Memorial to Frederick M. Passau

passau_f_editEnd of Watch: May 17, 1899
Rank: Sergeant Badge No. 235
Age: 42   Years of Service: 11 years
Location of Death: 2 Fowlers Hill (2D)
Duty Assignment: Seventh Precinct


Sergeant Frederick “Fritz” Passau was shot and killed while searching in a house on Fowler’s Hill for a suspect wanted for two murders. The suspect was hiding in the attic and as Sergeant Passau passed by, he was shot in the back twice. The suspect  surrendered after hiding in the house for several more hours.

The suspect was convicted of Sergeant Passau’s murder and sentenced to death. He was executed by hanging on August 18, 1889 in Rockville, Maryland, for two previous murders.



Sergeant Passau had served with the Metropolitan Police Department for 11-years and was assigned to the 7th Precinct. He was born in Germany and was a Freemason who had served in the United States Army. He was survived by his wife and two children and is buried in section 13 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.


Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.




Simple and Impressive Rites Over the Remains of Murdered Policeman
Sergt. Fritz Passau, of the Seventh Precinct police station, who was killed while in the performance of his duty in arresting Armistead Taylor, wanted for murder on last Wednesday, was buried yesterday afternoon at Arlington Cemetery. Simple funeral services were held at 1:30 o’clock at the Lutheran church, near the corner of Thirty-second and Q streets, the cortege moving in his late residence, 1711 Thirty-Third Street. Many friends of the late policeman followed to the church. Rev. Stanley Billhelmer conducted the services, and the little edifice was thronged.

Lieut. Swindells and a little squad of twenty-four brother officers acted as an escort to the church, and also marched to the south end of the Aqueduct Bridge. Members of Stansbury Lodge, No. 24, F.A.A.M., and covenant Chapter, I.O.O.F., attended in bodies. A short address was delivered by the pastor at the conclusion of the Lutheran funeral services. At the grave the Masons had charge of the exercises.

An order was published yesterday by the Superintendent of Police, containing a letter from Hon. John B. Wight, President of the Board of Commissioners, commending the members who assisted in the capture of Taylor, and expressing regret at the death of Sergt. Passau. It was as Follows:

Headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia.

Washington D.C., May 19, 1899.


The following communication from the Hon. John B. Wight, Commissioner of the District of Columbia, is promulgated for the information of the members of the force.
Richard Sylvester, Major and Superintendent.

“Executive Office”

“Commissioners of the District Of Columbia.

“Washington, May 19, 1899.

“To the Major and Superintendent of Metropolitan Police:

“I desire to commend the members of the Police Department who participated in the capture of the man known as Humphrey Taylor for their efficiency, bravery, and discreet work under peculiar, trying, and dangerous circumstances, which enabled them to secure for the ends of justice a brutal murderer, and at the same time save the District from the disgrace of the lynching that was so seriously threatened. That they should steadfastly persisted in the performance of their duty at the risk of life, even after one of their number had perished, is deserving of praise and commendation.

“I deeply regret the loss of Sergt. Fritz Passau. He died while bravely performing his duty. He had made an enviable record, and only recently had received recognition in the shape of promotion. Had he lived he no doubt would have continued to be an honor to the department, and one of the most useful members.

“I would be glad to have the members of the department know how I feel toward them in this matter. Very sincerely,

John B. Wight, Commissioner.”

A subscription is being taken up among members of the police force for the purpose of erecting a monument to the memory of their dead comrade. The lists are headed by the Lieutenants at each of the precincts and with each of the 600 policemen, who contribute $1 apiece, and imposing memorial will be erected. Officer W. J. Trussell has been detailed as acting Sergeant of the Seventh Precinct station, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Sergt. Passau. Trussell was at Taylor’s house when he was captured.

Fund for Widow and Children

Additional contributions to the fund for the widow and children of Sergt. Passau, who was killed by Buck Taylor, the suspect desperado, have been received by The Post, the donations to date being as follows:

  • John H. Magruder………………………$10.00
  • J.T. Walker’s Sons……………………..$10.00
  • K……………………………………………..$10.00
  • Mrs. Frances McLeod Matheson….$10.00
  • Friend………………………………………..$1.00
  • C.S.F………………………………………….$1.00
  • Saks & Co…………………………………$10.00
  • F.C. Halliday………………………………$10.00
  • A.J. Barker………………………………….$5.00




Efforts to Save Brown’s Life Proved Fruitless


Ropes Were Not Properly Adjusted and the Criminals Died a Slow Death by Strangulation—Taylor Said to the Last That Brown Was Innocent of the Crime—Both Went to the Scaffold With Fortitude and Did Not Weaken.

