Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Posse Comitatus

When you mention the word "posse" to someone, even small children today who are aficionados of the old Wild West pictures, they'll tell you that a posse is a group of deputies sworn in to hunt bad guys. Well, that's still partially true in some parts of the country. 

Wikipedia defines "posse comitatus" this way: The posse comitatus, in common law, is the group of people mobilized by the conservator of peace – usually the sheriff – to suppress lawlessness or defend the county. The posse comitatus originated in ninth century England simultaneous with the creation of the office of sheriff. Though generally obsolete throughout the world, it remains theoretically, and sometimes practically, part of the United States legal system.

Posses are by no means obsolete in the United States, and a few of them still ride horses when in service. They provide added security for events, help in searches for missing persons, and can be called on to aid the sheriff with traffic control, among other duties. Today, some of them drive departmental cars, SUVs, or pickups with far more horsepower and range of distance than a single horse can manage. 

Nodaway County has had posse men off and on throughout its history, depending on the need at that time. Sheriff Tucker reestablished a posse during his term. They participated in community events, like rodeos, and helped keep things in check. Cass County has a sheriff's posse today, as does Greene County, and Bates County, just to name a few. Here's some information on the Jasper County Missouri Sheriff's Posse.

Today, 'posse' means something different in America's urbanized lingo, and has little to do with law and order, but is used to describe followers of the rich and famous, and sometimes infamous.

There are those who still uphold the integrity and tradition of the American posse as it was first established, and in some instances today they are referred to as 'reserve officers.' It's good to see this tradition carrying on, whether on four legs or four wheels, enabling the community at large to play a part in securing the county they represent.  

Monday, October 29, 2018

Sheriff Joseph M Cooper

Today I had the opportunity to send some information along regarding Nodaway County's sixteenth sheriff, Joseph M. Cooper.

Sheriff Cooper was born in Symmes,Ohio, Lawrence County, 1837-1843 and later migrated to Nodaway County. On September 20, 1860 he wed Annie M. Woodard in Maryville.

Just a year after his marriage, in 1861, Joseph Cooper was mustered into the Union Army, at the age of 18, and served loyally until being released from his first tour of duty. He would reenlist two more times, finally being discharged in 1865, at the age of 23. He was described as being 5'10, blue eyes, dark hair, dark complexion, and that he was a farmer at the time of his enlistment.

Mr. Cooper farmed on land northeast of Maryville, along side the 102 River, where he had a brick ford (kiln), and approximately 125 acres, growing corn and wheat. He was considered a good farmer and quite amiable. It is unknown what the disposition of his marriage to Annie Woodard was, but is is known that Mr. Cooper remarried some years later, in Alaska.

Mr. Cooper ran for sheriff, on the Democratic ticket, in 1876 and won. He assumed the duties of the office, after perfecting his bond around December 1, 1876, and was sworn in. In 1877 after only six months in office, he joined in business with a Mr. Jacob Wills, and they opened the Favorite Restaurant on the south side of the Maryville square. It was said to offer good meals at any hour, with clams available on request most of the time.

In January of 1877, Sheriff and Mrs. Cooper welcomed a son into the family, but the child died in August of that same year. It is unknown what other children, if any, came of the marriage. After his term of office concluded, Mr. Cooper left Nodaway County for British Columbia, later making his way to Alaska. There is a place on the Kenai Lake called Cooper's Landing, where it is believed former-Sheriff Cooper found the gold mine he was seeking in 1884. Other Nodaway Countians, members of the Alexander family, were also living and mining in Alaska and sent information home.

Joseph M. Cooper was later reported as having died in Alaska in October of 1897. Word of his death didn't reach Nodaway County until May of 1898. However, in May of 1898, another notice was posted in a newspaper that the death of Joseph Cooper was a mistake and that he was alive and well and living at Cook's Inlet, Alaska. Our good sheriff was reported dead more than once. In 1882, it was printed that he was "shot in the head" and killed by a "desperado" and his gang while they were trying to rob Mr. Cooper and his brother in Wenatche, Washington. Mr. Cooper appears to have had more lives than a cat. He may yet be living.

