SALEM — With a lynch mob gathering in the lobby of a southern Oregon hotel in the spring of 1882, Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy Samuel Lewis posted guards at the room of a man accused of killing a rival’s 15-year-old son and readied for the worst.
Less than three decades after Oregon was founded, the state was still very much a part of the frontier. Lewis died protecting a prisoner who was in the midst of an Old West feud that would ultimately leave at least three dead besides the deputy.
Between 10 and 18 masked members of the mob shoved their way into the hotel. Shots rang out, Lewis was struck in an artery, and he quickly died, making him one of Oregon’s first law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
Lewis and two other men were memorialized Tuesday in Salem at what has become an annual rite in Oregon: commemorating the deaths of police officers, emergency responders and others killed while doing their jobs.
Eugene police officer Chris Kilcullen was shot and killed April 22, 2011, after pulling over a woman suspected of driving erratically. Department of Corrections officer Buddy Ray Herron was fatally stabbed Nov. 28 after stopping on his way to work to help a stranded driver. Their names were added to the wall of 172 others.
Lewis’ death was brought to light by a retired Texas deputy sheriff, who researches the deaths of officers killed in the line of duty.
Lewis died with $205, a horse and a saddle, Lake County Sheriff Phillip McDonald said at the memorial on Tuesday. Lewis died without a wife or children, the sheriff said, but had a brother whose descendants still live in Lake County.