City Marshal Arthur Udell, a.k.a. “The Sheriff,” was the first owner of our home, where he lived with his wife, Jessie, and his children, Verne and Hazel, from the time it was built in 1907 until his death in 1959. One of the founders of the Sierra Madre Volunteer Fire Department, he served as City Marshal for sixteen years and then became the Chief of Police when the department was founded.
The Sheriff kept busy in Sierra Madre, working always to “preserve proper decorum.” In the spring of 1913, he worked tirelessly to save Mt. Wilson Trail from the SATURDAY NIGHT GANG, comprised of “rowdies of both sexes” who rode the streetcar into town and then climbed the trail and got up to mischief in the dark. The Sheriff was especially outraged at the “large number of young girls without chaperones who were permitted to make the climb in the company of men and boys of questionable character.”
When he wasn’t fighting fires in the canyon or “arresting boisterous rowdies,” The Sheriff worked with Monrovia and Arcadia officials and his own Deputy, George Cox, to track down people lost in the hills as well as several notorious bandits. He was busiest during the years of Prohibition in the 1920’s, when his neighbor on Santa Anita Court was found on several occasions to be hiding huge caches of wine and rum, which The Sheriff dumped unceremoniously into the gutter. He also led repeated raids at Lizzie’s Trail Inn, though it seemed someone warned Lizzie every time that Marshal Udell was coming. Perhaps the same pranksters that placed 40 empty liquor bottles along Sierra Madre Boulevard? We’ll never know, as that remains one of Sierra Madre’s unsolved mysteries.
These days, we imagine The Sheriff keeps watch over our little family. Always vigilant, he keeps a close eye on the kids’ playroom, as evidenced by how often he trips the motion sensor camera there when no one is home, and he makes nightly trips through the swinging kitchen door. We appreciate his protective presence, but in family lore, he has become a bit of a scapegoat. Something’s misplaced or missing? Someone made a mess or left a light on? Must have been The Sheriff!
Sources: Archived images of The Pasadena Independent, The Los Angeles Times, and the Santa Ana Register from 1911-1959 on newspapers.com, and the book Sierra Madre’s Old Mount Wilson Trail by John W. Robinson.
This scarecrow can be found in the front grass of 154 San Gabriel Court, Sierra Madre, CA 91024