Who knew? NKU students solve the 19th Century case of a Cincinnati policeman's uniform in the privy

CINCINNATI - The Tri-State is home to many fascinating facts, offbeat oddities, and "I did not know that," moments. With that in mind, WCPO asks "Who Knew?"

  • What: Residents discover a policeman's uniform in former outhouse shaft
  • Who Knew? Northern Kentucky University, Masters of Public History students
  • Where can I see it? Ruthven Gallery at Cincinnati Museum Center

There was a Cincinnati Police Department mystery on Chestnut Street in Queensgate. A recent excavation of the property yielded an old patrolman's uniform and its contents, apparently thrown into a 13-foot-deep outhouse shaft. How did it get there and what happened to the officer? These were just two of the mysteries unraveled by students at Northern Kentucky University .

The Cincinnati Museum Center provided the details.

What exactly was in that privy on Chestnut Street?

  • A metal belt buckle that read "Police"
  • A metal police whistle
  • A wooden stamp reading “Dustin"
  • 27 buttons marked with the Seal of the City of Cincinnati
  • A .41 caliber pearl-handed pistol with unfired rounds
  • Two police call box keys
  • Two corroded metal badges
  • Badly deteriorated uniform cloth.

How long had the contents been buried?

Traces of newspaper found within the deposit identified the date as April 1899.

What happened to the policeman? Who was he?

Data from city directories tracked down the name from the badge, “Dustin,” to a resident on the property in the late 19th Century, Charles Dustin.

Employed as a police watchman, Dustin began exhibiting "behavioral issues" after the sudden passing of his father.

Later, in a disagreement with Mayor Fleischmann’s security detail, Dustin shot a guard in the leg, which led to the revocation of his police powers as well as his license to carry a firearm.

One year later, he had an altercation with a man in the street and brandished a pistol. Arrest warrants were issued, and again, when an officer arrived to take him into custody, Dustin aimed his pistol at the deputy. This time, no shots were fired and the deputy subdued Dustin with a nightstick.

Why would someone discard an entire uniform down an outhouse shaft?

The uniform was disposed before the fall of Dustin and his father’s death, so we may never know the real reason the uniform and belongings were tossed away. It is speculated there was conflict between father and son, perhaps about the family status, as Dustin Sr. was a well-respected, prominent attorney and Charles Dustin a low-ranking patrolman with an unstable personal life.

During the 19th Century, outhouses were used for more than just a bathroom; they were a place to dispose of old household items as well as bury secrets.

Connect with WCPO Contributor Paige E. Malott on Twitter: @Paigetastic01 , and check out her blog CincyWhimsy.com

Check back next Tuesday for another edition of "Who Knew?" If you have an tip, idea or question email: holly.edgell@wcpo.com.

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