Kate Warne Never Sleeps



Kate Warne was the nation’s first female detective. She died at 38 of congestion of the lungs and is buried in the Pinkerton family plot in Graceland Cemetery Chicago.

Where every October she gets a visitor who comes to say “Thank you.”


I’m Kate.


My last name? The gravestone says Warn. No “e” at the end. But I’ve had lots of names. I can tell you that when the tall, thin man dressed in black with the sad, haunted eyes comes to visit, comes here to Graceland Cemetery in Chicago each October, he just calls me Kate.


I rest now and forever near Mr. Pinkerton. And it should be that way. Without Mr. Pinkerton, I would never have met the tall sad man. Without Mr. Pinkerton, they would never have said, “Kay Warne, she never sleeps.”


After I came here to Graceland, people wrote, “Kay Warne, the first lady detective.” I never understood why being first was important. What was important, was that I was good.


I was only 23 when I first stepped in to Mr. Pinkerton’s Detective Office in Chicago. But I hadn’t been a little girl in a very long time. My husband had passed. So it was just me, and I needed a job.


I knew I could find out things about people that no one else could. I knew I could find secrets. So, at ten o’clock in the morning of August 23rd, 1856, Mr. Pinkerton gave me the job. I was a detective now.

Wives and girlfriends would tell me the things they would never tell a man. Like Mr. Maroney, in Montgomery Alabama. He embezzled $50,000 from his company, the Adams Express Company. And I got the true story from his wife. The true story and $39,515 back to the company.


Mr. Pinkerton was pleased. He said I was one of the best he’d ever known.

Bank robbers and killers. I found their secrets. I stopped their evil deeds. And when I walk these golden brown grounds of autumn, I am pleased with my life’s work. My years were few. I passed soon after the war between the states. I was 38. But I am pleased with my life’s work.


In October, I remember my best work; it’s in October when the sad eyed man who had just been elected to be President comes back to visit me.


My work with the President-elect began with the tips we got out of the secessionist plots in Baltimore. The cry to crack open the Union was echoing across the land in those times. Splitting up what America had become.

But it was what I found out next that could have ripped open the very fabric of these United States and left it to bleed and die.


There was a plot to kill the new President. Kill him before he even took office. I pieced together the evildoers plan.

It was to happen when the President-elect changed trains in Baltimore. There was a 1-mile carriage ride between the two train stations. The secessionists would cause a diversion. The President-elect’s guards would respond to the diversion. And a crowd would swarm the unprotected carriage and kill the soon-to-be President. He would never complete  the trip from his home in Springfield, Illinois to the muddy streets of Washington. He would never take office. He would die in Baltimore.


But with Mr. Pinkerton by my side, I was able to make the case for what I had found. I convinced the President-elect that there really was danger. So after the President-elect’s last speech of the evening in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, we changed the travel schedule for the last leg of the trip into Washington DC. Mr. Pinkerton had the telegraph lines interrupted so no one would know of the change. And then we dressed the President elect in the suit of a traveling common man. We put a soft felt hat on his head and told him to carry a shawl as if he was an invalid. When he got on his new train I cried out a greeting as if he were a long lost brother. And throughout that long dark night, as the train pulled into an empty Baltimore at 3:30 a.m., as opposed to the much earlier hour that had been planned, even then, I sat next to him. Kept him safe.


I got him to the White House alive. Because throughout that night I never slept.


He was inaugurated. Became the President. And he saved the union. He kept alive the great American dream.


Which is why he comes to see me each October. He comes to say thanks.

President Abraham Lincoln. The tall, thin man with the haunted sad eyes. He comes here to Graceland. Offers me his arm. And we walk. Through the orange, red and brown scattered leaves of time. He is known by so many as the centuries pass, this President Abraham Lincoln. And few remember my name.

But he remembers. He comes each October and we walk the grounds of Graceland together.


And when I look up at those sad eyes and see him looking back at me under an October moon, I can actually see those haunted eyes, just for a moment, fill with joy.

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9 Responses to “Kate Warne Never Sleeps”

  1. toritto Says:

    Nicely done R. As always. Regards

  2. Ted Schneider Says:

    Roger, I had never heard of Kate before but glad you shared her story. Amazing how many “little” people have directly shaped history and we seldom realize or hear about it.

  3. Roger Wright Says:

    Ted–And that Lincoln guy did alright too!

  4. Jenn Fitzgerald Says:

    Roger, could we add your piece on Kate to a book we are about to publish? Please contact me. http://motherspider.com

  5. Paul Haider Says:

    We still need the spirit of Kate to protect a president who is disliked despite his good intentions of preventing the fabric of the country from being ripped open yet again; she needs to keep a watchful eye on another senator from Illinois with the noble goal of bringing unity to a divided nation. In Abe’s day, the secessionists were known as the Confederacy with their misguided beliefs that were on the wrong side of history; the comparable group of today is known as the Tea Party, formerly known as “the Klan.”

  6. Jersey Girl Says:

    What a great story! Beautifully told….(deep satisfied sigh of contentment like after a really delicious meal with all your favorites.) I love thinking they have a yearly reunion….

    • paulhaider1974 Says:

      We might need the ghost of Kate Warne to protect President-elect Hillary Clinton after November 8th of this year. Kate did a great job protecting the U.S. Senator of Illinois, but she’d have to work harder to protect a former senator who was actually born in the state of Illinois. It was a divided nation in the 1860’s, and the divisions are still deep ever since the Confederacy lost the war; Trump’s party will eventually lose their misguided war too. However, sore losers are able to accept any form of progress and change as well as they can accept being on the wrong side of history.

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