City official shot in the line of duty

Robert Hume is pictured. (Photo courtesy of the Marquette Regional History Center)

MARQUETTE — Robert Hume was born in Ontario, Canada, and came to Marquette as a child in the 1860s. His first job was with at the city of Marquette as the first sexton at Park Cemetery, beginning in 1886. He worked with Peter White, the park commissioner to shape the look of the cemetery over the next 10 years.

Robert Hume was then appointed caretaker of the newly formed Presque Isle Park. The caretaker’s house was built in 1897 and Robert and his family resided there for the rest of his life. Hume oversaw the construction of the main roads around the Island. He loved the Island and guarded the natural attractions, like Arch Rock, Pulpit Rock and the Cove.

Part of Robert Hume’s duties as park superintendent were to also serve on the police force. It was in this role that he earned the respect of all Marquette citizens during one particular event in the summer of 1899. That year, the fifth Annual Upper Peninsula Fireman’s Tournament came to Marquette. Over 10,000 people were here to attend the competitions, games, parades and fireworks. An ornate wooden arch was built over Front Street to welcome the visitors to town.

However, along with the visitors, came hundreds of gamblers, thugs, crooks and other scoundrels to prey upon the people gathered here. The police force were concerned about tarnishing the image of the “Queen City,” Marquette. Weeks earlier, the newspaper headlines warned, “Gams Will Be Arrested! The majority of firemen and others who attend the tournament come for legitimate sport. They do not want to be fleeced by a gang of sharpers!” Another headline read, “Sharks Long For Firemen’s Coin!” Hume followed orders diligently to suppress all forms of gambling and to arrest the offenders. Over the week, he drew the hatred of many scoundrels.

About midnight on Aug. 10, Officer Hume responded to a call of a burglary on the corner of Front and Prospect streets. Police Chief Maney was not around so Hume set off by himself. Going up the Front Street hill, he found Officer Odette. The men walked toward the crime scene. Just as they neared the corner of Front and Arch, a party of four men approached the men and yelled, “Thumbs Up!” Odette reached for his revolver. The men then drew their guns and fired four shots. Hume fired back while being hit. The men ran off and Hume struggled to reach Dr. Dawson at the Adams house, two blocks away.

Robert Hume dropped inside the doorway saying,

“They shot me. I was afraid they’d get me. I’m shot in the back and in the side and in the arm and the bullet is down here, (indicating the pit of his stomach). Tell them I died game, that’s all. I think I hit one of the fellows. I was afraid of this. It’s those gamblers!”

His wife was summoned and upon arrival, he kissed her goodbye, thinking he was dying. Dr. Dawson treated him and stopped the bleeding. Hume rallied his strength and by morning and was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital for an X-ray with the new machine. It revealed a flattened bullet lodged near his diaphragm. The doctors decide to leave the bullet unless it bothered Hume.

Meanwhile, Police Chief Maney went on a rampage and arrested all gamblers, rounding up over 20 men that he placed in the lock up. The shooter of Officer Hume was never discovered. The officers were determined to clean up the city and arrest the scoundrels or drive them from town. Several citizens had already been victims of robbery on the streets. Hume believed that the men had set a trap for him and were lying in wait.

Hume was lucky to survive. He returned to his duties at Presque Isle Park. He erected the well-known monument to Charles Kawbawgam, last chief of the local Ojibwa tribe. Hume found the black granite stone with a red granite stripe washed up on the beach after a storm and it was installed in 1912 at the burial place of the Kawbawgams, who had lived at Presque Isle.

He also helped to establish the first deer herd, supervised the building of the pavilion and band shell and later the pool and zoo. He wanted to improve recreation for the citizens of Marquette. Robert Hume had no set working hours. He worked day and night every day, right up until he passed away in 1938 at the age of 78.

Hume was the oldest city employee both in age and years of service, having worked for over 52 years. And the last 39 years he carried the bullet as a reminder of his heroic deed while protecting the city he loved.