FRANK S. WILSON

1854 – 1908

During September 1907*, Frank S. Wilson received notice from the State of Michigan that he had been appointed a state game and fire warden. Wilson’s district was comprised of 10 counties in northern Michigan and he resided with his family in Elk Rapids.

Wilson was last seen alive during the night of Wednesday, April 1, 1908 in Traverse City. Wilson’s body was found on Friday, April 3, 1908 in the woods of Leelanau, just over the line near Traverse City. Wilson was found with two bullet wounds to his head.

Wilson was laid to rest at the age of 55 in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Elk Rapids Township, Antrim County, Michigan. Wilson was survived by his wife and seven children.

Deputy Warden Frank S. Wilson is not currently recognized on the National Law Enforcement Memorial or on the Jurisdictional Plaque at the North American Game Warden Museum as a fallen officer. Wilson is recognized on a paving stone at the North American Game Warden Museum.

JULIUS A. SALOMONSON

1878 - 1908

On Nov. 15, 1908, Deputy Game, Fish & Forestry Warden Julius Salomonson, his brother Martin Salomonson and Deputy Sheriff J. C. Hazeltine drowned in White Lake located in Muskegon County while trying to apprehend violators netting fish illegally.

 

During the afternoon of Nov. 14, 1908, Salomonson and his brother found illegal nets near the mouth of a channel leading to Lake Michigan. Expecting trouble, they secured Hazeltine's assistance. Around midnight on Nov. 15, the trio left their horses and lantern along the edge of the lake and proceeded out in a small flat bottom boat to apprehend the violators.

 

After hearing no word from them the following day, a search party was formed. Their bodies were located 600 feet from shore in about seven feet of water. The county coroner’s inquisition stated, “...came to their death from drowning in White Lake on the 15th day of November 1908 while endeavoring to secure nets placed in said lake contrary to law and apprehend party or parties placing said nets, and in trying to perform said duty were drowned in an unknown and mysterious manner.”

Sources questioned whether the men had met some type of resistance and were overpowered, as it was known certain violators had made threats that there would be serious consequences if the officers did not cease their efforts to break up the illegal netting activity and leave them alone. The deaths were declared an accidental drowning after an investigation by Deputy State Game Wardens Tom J. G. Bolt of Moorland, C. K. Hoyt of Grand Haven and Deputy Sheriff Dan James could find no evidence of any violence towards the officers.​

PATRICK THOMAS WATERS
1871-1923

Born on Jan. 3, 1872 in Canada, Deputy Game Warden Patrick T. Waters died on Tuesday, May 29, 1923 at age 51. 

Waters was with another deputy game warden at the Riverview Hotel in Port Huron, waiting for a fisherman whom had a warrant. Waters died from injuries sustained when he opened the wrong door and fell down a basement stairway at approximately 2 a.m. 

He was laid to rest in the Mount Hope Cemetery in Port Huron and survived by his wife and three children. Waters was a former hotel proprietor.

ARVID ERICKSON

1896 – 1926

Conservation Officers Arvid Erickson and Emil Skoglund were working together on Sept. 29, 1926, in the Sands Plains area of Marquette County, when they encountered an unlicensed small game hunter.

During the course of the arrest, the man pulled a hidden .22 caliber revolver and killed Skoglund with a shot to the head. When Erickson came running up, he was also killed. When the officers failed to return home and their abandoned car was found, a massive investigation and search was launched. The evidence eventually led to the killer, who confessed to the crime. The officers’ bodies were recovered, having been weighted and dumped into Lake Superior from a pier in the city of Marquette. The killer was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Erickson was laid to rest at the age of 30, he left behind a wife and two children.

 

Erickson is recognized as a fallen officer by the National Law Enforcement Memorial, the Jurisdictional Plaque at the North American Game Warden Museum, and on a plaque outside the District 3 office in Marquette, Michigan.

EMIL W. SKOGLUND

1890 - 1926

Conservation Officers Arvid Erickson and Emil Skoglund were working together on Sept. 29, 1926, in the Sands Plains area of Marquette County, when they encountered an unlicensed small game hunter.

