Volume 76, Number 51 | May 16 -22, 2007

Scourge of bars was top cop’s great-granddaughter

By Lincoln Anderson

Marcia Lemmon always knew that a great-grandfather of hers had been top New York Police Department brass. So perhaps it wasn’t so surprising that she made it her mission to clean up the Lower East Side’s rowdy bar scene. It must have been in the genes.

A former Community Board 3 member and Ludlow St. Block Association president, Lemmon died last Dec. 2 at age 48. In the late 1990s, she became a quality-of-life crusader in her neighborhood, which she lamented had become “The Lower East Side Alcohol Theme Park.”

A Long Island amateur genealogist whose family lived with a great aunt of Lemmon’s has provided new details on Lemmon’s relationship to Maximillian Frances Schmittberger, the legendary chief inspector who exposed corruption in the N.Y.P.D.

Robert Garcia, 54, a legal assistant who lives in Patchogue, said Inspector Schmittberger’s youngest daughter, Anna — Lemmon’s great aunt — was friends with Garcia’s mother, whose father ran a wicker store on the Upper East Side. Anna eventually moved in with his family on Long Island, living with them her last 50 years.

Garcia recently contacted the newspaper after finding Lemmon’s obituary in The Villager online.

Maximillian Frances Schmittberger when he was a police captain.
After Inspector Schmittberger died in 1917, Anna’s four surviving brothers inherited the property, while Anna, as was common for women in those days, got the jewelry and family photos — including photos of Inspector Schmittberger and his full-department-honors funeral with a Fifth Ave. procession.

The Police Department photos — some stamped “For Your Use Only” — stayed tucked away for many years in a suitcase. Anna died in 1981 at age 93.

In 2002, Garcia created a Schmittberger family Web site, posting the old photos on it. Schmittberger descendants started contacting him, giving him bits of the family history. He searched old New York Times articles, filling in the story of the chief inspector and his progeny.

What Garcia discovered was that Schmittberger was one of the most renowned New York City public figures of his day, rising to become the department’s then-highest-ranking officer.

When Schmittberger was a police captain based on Mulberry St., Theodore Roosevelt was the city’s police commissioner. The two men and their families were friends.

While still a captain, Schmittberger made headlines by revealing all in the 1894 Lexow Committee investigation on police graft. According to his Times obituary, he confessed how he himself had taken monthly payoffs of up to $300 “as head of the Steamboat Squad.”

Schmittberger married Sarah Goldin, an Irish woman, and together they had seven children.

One child, Max, made headlines at age 15 when a bullet lodged in his brain after he was shot by a friend in a bizarre incident at a church fair shooting gallery. He survived, but never fully recovered his faculties.

The inspector famously didn’t get along with another son, Franklin, whom he left $1 in his will and after whom he named his horse. The inspector treated the horse well, though, Garcia said.

A year after Garcia launched the family Web site, Lemmon e-mailed him.

Garcia had posted a photo that he identified as “Max,” thinking it was the chief inspector.

“She said she had it in her collection, but she didn’t know who it was,” Garcia said. “She said all she knew was that she was descended from a top-echelon police officer. The family had lost touch with its history.”

A great-grandson of Oswald Schmittberger, one of the chief inspector’s sons, subsequently contacted Garcia to tell him the photo, in fact, was not of the chief inspector but Oswald.

The last contact Garcia had with Lemmon was in 2004, when she e-mailed to say she would send him some documents, which she never did.

Garcia said Lemmon knew that the family had changed its name. Lemmon’s mother, Sally, who died in 1999, changed her name from Schmittberger to Smith in 1942 due to anti-German sentiment. Lemmon’s father died in 1961. Lemmon left no immediate survivors.

Garcia, however, said that Lemmon might not have known that the Schmittbergers have an elaborate family plot with a huge obelisk and brass bells on it in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

Lemmon was buried in Lutheran All Faiths Cemetery in Queens.

Clayton Patterson, a Lower East Side documentarian and gallery owner who was a friend of Lemmon, said he is working with a friend to get the quality-of-life activist her own monument through Silver Monument Works on Stanton St.

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