Ferdie Trischelle as HPD’s first female juvenile probation officer

Ferdie Trischelle

In M.D. Beale’s article in the June/July issue of The Retired Badge, regarding Houston’s first policewoman, Eva Jane Bacher, he mentioned there was another female, Ferdie Trischelle, listed as possibly being a police officer as well.

He suggested that someone needed to check into that. So, I did. I fist looked on ancestry.com and while I found Ferdie, I didn’t immediately learn anything to confirm that Ferdie was an HPD policewoman.

Emma Ferdinand “Ferdie” Trischelle was born in Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, in 1884 to Emma R. Jordan and Ferdinand Trischelle. She had an older brother, John Jordan Trischelle, who became a doctor and was living in Houston as early as 1903.

Their father died when Ferdie was two years old and by 1910, she was living in the Houston Heights with her mother and stepfather, William Gilbreath, and her younger half-brother, Thomas Glenn Gilbreath.

Ferdie started the Emma R. Newsboys Home and Club in August 1910 with about 25-30 wayward boys. She taught them to be good citizens while providing them food and shelter. She spent much of her time with them and gained their love and trust.

From 1911 to 1915 city directories showed Ferdie to be the editress, publisher, and president of The Railroad Echo Printing Company and editor of the Railroad Echo Magazine.  Her cousin, Alice Helen Finfrock, whose family had moved to Houston from Illinois and were in the 1910 Houston census, became the secretary manager at the Emma R. Newsboy Home and Club in July of 1913.

In 1914, someone left a basket at the boys home and they all thought it was food because there were celery sticks left on top of the blanket – until one of the boys reached into the basket and pulled out a baby bottle. Upon further investigation, he found a baby boy inside. Ferdie was going to turn the baby boy over to authorities but the boys insisted that he was their baby now and that she keep him. She adopted him and named him Joe Ross Trischelle.

In 1917, Ferdie began writing and publishing The Neutral, which was commentary on societal issues and business news from a woman’s perspective. No doubt Ferdie and Alice were very involved in the Women’s Suffrage movement.

Sadly, the boys home closed in about 1919. In April 1922, Ferdie helped a Louisiana man sort out and get copies of the titles to his lands and in appreciation for her help he leased to her 120 acres near an oil field. She and Alice started the Tri-Fin Oil Company, then leased 80 acres of their land to the Amerada Petroleum Company for $11,000, keeping one eighth of the royalties,

Ferdie and Alice lived together and ran the boys home and raised Joe together. In 1930, Ferdie adopted a daughter, naming her Alice Elaine Finfrock, giving her Alice’s first and last name. However, Ferdie is listed as the mother on the birth and death certificates.  We don’t know the circumstances of this adoption.

I was finally able to contact another ancestry.com tree owner who had Ferdie listed on her tree.  She sent me an article written by Anne Sloan entitled, “Altering the Fine Edge of Respectability: Business Women in Houston, 1880-1920.”  This article appeared in the Fall 2003 issue of the Houston History Magazine.

The article stated that Ferdie had earned the respect of the boys she housed at 1600 Washington Street, and Police Chief C. E. Noble, who was chief from August 1912 to April 1913, appointed her HPD’s Juvenile Probation Officer, for which she drew a salary.  No doubt, with Eva Bacher’s position in juvenile and on the morals squad, their paths crossed many times but I do not know where Anne Sloan got this information. There seems to be no other documentation regarding this position.

Ferdie died of cancer in 1954. Her son, Joe, never married. Her daughter, Alice, married and had four children.