Special to The Post

Rockville, Md., Aug. 18—-Armstead Taylor and John Humphrey Brown, the murders of the Rosensteins, according to a jury’s verdict, were executed in the jail yard this morning. Both men were hanged on the same scaffold. Sheriff Thompson sprung the drop at 10:17 a.m., but it took some time before the men were pronounced dead. The nooses did not cut off respiration immediately, and both men struggled in death, the bodies remaining suspended for thirty-five minutes.

While everything was in readiness for the execution as early as 8 o’clock, Sheriff Thompson did not begin to make his final preparations for the march to the scaffold until all chances for executive interference in the case of Brown were acknowledged to be exhausted. At 10 o’clock the sheriff gave orders to his deputies to prepare the men for the scaffold. Deputies William R. Embrey, J.E. Wheatley, John A. Shelby, and jailer Connell entered Taylor’s cell and notified Taylor that the time had come.

Taylor remarked, “I am ready,” and requested Jailer Connell to get his coat from the cell window, where the prisoner had arranged it as a curtain this morning to shut off the view of the scaffold, which was immediately in front of his window. Yesterday Taylor removed all obstructions which had been put in the window.

His hands were strapped behind him, and while preparations for the death march were going on in Taylor’s cell, a scene of pathetic interest was being enacted in Brown’s quarters. His little son James, eight or nine years of age, had been brought to his father. “The latter had but little to say to the boy, but seemed pleased to see him. The interview was brought to a close by Father Coleman giving the boy some wholesome advice, and Brown presenting him with a hymn book.

Reiterated His Innocence.

As the boy was being led from the cell Father Coleman addressed him, saying: “Be a good boy, and always remember that your father died an innocent man.” As the boy left the cell Deputies Samuel H. Jones, N.F. Howes, and W.F. Gaither entered to prepare Brown for the scaffold. Brown, who was sitting on his cot, immediately arose, saying, “I am ready,” at the same time holding out his hands to be strapped.

When the prisoner was made ready the procession for the gallows was formed. Rev. Mr. Ingle and Rev. Mr. England leading. Then came Deputy Embrey, who was followed by Taylor, with Deputies Seely, Wheatley, and Howes near enough to him to render him any assistance that might be necessary. Fathers Coleman and Cunnane came next with Brown, and during the procession read the services of the church for the dying.

Deputies Gaither and Jones and Jailer Connell were immediately in the rear of Brown. Sheriff Thompson walking a short distance behind. While the condemned men bore up bravely, displaying remarkable nerve, their appearance indicated that the strain was telling upon them. Upon reaching the scaffold the men were faced north and were strapped about the ankles and knees by Deputies Wheatley and Gaither.

The priests stood to the east side of the scaffold, nearest Brown, and the southwest corner was occupied by Taylor’s spiritual advisers, the officers disposing themselves at other points about the platform. Sheriff Thompson then adjusted both nooses, at the conclusion of which Father Coleman held the crucifix which was suspended from Brown’s neck. At this juncture the sheriff asked the condemned men if they had anything to say.

Taylor’s Last Announcement

As expected, Taylor essayed to speak. His utterance was indistinct and disjointed, and with much difficulty he said; “All I have to say is I did all the killing, Brown was not in it.” After a second he resumed; “I want to say to you men——–“when he was interrupted by his spiritual adviser, who told him that he had said enough.

Then Brown, smiling all the while, said in a voice that was scarcely audible beyond the scaffold, “I am innocent.”

The sheriff then proceeded to adjust the black caps, and while this was in progress the ministers and condemned men in unison kept speaking the words, “Lord Jesus, receive my soul, Into Thy hands I commit my soul.”

The bolts were pulled by Sheriff Thompson at 10:17, and the bodies were cut down at 10:52, Drs. E.E. Stonestreet and O.M. Linthicum pronouncing both men dead at that time. The knots did not slip tight, but struck both men in the face, and the eventual strangulation of the criminals was due to their own convulsive writhing and spasmodic jerking. The clergymen openly denounced the affair as an outrage and a bungle, and used these expressions to Sheriff Thompson on the scaffold as they saw the sufferings of the men. Men who have witnessed scores of hangings stated that the execution was the worst and most brutal in their experience, and the spectators, as a body, gave vent to expressions of horror and indignation. The knot on the noose that surrounded Taylor’s neck did not slip tight. He struggled terribly, and his moans were heard by people near the scaffold. Brown’s struggles were hardly less awful. The noose worked a trifle better on him, however, and he died before Taylor.

Bodies Buried at Once

The body of Taylor was turned over to Undertaker Groomes, and has been interred in the county lot at the almshouse. Brown’s body was taken in charge by Undertaker Pumphrey and interred in the new Catholic Cemetery, near his place.

