JOHN CAMPBELL stared at himself in the mirror above the washbasin preparing for his first day as Sheriff of Carroll County. He unfolded the straight edged razor and pressed it against his cheek. He was a handsome man, sandy complexion, just under six feet tall, and unlike most of his contemporaries he was clean-shaven.
He finished shaving and dressed in the long black broadcloth tailcoat worn by the men of his time. He wore a white linen shirt and a black bow tie; a flash of gold could be seen at the cuffs, the gold cufflinks he always wore, and his one concession to vanity. He looked in the mirror one final time and donning his silk top hat headed out from the jail to the courthouse.
The election had been a runaway vote in his favor. He had beaten his opponent, the Republican Brasher, by 298 votes. In fact, he had garnered more votes than any other candidate in the election, including the three candidates for the presidency, Garfield, Hancock and Weaver.
The election did not fall strictly along party lines even though Jos. Turner, the editor of the Carroll Record, had called for all Republicans to remember their allegiance to the party and mark no vote for a Democrat. Sentiments against the southern sympathizers of the Democratic Party still ran high in Carroll County, eleven years after the end of the War Between the States. John Campbell had been a slave owning southern sympathizer, but he had received the votes of members of both parties.
That both Democrats and Republicans voted for him spoke volumes to the respect the community held for him. That respect stemmed from the fact that John had faithfully served as a Deputy Sheriff in Carrollton for eight years prior to being elected Sheriff.
His old friend and business partner John W. Clinkscales had appointed him deputy in 1872, and John worked for him in that position for four years. Clinkscales’ successor, George L. Winfrey, had appointed John deputy as well. John obviously liked the job and proved he was an honest and conscientious public servant who enjoyed the implicit confidence and highest regard of all who knew him.
Even Jos. Turner later admitted that John Campbell had filled the position of sheriff with fidelity and integrity and was a highly esteemed man who was honest and upright in all his dealings. High praise coming from the man who in this election had charged all Republicans not to vote for John Campbell because he was a Democrat.
The first residents of the newly constructed County Jail were Sheriff John Campbell, his wife Sarah and their daughters Sallie, Hattie and Reed. James and John had stayed on at the farm in Mandeville to keep it running.
The County Court had appropriated $10,500 for the building site on North Folger Street and that amount included the construction costs. The ease with which the old jail could be broken into, prisoner escapes, and the extreme unsanitary conditions prompted the appropriation.
During John Hawkins’ time as Sheriff in 1867, someone had excavated under the jail and removed the stones from underneath the vault where the papers of the County Clerk and large sums of money belonging to the County were kept. The thieves were a few days late and $7,000 short, the money having been deposited in the bank just days before. Unfortunately, the Sheriff had kept his own money in the vault and sustained a large loss. The County had learned its lesson and moved to correct the situation, to the benefit of the newly elected Sheriff Campbell.
The jail had been built with the Sheriff’s living quarters included. When John was elected, Sarah was elected as well, for it was expected she would cook the meals served to the prisoners. Sarah was very fortunate, for as of March 12, 1881; there had been no prisoners and no meals. In an article in the Carroll Record the editor described Carrollton as having a good jail, “for which we have at present no use.”
The duties of the Sheriff in Carrollton in 1880 were many and varied. The Sheriff paid the bills for all court related expenses, maintained the jail, transported the prisoners to the courthouse, and conducted Sheriff’s sales. The sheriff was paid a flat fee for individual portions of the work and a percentage of the civil cases and sales.
John Campbell’s job wasn’t all paperwork. Carrollton was still in its infancy and this part of Missouri was considered the West, the edge of the frontier. It had its fair share of murder and manslaughter. During his term as Sheriff it fell to John and his men to apprehend them. A man named Alex Powell was wanted for murder and had been spotted in Mandeville. John went out to find him and Cousin Will Graham gave an account of the arrest to Frank Tull. This is the story as it was recorded in the Campbell – Graham Manuscript:
“I remember when your grandfather, John Campbell came to Mandeville to arrest Alex Powell. Cousin John Campbell was Sheriff of Carroll County and came right over there to the house where I live now and asked my father if Alex Powell was around Mandeville. Powell was wanted for murdering a man in some county north of here and was known as a bad character. Cousin John did not have a gun and said he never needed one to arrest a man, but my father made him take our old shotgun to go after Powell who my father knew was cutting some timber to make staves in a woods not far down that hill to the west of the house. Cousin John walked upon Powell and placed him under arrest before Powell knew anyone was near. He brought Powell to our house and had one of us hold the gun on him while cousin John handcuffed him to be taken to Carrollton. A wagon was borrowed from my father to take Powell to the jail in Carrollton.”
By the last year of his term as Sheriff, the rigors of the job were getting to be more than John wanted to deal with. He was nearing his seventy-second birthday and had decided not to run for reelection. He felt it was time to retire and spend some time with Sarah and their youngest daughter Hattie.
Monday, January 8, 1883, John Campbell began to tie up the loose ends of his term as Sheriff of Carroll County, Missouri.