Ithaca Auto and Burglar

A post by William the Coroner tickled a memory. The Ithaca Auto and Burglar mention by William is a sawed off shotgun with a 12 1/4″ barrel. It’s now outlawed by the feds but in past years it was the go-to weapon for close-in personal protection.

Dad had one.

During the William/Franklin County union/KKK/gangster wars of the 1920s and 1930s, Dad became an auxiliary Deputy Sheriff. Dad was a coal miner and UMWA member as was Grandpa. Grandpa was active in the union and in the local democrat party and was a bit “controversial.” This lead some to believe the Dad was the same and after a few confrontations decided he needed some personal protection.

This was reinforced when Dad’s younger brother Frank, the youngest of the family brothers, was murdered in Benton, IL. The family knew who did the killing but the murderer was a protected member of the Shelton gang.

Dad joined the Franklin County Sheriff’s office in 1928 as an auxiliary. He was issued with a uniform, a .38 Smith & Wesson pistol, handcuffs and a Winchester model 1897 12ga pump shotgun with the barrel and magazine tube cut down as was the stock just behind the pistol grip to produce a weapon about two feet in length. If I remember correctly, it held four rounds, one in the chamber and three in the truncated magazine.


I don’t know if Dad ever used the shotgun. If fact, I don’t remember him ever firing it, but I saw it daily in its clip inside the driver door of Dad’s GMC pickup. I remember Dad kept a handful of green Remington shotshells in the pickup’s glove box but I never thought much about it. The shotgun and pickup was a part of Dad. Dad kept the shotgun long after they were declared illegal. He was a “lawman” and no one made an issue of its length.

Sometime in the 1950s the shotgun disappeared. A new Sheriff was elected who fired all the deputies and replaced them with political favorites. Dad turned in his badge, handcuffs and uniform. He kept the .38, paying for it I expect, until it was stolen two decades later with all the rest of Dad’s guns.


I learned to drive in Dad’s pickup at age 10 when I was big enough to reach the pedals. Wherever I drove that truck, Dad’s shotgun went with me. I never thought much about it but it was there if need arose.