Mt. Pleasant historian seeks to honor victim of century-old tragedy
Rick Meason said he views it as one of the great injustices in the history of Mt. Pleasant — the early-20th century murder of one-time borough Police Chief Denver Braden Pore.
Last summer, Meason, the president of the Mt. Pleasant Area Historical Society, was exploring the online newspaper archives of Ancestry.com when he accidentally came across the story of Pore's murder in the edition of the Mt. Pleasant Journal published on Thursday, April 12, 1906.
He sat rapt as he read on, line by line, about the incident that took place at 10:30 p.m. April 5 of that year.
“I was shocked I'd never heard of it before,” said Meason, a 2001 Mt. Pleasant Area graduate.
On that date, the 25-year-old Pore was gunned down in the line of duty while attempting to arrest Andrew Lindsay Jr., a 22-year-old man who reportedly was intoxicated and firing off the weapon indiscriminately about town while accompanied by his friend, Thomas Wilson, Meason said.
More than one full day later, following emergency surgery, Pore died at the local hospital a few minutes after 8 a.m. on April 7, 1906. The cause of his death was said to be “the effect of the terrible wound” inflicted at the hands of Lindsay.
“It's very sad, and it's definitely something you don't hear of happening around here,” Meason said. “I think this is the only Mt. Pleasant police officer ever killed in the line of duty.”
Upon discovering what he considered to be a shocking yet engrossing story of tragedy, Meason set out to learn more of Pore, his life circumstances and where he was laid to rest.
With the aid of former society member Phyllis Newell, what Meason found instilled in him a drive to see that all of Mt. Pleasant and beyond know and recognize the sacrifice Pore made that night.
“We decided to dig deeper, and we found a real story here,” Meason said.
A tragedy is retold
On the night of Pore's shooting, Lindsay and Wilson were together drinking in the early part of the evening.
They visited a local skating rink where Lindsay was said to have threatened, “to shoot out the lights,” according to the Journal article.
When the rink closed at 10 p.m., the two of them left on foot.
They had reached Eagle Street in the borough where Lindsay tried to get Wilson to go with him back downtown.
Lindsay added that he would kill anyone who might try to arrest him.
Shortly thereafter, Lindsay fired a bullet in the air.
It broke the second-story window in the residence of Abraham Ruff, just across Main Street.
The gunfire attracted the attention of Pore, who one month prior won the department's Badge No. 1, or the equivalent of police chief.
Pore jumped on a streetcar and encountered the men at the corner of Main and Eagle streets. He approached Lindsay and Wilson with one hand clutching an umbrella he held overhead. Because his intent was to first question the men, Pore did not have his gun drawn.
The situation quickly escalated, and Pore attempted to place Lindsay under arrest. As Pore held Lindsay's right arm, Lindsay fired two shots during the struggle, the second of which pierced the officer's abdomen.
The bullet punctured Pore's intestines nine times before it bored through his pelvic bone and lodged in his hip, the historic article stated.
After that Lindsay and Wilson dashed away back down Eagle Street.
Upon being tended by medical personnel, Pore uttered the following statement:
“I thought he (Lindsay) had put the weapon back in his pocket after the shot in the air as I was on the crossing.”
In the commotion that ensued following the shooting, Lindsay and Wilson both managed to escape capture. The two evaded pursuit by local authorities.
Following Pore's death, a jury determined that Lindsay, though still on the lam after reportedly boarding a train out west, was responsible for the death of the police officer.
A $250 reward was offered by borough officials for his capture, which was eventually upped to $500 by those then serving on Westmoreland County's board of commissioners.
Though law enforcement officials at the time ruled that Lindsay should be apprehended and charged with murder before a grand jury, he was never found.
More than a year after Pore's death, Wilson turned himself in to authorities and was cleared of all implication in the crime.
At that time, Wilson told authorities that he and Lindsay separated shortly after they left Mt. Pleasant and that he had not seen Lindsay since.
“There was never any justice that came out of this,” Meason said.
Slain officer had ‘a sunny disposition'
On the morning of Sunday, April 8, 1906, Pore's remains were taken to a darkened funeral home on Smithfield Street, where his grieving young widow, Harriet “Hattie” Wakefield Pore, and the couple's two young daughters, 2-year-old Janet Ruth Pore, and 1-year-old Helen Mabel Pore, awaited.
Many in the community mourned Pore's death, as he previously worked as a popular motor man, or trolley driver, for the West Penn Railways Co.
“He was said to have ‘a sunny disposition,'” Meason said. “He took the job as police chief as a means of bettering his family's lot in life.”
Following a service held at the Mt. Pleasant Church of God attended by his many family members and friends, Pore was buried high atop Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, where he remains to this day.
“This is a man who gave his life in protection of this town,” Meason said.
Each year, the society's Cemetery Walk winds past Pore's grave, but there is nothing to indicate the heroic circumstances of his death, he said.
“The grave marker isn't much to look at. There's no mention of the fact that he was a police officer or how he died.”
Advocate to present case to council
When Meason discovered Pore's story, he alerted borough Councilwoman Cindy Stevenson, who then relayed it to council in the fall.
“I think this particular story is going to be of interest to many, and I absolutely think a memorial is in order. I can't imagine that people wouldn't want to have a person like this memorialized and honored in this town,” Stevenson said.
At Monday's borough council meeting, Meason is scheduled to appear before the governmental body to share ideas on ways to more properly memorialize and pay tribute to Pore.
“This town has done so much to honor its fallen military soldiers with the Doughboy and the Veterans Wall,” Meason said. “I would like to see a statue of Pore in town, possibly in front of the borough building and the police station.”
Councilman Larry Tate, chairman of the digital veterans' wall committee, said he would also like to include Pore's story in the wall's database under borough history.
“I talked to a lot of people who gave me a history of Mt. Pleasant, and that was never brought up to me,” Tate said. “We definitely need to do something because he shouldn't be forgotten.”
A website known as the “Officer Down Memorial Page” includes biographical information on Pore and his murder. It is available at http://www.odmp.org/officer/21788-chief-of-police-denver-braden-pore.
Borough Manager Jeff Landy invited Meason to speak before council. He said he hopes Meason's ideas help spur a community-wide response.
“In today's world, a policeman, a firefighter, a first responder or a soldier ... anyone who died in the line of duty ... would be honored and, somehow, it was not done back then,” Landy said. “I would hope the borough, the citizens and everybody would rally around this project.”
Newell, who has helped Meason shine a light on Pore's ultimate sacrifice from the beginning, will work to see that Meason's goal is one day accomplished, she said.
“I'll do anything I can to help him,” she said, “because Rick has a true interest, and Mt. Pleasant has a true history.”