LANCASTER – A graveside ceremony was held at Lancaster Cemetery Wednesday morning for George Curtis, the 31-year-old Lake Elizabeth rancher killed in 1916 while trying to help a constable arrest an attempted murder suspect.
“People like George Curtis who step up to help law enforcement in our time of need make our job so much easier, but unfortunately, sometimes even the public pays the price and makes the ultimate sacrifice,” said Sgt. Sven A. Crongeyer, the unofficial historian at the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station.
On February 1, 1916, George Curtis, the son of a wealthy rancher in Lake Elizabeth went along with Justice of the Peace G.G. Bennett and Constable Fred Price to arrest George Mason for attempted murder.
During the arrest attempt, Curtis was killed by a blast from Mason’s shotgun and Justice Bennett was severely wounded. Constable Price stood guard while Mason barricaded himself inside a cabin, and Justice Bennett went for help.
A much larger posse was immediately called into action and Mason was killed in the ensuing gun battle.
A couple of years ago, retired LAPD Officer Kenny Majors and Lancaster Cemetery Manager Dayle DeBry noticed that Curtis’ headstone was in such poor shape that you could hardly read his name.
“I think it’s important to remember the history, but it’s hard when the headstone doesn’t have anything on it,” DeBry said.
After many hours of research, DeBry and Majors discovered what really happened to Curtis almost a hundred years ago, and they vowed to renovate his grave marker and tell his story to anyone who would listen.
Majors gave a detailed account of the George Curtis story at Wednesday’s graveside ceremony. Read his entire speech on George Curtis here.
“The bravery exhibited by George Curtis and his ultimate sacrifice assisting the constable and justice, will neither be taken lightly nor will it be forgotten, thanks to those who made sure he would be remembered,” Majors said.
A highlight of the ceremony was when Majors and Crongeyer unveiled a brand new headstone for George Curtis.
The grave marker was paid for by a generous donation from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Relief Association.
“George A. Curtis, April 11, 1884 – February 1, 1916, In memory of his bravery and sacrifice,” the headstone reads.
“We are deeply indebted in gratitude to the people that put their own safety out on the line to help us,” said Sgt. Theresa Dawson of the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station.
Lancaster Sheriff’s Station Captain Pat Nelson was in attendance along with several members of his staff. Lancaster Sheriff’s Station Chaplain Don Patterson led the prayer service.