After the execution Rev. Howard G. England, who had been with Taylor during his last hours on earth, and who, with the other clerical gentlemen connected with the execution, believes implicitly in Brown’s innocence, gave a detailed statement made by Taylor to him and Rev. Mr. Ingles a few minutes before his march to the scaffold.

Taylor’s statement to the ministers just as he was going to his death was: “Nobody on earth knew anything about that killing except myself and God. I saw Brown coming down the road a little distance from the store before I killed them. I hid in the woods until Brown passed. After Brown passed I entered the house and killed them. I killed the man first downstairs. I went upstairs and found the woman was in bed. I went to the bed and looked at her. Then I walked back to the other side of the room. The woman jumped out of bed and stood on the floor. I then rushed across the room and struck her with the iron bar. No one had talked to me before about the murder, but Brown had remarked to me that those people were making money.”

Mr. England states that he questioned Taylor as to his reason for making the statements which had implicating Brown. To this Taylor replied: “I was scared to death and nearly crazy, and I didn’t know what I was saying.”

The Rosenstein Murder

The crime for which Taylor and Brown paid the penalty was one of the most brutal in the history of Montgomery County. The victims, Dora and Louis Rosenstein, were an inoffensive Hebrew couple who kept a little store at Slidell, a few miles from Rockville. On the morning of May 13 last a farmer living in the neighborhood was accosted by Taylor near the store and told he had better not tarry there. The farmer suspected that something was wrong and upon going back to the store entered and discovered the crime. Louis Rosenstein was found behind the counter in a pool of blood with a fearful wound in his head. Upstairs the unconscious body of Mrs. Rosenstein was discovered. She, too, was frightfully wounded and there was evidence that an attempt had been made to assault her criminally. It was afterwards discovered that the murderer or murderers had succeeded in getting away with the savings of the Rosensteins, aggregating $600. Rosenstein and his wife had both been attacked with the same weapon, a heavy iron bar that was found on the scene of the crime.

Mr. And Mrs. Rosenstein were both removed to Baltimore and taken to the Maryland University Hospital for treatment. They died there within a few days of each other.

Brown, who lived in the vicinity of the Rosenstein store, was suspected of the crime and arrested, together with Nellie Turner, a young woman who had been living with his as his common-law wife.

They protested their innocence and put the blame on Armistead, alias “Humph” Taylor. He was a convict and bore a worse reputation than Brown. Taylor fled after being seen on the porch of the store in the morning.

The Shooting of Passau

Taylor was found in a house one week later, on Fowler’s Hill, near Georgetown, and the place was surrounded by the police. Taylor retreated to the garret and when Sergt. Passau and several officers forced entrance, fired upon them, killing Passau almost instantly. Taylor was captured and taken to Rockville, and from there to Baltimore for safekeeping. He was tried at Frederick July 6 and convicted. Brown was tried immediately afterward and also convicted, largely on the statements of Taylor, although there has always been a strong feeling that he was innocent. Gov. Lowndes set the execution for August 18.

A few days ago W.E. Belt, of Chicago, Brown’s former master and friend, came on to intercede for the condemned man. He collected much evidence tending to show Brown’s innocence, and made urgent appeals for a stay, if only of a few days, that his evidence might be inquired into. Gov. Lowndes asked for the recommendations of Judges McSherry, Henderson, and Motter. Upon hearing the new evidence Judges Henderson and Motter agreed to a reprieve, but Judge McSherry refused his consent, and Brown was hanged without an opportunity of the new evidence being used in his favor. Mr. Belt declares he will still prove Brown’s innocence. He condemns the procedure, and declares that all during the trial not one exception was noted or point raised in favor of Brown.

Belt’s Telegram to the Governor.

Annapolis, Md., Aug. 18.—Gov. Lowndes closed up his weeks work here today and left in the afternoon for Baltimore. During the morning he received this telegram:

“Rockville, Aug. 18—I hold you and McSherry responsible for the death of an innocent man. This will be heralded throughout the United States. Note confession of Armistead Taylor on the scaffold. W.E. Belt.”

The governor read the telegram with composure. He did not seem to be disturbed by it.



By Jack Toomey (Montgomery County Police historian)

At the turn of the century there was a small community at the corner of Old Baltimore Road and Slidell Road. It didn’t have more than a schoolhouse, a post office, a general store, and a few houses. In the early 1890’s Mr. and Mrs. Louis Rosenstein moved to this little place called Slidell and opened a small general store on the first floor of their house which stood on the northeast corner of that intersection. They rarely left Slidell and used hired men to bring them the provisions that we delivered by train to the depot at Boyds. Mr. Rosenstein had no use for banks and was believed to keep a large amount of cash around the house.

