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The town of Salem was governed and tightly controlled by the brethren of the Moravian Church. The affairs in Salem were controlled by two groups:

The Aeltester Conferenz, or Board of Elders, was responsible for the supervision of the spiritual affairs of the congregation.

The Aufseher Collegium, or Supervising Board, was charged with the care of the material, the financial interests of the congregation (functions much like those of a present day City Council).

Another Board appointed in 1772 was the Grosse Helfer Conferenz, an advisory Board of ex-officers and elected members. This Board consisted of nine elected brethren and sisters, with the ex-officio members including the members of the Aeltesten Conferenz and the Aufseher Collegium, along with five other Brethren and Sisters. This Board had no executive power, but served as a kind of management advisory committee which presented to the other Boards anything that in their judgment needed attention.

nightwatchman patrol

There was a night watch of some sort in Salem from the time it began functioning as a Congregation Town. The minutes of the Grosse Hefler Conferenz on April 27, 1772, reports that ..."in the future instead of blowing, the bell shall be rung in the morning at 7..." It was not until two years later, however that the position of night watchman seems to have been formally instituted:


A night watchman for the community is indispensable. Br. (Heinrich) Zillman has been suggested, and a contract concerning his salary and his duties is to be made with him, should he be found willing to take over the job.


Zillman, a tailor by trade, accepted the offer on March 22, 1774, at a salary, agree upon by him and the Congregation Council, of f22 a year ...”out of which he will pay all expenses except the great coat for which he has asked." The salary would be paid by all adult male residents of the town. The assessment of each apparently determined the extent of protection provided.

For example, the storekeeper, whose place of business would be a natural attraction to thieves, was assessed seven shillings every four weeks, while an ordinary householder or single brother was asked to pay only four pence.

It's interesting that the only "perq," Zillman, a tailor, asked for, was a coat.

Each night Zillman was to cover a prescribed beat, which according to the present day street pattern, took him from Main Street west on Academy to Liberty (then called Salt St) north on Liberty almost to Shallowford, east to main, south on Main to midway between west and Walnut, north on Main, east on West St., north on Church and west on Academy to the beginning. There is no record of Zillman's specific duties as he made his rounds, but presumably his responsibilities followed generally those spelled out by the Aufserher Collegium ion the 1790s:


At ten in the evening the night watchman is going to start on his watch. He will blow his horn hourly during the night, before midnight with a long tune and after midnight with a short one. This will be done at the end and in the middle of the Community. If he is able to sing, it is very nice if he now and then sings a verse wile he makes his round.


During the summer from Lady-Day (Annunciation Day, March 25) til Michaelmas (September 29), he will make his last round at three.


In the winter, from Michaelmas to Lady-Day, he will make his last round at four.


He will past at least once before and after midnight through the large yards of the Gemein Haus and the Sisters House, the yard of the Brothers House, the Tavern, the Red and White Tanners, and through the gardens in the upper part of the Community toward Br. Holland.


If he notices fire, he will have to announce this at first in the house where he notices it, then in the Brothers House. If there is anything doubtful going on, like burglary, etc., he will announce this first in the Brothers House.


If there is a loud barking of the dogs or other unusual noises, he will have to find out what it means.


He will keep a good, strong dog, whom he takes with him during his rounds through the Community.


If there is anything doubtful going on in the middle of the night-also concerning our citizens- he shall investigate this and make a report about it the following day.


If there is a fire or a candle burning in one of the houses or windows at an unusual time of the night, he will enter the house quickly and ask the reason for this.


If he knows that there are sick people in a house, he will check them frequently, and ask for their welfare. Upon request he is to fetch the doctor.


If there are any travelers who are looking for the Tavern, the doctor, etc., he will show them the way.


If he cannot go on his night watch because of illness or any other reason, he shall not appoint anybody else without giving notice to the Community Warden.


Once when the Single Brothers’ horses broke into Johan George Stockburger's oat field, Zillman was mildly reprimanded for neither driving the horses out nor notifying Stockburger of the trouble. By and large though, he seems to have discharged his duties satisfactorily, though from time to time Zillman registered complaints–mainly about his sleeping accommodations.

