The Investigator

Victor Jonas Hultquist is known to some as “the father of Alcoa.”  The mayor of Maryville, Sam Everett, had welcomed the Aluminum Company of America to build a new site in what was then called North Maryville in 1914. Just a year after that, Hultquist was transferred from the company’s New Kensington site to oversee construction of a new plant along with a company town to house the many thousands of workers they were going to need. The new city of Alcoa was incorporated in 1919 and, until 1950, the city’s government was connected to the corporation. Hultquist was deeply involved in both the plant and the city, and he had a lot to be proud of. The town boasted of one acre of park for every one hundred residences and Hultquist oversaw construction of the pool and gardens that are still in use today. The company paid for schools for both the white and black residents, and the town included the area’s only hospital. It was a thriving and growing city, with many benefits for those who lived there. But schools and parks are no comfort when people live in fear. The Night Marauder attacks enraged Hultquist, and he would have done anything to protect his community.

Most Private Investigators were connected to one of a handful of agencies like the Pinkertons. But corporations also had their own, dedicated, investigators and it made perfect sense that Hultquist turned to ALCOA for help. On December 9, 1924, Hultquist sent a telegram to Aluminum Co. headquarters in Pittsburgh. He laid out the problem and asked if they knew of anyone who could come and help catch a killer. E. S. Fickes in Pittsburgh replied that he doubted the company could supply anyone. However, he forwarded Hultquist’s request to a Mr. C. B. Fox in Saint Louis. Fickes also confirmed that the company would “authorize any expenditure” and wanted Hultquist to “take whatever steps” he thought necessary. A separate letter, from P. J. Urquhart, head of accounting in the Pittsburgh office, added that they thought it would be good to supply the chief of Alcoa police with a few good bloodhounds. “Whatever (the dogs’) utility may be for tracking criminals,” Urquhart wrote, “their moral effect in the south is very great, even among educated people.”

Urquhart went on the express very clear feelings about the Night Marauder and how he should be dealt with:

If the crimes you describe are the work of one man, he is a very dangerous type of insane criminal, and if identified beyond doubt his captor should shoot him. The ordinary detective hasn’t either the ability to find his man or the guts to shoot him down if he does. One of your East Tenn gunmen had better deal with him, if you can find one to track him down or catch him.

It may assist in finding him if you will consult an able alienist or criminologist, regarding the peculiarities of men afflicted with this rather common but dangerous form of insanity.

When you start to hunt down any kind of ‘critter’, a knowledge of its habits and how it differs from others of its kind is mighty useful. On the staff of every big law or medical school or any modern insane asylum there is usually a man who has specialized on the criminally insane who would be able to advise you. Dr. Mac can doubtless guide you to one. By all means get this brute buried as soon as possible and don’t have a lynching, or worse yet, cause someone innocent of the trouble to suffer. Get the dogs at once.

(Emphasis in the original)

It was only a few days later, on December 15, that C. B. Fox wrote Hultquist saying he had the perfect man in mind for the job. There was a man who worked as chief of plant security in East Saint Louis, Illinois. Fred C. Hinrichsen (sometimes Hendricksen) was his name, and he was getting a little bored with his current posting. He was also eager to prove his worth to the company. “He has worked for us for over eight years on all sorts of jobs and we know he is absolutely safe and reliable and has splendid judgement,” Fox wrote.  Fox went on to explain the plan: Hinrichsen would travel by train to Knoxville and check into a hotel under an assumed name like “Smith or Jones or any other name that seemed advisable.” Hinrichsen believed his best approach would be to open a little sign-painting shop in Alcoa in order to get to know the community and for people to trust him. In his reply to Fox, Hultquist suggested Hinrichsen check in as Edward Jones. He also informed Fox that the man most recently shot by the Marauder, Clyde Poe, had just died and he was “very anxious to avoid a repetition of the affair.”

Hinrichsen arrived as instructed and immediately met with Hultquist to plan their best approach. Upon settling his headquarters in Maryville, Hinrichsen took former Sheriff John McCampbell into his confidence. And he did, indeed, open a sign-painting shop and got into that business seriously to cover his real purpose for being there. Hinrichsen had some keen observations of the former sheriff, who had operated a livery stable in the days before the automobile. “I have always found the Livery man the Pilot of the surrounding country to where he is located,” Hinrichsen noted, “his barn is the loafing place generally of the toughest element and it is at these places all news is first gathered. An ex-Livery man makes the best Sheriff in the rural districts.” Hinrichsen recognized the ex-sheriff’s zeal in solving the Marauder cases and believed he would have captured the villain if he had gotten full cooperation from the County and City. McCampbell had even spent a few hundred dollars of his own money and it was against his wishes that he had to discontinue his investigations.

Shortly after his arrival, Hinrichsen traveled with John McCampbell to interview Lora Poe. She was living with her brothers, “The Sullivan Boys” on the outskirts of Alcoa. Before reporting on her statement, Hinrichsen took time to wax poetic about Lora’s appeal.

From my observance of this girl, I formed a picture in my mind of Divine purity and innocence, and as I talked to this poor and unfortunate child, holding in her arms a fatherless babe of just a few months, I was delighted while questioning her to learn that the picture I formed was correct.

In some ways, Lora Poe had the advantage of being the ideal sort of victim. Small and feminine, quiet and demure, she was without a doubt the innocent victim of the worst sort of fiend. Perhaps Hinrichsen was worried she would be ugly and crass, presumably because such a witness would turn off a jury. But Lora would be sure to inspire sympathy and stir outrage at her assault.

Lora was the ideal witness in other ways, as well. Even in the presence of her brothers, the Attorney General Mr. Jackson, the former sheriff, and a complete stranger, she calmly and plainly detailed everything that had taken place during the attack. She was asked directly if she thought Wright Saffle was the man who shot her husband and assaulted her. She replied that she did not, that the more she thought of it the more certain she was that Saffle was not the intruder. While this did not rule Saffle out entirely in the mind of the P.I., it left open the possibility that Lora might ultimately identify Will Sheffey as her assailant.

Special thanks to Judge David R. Duggan for his loan of the Hultquist papers.

Published by Nancy Locklin

I am a professor of history at Maryville College in east Tennessee.

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