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Cumberland County police officer to be honored 100 years after line-of-duty death

It was a fall morning, starting out like any other, when two police officers in Wormleysburg approached two trespassers who had been spotted along the railroad tracks.

When the officers approached, one of those suspects pulled handgun out of his overalls and opened fire.  

Officer John L. Beisser was shot in the chest, killed in the line of duty. His partner, Harry Chubb, was seriously wounded.

Though that shooting occurred 100 years ago this week, Beisser is being recognized by area law enforcement at a ceremony set for 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Beisser’s name will be added to the other 11 fallen police officers recognized at the Cumberland County Law Enforcement Memorial, located outside of the Public Safety Building, 1 Public Safety Road, just off of Claremont Road outside of Carlisle.

The memorial was dedicated several years ago, but officials with the Cumberland County Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation were not aware of Beisser’s story until recently.

From the newly uncovered information, foundation officials learned that Pennsylvania Railroad Officer Beisser was shot and killed by Archie Miller, a vagrant from Charleston, South Carolina, between 11 a.m. and noon on Oct. 20, 1916.

Local historian Randy Watts provided the following account to foundation officials:

Miller and Jasper Fletcher had been hopping freight trains, heading toward New Jersey, before they fatal encounter.

They were walking along the tracks in Wormleysburg when a tramp warned them that two railroad police officers were in the area. Miller pulled a handgun out of his rear pocket and hid it in his overalls.

A short time later, the officers saw the trespassers. Beisser approached and asked where they were headed, and Miller pulled out his pistol.

He fired two shots at Beisser, who fell to the ground, dying, then shot Chubb in the leg.

Several witnesses were able to identify the two, who were arrested a short time later as they walked along the river toward West Fairview.

Miller was convicted of first-degree murder and was executed in 1917 at the Rockview Penitentiary.

Beisser, who was 36 when he was gunned down, was a veteran of the U.S. Army and had served in the Spanish-American War. He left behind a widow in Lemoyne.  

For more about the group that maintains the site, and for details about the other Cumberland County officers who died in the line of duty, visit the Cumberland County Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation’s website.

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