History of Our Department

group400Our History

We are proud of the history of our department and the men and women who have served the City since 1847.

We have preserved historical items including uniforms, logs, badges, photos and other items.

≈  1847 - 1900  ≈

Hendersonville was founded in 1847 as the result of the search for a suitable County seat. Controversy surrounded the matter and two forces came to battle to determine where Hendersonville would be located.  The "river" group wanted the town placed along the French Broad River where the community of Horse Shoe is now located.  The "road" group wanted the town located along what was then known as the "Buncombe Turnpike". 
After a vote and three years of court actions, the "road" party won. Judge Mitchell King offered fifty acres of land to be plotted and divided to start the new town.
The town was patrolled by a group of volunteers during the early years.  The first Town Marshall, T. F. Freeman, was appointed in 1880. Over the next twenty years there were a total of ten more town marshals, some serving alternate tours of duty. 
A complete listing of Marshals and Chiefs can be seen by clicking here.

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One unique feature given to the town during its design was a 100 foot wide Main Street.

It is written that the goal was to have a Main Street that was wide enough to turn a team of horses and a wagon without having to back up.

The photo to the left is dated circa 1895, and shows Main Street with the Town Hall being the first building on the right.

old city hall 300On the right is another view of the first Town Hall, which was built in 1893 and torn down in 1925. Town Hall housed the Police and Fire Departments, and also served as an opera hall.
The first town Marshall to use the new Town Hall was J. A. Bryson, and the last was Chief Otis Powers.
Three persons have been hanged to their death in Hendersonville.  In the 1870's brothers Govan and Columbus Adair of Rutherford County were convicted of murder and hanged.  In 1876 Lewis Kilgore, Jr. was convicted of murder and hanged.  All three hangings were executed at the gallows which were located at Church Street and Second Avenue. 

 

≈ 1901 - 1945 ≈

In the history of our department, there have been three Chiefs that have served for twenty years or more. Chief Otis Powers was the first, and served the longest, 25 years, from 1915 to 1940.

Otis Powers started as a police officer in the first decade of 1900's.  On the right he is pictured with Chief J.W. McCarson, from whom he took the reigns of the department in 1915. Chief Otis Powers served from the horse and buggy era into the automobile era. He often rode patrol on his horse. (pictured below)
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Above: Chief McCarson and Officer Powers.

Left: Chief Otis Powers on his horse.

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The photo below, taken from the Toms Hill area southwest of town, shows Hendersonville circa 1910. The Courthouse, located on Main Street and Second Avenue, can be seen in the distance.

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There are four HPD journals preserved starting from the 1920's dating through the 1940's.  These journals are filled with incident and arrest notes.

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The first speed limit in Hendersonville was enacted in August 1905, was 6 MPH, and was punishable by fine of $50. In 1924 speeding was such a great issue that the town purchased a motorcycle and hired Seth Edmundson to enforce the towns traffic laws. That tradition continued in the 1940's and Lawrance Huntley, pictured below, served as motorcycle patrol.

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Hendersonville grew rapidly from the 1920's to the 1940's. Along with growth came problems.
Hendersonville had a lot of gambling via slot machines in the late twenties. In July 1930 all slot machines were outlawed.

Click here for the top Police related stories of 1930.
From 1900 until 1945, the Police Chief also served as the Fire Chief and the head of public works.  Chief Clarence Edney served the City from 1941-45, and was the last Chief to serve in multiple capacity.  His son, E.E. Edney, was the first Fire Chief, appointed in 1945.

The picture below shows Main Street circa 1943. Notice that street parking was similar to today, in that vehicles parked at an angle and there were only two lanes of traffic.

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After the original Town Hall was torn down in 1925, construction began on the new City Hall. It was completed in 1928. Originally the Police and Fire Departments were on the ground floor, a Courtroom on the second floor, administrative offices on the third floor, and the City Jail on the Fourth floor. The fourth floor is not visible from the street as it is hidden behind a facade. The photo below dates to circa 1940. 

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These Hendersonville Police Department badges are dated from the 1940's.  The uniform then was dark blue with gold buttons. 

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≈ 1945 - 1978 ≈

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1945 began with a new Chief, E.C. Orr, who served for ten years.

In the picture below, you will notice that Main Street was converted to four lanes of traffic, and that parallel parking was in use. The old Carolina theater is shown on the right. The Skyland Hotel, built circa 1929, is seen on the left side of Main Street.

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Officer De Bois Edmundson is seen in the below photo directing traffic on Main Street after a heavy snow during the winter of 1954. 

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The items above are (L-R) a patch and hat circa 1945, a badge circa 1955, and a hat badge circa 1950.  The patch is the first known patch used by the department.

1956 marked the beginning of Chief William "Bill Powers" term as Chief of Police, the second longest serving in our history. Chief Bill Powers is the son of the longest serving Chief, Otis Powers.  Powers served as Chief until 1978.

Chief Powers would later serve the City as the Department Head of the Public Works department before retiring in the late 1980's.

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City Hall is located at 145 Fifth Avenue East, at the corner of King Street.

In this photo taken in 1959, you can see the swing open doors on the fire truck bays on the lower level.

The Police entrance was located under the steps on the left side of the building.

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These photos are of the jail that was on the fourth floor of City Hall. The City Jail operated from 1928 until the 1960's. It's cells still remained until they were removed during the 2003-2004 renovation.
Inez Norman, who still serves as a volunteer with us, worked in the kitchen in the City Jail.
The City also operated it's own courtroom for traffic and city ordinance violations during this time.

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Below is a photo from 1959, showing Main Street with one of our Police cars parked on the left. 

≈ 1979 - 2007 ≈

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In the late 1970's Main Street was redesigned to a two lane with one curve on each block. Planters and other features were added as well to re-energize the down town look. The plan was a success as Main Street flourished during the next decade into the 1990's.


Main Street has become a tourist attraction, both for its history, unique design, and it's shopping.


The below photograph was taken in September of 2005 and shows the street as it twists South towards Flat Rock.

 
sixthpdThe Police Department moved from City Hall in the late 1960's to the former Times-News building on Sixth Avenue East, directly behind City Hall.
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The Police Department served from this building, pictured right, until 2005.

Donnie Parks, pictured below, was the third longest serving Chief, from
1987 until 2007.  Parks ushered in the information age and was instrumental in modernizing the department, adding computer systems and data management.  He also started our Community Policing Program and other interactions with
the Citizens.

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In late 2003, renovation was started on City Hall.  The Fire Department had moved out to the new facility on North Main Street several years earlier, opening up room for the Police Department's return to City Hall.

The photo on the right was taken just before renovation started, and shows the rear of City Hall.

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The renovation of City Hall included the addition of a large lobby and new elevator and stairs.  The rear of City Hall was redesigned to be the main entrance of the Police Department and also included a separate area for collection of water and tax payments.

In early 2005, the entire Police operation was moved back to City Hall, and the old Police Department on Sixth Avenue was demolished to make a parking area.