The photo above is believed to be Joseph M. Cooper, but the photo is undated. It was found on Ancestry.  Mr. Cooper had a short but distinguished career as sheriff, solving two significant robbery cases in Nodaway County, one that occurred at the mill in Arkoe, and another in the town of Hopkins. I am still trying to form an accurate picture of Sheriff Cooper's life and travels from the man pieces which are coming to light. I hope to have a clearer picture when the biographies are completed.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

A Sad Day

I am saddened today to learn of the passing of Richard Stratton (Margaret Stratton​), known by many as "Sarge." Richard dedicated his life to law enforcement, first as a Missouri State Highway Patrolman and later as the sheriff of Harrison County, Missouri.

He and his wife, Margaret, were longtime family friends and his presence will be missed. Heartfelt condolences are offered to his wife and children.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Pigeon Pie, Anyone?

The city of Maryville had a problem on its hands in late 1930, in the form of pigeons. Hoards of them. They seemed to be everywhere. Doing what pigeons do do. The sheriff caught the attention of the local newspaper, the Maryville Daily Forum.

“The sheriff put on his hunting outfit, took his trusty rifle in his hand and went forth to rid the business district of the pigeon pest. This morning there were no pigeons to be seen and it looks as though the sheriff 'did his duty.'"

Picture this . . .

"After shooting one or two off of the courthouse, the sheriff went down to the Methodist church on Main Street and proceeded to kill off a few pigeons there. He then went to the South Methodist church on Buchanan Street and knocked some more down. He then traveled on north to the Christian Church where a few more casualties occurred. One that the sheriff told the morning was pretty hard to believe. Listen and see for yourself. Mr. England saw a pigeon sitting on a wire near the courthouse tower. There was another close up against the tower. The sheriff sighted his gun at the pigeon on the wire, pulled the trigger, and the pigeon close to the tower fell to the ground while the other escaped. The sheriff also tells of another instance when he shot a pigeon. The bird fell right in front of a man going down the street. The man promptly picked the pigeon up, shoved it under his coat, and said, “Here’s one he’s not going to get,” and sallied on down the street. So, with the Methodist pigeons, the South Methodist pigeons and the Christian pigeons, inmates in the jail will partake of some “wild game.”

I'm not sure what pigeon pie tastes like, and personally I don't want to find out.

"Sheriff Harve England is an excellent marksman; therefore, the prisoners at the county jail are benefiting by eating pigeon pie today."

"The sheriff says that he shot forty-three pigeons yesterday, but could only get thirty-some-odd of them. 'The rest fell in places he could not reach.'" 

NOTE: Two years later Earl Gravens, a prisoner in the jail, absconded with Sheriff England's favorite hunting jacket during Gravens' escape. I wonder if he did it because it was cold out or maybe he was trying to spare his fellow inmates from any more pigeon pie?"

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Sheriff's Posse

Many think of sheriff's posses being a thing straight out of the old west, but law officers were still on horseback into the early 1900s. However, posses were used only rarely, and typically when in pursuit of someone suspected of a serious crime, such as murder, rape, assault, robbery, etc.

This posse, formed in the late 1950s was in part for show, but it served a real purpose too. Shortly after this posse was formed, under Sheriff James Tucker, in Nodaway County, and overseen by his chief deputy, W.R. Jackson, the posse was helpful in locating a young boy who had gone missing. Unfortunately, the boy, who had gone to a nearby river to fish, had fallen into the river and drowned.

Still, these posse members, on horseback, greatly multiplied the number of people able to search for the boy and they were able to cover a greater distance more quickly. Additionally, their participation in community events helped strengthen and maintain their connection to the entire Nodaway County community.

The 'posse' was later replaced by reserve officers who, for the whopping sum of $1.00 per year + expenses (during Sheriff John Middleton's term), patrolled outlying rural towns to help the understaffed sheriff's office respond to non-violent incidents, take reports, and keep 'hooligans' in check.  They provided their own cars, their own uniforms, and their own meals. It was a community service they were happy to provide. With 738 square miles of county and only the sheriff and one or two deputies available to cover 24 hours a day 7 days a week, those posse men or reserves were a valuable asset.