Arrangements had been made for Zillman to occupy a front room in the home of Christina Triebel. The Triebel house was on Main St just north of the Town Square. Triebel also agreed to feed Zillman's dog. A service which, together with the rent for the room, cost the Community Diacony f2 a year. The trouble was, Triebel's house was located in the noisiest part of town and Zillman found it was impossible to sleep in the daytime amid the creaking of wagon wheels, the clop-clop of horses' hooves, the clank of cow bells and the chatter of town’s people as they went about the day's business. As he complained to the Aufserher Collegium, the loss of sleep "unfits him for watching"; besides he said, "The place smokes."

So in November 1778, the Collegium decided to build a small house for the watchman, but two months later changed its mind, voting instead "to ask Br. Triebel to make his (the watchman's) quarters as comfortable as possible." It was not until June 17, 1780 that the watchman's house- a log structure measuring sixteen by thirteen feet- was erected on the lot just a bit further north on Main. And it was not until September 165 that Zillman moved into it.

He was not to remain there long, however, nor would he enjoy many calm days or nights. For by then the Revolutionary War was moving closer to Salem, and the burden of keeping watch during the perilous times lay heavy on him: "Many people pass through our town at night, and the night watchman is reminded to take good care." Frequently, the potential danger was so great that additional Brethren joined him in the watch.

Zillman had been living in the little log house less than four months when he was asked to vacate it to make room for a group of six Virginia cavalrymen who had been ordered by General Greene to go to Salem to recuperate. It was then used for the temporary storage of gunpowder that had been brought to Salem from Greene's army, and shortly after the powder was moved out, the Salem Diary reported that a sick militiaman had arrived and "was added to the wounded men in the house of the night watchman."

So, with all these demands tumbling down on Salem as a result of the Revolution, it may be that Zillman never gain was permitted to enjoy the privacy of the night watchman's house. For by this time, mid-February 1781, his tenure as watchman was drawing to a close. He was in his late sixties, and particularly in those troubled times in Salem, the job was too strenuous for a man of that age. The Elders Conference decided to tell him "that he is relieved" and could devote his full time to tailoring.


Mar. 1, 1781-"Br. Rudolph Strehle has taken the place of Br. Zillman as night-watchman. His blowing (Conch shell trumpet) last night put him in danger of being shot, and it will be well for Br. Meyer, when there are officers in the Tavern, especially when they are on the way to the Army, to explain that our night-watchman always announces the hours by blowing."


April 5, 1781-"Br. Strehle asks increase of pay as night-watchman. He has been receiving 14 pence a night, and wishes 18pence. This is fair, and it is a quarter more than he has been getting. The Brethren must increase their contributions to his salary proportionately."


Tycho Nissen covered the watchman's beat by night and then worked at the Community Store "from nine o'clock in the morning until toward evening." With this grueling schedule, it is little wondering that after only a couple of months, Nissen suffered "an apoplectic attack and some other Brother had to take over the watch." His indisposition turned out to be only temporary and he remained as Salem's night watch for nearly three years. Not once during that time is there a recorded complaint about his work.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of his successors. Neither the pay nor the hours of the night watchman being very attractive, the Aufserher Collegium was hard pressed to find reliable Brethren willing to take the job and often had to fall back on men who were not overly conscientious. As a consequence, there were continual complaints:


There is general complaint that our night watchman does not do his duty faithfully. It was resolved that the Brn Schnepff, Reuz and Herbst should speak with him earnestly and then it will appear whether he will do better or must be relieve of the job. ....there was a new complaint about the negligent manner in which the night watchman's job is attended to, which makes many citizens unwilling to pay their subscriptions.



In July 1801, John Daniel Christman, a cooper, took over the watch promising “to fulfill his office with the utmost care and faithfulness." But with the coming of winter when the hours grew longer and the nights colder, his resolve began to flag. First, he protested that "he cannot do his watch in the cold winter nights without a coat but does not have the money to buy one." The Aufsher Collegium stood firm. With a salary of f39, it said, he should be able to afford a coat. Two months later Christman complained again–this time that “he cannot keep dry when watching on rainy nights, for he cannot afford to buy a blanket...” And on this occasion he had better Luck; the storekeeper gave him a blanket but "on condition that in the future in making rounds at night he would go through the store yard."


By 1809, Christman was getting old and the Collegium decided to split the watch between him and Samuel Schulz, a blacksmith. Christman would work until midnight, after which Schultz would take over. But that system did not work entirely well either, because more and more often when he went off duty at midnight, Christman forgot to awaken Schulz, thus leaving the town unguarded sometimes for several hours.

