Sheriff August L. Miller nearly became the first Allegany County sheriff to be killed in office in late July 1897.
Miller had been elected for a two-year term as sheriff in 1895. It was apparently the only elected office he ever held. His term was unremarkable save one incident.
On the evening of July 28, he met with his police officers on Baltimore Street and gave them their assignments for the evening. The group separated, and Miller drove a car out to Chapel Hill to serve some equity summonses.
Having apparently served the summonses, he was next seen shortly before 10 p.m. on foot near the intersection of Wineow Street and Oldtown Road. Shortly after that, he was seen talking with Jake Ammon and Levi Westbrode in front of Westbrode’s saloon on Wineow Street.
From there, he walked off alone toward Mechanic Street.
“Lida Haller saw him shortly after 10 walking up Mechanic St. on the east side. Holding his hand to hip and apparently in great pain she saw him cross Mechanic and enter Dr. Wiley’s office,” the Cumberland Evening Times reported.
W.W. Wiley was getting ready to turn in for the night when he heard his doorbell ring. He looked out the front window and saw the sheriff standing on his front step. When the doctor opened the door, Miller said that he needed help.
“As soon as possible Dr. Wiley stripped Mr. Miller and found that he had been very roughly used. The face showed hard blows, the fist was cut and bruised, but the serious injuries were to the left side,” the newspaper reported.
The doctor didn’t press the sheriff for a story because he was too busy trying to treat the injured man who started slipping in and out of consciousness. The wounds were severe.
Dr. Wiley treated his patient and bandaged his wounds. The worst ones seemed to be internal. Miller would need lots of rest to give his body time to heal. The doctor let Miller walk to his home at the jail. When the doctor checked in on his patient at 5 a.m., Miller was in a lot of pain.
As the doctor gave the sheriff a painkiller, he got a portion of the story of what had happened. Apparently, the sheriff had arrested a man in Shantytown and was taking him to jail when he was jumped and beaten.
The doctor returned to check on Miller at 4:30 p.m. He found the sheriff in “great pain.”
Meanwhile, rumors were flying throughout Cumberland about what had happened to the sheriff and why he hadn’t identified his attacker. One story had the 42-year-old sheriff carrying on with a married woman until the woman’s husband caught them and beat the sheriff.
Reporters tried to get in to see the sheriff, but he wasn’t seeing any visitors. He finally wrote a short letter that was printed in the newspaper. While he could recognize the prisoner he had arrested, he did not know the man’s name, nor could he identify the men who had attacked him.
Hobos were suspected in the attack. A group of them had been causing trouble across the Potomac River in West Virginia. The sheriff there had chased them out of town, and they had come to Cumberland.
A few days later, still on bed rest, Sheriff Miller made a formal statement. The only new information he could provide was that three men had attacked him, but only two had participated in the beating. He also said that he had been attacked on Oldtown Road near the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad signal tower.
In August, a grand jury was asked to look at the case. It reported, “they have been unable to find any foundation of the rumor that said assault was brought about by Mr. Miller’s visitation of the sanctity of any man’s home, and they could find no good reason to question the account of said assault, as given by the sheriff himself,” the newspaper reported.
The sheriff was bedridden for the rest of his term as sheriff, and the culprits were never identified, much less caught.
Miller died a few years later in 1904 and is buried in St. Luke’s Cemetery in Cumberland.