Biographies | Homer Pulver
Homer Newman Pulver, Webster’s first police officer, was born on April 17, 1907. The son of a farm worker and homemaker, Homer began his working years after one year of high school. The 1925 U.S. Census simply lists him as an 18-year-old laborer, but circumstances soon presented an opportunity that Pulver took advantage of.
Although a small group of volunteer constables had monitored traffic and minor offenses in Webster, there was no established police service. A rash of burglaries in Webster, primarily around the North Avenue businesses, and along the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg Railroad Line, worried entrepreneurs and prompted Pulver to approach the Village Board with the idea to appoint him as a police officer. When the Village declined due to a lack of funding for a police salary, Pulver volunteered his services for the next six months. During that period, he was able to solve 17 of the 28 reported crimes, and business owners–many of whom were serving in local government at the time–began to truly understand Pulver’s worth. A salary of fifty dollars a month was approved for him in 1929, with the added contribution of two dollars a month from any business interested in securing Pulver’s protection. His wages from the village were increased in 1930 and 1932, to $75 and $100, respectively, and at this point, private business contributions were discontinued.
Also in 1932, Homer Pulver took on the responsibility of policing the Town of Webster, in addition to the
Village. One particular area of concern was the sandbar near the outlet bridge on Irondequoit Bay. Local residents were plagued by the drunken antics of those frequenting bars there. Webster’s town historian, Dick Batzing, wrote that although Pulver never carried a gun and was rarely seen in uniform there, he had a knack for an easy kind of diplomacy so that “a certain peace settled in on the area.” Pulver displayed a similar finesse with the homeless individuals that lingered around the railroad line. Again, according to Batzing, Pulver forged an agreement where in exchange for their promise not to burglarize businesses in the area, he would provide them with food and clothing when needed.
However, the surveillance of village and town became increasingly difficult to manage for one person. In 1939, Pulver made the decision to scale back his jurisdiction to just the Village of Webster. In that same year, Homer Pulver, then 31, and (Florence) Virginia Wage, age 20, were married at the First Universalist Church in Rochester, and settled into their rented home on 79 Dunning Avenue in Webster Village. Unfortunately, little is known about Homer’s family life with Virginia, other than she was a clerk for Rochester Gas and Electric, working a 40-hour week. The two did not have any children listed on census records.
The United States had not yet suffered the attack on Pearl Harbor, but Homer Pulver dutifully registered for the draft in 1940, though it does not appear that he was called to serve during World War II. However, his work as police officer kept him busy enough; he reported on the 1940 census working a 60 hour week, with an income of $1300 a year. In 1941, Pulver was offered a federal position in Kendaia, New York with the Seneca Ordinance Depot, an arsenal later revealed to have held materials from the Manhattan Project and development of the atomic bomb. Pulver’s involvement in this arena is not known; a 1942 edition of the Webster Herald reveals only that he was appointed as “Senior Lieutenant in Charge of the Guards,” and “had been assigned to investigate several important cases.” Although he attempted to resign his police position upon taking this new role, the Webster Village Board refused to accept his resignation, and granted him a three-month leave instead. It appears that Pulver then returned to his post in Webster, where he continued serving until his retirement in 1944.
In that year, Homer and Virginia moved to 39 Kircher Park, and by 1945 the Rochester Suburban Directory lists the two as “removed to Palmyra [New York].” According to the Webster Herald, entrepreneurs and townsmen alike gathered to give Homer Pulver a send-off, including $135 containing contributions from local businesses, the fire department, the Red Cross Motor Society and village officers. It is unclear what made this “hometown boy,” as Batzing called him, leave Webster, but perhaps it had to do with his personal life: Virginia Pulver sought and was granted a divorce from Homer in March of 1945. Homer Pulver then married Bertha Messinger, who worked at the Palmyra Telephone Office, that same year on April 28th. Again, no information seems to exist regarding their home life together.
Five years into his new post in Palmyra, Officer Pulver was assaulted by two high school boys who took his gun and his police car before committing theft and robbery in the town. It is telling that the same newspaper which reports the indictment of those youths, also lists Pulver as working with Captain Henry Jensen of the Rochester Police Department on a program called P.A.L. (Police Athletic League). This was an initiative where young police officers supervised recreational activities for girls and boys and thereby developed positive interactions with youth in the community. Pulver was keen for young people to view police officers as friends and allies, and was active with the Palmyra town youth, organizing activities for local Boy Scout troops. His positive, proactive interventions with community members–from the early days on the beat at the Webster sandbar, to his latter career days in Palmyra–were the hallmark of his policing career.
After his retirement from the Palmyra Police Department in 1951, Pulver went on to serve in a volunteer capacity as fireman and fire policeman. He died September 30th, 1986, at the age of 79, and is buried with his second wife, Bertha, in Rose Cemetery, Rose, New York.
- Ancestry.com. U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
- Batzing, Dick. “The Historian’s Pen: Webster’s First and Finest,” Webster Herald, May 8, 1991.
- Blanchard, E.A. “Daytons Corners,” Fairport (New York) The Herald Mail, 2 March, 1939, p. 7.
- “Boy Scout News,” Palmyra Courier-Journal, 31 March, 1949, p.1.
- Dunn, Esther, Webster Through The Years, Webster Town Board, 1971.
- “Homer Pulver Honored By Townspeople,” Webster Herald, 14 April, 1944, p.1.
- “Judge Guild Grants Twelve Divorces,” Reno Gazette Journal, 14 March, 1945, p. 6
- The Lake Shore News, 17 May, 1945, p. 9.
- Long, Dorothy. “Seneca Army Depot history on parade: Military used 9,500-acre site in Romulus to store arms; including, some say, nuclear materials,” Syracuse.com, April 7, 2011.
- Syracuse.com (accessed August 8, 2020).
- “Police Officer in Charge of Police Department Named,” Palmyra Courier- Journal, 1 November, 1951, p.1.
- “Police Officer Pulver Assumes Former Duties,” Webster Herald, 9 January, 1942, p.1.
- Rochester, NY. 1940. “Rochester Suburban Directory for the year 1940 including the towns of Brighton, East Rochester, Fairport, Gates, Greece, Irondequoit, Pittsford and Webster.”
- Rochester, NY. 1944. Rochester Suburban Directory for the year 1944 including the towns of Brighton, East Rochester, Fairport, Gates, Greece, Irondequoit, Pittsford and Webster
- Rochester, NY. 1945. Rochester Suburban Directory for the year 1945 including the towns of Brighton, East Rochester, Fairport, Gates, Greece, Irondequoit, Pittsford and Webster
- “Three Scouts Head List for Honors as Jensen Speaks,” Palmyra Courier- Journal, 3 March, 1949, p.1.
- U.S. Census Bureau, 1920 U.S. Census.
- U.S. Census Bureau, 1925 U.S. Census.
- U.S. Census Bureau, 1940 U.S. Census.
- “Village to Apply for Permit to Erect Decorations;,” Palmyra Courier-Journal, 10 September, 1964, p.1.
- “Webster Police Officer Has Federal Position,” Webster Herald, 3 October, 1941, p. 7.
- “Youths Indicted by Grand Jury,” Palmyra Courier-Journal, 3 March, 1949, p.1.