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By the Way: Erwin Mondeau’s tombstone reveals nothing of his tragic story

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It happened Feb. 23, 1898 — exactly 125 years ago today.

For the third time, law enforcement officers approached the home of Adam Weaver near the Springfield Township village of Bursonville.

There were four of them and they were there to serve a bench warrant. They obviously expected trouble. Weaver had failed to show up for a court appearance involving a theft from a Springtown store and had so far eluded the constables.

This time, Constable Meadus Atherholt and deputies Erwin Mondeau, Israel Moser and William Glassmoyer found an armed and angry Weaver waiting for them. He held a shotgun and had a .38 caliber revolver tucked in a pocket. He gave them five minutes to leave.

Meanwhile, Weaver’s wife, Susan, armed with rocks and a pot of boiling water, threatened the men and urged her husband to shoot.

When Atherholt tried to rush Weaver, the scofflaw shot his rifle several times. Weaver then reached for his revolver, repeatedly shot Atherholt and fired a lethal shot at Mondeau, who fell to the floor.

Moser knocked the gun from Weaver’s hand. Weaver’s wife then threw scalding water and rocks at the men. Glassmoyer suffered a severe head wound.

Mondeau, shot in the chest, died at the scene that wintry afternoon. Atherholt survived five bullet holes in his head.

The following day The Doylestown Intelligencer called the tragedy “one of the bloodiest and most desperate struggles that ever took place in Bucks County.”

In the confusion that followed the melee, Weaver apparently sneaked away from the scene. A 25-man search party failed to find him. Despite a handsome (for then) $2,000-reward, Weaver was never captured although reports placed him in the Lehigh Valley, and some locals believed he returned later to Haycock Mountain and eventually died there.

His wife was arrested, tried and convicted of second-degree murder. She was later committed to Norristown State Hospital and died there in 1923. Their five children were sent to the county almshouse.

Atherholt, who continued to suffer from his wounds, died a year later.

Mondeau was the first law enforcement officer in Bucks County to lose his life in the line of duty. The Intelligencer reported that 1,000 people attended his funeral at Old St. John the Baptist Catholic Church on the Nockamixon-Haycock border.

The murdered man, who had often accompanied Atherholt as he went about his duties, was described only as the son of Edwin Mondeau, a farmer who lived near the church.

The efforts of some amateur historians in Nockamixon have finally pulled Mondeau’s story from the past.

Joe Fachet worked hard to have Mondeau’s name added to the list of fallen officers at the county law enforcement center in Doylestown. Mondeau is now also listed on the Officer Down Memorial Page in Washington, D.C.

Rosanne McCarty and Donna Hobson provided a lot of research material. The work was especially meaningful to Hobson who has a son who is a police officer. Hobson is among those who are saddened by the loss of so much local history.

She’s chased down information at Doylestown’s Spruance Library, walked through old cemeteries, even visited the notorious Doane Brothers’ cave.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said, but it’s also a passion that binds her to her computer for hours at a time now that many old records are digitized and available online.

So when members of the Nockamixon Historic Commission conducted a tour last fall at Old St. John’s Cemetery, which dates to 1742, it was no surprise to find Hobson standing at Mondeau’s grave.

His tombstone does not mention his murder, only that he lived and died, but Hobson had been chosen to bring his story to life. It’s a story that has little consequence nationally, but it enriches our own little patch of Planet Earth.

Kathryn Finegan Clark is a freelance writer who lives in Durham. She can be reached at kathyclark817@gmail.com.


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