In the hours before sunrise on a peaceful Sunday morning in December 1910, a barking dog disturbed the tranquility of Rising Sun. The incessant yapping, as the animal furiously yanking on its chain, roused Rising Sun’s Town Officer, Nathan Britton, who had been sleeping soundly at home. The bailiff, (the title of a municipal lawmen), wanting to quiet the animal, grabbed his gun. He fired a shot in the direction of the commotion, expecting to “frighten the object of the animals wrath away, supposing it to be another dog,” the Midland Journal reported. But with the disturbance continuing, the occupant of another nearby house fired off two more shots in the general direction of the commotion.
Since that didn’t stop the disturbance, the bailiff grabbed a lantern and went out into the predawn darkness to investigate. He found a much befuddled drunk leaning against a fence, near where the dog was tied. So “hopelessly bewildered was the victim of John Barleycorn, who had a narrow escape from being shot but didn’t realize it, that the bailiff took compassion on him. He hauled him off to the town lockup and gave him a comfortable berth for the night so he could sleep off his jig.” He released the man later in the morning.
The town bailiff, a position similar to that of a constable, performed a number of tasks for the town. Beyond keeping order, Officer Britton served as the lamplighter and took care of the streets. Rising Sun’s 100th anniversary booklet said, he was our “lamplighter. Every morning he made the rounds to clean the globs and fill with kerosene all the town’s street lights, and then at dusk he would make another trip with his little ladder under his arms climbing each post. . . Mr. Nathan Britton was the only person on the town’s payroll. In addition to taken care of the street lamps seven days a week, he was the effective bailiff that kept the town in order, and with a wheelbarrow and sometimes a horse cart (total equipment of the street dept.) he would keep the roads in repair . . .”
“Wearing his silver star of authority and in his plain Quaker language, he would admonish the boys – “If thee doesn’t stop riding thy bicycle on the sidewalk, I will have to put thee in the lock-up for an hour. Even though he weighed no more than 125 pounds, he was the law and the boys all feared him – in those days backtalk to the law was unheard of,” the centennial booklet concludes.
In 1907, the town newspaper announced that the commissioners were erecting a building for council meetings. The plot of ground was going to be leased from Allee & Shepherd on West Main Street and a building 12 X 16 erected to contain a council room and lockup, with an annex for a storage room and tool house.