125-Year Anniversary of First Game Warden Murders

Today marks a sad anniversary for sportsmen. 125 years ago, two game wardens were killed by poachers–then referred to as “shackers”–in Maine, in what was likely the first case of game warden murders in the United States.

An article in the Bangor Daily News recounts the details. On November 8, 1886, Lyman Hill and Charles Niles–two game wardens for the Maine Warden Service who also happened to be cousins–were patrolling a logging camp near the central coast of Maine on horseback. They were following up with some hunters who had reportedly been seen hunting with dogs the previous day.

Confronting the hunters, Hill explained that hunting deer with dogs was illegal in the state. An argument ensued, and one of the hunters refused to turn his dog over to the wardens. Shortly thereafter, the hunter shot and killed the wardens with a shotgun and quickly fled the scene.

A young logging hand, 16-year-old Ira McReavy, witnessed the event and immediately contacted authorities. A chase ensued–the hunters on the run, a band of citizens and law enforcement officials hot on their trail.

One of the hunters turned himself in a week later, the other would be arrested in California in a year and sentenced to life in prison.

The story is tragic, but has also developed its own lore over the years. For example, some people say that one of the hunters eluded police for so long by dressing in drag and hopping from train to train.

Regardless, yesterday, game wardens from across the state–as well as other law enforcement officials, legislators and children–gathered to remember the very real sacrifices of the cousins.

“The passage of time so often dims memories,” said Maine Senator Kevin Raye. “But we must never forget the humanity of [the wardens’] deaths.”