During the course of the arrest, the man pulled a hidden .22 caliber revolver and killed Skoglund with a shot to the head. When Erickson came running up, he was also killed. When the officers failed to return home and their abandoned car was found, a massive investigation and search was launched. The evidence eventually led to the killer, who confessed to the crime. The officers’ bodies were recovered, having been weighted and dumped into Lake Superior from a pier in the city of Marquette. The killer was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Skoglund was laid to rest at the age of 36, he was unmarried at the time of his death. 

 

Skoglund is recognized as a fallen officer by the National Law Enforcement Memorial, the Jurisdictional Plaque at the North American Game Warden Museum, and on a plaque outside the District 3 office in Marquette, Michigan.

 

THERON A. CRAW

1900 – 1928

Theron A. Craw was born April 9, 1900* at the family farm near Long Lake in Grand Traverse County, Michigan. He was the son of Michigan Conservation Officer and District Law Supervisor Mark A. Craw and his wife Clara. After serving as an infantryman in World War I, Theron Craw was hired as a Michigan Conservation Officer on Jan. 2, 1928.

On Oct. 31, 1928, Conservation Officer Craw was working a detail with Conservation Officer Howard Yunker at Acme Creek in Grand Traverse County. The two officers were assigned to work trappers and chase off merganser ducks from fish which had been recently stocked in the creek. During the course of their duties, Craw was accidently shot by Yunker. Craw sustained a 12 gauge gunshot wound to his back, with the pellets reaching into his left lung and liver, as well as other organs. He was taken to Munson Hospital for treatment, and two days later began to develop Peritonitis. Craw died on Nov. 5, 1928. 

During his stay at the hospital, Craw pleaded with officials not to blame Yunker for the incident. Craw stated Officer Yunker was not at fault for the accident, and that he had jumped up in front of Yunker as he was shooting. 

Craw was buried at the Oakwood Cemetery in Traverse City with full military honors by the Bowen – Holliday American Legion Post. His body was escorted by an honor guard comprised of four Michigan conservation officers. Conservation Department Director George Hogarth made it clear that Officer Craw, “was shot in the line of duty, and so compensation is doubtless forthcoming.” At the time though, the incident was classified as a hunting accident in order to protect the wishes of Craw.

Craw’s father, Mark A. Craw served as a Michigan conservation officer from 1900 until his retirement in 1947.

ANDREW SCHMELTZ

1890 - 1936

Andrew Schmeltz died on Oct. 20, 1936 in Negaunee Township, Marquette County, a few miles north of Negaunee on the Carp River.

 

Schmeltz was killed on a wooded trail that leads along a ridge between Pricket Lake and the Carp River. Parts of his body were found at 9:30 a.m., Oct. 21, by Isaac Seppala and William Hiekilla, members of the searching party. His revolver was found in an open spot 10 feet west of the trail. Eight feet further on, searchers found his holster. The body had been dragged about 157 feet to the edge of a swamp where it was then blown to bits by charges of dynamite. 

 

On Oct. 23, State Police took Raymond Kivela, age 27, into custody. Kivela, in a confession to the county prosecutor, stated he killed Schmeltz about 11 a.m. on Oct. 20. Two shots near the heart from a .22 caliber rifle killed the officer at the location where his gun was found. Kivela then dragged the body to a point mentioned above and returned home in the afternoon and purchased 50 pounds of dynamite, for the purpose of disposing the body. At night he returned to the swamp and first shot off a decoy blast about a quarter mile north of the body, waited for one hour, then placed 70 sticks of dynamite on it and set them off hoping to drive the remains into the mud of the swamp. He went home and returned about one hour later and set off all but two of the remaining sticks of dynamite to destroy any evidence of the former blast. 

Schmeltz had been investigating a report of illegal trapping and met Kivela along the trail carrying a .22 rifle. Kivela admitted he had no permit to carry the gun. Schmeltz said he would have to take his gun and Kivela then struck the officer knocking him to his knees. Kivela seized the .22 rifle and fired two shots into Schmeltz’s chest. 

Kivela had first stated in his confession he mistook Schmeltz for a partridge. 

He was sentenced to life in prison for first degree murder on Dec. 14, 1936.

 

MAURICE C. LUCK

1908 - 1938

Conservation Officer Maurice Luck was accidentally shot in the abdomen in Sandusky, Michigan on March 15, 1938. His service revolver fell out of his shoulder holster and discharged when he leaned over while working on his patrol car at a service station. Luck died on March 16, 1938 at 4:45 a.m. at a local hospital.

