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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A museum in Sheridan is raising money to purchase a headstone for a county undersheriff killed in the line of duty almost 100 years ago
Museum at the Bighorns is trying to raise $850 to purchase a headstone for Undersheriff William McPherren, who was killed in the line of duty in October 1921.
Museum officials did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment about how much money they have currently raised.
According to a post on the museum’s website, museum Collections Manager Jessica Salzman was recently preparing a cemetery tour for Sheridan law enforcement officers when she discovered McPherren did not have a headstone.
There is a temporary grave marker at the head of McPherren’s grave, but nothing else to indicate he is there or who he was.
McPherren was the second, and as of 2021, the last officer to be killed in the line of duty in the city’s history.
“We feel that he should have a headstone so we are reaching out to the community to help raise funds for the purchase of a headstone to honor his sacrifice for Sheridan County,” the website post said.
According to the museum, McPherren served 14 years in the Sheridan Police Department, serving as chief from 1918 until resigning in 1921 to become undersheriff.
“McPherren was so well liked in the community that it’s likely that his move away from the Police Department to Undersheriff was to prepare to make a run for Sheriff. We will never know if this was the case or not,” the museum wrote. “News articles describe him as a well-liked and well trusted.”
He was killed during a Prohibition-era moonshine raid outside of the ghost town Monarch on Oct. 7, 1921. According to the museum, Earl McKenna was fingered by other officers as the man who pulled the trigger, but he was ultimately found not guilty of the murder charge.
“McKenna’s attorney spoke so passionately about the necessity of acquitting his client that the audience was moved to tears several times as he painted McKenna and McPherren as victims of a blundered and unjust raid,” the museum wrote. “The jury’s reason for acquittal was that it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that McKenna fired the fatal shot.”
The Sheridan Post at the time reported that McPherren’s funeral was well-attended.
“The large hall was filled to overflowing and it is doubtful if there was a single person present to whom Mr. McPherren was not known and whose heart was not filled with the poignant grief that comes only with the loss of a dear and valued friend… No larger funeral was ever held in the Elks home, the members of the order entirely encircling the spacious hall while friends occupied the center over flowing into the halls and filling the sidewalks,” the newspaper wrote.
When the fundraiser for McPherren’s headstone was launched this week, the museum was originally going to raise $1,450, but Champion Funeral Home in Sheridan agreed to donate the cost of installation and the granite foundation for the headstone, lowering the price tag to $850.