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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



It would be scarcely possible to overestimate the importance and the magnitude of the duties devolving upon the chief of police in a city whose commercial and legislative activities, handled by men of wealth and conspicuous success, attract to the civic environment thousands whose sojourn is of brief duration, but whose welfare must be wisely guarded by the sleepless vigilance of those upholding the majesty of the law. The fact that Mr. Ahern has made good as chief of police indicates the possession of certain fundamental attributes, unbounded energy, sagacious discrimination, an industry that never fails and a courage that never falters. Combined with his energy he possesses the tact and good humor characteristic of the Celtic race and these qualities bring him a host of friends outside of the immediate circle of his business associates.

Into the home of John and Mary Ahern in Passage East, County Waterford, Ireland, William M. Ahern was born November 10, 1861, and from that same home he started out when the time came for him to earn his own way in the world. John Ahern was head constable of the constabulary at Waterford, holding the position until he was pensioned. When a young lad William M. attended the Christian Brothers school, but after he was thirteen years of age he earned his own livelihood and had little leisure for study. Taking up the trade of a lithographer, he spent five years as an apprentice to that business and afterward worked as a journeyman lithographer, being employed for two years at Dublin, Ireland, and for a similar period in London, England, where he became proficient in the trade. He came to California in May, 1884, his brother Thomas Ahern having arrived here a few years previous and written letters back home which interested his brother in the Golden West and encouraged him to make the trip. Thomas Ahern is now superintendent of the coast division of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company. When he landed in this country he came at once to Sacramento, Cal., and spent three months as a lithographer with Crocker & Co., of San Francisco, and then engaged with the Southern Pacific Railroad and soon became foreman of a construction crew at Sacramento. But in 1892 he resigned this work to become an officer under John B. Rogers, chief of the police of Sacramento.

A service of two years as an officer proved the adaptability of Mr. Ahern to such work. However, he did not continue after 1894, but then resigned in order to enter the employ of the Southern Pacific Railroad as a special agent. In that position he proved diligent, resourceful and trustworthy and he filled the same post continuously until he resigned to enter the service of the city of Sacramento, having been appointed chief of police January 29, 1910, by Mayor Beard. While an officer with the railroad mention should be made of Mr. Ahern 's work in concluding the final prosecution of Brady, the companion of Browning, who was killed by Sheriff Bogard of Tehama county. Brady and Browning were desperate train robbers who held up the Southern Pacific and robbed the Wells Fargo strong-box, obtaining in all $73,000. The robbery occurred at a sheep camp crossing, between Davisville and Sacramento. Chief Ahern comes by his ability as a successful officer of the peace naturally, as his father served thirty-six years as a police officer and head of the department in his home county. Shortly after he accepted the chief's office he showed a familiarity with every detail, which proved his quickness of comprehension and accuracy of judgment, and from the outset of his official duties he has been diligent in the work, resolute in action and firm in decision. While strong in his devotion to the Republican ])arty his selection for the position was not a political measure, but came in recognition of his inherent worth and his fitness for the position. Ever since he came to this country he has made Sacramento his home and in this city in February of 1908 he was united in marriage with Miss Ethel Morrison, by whom he has a son, Frederick Morrison Ahern. 

History of Sacramento County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011