Ill health caused Christman soon to retire and his place was taken by Johann Gotlib Schrocter, a tailor, who apparently was less forgetful. At any rate, he and Schulz held the watch jointly for about eight years.

Even so, the night watch seems to have been a perennial problem for the Aufsher Collegium. Solomon Lick had to be shifted from the after-midnight watch to the before-midnight one because the "idea that everybody is asleep might induce him to be negligent and careless." It was necessary to have a "brotherly talk" with watchman Christina Fockel who was "reported not to be punctual."


Three years later Fockel was in trouble again. His health was failing, and on many nights, he as too sick to take the watch. As he understood it, Joseph Stauber would fill in for him on those nights, but Stauber apparently did not understand it that way. The result was that on more than one occasion, no one was on duty for the entire night! And even when Stauber did work, he was a less than satisfactory watchman owing to the fact that he never could master the art of conch shell blowing.

But if the Collegium had its headaches, so did the watchmen themselves; their "customers" were not easy to please. Once in the 1790's it was suggested that "the night watchman, instead of blowing, might call the hours and sing a verse for each, which will make his service more agreeable." Adam Koffler, who had the watch at the time, made an earnest effort to comply. But he was not blessed with a strong voice, and within six months, the Brethren and Sisters were complaining that they could not hear him. So the Collegium concluded that "it will be better to return to the blowing."


In 1846 the reaction was just the opposite: "Complaints have been raised about too much unnecessary noise caused by the night watchman's tooting the hours. It was reported that various inhabitants of the community would rather do without a night watchman than suffer being disturbed continually during the night."

Then, too, the watchmen were beset with minor irritations, such as the time in 1804 when "some frivolous people (probably mischievous young Single Brothers)...mock the night watchman's call by echoing it."

As now, the job of watching the town was a lonely one, often uncomfortable due to the element and sometime dangerous. In composing a verse for the last hour, Count Zinzendorf must have understood well the relief with which the watchman finished his nights work:


Salem Watch House

The clock is six! And from the watch I'm free. And every one may his own watchman be.

SALEM 1856-1913

Salem was incorporated on December 13, 1856. The Board of Commissioners, elected by the voters, took over where the Aufserher Collegium left off in dealing with the night watchmen who were now employees of the town as opposed to working for the church that controlled the town.

The first law enforcement-related action of the Board of Commissioners was almost three months after incorporation when they approved the two-year rental of a house on Main Street in the block just north of the square to be used as a "hall and watch house." The price was thirty dollars per year. The two-story house had been a hat shop earlier. It has been reconstructed as a hat shop as part of Old Salem. Soft drinks and snacks are now sold out of what was once the lockup.

Commissioners minutes report that Frank Fries was commissioned to build a lockup in the lower part of the house of "12 feet square or thereabout and of 2 inch oak plants with a good and substantial iron grated door." At the next meeting they rescinded these plans and told Fries to build a lockup" in any manner of any material he may think best."

Notice poster for Night WatchmanThe appointment of W. H. Hauser as Salem town constable on March 11 1858 constitutes the beginning of structured law enforcement. the Commissioners approved a salary and listed specific duties...."do the nightwatching as heretofore, to collect taxes, attend to the street lamps and the execution of the newly adopted town ordinances....Attend to making a fire and lighting Commissioners Hall at the time specified for meetings, attend to the lockup and whatever else my be require to promote good government of the town of Salem."

The board guaranteed Hauser $300 per year plus a percentage of fees and fines he collected. The cost on warrants and the feeding of prisoners was not to be included in the $300.



April 7, 1858- Since the lockup below Commissioners Hall was probably the most secure building in Salem; it would have been useful for holding slaves as well as criminals. At this meeting the Mayor proposed rules for use of the lockup by slave owners include the amount they were to be charged for feeding an the responsibility for cleaning the lockup when they left.


The next year John Weissel was appointed as assistant town constable. The town was divided at West Street, just south of the Square. Weissel was assigned the lower or south beat and the board admonished both men to stay in their assigned areas. The Commission minutes state that Weissel was told to walk through every inhabited street on his beat at least once an hour.

Commissioners' minutes of August 16, 1859 show that the constable should work the streets in the daytime to keep them in good repair and to work five or six hour per night and to be paid $25 a month

The Mayor of Salem was authorized to appoint additional personnel for special occasion or to deal with specific problems. Regularly there were appointments to help with crowd control at Easter Sunrise services. Three extra men were hired for the week of final exams at Salem Female Academy in 1858, evidently to keep the peace for studying.


