It is hard to realize it now, but once there were only about 1,000 or so people who lived in Concord. And these were the days when Constable John Ott took care of it along with Ygnacio Valley and Pacheco.
For 40 years he dealt with chicken thieves, bordellos and sometimes murder. And for those first 24 years on the job (he started in 1906) Ott was the only law enforcement officer in Concord. The city didn't establish a police department until 1930.
Most of the time, the constable's job involved serving subpoenas, warrants, summonses and other court papers. Ott rounded up jurors and witnesses. He took prisoners to jail or to court and often brought patients to the county hospital.
Ott enforced the law and served as the bailiff of the justice court. His pay was based on the number of jobs he performed for the court. In 1930 the marshal's pay was augmented by a small salary, but it still didn't total more than $200 a month.
But Ott had other resources. Once in a while he was hired out as a guard, as the Concord Transcript reported in September 1916.
"Constable John Ott was on duty in the orchards in Ygnacio Valley Sunday," the newspaper stated. "He was not hired as a fruit picker but to stop the raiders who have been helping themselves to fruit this season, much to the annoyance of the growers."
He had other duties as well: Contra Costa County Sheriff R.R. Veale appointed him a deputy sheriff in 1898 and kept him on the job for as long as Veale was sheriff.
Ott also had a business. With partners he operated the Concord Building Material and Transfer Co., which dealt in lime, cement, plaster, sand, gravel, crushed rock, brick, wood and coal.
Everybody in Concord knew him. The late Farmer Boyd, son of the first mayor, remembered Ott as a big man with big feet.
"You never wanted to be kicked twice by that big foot of his," he said.
Boyd, who said he was kicked once, recalls when Concord had a curfew for its youngsters.
"If you didn't get home right away at 8 p.m., he'd give you a boot in the pants, and you'd remember it for a long while," he said.
Boyd never saw Ott's gun but was sure he wore one.
"Oh, he had a gun. But you never could see it. It was under his coat."
Ott was a formal man. He didn't look the marshal in the Old West movies.
"He wore a suit, a dark suit and a tie, always had a tie," Boyd said.
In August 1911 the Concord Transcript reported Ott needed help concerning a serial chicken thief.
"Constable Ott has been clothed with a John Doe warrant since Tuesday for the arrest of the thieves who stole five dozen Rhode Island Red and two dozen white Leghorn chickens from Mrs. Martinet's place in Pacheco," the paper stated. "Other people have missed chickens and Mr. Ott has offered a reward of $25 for the arrest of the guilty parties."
Ott served as constable until 1946. He and other members of his family now rest at the historic Pacheco Cemetery.
Days Gone By appears on Sundays. Contact Nilda Rego at email@example.com.