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McWatters, George S. (1812-1886)

Police Officer

Known in the New York journals as "the Literary Policeman," George S. McWatters was a New York City police officer who occasionally visited Pfaff's and there earned the respect of the bar's bohemian patrons (McWatters xix). A.L. Rawson writes, "McWatters was a genial and kind-hearted policeman, and fond of children. When Ada [Clare]'s boy came he named him 'the Prince,' and the title was at once accepted by the coterie. . . . The coterie [at Pfaff's] helped to get him appointed on the 'force,' where he served until retired for long and faithful service" (107). William Winter further cements his connection to Pfaff's with a letter that he sent along with a collection of Fitz-James O'Brien's works writing, "You were so long & so intimately associated with that merry company that the reading of these pages cannot fail to revive remembrances of the past" (Winter [Letter]).

It was McWatters who led "a committee representing many acquaintances of [Henry] Clapp in New York" in making sure that Clapp's remains were given a proper burial in his hometown of Nantucket ("Current Memoranda" 714). The fact that McWatters would do Clapp this service suggests that a strong relationship had developed between the two during the time they spent together at Pfaff's. McWatters was also the author of a number of books about detective work, including Knots Untied: or, Ways and By-Ways in the Hidden LIfe of American Detectives (1871), Detectives of Europe and America (1877), The Gambler's Wax Finger and Other Startling Detective Experiences (1892), and Forgers and Confidence Men (1892).

Believed to be born in Kilmarnock, Scotland, McWatters was taken at a young age to Northern Ireland, where he was raised and educated. He worked there for a time as a mechanic, before moving to London, continuing his trade and marrying a "most estimable lady" with whom he would have six children (McWatters 22). He and his wife came to America and he studied law in Philadelphia from 1848-1849. He found collecting debts from the poor was not to his liking and he migrated to California, but, disheartened by the lawlessness there, he left for New York City after nine months. Once in New York, he became "associated with Laura Keene, the actress, as her agent in New York and Buffalo"(McWatters 27). He also became a lecturer on California, served as the agent of Lola Montez, the Countess of Lansfeldt, and pursued a career as a private detective. McWatters entered the Metropolitan Police force in 1858 and served for 12 years until his retirement from the force on October 17, 1870.