Many tree-stump gravestones were carved to showcase individual characteristics about the deceased for which the marker was made. In this case, the tree-stump marker was carved for 40-year old James J. Keefe who had been a police officer (Badge #1620) in the Chicago Police Department. His occupation is indicated on the tombstone with a night stick hanging from a limb and a policeman’s cap resting on the stump.
What the gravestone does not tell the passerby is that Patrolman Keefe was killed in the line of duty. On Thursday night, January 5, 1905, Keefe and several other officers were called out to apprehend a known and violent criminal who had several priors on his rap sheet including several armed robberies and shooting a police officer.
The officers spotted the suspect at 26th and Wallace Streets. The criminal quickly drew his gun and began firing at the officers. The officers ran in hot pursuit of the suspect and followed him into a nearby tavern. As it turned out the saloon keeper and the suspect had been incarcerated together and the suspect had ducked into the tavern to enlist the aid of his prison buddy. Now the saloon keeper and the suspect were both firing at the officers. In the shootout, two officers were wounded, including Patrolman Keefe, who had been shot in the chest. The saloon keeper was shot in the back and the leg and arrested at the scene. The suspect had slipped out of the tavern but was caught and arrested several blocks away at a drug store where he had collapsed. The suspect, too, had been shot and was losing blood.
Unfortunately, Patrolman Keefe was rushed to the hospital but died on the way. This gravestone memorializes his service.