 

Luck was laid to rest on March 19, 1938 in St. Johns, Michigan at age 29. He was survived by his mother and father, Earl and Mattie Luck, a sister, Miss. Lois Luck and fiancé, Vera Frederick.

 

Before joining the department, Luck served with the Ingham County Izaak Walton League as a special deputy. Taking the officer's examination in June 1936, he was named a conservation officer the following November. He was regarded as one of the most promising of the younger officers. 

CARLYLE B. SMITH

1895 - 1943

Conservation Officer Carlyle B. Smith set out to patrol the Maple River checking for set lines in Gratiot County on April 17, 1943. He began his patrol of the Maple River from Bridgeville (State Road) and proceeded down river towards Maple Rapids with his small patrol boat and motor. Smith was last seen alive while launching his patrol boat in Bridgeville.

It is believed that Smith’s patrol boat known for its unstableness capsized into the cold water of the Maple River. Smith was able to retrieve his boat, motor and some equipment and drag them to shore. At this point Smith began an approximate thee mile walk back to Bridgeville where his vehicle was parked.

When Smith did not return home from his patrol a massive search was initiated. State Conservation Officers, State Police, Gratiot and Clinton County Sheriff Departments and local citizens all assisted in the search for Smith. Smith’s body was found on May 11, 1943, south of the Maple River between where he began his patrol and where his boat, motor and patrol equipment were found.

 

According to Michigan State Police reports, two MSP doctors conducted the autopsy and could not rule out heart disease. The Coroner’s Jury concluded that Smith died due to “OVER EXERTION AND EXPOSURE.”  

 

Smith was laid to rest at age 48 at the Gunnison Cemetery in Clinton County, Michigan. Smith was survived by his wife Helen and daughter Marilyn. 

 

A quote from a service record stated that Smith, “has shown outstanding ability and has given exceptional service as an officer.”

THOMAS J. MELLON

1901 – 1947

 

On Thursday, Oct. 23, 1947, Conservation Officer Thomas Mellon and five others headed out to fight a fire raging along the Manistique River in Schoolcraft County. The men with Officer Mellon included: Oliver Johnson, Lawrence Berrell, Clarence Taylor, Joe Burton and Conrad Oberg. The men launched a wooden boat on the Manistique Riverfrom the Sturgeon Hole Slough. Officer Mellon was seated in the rear of the boat operating the outboard motor.

 

About one half mile up stream the boat hit a submerged deadhead in the river. The river was approximately 12 feet deep and about 160 feet wide with a strong current. As the boat struck the obstacle, it ripped open the bottom, stopping it immediately. The boat then started taking on water and began to sink.

 

After the men abandoned the boat, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Johnson began to swim to shore. Officer Mellon and Mr. Oberg, unable to swim, struggled in the water. Mr. Johnson attempted to save them utilizing debris in the river. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful in his attempts and both men disappeared under the water.

 

The bodies of Officer Mellon and Mr. Oberg were recovered later that night.

 

Officer Mellon was laid to rest at the age of 46.

 

EDWARD STARBACK

1900 - 1957

On Aug. 8, 1957, Conservation Officer Starback was enroute from Boyne City to Beaver Island by plane to pick up a Department of Conservation patrol boat. Starback left this patrol boat at Beaver Island a few days prior due to rough weather conditions. Piloting the plane was a local insurance man by the name of Donald P Watkins, 63. They were also accompanied by Starback’s two sons, Major Richard Starback, 35 and Carlton Starback, 28.

 

At approximately 1:20 p.m. on Aug. 8, 1957 the four men departed for Beaver Island from the Boyne City Airport. At approximately 1:40 p.m. a pilot returning from Beaver Island witnessed the Watkins’ Stinson Voyageur airplane in a tight spiral at an altitude of more than 2,000 feet. All four men perished in the plane crash.

 

Starback was laid to rest at age 56 in the Breedsville Cemetery in Breedsville, Michigan. Starback was survived by his wife Bonnie.

 

Starback is currently recognized on the National Law Enforcement Memorial and on the Jurisdictional Plaque at the North American Game Warden Museum as a fallen officer.

n Museum.

