State Police Barracks in Leeds

By Joel Emrick

A little known chapter in the history of Leeds was when the MA. State Police Barracks (Troop B) was stationed in the Shepard House which lies between the Grove Hill mansion and the Grammar School. In the early 1920s the State Police were based in the Armory on King Street but were forced to relocate due to the expansion of the National Guard which needed more of the Armory building. The decision to move the barracks in May of 1923 to the Shepard House was partly made due to the existence of a big barn behind the house where the troopers could keep their horses and motorcycles.

On March 28th, 1931 a fire started in the barn. Due to the low water pressure on the hill and the nature of the old wooden structure, the barn didn’t stand a chance. Even though fire trucks from Leeds and Florence arrived promptly their efforts were limited by this lack of pressure. By the time the “Seagrave”, the only good fire truck in the city, showed up from Northampton the barn was a complete loss. My father was seventeen at that time and told of running to the barn with others and dragging some of the motorcycles out of the barn. Unfortunately, the four horses were stabled in the back of the barn where the fire started and they all perished. Two patrolmen, Sergeant John Barnacle and State Trooper Edward McColgan, received bad burns trying to get to the animals. The barracks (the Shepard house) was spared only because they had just cut the tall grass that was between the barn and the house. Some believe that if it hadn’t been cut recently the house might also have been lost.  In the summer of 1931, Troop B moved to their present location near Laurel Park in Northampton, but for 8 years we had the State police in Leeds.

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