HILLSDALE—Columbia County Sheriff Cornelius Hogeboom was ambushed and murdered while riding his horse, October 22, 1791.
Nearly 222 years later, Columbia County Deputy Sheriff Peter Volkmann will ride his bicycle in honor of the late sheriff and to call attention to his death, one of the first ever in the line of duty in American history.
On May 9, Deputy Volkmann, who also serves as Stockport Police Chief, will begin a 300-mile, 4-day bike ride called the Police Unity Tour from Ground Zero in New York City to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Deputy Volkmann will ride with Chapter 37, the New York chapter which rides in remembrance of the 72 law enforcement officers killed September 11, 2001.
Asked how long he has been a bicyclist, the 49-year-old deputy said, “only about five months. I just started for this tour.”
Riding in the Police Unity Tour was something he wanted to do and when he mentioned the idea to Sheriff David Harrison, Jr., the sheriff told him the story of Sheriff Hogeboom, who had also served as a captain in the Revolutionary War.
“He was an important citizen of Columbia County,” said the deputy, adding, “Sheriff Hogeboom should be a household name.”
According to an “account of the deplorable event” that appeared in the October 31, 1791 Albany Gazette, Sheriff Hogeboom rode out to the farm of Jonathan Arnold in Nobletown, now known as Hillsdale. One of the sheriff’s deputies had gone out there a few days before to publicly auction off some of Mr. Arnold’s belongings because he allegedly failed to pay his rent. But, the deputy left the farm before completing his mission after being threatened by a throng of residents. The sheriff decided to conduct the sale himself and was waiting for a deputy to show up with the official paperwork, “a writ of ejectment,” when a number of people “formed in a riotous manner.”
After the deputy proved a no-show, the sheriff decided to leave with two other men, one of them his brother.
As they came to a barn, the account says that Mr. Arnold fired a gunshot, which signaled 17 men wearing war paint and clad in Native American dress to surge forth from the barn and open fire on the sheriff and his companions.
Though his companions urged the sheriff “to spur his horse or they would all be shot,” Sheriff Hogeboom “replied that he was vested with the law, and they should never find him a coward.”
Seeing that his ambush crew was not getting the job done, Mr. Arnold jumped on a horse with another man and caught up with the sheriff, who had kept his horse at a walk. Mr. Arnold and his companion dismounted and, the story says, one of them “leveled his piece, and lodged a ball in the heart of the sheriff,” who then said, “’Brother, I am a dead man!’ fell from his horse, and expired.”
The sheriff was just 33 years of age when he was killed. Suspects were captured and put on trial at the Columbia County Courthouse in Claverack in February of 1792, but no one was ever convicted of his murder.
The sheriff’s widow, Sarah Hogeboom, was so consumed by grief that she died January 16, less than three months after her husband’s murder, according to the news story.
She and the sheriff are buried in Ghent Union Cemetery.
Inspired to ride in the brave sheriff’s honor, Deputy Volkmann has been training daily by riding 20 to 30 miles. He bought a Scott CR-1 composite, a lightweight road bike made in Switzerland, for the tour. When the weather is bad he can hook the bike up on his indoor trainer and put in the necessary miles.
Asked about how many miles he will ride daily on the tour, the deputy said tour organizers have it all planned: Thursday will be about 50 miles, Friday and Saturday will each be 100 miles and Sunday will be about 65. Hotel rooms and places to stop and eat are all arranged in advance. If someone’s bike breaks down, a bike repair trailer is part of the caravan. The rider will wait for the repair to be made in the trailer which keeps on moving as long as the tour goes on. The company that handles the repairs volunteers its staff, trailer and time, said the deputy.
Since its start 14 years ago, the Police Unity Tour has grown from 18 members to more than 1,200 law enforcement officers nationwide who will be making the trip this year. Their purpose is to raise awareness and financial support for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Nearly $10 million has been donated to the memorial, making the Police Unity Tour the single largest supporter of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. In addition to the memorial, a museum also stands at the site. The end of the tour May 12 kicks-off National Police Week, when law enforcement officers and surviving family members of officers who died in the line of duty gather for a memorial service and the names of those who died in the past year are added to the memorial.
Each rider must raise $1,750 to participate and ride in honor of a law enforcement officer who died in the line of duty. Deputy Volkmann has set a goal to raise $3,700, which goes toward costs associated with the ride and maintenance of the memorial and museum, Deputy Volkmann told The Columbia Paper this week. He is more than half way to his donation goal. Anyone who wants to donate should visit: www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/PeterVolkmann/2013-police-unity-tour-chapter-37-new-york.
The deputy has even had contact with descendants of the late sheriff, his great, great, great, great, great grandchildren from Texas and California, who support his efforts.
The first member of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office to ever ride in the tour, Deputy Volkmann moved to Stuyvesant with his wife and two children in late 2006. The family came from Hopewell Junction in Dutchess County and Deputy Volkmann is a retired Ossining police officer.
In addition to part-time law enforcement duties, the deputy is also a social worker with the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, which trains officers to deal with all phases of crises and responds to crisis scenes for intervention and treatment referrals. He started out as a park ranger and has been an emergency medical technician since age 16.
To contact Diane Valden email .