On May 13, 1899 Garret Linthicum, a farmer, was passing by the store about 5:00 am and saw a man standing out front. He recognized him as Armistead Taylor and thought he might be drunk and continued on. At about 7:00 am Mrs. Carlin sent her daughter to the store to make a small purchase. She returned home and told her mother that no one was in the store. Shortly afterwards another customer came to the store and found Mr. Rosenstein lying behind the counter. An iron bar was lying next to his body. Other people came to the store and someone went upstairs and found Mrs. Rosenstein lying next to a bed in her bedroom. Both were in very critical condition. At least six hundred dollars was believed to have been stolen from the store. Word spread quickly throughout the area and men organized a posse and began to search the woods. Found in the woods near the store were a pair of bloody shoes and a silver watch belonging to Mr. Rosenstein. Someone went to the Boyds railroad station and the ticket agent said that Armistead Taylor had boarded the 8:30 train bound for Washington. The conductor of the train was later interviewed and said that Taylor had put on new shoes on the train and had thrown his old ones out the window. He had purchased new shoes at Lewis’s general store near the Boyds station. Taylor then got off the train at Garrett Park. All roads leading out of Montgomery County were ordered closed and armed men searched every wagon attempting to leave the county.

Sheriff Thomson and his deputy went to the home of John Brown, who lived near the Rosenstein store, and found a bloody apron and a watch chain. Brown and Taylor were known to be acquaintances. Thompson then went to the farm of his employer and arrested Brown. Meanwhile Charles Kingsbury, searching on his own, found a new coat and shirt in the woods. They had been stolen from the store. Since there were no medical facilities of any kind in Montgomery County the family came to Slidell and took Mr. and Mrs. Rosenstein to the University of Maryland Hospital at Baltimore by wagon. They were not expected to survive and they died shortly after arriving in Baltimore.

In the meantime the police in Washington, DC had been alerted to look for Armistead Taylor. Suspicion had been aroused when a man had come into a pawnbrokers shop in Georgetown and had purchased new clothing and a revolver. A woman, knowing of the manhunt, became suspicious of a new neighbor who had just rented a room next door to her house on Fowlers Hill near Georgetown University. She had seen him sitting on the steps counting a large sum of money so she went to the police station in Georgetown and reported what she had seen. After hearing the description of the man the captain of the station ordered that all off duty and reserve officers be called from their homes.

Messengers were sent to all quarters of the city and a small army of police officers assembled. So not to arouse suspicion the officers left the station in pairs and headed in the direction of Fowlers Hill. As the officers approached the house someone started firing shots from the second floor of the house. A few of the officers, including Sergeant Fritz Passau, ran up the stairway to the second floor. Taylor had crawled into the attic and he was ordered to surrender. Instead of giving up he fired shots through the trap door and one of the bullets struck Sgt. Passau, mortally wounding him. His body was carried to the street by his fellow officers and for two hours shots were exchanged by the officers and Taylor. Finally the police decided to burn down the house to force Taylor to surrender. When Taylor learned of this plan he decided to give up asking that he be protected from the huge crowd of citizens that had assembled to watch the gunfight.

When the attic was searched after his removal a gold watch and one hundred ninety two dollars were found. Taylor was then hustled away to the Georgetown police station which was heavily guarded from the throng of over two thousand people who gathered out front.

Sheriff Thompson, his deputy Selby, and later States Attorney Kilgour, questioned Taylor at the police station. He admitted that he and Brown had left Brown’s home early in the morning of the crime. Taylor had stood outside while Brown robbed the store. After Brown had attacked Mr. Rosenstein Taylor came into the store and hit Mrs. Rosenstein over the head after she intervened. They then stole the money and several items and left the store.

Taylor’s trial was moved to Frederick and started on July 6, 1899. He was convicted and sentenced to death. Brown’s trial was held the following week and Taylor surprised the spectators by taking the witness stand, and even though under the sentence of death, told the jury that Brown had killed Mr. Rosenstein. A jailer testified that he heard frequent arguments between Taylor and Brown where they blamed each other for not disposing of the evidence. Brown was also convicted and sentenced to death.

On August 18, 1899 Taylor and Brown were scheduled to be hung. Sheriff Thompson delayed the execution because he believed that Governor Lowndes might intervene and issue a stay of execution. When the governor failed to send any word to Rockville Taylor and Brown were led from their cells to the scaffold that had been constructed in the courtyard of the Rockville jail. Taylor startled the onlookers by stating “all I have to say is I did all the killing, Brown was not in it”. Brown then stated “I am innocent”. Without further ado the Sheriff gave the order and Taylor and Brown fell to their deaths.

Rosenstein’s home and store sat vacant for a few years and then it was torn down. Today the crossroads at Slidell contains only a few houses and certainly there is very little memory of the horror that happened there over a century ago.