W. J. Burns (1897)
W.J. Burns became West Boylston’s first uniformed policeman in May 1897. Before him, there was a local sheriff, but we aren’t positive what local law enforcement looked like in industrial West Boylston. Burns came into the force in response to increased “tramps” in town—homeless people who came to and stayed in West Boylston because of its location along the railroad and the work opportunities it boasted. The article continues to describe the terrible conditions at shelters for the poor and homeless, an issue which would be improved by the purchasing of a new building for a “tramp house.” While this newspaper clipping seems like a simple announcement of a new town employee, it’s interesting to look into a time when there was only one uniformed police officer in town, and it’s important for us to remember how poverty and homelessness have always been present.