April 22, 1860-Moved- that the town officer keep persons from gathering on the streets corners or sidewalks.


Street work, bridge repair and tax collection were all part of the constable's job during the Civil War years as well as keeping up with the stream of veterans and wounded returning from the battlefields. Salary or guarantee for the job was cut to $225 per year in 1862 for the first constable and $149 a year for his assistant.


Beginning in 1863, bids were accepted twice a year for the position of constable/lamplighter. The names and their bids for the job were then presented to the Commissions who then "elected" the constable for a six-month term. The low bidder usually, but not always, got the job. This “election,” similar to the way Boards and Commissions are appointed by the City Council today, continued until 1913.

In 1873, a police precinct was established at Centerville, presently the area of Waughtown St near the NC School of the Arts. One man was elected to serve the Centerville District at slightly less pay than the Salem Police, probably since Centerville was mostly a residential area. A calaboose was also established for the Centerville Policeman since it was a far walk to the jail on the north side of Salem Square.




June 5, 1874-Board received these bids from applicants:


Reuben Powers $ 90.00 (per year)
John Waggoman


Joseph Garboden 150.00
Henry Hughes


T. Chitty 150.00
H. N. Null 190.00

The Board elected H. N. Null as policeman at his bid of $190.00. Obviously there were factors other than “low bid” that entered into the decision.




June 19, 1874- Mayor Vogler suggested to the Board the necessity of building a pound for hogs and cattle. The Board resolved to build a pound ten feet square and six feet high.

It appears that this Pound was used mainly for impounding hogs running at large within the town limits. The charge against the impounded hog was 40 cents for picking up by the Town Constable, and 10 cents per day for feeding each hog weighing over 100 pounds and 5 cents for pigs less than 100 pounds. The owner could redeem his property by paying the costs. If not redeemed, these animals were sold at public auction, after notices posted at designated places for ten days.

The minutes for July 3, 1874, stated that the pound would not be built for lack of funds.

At the next meeting the Mayor stated he had contracted for building the pound at a cost of $1,800.

On August 6, 1875, an ordinance was adopted placing a $1.00 tax on dogs. A dog running outside its owner's premises was required to wear a collar bearing its owner's name; otherwise, the Constable would impound the animal. To redeem the dog, the owner had to pay a fine of $1.00 plus cost. If no owner was found, the Town Constable was required to destroy the dog.

A.C. Sheppard was elected town constable in 1880. His working hours were from dark until 3 a.m. He was then expected to be on duty in the daytime after a sufficient amount of rest. Sheppard kept the job for five years. The job of lamplighter was given to a second assistant hired in 1884 and Sheppard became Salem's first full time police officer. A Salem newspaper article called him “...a good and efficient officer and the authorities of the town did well in reappointing him.”

George S. Ebert was named Chief of Police in 1888. His salary was $40 a month plus fees and fines he collected. Ebert was the first to have the title of Chief of Police.



May 25, 1888- Duties of Policeman

1-It is expected of the Policeman to be on duty from 10 AM until 3 AM during spring and summer seasons and to 4 AM during fall and winter months.

2-No Policeman shall leave the corporate precincts of Salem, without permission of the Mayor except in the discharge of his official duties and should he desire to be absent for pleasure or any other consideration he shall obtain the consent of the Mayor to fill his position in his absent and he shall be require to pay such officer during the time he is absent.

3.-It is expected of the Policeman to patrol the town daily both to maintain peace and quite and demand the observance of the laws and reported promptly all violations of law and order.

4.-Any violations of the above or any violations of the rules governing the Policeman found in the ordinances of the town of Salem or any neglect of duty shall be considered due cause for removal)


The duties of lamplighter, which had separated from the Police job for some time, were also defined. These included that he would “qualify as Policeman of the town and be subject to all ordinances and rules governing the Policeman but shall not receive additional compensation.” (4-196) The lamplighter was paid less than the policeman.

The pay was obviously not a hindrance for there were 10 applicants of the job at this meeting.



The State General Assembly was also asked to approve some other changes in the Town Charter including the right of imminent domain and “Whenever by the provisions of any ordinance or fine is imposed for violation thereof, the Mayor shall have the right if such fine is not paid to require the offender to work on the public streets or do other work for the town to the value of any tax, fine, penalty or forfeiture imposed and adjusted to be paid and should be committed to the custody of the Police who shall execute this sentence und the direction of the Street Commissioners or may by putting the party to work under guard or with ball and chain or other safeguard if necessary.”


