William Cargill Burnett, (b. 18 Sep 1863-d. bef. 1924), son of my 2nd great grandparents William Burnett and Susan Hill Kent, had arrived in Lowell MA in the 1880′s from his hometown of Upper Musquodoboit, Nova Scotia, Canada.
On 13 Dec 1884 he married Margaret M. Murtagh in Lowell with a son, Walter V. Burnett, arriving in September, 1886.
From city directories he held a few different occupations, first working in the textile mills and later, with his brother Albert, driving and hiring out a wagon for hauling, as well as being a wood dealer:
In 1895 William Cargill Burnett was appointed to the Lowell Police Department, and I have found several newspaper articles in the archives of the Lowell Sun in which he is mentioned, including the article mentioning his appointment to the police force. The most interesting article about him by far is one in which he chases down and arrests a purse snatcher, and the article is headlined with a drawing of Officer Burnett and the chase! Gotta love the Keystone Cop uniform!
The first paragraph of the article reads:
“Police Officer William C. Burnett is making quite a record of late in Lowell
police circles. Only a short time ago he made a clever capture in Hurd
Street of a pair of runaway horses and last night almost in the same locality
he effected the capture of a bold sneak thief.”
There are also several articles written in the Lowell Sun about the police department’s baseball team with Officer Burnett playing second baseman.
From all of the news articles that I’ve found for Officer William C. Burnett it appears that he had an illustrious career on the force. He appears so often in the papers that he becomes known as simply Officer Burnett, someone who is obviously well known around town. But his career comes to an abrupt halt in June of 1906, when the following article appears in the Sun on June 20th (which I’ve had to transcribe as the copy of the article is very difficult to make out in places):
Discharged From the Police Force
ON CHARGES URGED BY WIFE
He Did Not Appear to Defend Himself
“Because she alleges her husband was paying attention to another woman and neglected her, Mrs Burnett, wife of Patrolman William C. Burnett, he was discharged from the police force last night. Mr. Burnett, knowing what was in store for him took time by the forelock and tendered his resignation. His resignation, however, was not accepted for the reason that to resign would mean that he would be an eligible candidate for the police force at a future time. Mrs. Burnett appeared before the board in private session and told her story.
Mr. Burnett was to have appeared but it was stated that he had departed for the golden slopes of California. Burnett was instated into the police force about a half score years ago and no black marks were registered against his name until, as his wife alleges, he transferred his affections to another woman. Mrs. Burnett and the other woman had a stormy meeting in Merrimack street a few days ago and the meeting was so animated that blows followed in the wake of words.
The Burnett affair and a row between James G. Birtwell and Patrick F. Welch were the elements that made the meeting of the board just the least bit lively.” [The Lowell Sun, Wednesday June 20 1906]
I’m not sure where in golden California our great-grand uncle ended up following his disgraced exit from the Lowell police force or if he ever returned to Lowell, but he disappears from the Lowell city directories after 1906 and I haven’t located him in any US Federal Census after 1900. In a Lowell city directory of 1924 his wife, Margaret Murtagh Burnett, is listed as the widow of William C., but the exact date of his death is not known. Margaret passed away a few years later, on 16 February 1928.