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Nodaway County Lawmen Are To Wear Official Uniforms

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Flag Signals

Before there were hand-held radio units, the Nodaway County sheriff's office used colored flags to summon one another to the sheriff's office. In January 1938, Deputy Sheriff Fred Newlon devised a plan whereby colored flags could be hung on a socket outside the window of the sheriff's office at the courthouse to alert Sheriff Roy Sellers (Blue), Deputy Ed Wallace (Green), Maryville City Police (White), the Missouri Highway Patrol (Red), and Prosecutor Rathbun (Orange) that their presence was needed at the office.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Nodaway County Sheriff Henry J Toel

This picture, c.1884, if from the archives of the Nodaway County Historical Society. It is believed to be a gathering of Civil War Veterans, and that is very likely. It's interesting to note that two of Nodaway County's sheriffs and at least one deputy is shown.

Former Sheriff Henry J. Toel is second row, third from the left, and next to him, in profile,is his successor, Sheriff James Anderson. Far right, the tall gentleman with the cane and the thick mustaches is Sheriff Anderson's brother, Jack.

Sheriff Anderson and Deputy Anderson made a valiant attempt to fend off the mob that came to the rotary jail in Maryville with the intention of taking Charles Stephens, aka Omaha Charley, from his cell so that they might lynch him.

The first and only known gun battle to have occurred at the jail was related to this case. The mob of men were able to get the prisoner, finally, and took him to the Fourth Street Bridge not far from the jail, where they hung Omaha Charley, lifting and dropping his body a half dozen times to ensure he was dead.

You can read more about this case and others in Justice In Nodaway County: 1872-1931 by Don Nothstine and Susan Cronk.


Sheriff Toel was in office when Dr. Perry H. Talbott as assassinated by his sons, Charles and Albert Talbott, near the town of Arkoe, Missouri. Janet Hawley's book, The Murder of Dr. Talbott is an excellent compilation of newspaper articles related to the case. It is available through the Nodaway County Historical Society. The book, Died Innocent, by Don Nothstine, is a fictional story based upon the case. (https://www.amazon.com/Died-Innocent-Don-Nothstine/dp/1945667222).

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Civil War Divided The County Too

Image may contain: textThe Civil War divided the county, just as it did the nation. No one felt that division more acutely than Sheriff Thomas Jefferson "Mac" McQuiddy who took office in 1860, was arrested by Union Soldiers around July 4, 1861 as a secessionist. His replacement was Thaddeus Koscusko [Koscuisko?] Beal, who would finish the rest of McQuiddy's two-year term, then enlist in the Union Army. Sheriff McQuiddy's son would later be arrested in Illinois, near the Missouri border, along with several other men and some 'pilfered' horses. Spoils of war? 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Some Stats on Nodaway County's Sheriffs

More frequent updates on the project appear at https://www.facebook.com/missourijusticeproject/

Forty-six (46) men have served as sheriff of Nodaway County. Of those, one was interim-sheriff and deputy coroner George M. Atchison, Jr.(appointed by Coroner B.F. Byland) after the death of Sheriff Earl M. Anderson in 1958. Mr. Atchison was also Sheriff Anderson's son-in-law, having married Marilyn Anderson a few months earlier, in 1957. He had worked as a jailer part-time under Sheriff Anderson.

Coroner and local physician, Dr. Robert E. Dunshee served as interim-sheriff for twenty-five days in 1969, following the death of Sheriff Fred Newton on June 27, 1969.

John Middleton, deputy and nephew of Sheriff Fred Newton, served as deputy under Sheriff Dunshee until the special election 25 days later, on July 22, 1969, when Middleton was elected. He would serve as sheriff for that partial term, to end Dec 31, 1972. In the election of November 1972, however, he won reelection and would serve a full four-year term. On Aug 4, 1980 and continuing through November 4, 1980, John Middleton served as interim sheriff, after Sheriff Roger Cronk resigned. Danny Estes, who won the Nov election, then posted bond and took over the duties of the office.

Of the forty-six men who served, at least seven entered and completed their first term of office as an unmarried man. At least twenty have served in community, civic, and military organizations during their lives, including Masons, Knights Templar, I.O.O.F, V.F.W, American Legion, 40 & 8, WWI Barracks, Knights of Pythias, G.A.R., Elks, and Lions.

Among the political party affiliation, 16 were Democrats, 21 were Republicans, 1 was of the Greenback Party, 8 are unknown. One sheriff later changed his party affiliation from Republican to Populist when he sought a different office. Another served as a Republican sheriff and later sought another office as a Democrat. At least five served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and two served in the Confederate Army.

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