Section 12-Any prostitute or women whose general reputation for chastity is bad, who shall be found on the streets at night, plying her vocation, or soliciting men drinking sitting on the streets or in front of stores or lunging about public houses, or conducting herself in a forward or improper manner shall be deemed guilty of a nuisance and shall be fined $5.00 for each offence.


June 7, 1889-“Commissioner Christ reported a house belonging to Mayor Fries, near their (Fries) warehouse as being filled with bad women and was a nuisance. Mayor said he would attend to it at once and see that it was abated.”


Ebert served only one year as W.W. Spainhour was elected in 1889. The first police badges were purchased for the department, which had now grown to six men.

In 1891, the State Legislature issued a new town charter to Salem. It formally gave police jurisdiction to the Town of Salem over a large area south and east of the corporate boundary; this being know as the Centerville District. Under this act, Salem furnished and paid for police service but the citizens could not be taxed by the town and could not vote in town elections.

The Charter also required that the Chief be bonded so when the Board elected the Chief in 1892, it adopted a resolution “that the Chief of Police should give a bond for $500 for faithful discharge of his duties and this his pay shall be heretofore $40.00 a month."

Spainhour resigned two weeks before his term was up in 1892 and George Ebert was appointed to fill the term and then elected for the next year. By 1893, the Salem Police force was nine men.

Spainhour bid for the job again in 1894, was re-elected and held the position for the next four years. He petitioned the commissioners to see that electric lights were installed in the calaboose.

The 1897 election saw four candidates for the job of Chief. Spainhour was appointed after three tied votes.

A note in the 1898 minutes orders heavy screen wire for the windows of the Calaboose to prevent anything being handed to prisoners from the outside.

At the June 7, 1899 board meeting, J.R. Johnson was appointed Chief and Lewis Kimel was appointed lamplighter. He was paid two cents per lamp. That was a cut in pay; his predecessor had received two and a quarter cents.


Minutes of the Board meeting of April 9, 1900.....


Motion that a reward of $25 be offered by the board for the arrest and delivery in Salem of the Negro who shot and wounded Police Officer Everhart and got away while the officer was attempting to arrest him. Adopted Motion that the Board pay Police Officer Everhart for the time lost account of wound received.


There is no record of any other Salem Police Officer being seriously injured in the line of duty. Further, there is no record of the reward being paid.


Sender Newsome

Sender Newsome


The Police department budget for that year was $783.96. C.W. Russell was elected Chief in 1901. Russell's eight patrolmen were paid ten cents per hour. Former Chief Sender Newsome was now the police officer for the Centerville district and paid $45 per month; slightly less than the Salem Chief.


In the June 1902 Commissioners Meeting we find:

Resolved that in the future, the Chief of Police is required to report to the Mayor or Mayor pro-tem when he starts on duty each day.

He is also required to get written permit before leaving the corporate limits except in discharge of his official duty when his warrant is sufficient evidence.

He is further required to file each day a written record of his movements hourly or half-hourly and name witnesses at each specific time.


Salem would have several Chiefs over the next few years: Spainhour came back for one year in 1902. Centerville Police Officer Sender Newsom followed him. A provision of his election was that he installs a telephone in his own house at his expense. Newsom returned to being the Centerville Police Officer the next year.

John H. McGee was elected Chief on June 2, 1905 at a salary of $50 per month He commanded eleven regular and nine special policemen. Special policemen were usually watchmen at factories and mills.

One year later a nationwide financial panic caused the commissioners to cut McGee's force to only five men. His salary remained the same.

McGee was followed in 1907 by J.H. Yow. The Commissioners approved a motion that the town furnish the Chief with a telephone at home instead of making him pay for it.

On October 2, 1908, the board approved the purchase of two winter hats and two overcoats for the police and ordered two closets built in Commissioners Hall to store the coats.

Lewis Kimball, listed in the minutes as a lamplighter under Chief Johnson in 1899, was the final Chief of Salem. He would serve five years and then become a patrolman in the merged departments. His salary was increased in 1909 to $55 per month and to $60 per month in 1911. Assistant Chief S.L. Swain was given a salary of $50 a month. He too would serve in the combined Winston-Salem Department.



Colonial Salem history was compiled by former city employee, J.R. Snider. 


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