Friday, September 14, 2012

Guest Post: April 24, 1949, Davis Brothers Lives Lost in the Line of Duty

Today's post is brought to you by Amy Feigley. Amy is a member of the Dickinson County Heritage Center staff, and also works as a paraprofessional educator.

Bill and Milt Davis were known as good ole boys. They spent the majority of their lives in Abilene, were very devoted to their families, and were known in the community as kind and generous. They were not only known as peace officers, but also as peace makers. They were both doing something that they truly loved.

Sunday, April 24, 1949 began as a normal day for Sheriff Bill Davis and his brother, Deputy Sheriff Milt Davis. Little did they realize that April 24, 1949 would be their final day. The Davis brothers were summoned to an early morning disturbance at a farm house southeast of Abilene. They had no idea what lie ahead of them. 

Charles K. Rush, a dairy farmer by trade, was known to many as a crazed man, berserk at times. He had spent some of his early years in a mental institution. People found him harmless.

But, on April 24, 1949, something sparked in Charles Rush like it had no other day. By the end of the day, Rush, along with Bill and Milt Davis, would be dead and three innocent by-standers would be wounded.

Mervin Franks, Fred Yuhl and Mrs. Mae Pettriess, also had no idea what that day would bring to them. But they, unlike Rush and the Davis brothers, were lucky enough to survive.

Mervin Franks was sound asleep in a downstairs bedroom and was awakened by the sound of a bathroom light. As he turned and looked in the doorway, there stood Rush, his brother-in-law, with a shotgun. Franks, after being shot, played dead to protect himself from Rush.

Fred Yuhl, who was a neighbor to Rush, was shot when he approached the house. His sole purpose of going to the house that day was to tell Rush about a garage fire. Shot in his neck, chest and right arm, he was able to survive that horrific day.

Mae Pettriess was employed at the time as Rush’s housekeeper. She was shot through the right shoulder and arm. She was considered the most seriously injured of the survivors. Her arm was saved, but she suffered from shock.

The Davis brothers were murdered by Rush as they tried to enter his home from different doors. Their bodies were burned after Rush set his house on fire. Rush’s charred body was also found in the remains of the house. It was believed at the time that he escaped and was still at large and in the area.

April 24, 1949 still probably lives in the minds of many people. A day they would soon forget is a day that will never be forgotten. The following year, a granite memorial was erected in honor of the Davis brothers and placed at the Abilene cemetery, where they are buried on a hillside. Over 1,000 mourners attended the funeral for the brothers. They were heroes of this town, loved by all and will not too soon be forgotten.

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