 

PETER J. VANVALIN

1916 - 1970

  

Peter J. VanValin was hired by the Department of Conservation in 1947 as a Conservation Officer. Officer VanValin was quickly promoted to pilot in 1948 at the Roscommon Regional Office. Officer VanValin remained in at the Roscommon Regional Office as a pilot and Conservation Officer for the next 22 years.  

 

Officer VanValin served in World War II as a Captain and bomber pilot with the US Air Force.

 

On May 21, 1970 a tragic department plane crash in Oceana County took the life Officer VanValin, age 54, and three additional veteran Department of Conservation officials. Witnesses reported the State owned plane went into a shallow dive about a half mile south of the airport. The plane plummeted into an apple orchard, flipped over, and immediately caught fire. Also killed in the crash were: William Karl Kidder, age 57; Chester M. VanWeiren, age 45; and Robert A. Gouin, age 50.

 

GERALD F. WELLING

1918 - 1972

 

Conservation Officer Gerald Welling, 54, was killed at approximately 2 a.m. on Sept. 10, 1972 while on patrol for illegal bear hunting activity at a dump site near the community of Hermansville. 

Welling, accompanied by Conservation Officer William Maycunich observed a pick-up enter the dump area and shine a light in an apparent attempt to locate bear. The officers, who were on foot at the time, attempted to apprehend the two occupants of the pick-up. 

 

Maycunich approached the stopped vehicle from the driver's side and Welling was approaching the vehicle from the front, in full uniform, waving a flashlight and illuminated by the headlights of the vehicle. As Maycunich shined his flashlight into the pick-up, it suddenly sped forward, striking Welling. The pick-up had a hydraulic snow plow assembly mounted on its front and Welling became entangled in this assembly and was dragged underneath the vehicle for approximately 100 feet. 

 

Maycunich fired at the departing vehicle and apprehended the driver of the vehicle, Kenneth Viau, 24, of Bark River, a short distance down the road. A passenger in the vehicle, Gary E. Johnson, 30, of Hermansville, fled the scene on foot. Welling was pronounced dead on arrival at the nearest hospital. Both Viau and Johnson were initially charged with first degree murder in this tragic event. Charges against Johnson were ultimately dismissed. 

 

A jury trial found Viau guilty of a reduced charge of negligent homicide and being sentenced to one year in Marquette Prison.

 

SCOTT AVERILL

1946 - 1986

 

On Thursday, Oct. 23, 1980, Conservation Officer Averill approached two men (father and son) spearing trout on the Acme Creek in Grand Traverse County. Averill wrote the two for illegally spearing fish. On request of the men, Averill turned his back to change the appearance date on the citations to a more convenient time for them. Without warning, the older man drew his .22 caliber hunting revolver and began pistol whipping Averill in the head while his son held him down.

 

The two men took Averill’s service revolver, glasses and ticket book and fled the scene. With severe head injuries and damage to his brain, Averill was able to crawl to his vehicle and drive to M-72 where he called for help. Averill was able to relay information on the two suspects to the Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Department. The two men were later arrested.

 

The night of this incident, Averill underwent surgery to relieve pressure on two skull depressions. Averill later developed brain tumors in the injured area and passed away on Feb. 1, 1986 at the age of 39.

 

Averill was laid to rest on Feb. 5, 1986 at the Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Lowell, Michigan. Averill was survived by his wife (Susan M.) and two children (Randy S. and Kristin R.).

 

ARTHUR A. GREEN III

1956-2015

 

Arthur A. Green III was hired as a Michigan Conservation Officer on May 5, 1996. Green was promoted to Sergeant on Jan. 30, 2005, and to First Lieutenant on May 24, 2015. F/Lt. Green spent his entire career serving the citizens of southeast Michigan.

On Aug. 9, 2015, Green was piloting an airplane to a mandatory in-service training in northwest Michigan. The plane crashed while on approach to the Harbor Springs Airport in Emmet County. The severity of the crash resulted in the death of Green.  

 

Green is recognized on the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. and at the North American Game Warden Museum as a fallen officer.

 

Prior to becoming a conservation officer, Green served in the Detroit Police Department, the United States Air Force and the Michigan Air National Guard. Green is survived by his wife and two sons.

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