Over the years numerous key events take place that remind us that people really care about never forgetting the 113 men and women in Houston Blue who bravely gave their lives in the line of duty.
The latest concerns Officer E. G. Meinecke, one of five officers who died in the Camp Logan Riot on Aug. 23, 1917, the bloodiest day in the history of the Houston Police Department.
For the years up until 2016 the Houston Police Officers Union honored the memory of Meinecke on the wall of fallen heroes in the Breckenridge Porter Building as well as at the annual ceremony at the Houston Police Memorial during Police Week in May.
But HPOU never had a picture. Like several others on this immortal roll of fallen heroes, pictures are not available.
That condition changed this year at the Police Memorial ceremony. A distant niece of Meinecke mentioned to HPOU 2nd Vice President Joe Gamaldi that she saw the picture at the slide show at the ceremony (at the Fonde Recreation Center due to inclement weather) but didn’t see it on the wall at the HPOU.
As usual, Gamaldi took charge. At the Aug. 4 general membership meeting, the photo was unveiled as it hung proudly on the wall. And Jacquelyn Brandes was duly recognized for her thoughtfulness.
“Jackie,” a Sealy resident, explained that Edwin Gustav Meinecke was her great uncle. She can take you carefully through the branches of the family tree to bring the relationship into perspective.
Officer Meinecke was only 23 years old at the time of his murder. He had been married to his wife, Comilla, for barely nine months. The couple had no children. Jackie believes the picture was the last one taken of her great uncle. Although no details have sufficiently surfaced over the years, Jackie said she learned that Comilla Meinecke died at a young age, not that long after her husband.
Meinecke was born in Bellville, as were siblings and cousins. He was the fifth of six children of farmer John Meinecke and his wife, Dorethea. “Grandpa was his brother, Robert,” Jackie explained. “That means that Edwin was my mother’s uncle.
“My mother was only seven years old when he was killed. She never talked about it because she was such a young child. Families just didn’t talk about tragedies. It wasn’t pleasant.
“My mother never spoke to me about this at all. Never. Never! She’s been dead since 1988. One of my first cousins told me. It was the first time I learned of it. It was in 2006.”
So Jackie found the path that would lead to Houston, the Houston Police Museum, the Houston Police Officers Memorial and the Houston Police Officers Union.
Now let’s briefly return to the family tree. One of Jackie’s first cousin told her about a second cousin who had a picture of Officer E. G. Meinecke. Jackie got the picture and used a source to search the Internet for information.
It won’t be a surprise to learn that she soon got in touch with retired HPD Homicide Lt. Nelson Zoch, the tireless researcher and author of Fallen Heroes of the Bayou City, the historic accounts of the first 106 HPD officers killed in the line of duty.
Zoch, now living near his hometown of Giddings, where he and his brothers – all HPD veterans – grew up, had published his book before he met Jackie and got the Meinecke picture.
He succeeded in placing the special HPOU/100 Club marker at the site of Meinecke’s final resting place in Pilgrim’s Rest Cemetery, east of Bellville. This task was performed in a ceremony which included the HPD Honor Guard.
Interestingly, this article might be the first time Officer E. G. Meinecke’s name has been spelled correctly in the history of the Badge & Gun. Over all these years it has been spelled Meinke or Meineke. Zoch was the first to get the spelling correct and ventured to say that confusion developed when E. G. Meinecke was interspersed with HPD officers from a family named Meineke or Meinke.
Of course, Meineke also is the muffler dealer – which Jackie is quick to point out as being “no relation.”
She still hopes the misspelled version on the markers at the Memorial will eventually be corrected.
On Aug. 23, 1917, a riot amongst the black soldiers at Camp Logan – which was located where Memorial Park now is situated – when a rumor spread that two HPD officers had shot and killed a black soldier who had allegedly interfered with their arrest of a black woman in Fourth Ward. In reality, the solider was shot at but not hit and was actually released.
The false rumor intensified and soon word spread that a mob from downtown was about to open fire on black soldiers at the camp, provoking the soldiers to pick up their rifles and head toward downtown Houston.
In the resulting melee, about 100 black soldiers killed 15 people, including five HPD officers, and wounded 12 others. Eventually, as the result of the largest courts-martial in U. S. military history, 63 soldiers were sentenced to prison and 19 were hanged for their roles in the Camp Logan Riot.
The camp was closed soon after the riot. A small marker that is barely noticeable to passers-by rests near an intersection east of Memorial Park.
Officer Meinecke’s knowledge of Houston back roads and short cuts actually resulted in his death.
Three white soldiers and Meinecke informed Camp Logan Captain Joseph W. Mattes and Captain Jay A. Rossiter that Meinecke knew a short cut to the Fourth Ward where the mutineers reportedly occupied the streets. Captain Mattes accepted the offer and got into a Ford automobile, whose passengers also included the three soldiers and Officer Meinecke.
The vehicle carrying Mattes and his four companions hit the 1917 version of road work at the Sabine Street Bridge and took another route, crossing the bayou at Capitol Avenue and eventually reaching the San Felipe District, where they would meet the sergeant leading the rioting troops head-on. The number of the rioters was decreasing by the minute because soldiers were coming to their senses and “deserting.”
By the time the Camp Logan captains, Meinecke and the soldiers followed Meinecke’s short cut they were met by about 40 soldiers, who ambushed them. All including Officer Meinecke and all but one of the soldiers were killed instantly.
The one soldier survived because the bodies of his two colleagues fell over him, actually protecting him from the flying bullets.
The other four HPD officers killed that day in the riot were Rufus Daniels, Horace Moody, Ross Patten and Ira D. Raney.