Raising Funds for Undersheriff McPherren's Headstone

While researching for museum tours, blog posts, and programs you can discover many things you didn’t even know you were looking for. While preparing a cemetery tour on Sheridan Law Enforcement, our Collections Manager discovered that former Undersheriff William McPherren does not have a headstone. There is a temporary grave marker at the head of his grave but nothing else. McPherren was the second, and, as far as we can deduce, the last peace officer to be killed in the line of duty in Sheridan’s history. We feel that he should have a headstone so we are reaching out to the community to help raise funds for the purchase of a headstone to honor his sacrifice for Sheridan County.

McPherren's grave in Sheridan Municipal Cemetery.
Image from findagrave.com. Arrow added by museum staff.

Before becoming Undersheriff, McPherren served for 14 years in the Sheridan Police Department. In 1918 Mayor Camplin appointed him Chief of Police. News articles describe him as a well-liked and well trusted officer. He resigned from the Police Department in 1921 when he was appointed Undersheriff by Sheriff Thomas. McPherren was so well liked in the community that it’s likely that his move away from the Police Department to Undersheriff was to prepare to make a run for Sheriff. We will never know if this was the case or not.

McPherren died during a prohibition moonshine raid outside of Monarch on October 7, 1921. While all the other officers were certain which of the two bootleggers had pulled the trigger, Earl McKenna was found not guilty of the murder charge. McKenna’s attorney spoke so passionately about the necessity of acquitting his client that the audience was moved to tears several times as he painted McKenna and McPherren as victims of a blundered and unjust raid. The jury’s reason for acquittal was that it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that McKenna fired the fatal shot.

The Sheridan Post described his funeral: “The funeral was held yesterday afternoon at the Elks home and were [sic] conducted by his brothers of the lodge, the beautiful and impressive Elk’s ritual being used. The large hall was filled to overflowing and it is doubtful if there was a single person present to whom Mr. McPherren was not known and whose heart was not filled with the poignant grief that comes only with the loss of a dear and valued friend… No larger funeral was ever held in the Elks home, the members of the order entirely encircling the spacious hall while friends occupied the center over flowing into the halls and filling the sidewalks.”

Mockup of proposed headstone for William McPherren.

October 7, 2021 is the one hundredth anniversary of William McPherren’s death. Our goal is to raise $1450 to buy a slant headstone and have it installed at his grave. Donations can be made to the Museum at the Bighorns either online, in person, or through the mail.

UPDATE 9/23/2021: Champion Funeral Home has graciously agreed to donate the cost of installation and the granite foundation for the headstone! The new total that we need to raise is $850.

UPDATE 9/24/2021: We have reached the entire amount thanks to Jim and Angie Navarro who called the museum! We'll keep you updated as the ordering, shipping and installation progresses! The headstone has been ordered. Headstones across the country are backordered, so it may take up to five months to ship.

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