After 122 years, a Nockamixon farmer keeps vigil for officers shot by an outlaw.
Route 412 is one of the most beautiful highways in Bucks County. It’s captivating for its hilly terrain, beautiful farms, woodlands, historic homes, wildlife and full view of Haycock Mountain, Bucks’ tallest at 961 feet. The focus 122 years ago was hardly the scenery however. It was a manhunt for a criminal involved in rare savagery in this sleepy corner of Upper Bucks County.
Joe Fachet, a retired carpenter and part-time farmer, knows the story well. He regularly visits a Nockamixon cemetery where two constables from the 19th century are buried. Beside their headstones, Joe expresses reverence. “They sacrificed their lives for our county.”
It all began on Oct. 29, 1897 with a holdup of a general store in Springtown at the western end of Route 412. Witnesses recognized the perpetrator as Adam Weaver, 45, of Bursonville a few miles east on 412. Arrested, he secured bail with orders to appear for trial on Jan. 11. When he didn’t show, a Springtown constable visited Weaver who drew a revolver and fled. Summoned to the scene, state constable Meadus Atherholt and two deputies forced the door when the suspect’s wife barred entry. He could not be found.
Weaver was a known desperado who served time in prison for burglary. Desertion and theft were also on his record. The Reading Times described him as “a worthless character” with a stocky physique and a short, sandy beard.
The weeks passed until a tip arrived on Feb. 23. Atherholt and deputies Erwin Mondeau, Israel Moser and William Glassmoyer approached Weaver’s cabin in mid-afternoon. Alerted by a guard dog, the fugitive sent his 6-year-old son outside to investigate. The boy saw the men and ran back in. With Glassmoyer deployed around back, Atherholt, Mondeau and Moser pushed the door open. Weaver aimed a two-barrel shotgun and shouted, “Don’t come an inch further or I’ll shoot!” The suspect’s wife yelled, “I’ll give you five minutes to get out of the house!”
As the couple’s five children cowered in a corner, Moser tried to talk Weaver into surrendering. He lowered his shotgun until his wife screamed, “The five minutes are up! Shoot!! Shoot!!” Weaver took aim. “This isn’t all I have to shoot with,” he warned, raising a .38-caliber handgun. “Here’s something else.”
Atherholt rushed the suspect who fired. One blast bloodied the constable’s head. Another hit him in the cheek. Though Moser knocked the firearm from Weaver’s hand, he fired three shots from his revolver. One hit deputy Mondeau in the chest. Collapsing to the floor, he gasped, “I’m shot!”, then died. He was 29.
Glassmoyer, entering the cabin from the rear, clubbed Weaver, staggering him. Mrs. Weaver threw hot water at the deputy and hit him in the head with a rock, leaving a deep gash. Glassmoyer and Moser kept trying to subdue the fugitive, ripping at their clothing, scratching and slugging them. Atherholt, blinded by blood, grabbed hold. The two tumbled onto the porch where the constable lost his grip. Moser, bleeding from a lacerated hand, tackled Weaver amid a hailstorm of rocks thrown by his wife. Weaver shook loose and disappeared into the woods with his family.
The next day a 21-man posse arrived. According to the Springtown Weekly Times, “They saw gruesome indications of the struggle that had taken place, the floor being spattered with blood that had flowed from the wounds of Mondeau and Constable Atherholt.”
The posse searched the wilds of Haycock Mountain. Nothing. A few days later Weaver’s wife was arrested trying to re-enter her home. She was convicted of second degree murder and imprisoned. Her husband remained at large, never to be found.
More than 1,000 mourners congregated at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church on Haycock Run for Mondeau’s burial. It was the largest funeral gathering in Nockamixon/Haycock history. Constable Atherholt attended though severely crippled. He would die in 1924, outliving his wounds but terribly affected by them the rest of life.
Joe Fachet today campaigns to memorialize the two. Mondeau is the earliest known law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty in Bucks. “I was always hoping to get a plaque up at the county sheriff’s office to honor these two men,” Fachet told me. County Commissioner Diane Marseglia referred Joe’s quest to Richard Vona, director of the county law enforcement center in Doylestown. Once he’s certified the history, he expects to add the names of Mondeau and Atherholt to a memorial at the center and in Washington. “I can assure you that the Chiefs of Police and the law enforcement community will be honored to recognize these individuals and their sacrifice for the community,” Vona told me.
Meanwhile Joe carries the torch. “I found the two grave stones and every time I go there, I visit these two forgotten souls. Not much is said about Upper Bucks history. Most things here are quickly forgotten.”
Sources include “Adam Weaver, the Desperado, Resisted Constable Atherholt and his Deputies” published in the Springtown Weekly Times on Feb. 23, 1898; “Shot Through the Heart: A Terrible Murder Committed at Bucksville” published in the Bucks County Republican on March 3, 1898;“The Bucks County Murder” published in The Morning Call of Allentown on Feb. 25, 1898 and help from the Haycock Historical Society.