On This Day in Seneca County History – March 31, 1908 – It was on this day that Tiffin police officer Patrick Sweeney was buried after being killed in the line of duty. Most of the businesses in town closed down on that day in honor of the fallen officer. His funeral was held at St. Mary’s Church and the newspaper said that this was the biggest funeral seen in Tiffin for a long time. After the funeral mass, the casket was opened in the vestibule permitting those in attendance to pay their last respects. The church was overflowing with fellow officers, city and county officials and members of the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Mutual Benefit Association. The procession to the cemetery consisting of horse and buggies seemed endless. Patrick Sweeney was buried next to his first wife, Mary, who had died over 10 years earlier in July, 1897. Mary died of an illness that kept her bedridden for over 6 months. She left behind 5 sons: Rollie – age 22, John 17, Harry 11, Earl 8 and Bert 3. Officer Sweeney left behind his children and his new wife, Josephine, who was married to Patrick for only a few months in November, 1907.
If there was ever a tragic story of good versus evil, it was this. The good was Patrick Sweeney who was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1856 and came to the United States when he was 5 years old. The Sweeney family came to Tiffin in 1864 and Patrick became a police officer in 1873. We know that Patrick Sweeney was a well-respected police officer and a no-nonsense guy, especially when it came to his experiences with William “Butch” Huffman.
The evil was Butch Huffman, who was known as a thief and bully even as a young child. He wrapped himself in solitude and was rarely seen during the daylight, preferring to move around the town after dark. He would sleep and hide in empty barns around the north side of Tiffin and was suspected in many burglarized businesses each week. It was common knowledge that if he didn’t like how you looked, he would immediately try to injure you. Huffman was a career criminal who took a total of 3 trips to the state penitentiary during his life. Huffman’s first trip to the pen was for 3 years after trying to rape Anna Bauman, known as “Susie Moose” and living on the west side of town. She fought back throwing coal oil on him and caught Butch on fire burning his face and head. And it was Pat Sweeney who tracked him down and arrested him. A few years later, Butch and his brother Ed Huffman were tracked down after stealing a horse harness. Butch fired his gun towards the marshal and the bullet lodged in the marshal’s coat just missing his chest. Butch got 7 years for that.
Word soon got around that Butch was out to get Sweeney and many think that he did just that when he broke into the Beckley grocery store on the corner of Harrison and Washington Streets on the night of March 28th, 1908. Sweeney’s police beat took him past the store and Pat noticed the opened door. He caught Butch Huffman sitting on an ice chest and grabbed him to make an arrest. That’s when Butch pulled out his 38-caliber pistol and shot Sweeney in the stomach. Butch fired another shot at two women passing by and then ran into the darkness, never to be seen again. Patrick Sweeney was rushed to St. Vincent’s hospital in Toledo, but he died the next day saying that “I guess Butch finally got me!”.
Patrick Sweeney was a professional and dedicated police officer who gave his life for the residents of Tiffin, and he certainly didn’t deserve to die at the hands of the likes of Butch Huffman. It’s especially discouraging to know that Huffman was never caught and probably went on to steal and rob others in another community. Today’s photo shows Patrick Sweeney on the left and Butch Huffman on the right.