Detective John S. Pontier

Fallen HeroDeath Of Detective Pontier

3 July 1899

The Well-Known Officer A Victim Of Blood Poisoning

Detective John S. Pontier, one of the best-known members of the police force, died at 11:25 o’clock last night at his home, 1426 North Bond St. Death was attributed to blood poisoning, caused by injudicious cutting of a corn in early May 1899. His system at the time had been weakened by overexertion during the three weeks previous to the election in which his work schedule left him little time to recuperate from the surgery. For several days before his death, it was challenging for him to take on necessary nourishment. He was attended to by Dr. Martin F. J. Cameron, 425 N. Broadway.

Detective Pontier was born in Baltimore June 4, 1826. After receiving a rudimentary education in the public schools and at St. Patrick’s and St. Vincent’s parochial schools, he learned that the carpenter’s trade. Later in his life, he became a clerk for the firm of Pontier and Haslett, Fruit Dealers. N. Howard St., of which his brother was a senior member. He remained there for a few years until he was Appointed to a position in the Sheriff’s Office by Sheriff Creamer, that position he held until 1862. Five years later he was Appointed to the Detective Squad.

As he was well acquainted with the Officers of the Adam’s and other express companies, he was assigned to any case in which these corporations were interested. One of his early pieces of work was the investigation of the robbery by express messenger number II. Clay Potts, who stole $60,000 in money and papers from the Southern Express Company in 1867. Potts was arrested by a fellow employee and taken to mobile Alabama by Detective Pontier.

On 11 August 1867 Detective Pontier was sent to capture John Dixon, a young man who had killed his sweetheart, a respectable young lady, employed by judge Campbell, on W. Franklin St., near Park Avenue. He found the murderer asleep in the house on Rock Street. Dixon was sentenced to 18 years in the City Penitentiary. Detective Pontier also arrested Hollohan and Nicholson, the murderers of Mrs. John Lampley, the night of to January 1873. He was in the company of Marshal Frey when they arrested John Thomas, who attempted to rob Mrs. Cariotta Sarraco, the wife of an Italian music teacher, on the night of 24 April 1871, and meeting opposition from her part slashed her horribly with a razor. Thomas was sentenced to 21 years in the City’s Penitentiary. During his trial Mrs. Sarraco fell from the stone steps of the courthouse, fracturing her skull and causing her death.

In the summer of 1876, Detective Pontier arrested a man for whom all the police in the world had been on the lookout for, for months. This was Louis Diebel, who, while Mayor of the little city of Kadowitz, in Polish Prussia, disappeared with $15,000 of the funds entrusted to his care. The German police offered a $1000 reward for his arrest and distributed flyers all over the world with Louis Diebel’s portrait and description written in all languages. One of the Flyers fell into the hands of Detective Pontier, and he made inquiries among Germans in the city. It happened that one of his German friends did know of a man who answered to the description of Louis Diebel, and after hunting him down Detective Pontier found it to be Mr. Diebel, who was living in a small hotel room opposite Camden Station. He was arrested, and nearly $13,000 was recovered from his person. He was then extradited back to Germany, and Detective Pontier was awarded the $1000 reward that had been offered for the location and arrest of Louis Diebel.

In checking Sun paper news articles, it seems not much time passed without articles covering the cases involving Detective Pontier. In particular, he was kept busy during the Baltimore Elections; Election time in Baltimore during those days was quite hectic literally working Detective Pontier to death. Had he not been overworked to the point of excursion, he may not have died at such a young age.  In fact looking back even being as sick as he was dealing with blood poisoning caused in May of 1889 he was in the Papers on more than a dozen times over the previous year and a half, and they certainly didn’t cover every case he handled, he worked closely with Marshal Frey and Capt. Pumphrey While he should have slowed down and taken some rest to recuperate from the surgery he had on his foot, he did not, causing himself to weaken and eventually running his immune system down to where he wouldn’t recover, leading to his death.  I know this is not listed as a Line of Duty Death. But one could argue that the Corn on his foot came from being on his feet all day working cases as a Detective. Then his not stopping to heal brought on the blood poisoning, and further the lack of rest weakened his immune system further exasperating his illness causing his death.

Detective Pontier leaves a widow and two sons, Edward L. And John E. Pontier

While the City and the Department may never list this as a line of duty death, it does not mean as his brothers and sisters we cannot take a minute to remember him, his dedication to duty, and his putting the City and Department ahead of his health. May he rest in peace knowing we care, and that we thank him for his service and sacrifice.



More Details

End of Watch 3 July 1899
City, St. 1426 North Bond St
Panel Number N/A
Cause of Death      Surgery
District Worked     Detective Department



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