. Woodyatt, 23, 1522 Fourth St. has been appointed as a new police officer on the Dixon Police Dept. by Forrest S. Shawger, commissioner of public health and safety. Woodyatt's initial appointment if for a five month period but it is expected that he will be a regular member of the department. He is the grandson of the late Chief of Police, Henry Woodyatt who headed the Dixon Police Dept. about 50 years ago. Woodyatt, an ex-marine served in the pacific during WW II. He was wounded twice while in the service. He is married and has one son, Harry Allen, three years of age. Woodyatt was sworn in this morning by Mayor J. Fred Hoffman.

Dixon Evening Telegraph 20 April 1949


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