photograph on the left represents the police force in Smiths
Ontario for several years in the 1920's and 1930's. The person
is Chief Constable George Phillips, while the officer standing at his
is Sergeant John Lees. They were commonly known as "Chesty" and
respectively - although not to their faces.
George Phillips was born in Wolford Township in 1872. On June 5 1912 he joined the Smiths Falls Police force and was appointed Chief Constable a few months later. He held the position for over 20 years. In March 1933 he suffered a nervous breakdown and was forced to resign. He died on June 12 1953.
Scottish-born John Lees came to Canada as a boy and settled in Montague Township. After spending his boyhood on the farm, he worked on the Canadian Pacific Railway until joining the town police force during World War I. For several years John Lees had served with Chief Phillips, each man working a 12 hour shift. It was somewhat of a shock to many people in the community when an outsider was appointed to fill the vacancy when Phillips resigned. The appointment caused a split on the town council and made it very difficult for a lot of people. In February 1937, the outsider resigned and John Lees was appointed Police Chief. He remained chief until his death in April 1948. He was described as a "genial gentleman, quick to smile and exchange humorous stories."
In his early days on the police force Phillips' main problem was horse theft. Automobiles were practically unknown and horses were much in demand. Thieves were quick to hitch up a fast, good-looking mare to a shining buggy and make good their escape. Catching the thieves was generally difficult, for the day of the horse thief was also the day of the horse trader. The law breakers generally had little difficulty in trading off the stolen horse and buggy for another.
In January 1930 Chief Phillips investigated an important case involving the theft of some fifty to sixty bushels of grain on New Year's Eve from a granary on the Ferry Road. The trial attracted a great deal of attention "largely attended by farmers of the Smiths Falls and Perth vicinity who thronged the court room during the proceedings. So large was the attendance that the trial was held in the town hall proper." Phillips and a constable from Perth were praised for their excellent work, which resulted in the conviction of the accused and a sentence of six months to two years less a day in the provincial reformatory.
In Phillips' last few years on the force, automobile traffic, in the days long before traffic lights, usually only required the service of an officer on Saturday night and for a short period on Sunday evenings at the close of church services. Phillips often patrolled the town in his buggy. As the sun went down and shadows lengthened, he enforced his own curfew on children in Smiths Falls. It was quite common for him to pull up beside young people who he thought should be home and flick his buggy whip in their general direction. It was a long time ago.
Phillips had five children, of whom none survive. His descendants
are dispersed across Canada and as far away as California.
Two of his grandchildren and three of his great-grandchildren still
in the vicinity of Smiths Falls.
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Copyright (c) Douglas G. Phillips
This page last updated on November 23, 2000