Remembering Deputy Foley

Marshall man remembers grandfather — the only deputy to be killed in the line of duty in Sherburne County

Photos by Jody Isaackson Visitors from the Sherburne County Sheriff’s office were guests of Pat and Doris Foley of Marshall Wednesday to view the collection of memorabilia Foley had from his late grandfather, Ed Foley who had died in the line of duty for Sherburne County on Sept. 28, 1919.

MARSHALL — Former owner of Eco Water Systems, Pat “The Old Softie” Foley of Marshall, gets misty-eyed when he retells the story of how his grandfather, Ed Foley was killed in the line of duty on Sept. 28, 1919.

Deputy Ed Foley was only 37 years old when bank robbers escaping from St. Cloud came through the barricade at the Elk River temporary bridge and opened fire on him.

“Not a word in answer (to the deputy’s request to wait) was spoken by the bandits, but the reply was a shot believed to have been fired by the man beside the driver,” the Sherburne County Star News of Aug. 23, 1979, quoted the original newspaper account in its reprinting of the story. “The charge was fired at Deputy Foley and took effect in his breast, cutting the jugular vein and killing him instantly.”

He had been killed with a sawed-off shotgun and the “desperadoes,” as they were called, ran off into the night.

Pat Foley has a collection of the Star News Aug. 23, 1979, edition along with family photos, the family heirloom Bible with Edward’s death recorded in it, Edward’s deputy badge and shotgun as well as the ring they had had to cut off his finger after he was killed.

These and other newspapers clippings and memorabilia were spread out on Pat and Doris Foley’s dining room table Wednesday during a visit from officials of the current Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office. Lyon County Sheriff Mark Mather was also there to check out the collection.

Sherburne County Sheriff’s Association President and investigative Sgt. Tim Jeanetta said their county was renovating their courthouse and wanted to build a display to exhibit the keepsakes in memory of Deputy Foley on the upcoming 100th anniversary of his death.

“I am willing to to give you everything on the table on loan,” Pat Foley said. “I have two (inventory) sheets for you to sign out the items. If it leaves the courthouse, it comes right back here to my house.”

The Sherburne County officials, including Jeanetta, civilian employee Heather Haller and Communications Media Specialist David Unze agreed. Unze also took photos of the collection and the special guests visiting with the Foleys about the collection.

“We want to have (lighted) cabinets made to display these items,” Jeanetta told Pat Foley. “They will be under lock and key.”

Jeanetta sat down with Pat Foley and went over a map of Sherburne County and where the bridge had been located. There was a new, permanent bridge constructed sometime after the incident, but Pat remembered having his picture taken on it.

Later, Foley told Mather to pick up Ed’s shotgun and see how heavy it was. Mather and Jeanetta took turns hefting the weapon that had once been in law enforcement.

Pat Foley continued to tell the story of his grandfather beginning with the deputy star that is normally in a special case.

“The way I heard it, the 6-point star like this one is given to ‘Top Notch’ sheriffs and deputies,” he said. “The 5- and 4-point stars were for someone with lesser experience.”

The law enforcement guests got a chuckle out of that.

Ed Foley’s story continues with Iliff going back to town and rounding up a 100-person posse that set out the next morning, posting guards at crossroads and bridges. They even had an airplane fly over and dogs brought up from Waterloo, Iowa, to help with the search.

The dogs led the posse to a farmers well, but stopped there.

Later it was reported that the three bandits had escaped in a second stolen car and switched cars three more times without being apprehended.

“To this day, Ed Foley is believed to be the only deputy sheriff killed while on duty in Elk River,” Jeanetta said, quoting the newspaper story.

The paper also reported the desperadoes were never caught, but another account reported that Paul Davis, alias Linous Bird, was indicted by the Sherburne County grand jury for alleged complicity in Deputy Foley’s murder.

At that time, Davis was serving a sentence in the Stillwater penitentiary. He had been sentenced at Crookston in November following his arrest at East Grand Forks on a charge of having burglar’s tools in his possession. For that he had been sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Efforts on behalf of Sherburne County officials at that point to apprehend the other two bandits who had been with Davis when Foley was killed had proved fruitless.

Officials of Sherburne County at that time said the murder charge against Davis was to have been pressed as soon as he completed the 18-month term in the penitentiary which he had been currently serving.

“No further information on him was found,” Jeanetta said.

Doris Foley wondered if the culprit had died in prison before he could be prosecuted for Ed Foley’s murder.

The thought that the other two bandits were likely already dead as well was expressed.

Another article in the Star News from Aug. 23, 1979, stated that Ed Foley’s widow, Eva, never collected on the law enforcement life insurance policy in her husband’s name. She had been told that the state of Minnesota didn’t have the money to pay the estimated $2,000 settlement.

Pat confirmed his father Mert Foley, named after Sheriff Merton Iliff, had also considered pursuing collection over the year since his mother died in 1953, but decided that hiring an attorney was too expensive.

Mert had been 9 years old and his sister, Lucille, 11, when their father was killed.