The Gilded Age Plains City

The Great Sheedy Murder Trial and the Booster Ethos of Lincoln, Nebraska


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Spatial Narratives

Interpretation and Narrative

James Malone

Having lived and worked there for several years, James Malone, a policeman, was well acquainted with the places and people around Government Square in 1890.

After relocating to the city in 1885, Malone rented a room at Stover's boarding house. The next year he moved into a room at 242 North Tenth Street, where he continued to live until 1901, and even after moving to a house out on Twenty-fourth Street, he kept it as a downtown office.

These rooms were a block north of Quick's saloon and John Sheedy's casino and across the street from the police headquarters at the corner of Tenth and Q streets where Malone worked.

Malone was a "law and order" style policeman who arrived in Lincoln intent on "cleaning up" the town. He supported the efforts of the Law and Order League, a reform group formed by several reform boosters, to break down the corrupt system of kickbacks and "rents" paid to the police that kept casinos and brothels open in business in flagrant violation of local ordinances.

For most of these reformers, John Sheedy, whose casino was just down the street from Malone's residence and the police station, was the center of this world. Police who supported this agenda kept up suveillance on Sheedy's casino from the street, and regularly "pulled" the casino owners and madames who ran the brothels down on Ninth and Eighth Streets towards the railroad tracks.

Early on Malone acquired a reputation for crossing the line and breaking the law in trying to subdue ruffians and criminals. In October, 1887 he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, a felony, after beating William Wilcox with brass knuckles.

He spent over a week in the police court responding to the charges. After pleading guilty to a lesser charge he was fined twenty dollars but went to jail because he was unable to pay the fee. After Malone spent three weeks in jail, reform mayor Andrew Sawyer paid most of the fine, and Malone was released.

As a hackman and later an agent for the Burlington and Missouri Railroad, Malone was also familiar with the railroad yards, the influential railroad interests in town, as well as the adjacent manufacturing and vice districts. An outspoken and flamboyant man, James Malone was a fixture around the square, feared, criticized, and admired for his aggressive manner. Later in 1909 he would become chief of police, a position he held until his death in 1918.

Malone, James [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Sawyer, Andrew J. [Brief Biography]
Sheedy, John [Narrative] [Brief Biography]

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Directed by Timothy R. Mahoney, Plains Humanities Alliance, in collaboration with the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities.
Funded by the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, the Nebraska Humanities Council, and the Plains Humanities Alliance.
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