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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Two Early Sheriffs Shot Down

Two of Lucas County's four sheriffs between 1870 and 1889 were shot down in the line of duty.

Gaylord Lyman and William B. Ramsey were shot down when attempting to make an arrest.  George F. Holmes served nine years, and Joe R. Landes served eight years with both retiring from office.

Sheriff Ramsey was in the second year of his term when he was shot down by John M. McGinnis near Freedom, which was located eight miles southwest of Chariton.

Prior to March 1888, John M. McGinnis had been considered an industrious, honest and law-abiding man.  In March 1888 McGinnis had been judged insane and taken to the asylum at Mt. Pleasant.

He escaped in September of 1888 and fled to Missouri.  McGinnis came back to the Freedom neighborhood in the spring of 1889 and started working for J.G. Stafford.

Several people later testified McGinnis appeared to be of unsound mind in his actions and conversations.

McGinnis had threatened to kill Park Inobuit, James Burley and Andrew J. Swainey.  His also threatened W.O. Woods, a neighbor who later went to Chariton and filed charges.

The date was June 28, 1889.  Sheriff Ramsey was issued a warrant at 9 p.m.  Two constables, Dennis S. Myers and Eugene Nafus accompanied Sheriff Ramsey to the home of Henry Blous (who was guardian for McGinnis).

The whole party then proceeded to the Stafford farm, arriving there around 3 a.m.  Apparently the three lawmen rode horses from Chariton, getting into Blous's buggy for the last part of the journey.

On the buggy ride, Blous testified that "Sheriff Ramsey handed me a revolver and told me if I get into a tight place, all I had to do was pull the trigger."

Upon their arrival at the Stafford farm, Blous and Myers went to the south side of the barn.  Ramsey and Nafus went to the north side of the barn.  McGinnis and three other hired men were sleeping in the loft of the barn.

The lawmen waited for daylight, at which time Sheriff Ramsey called for the boys to come down from the loft.  C.J. Wisser, Elmer Stafford and Henry Catron did, but McGinnis remained in the loft.

Elmer Stafford told Ramsey that McGinnis was armed and that he slept with a revolver under his head.  Stafford also told Ramsey that McGinnis would shoot.

Blous convinced McGinnis to come down from the loft.  Sheriff Ramsey, Nafus and Blous then met McGinnis at the north door of the barn.  As Ramsey talked, McGinnis brought his left hand from behind his back with his revolver in it.

Ramsey stepped back saying, "Don't shoot, John," but McGinnis pulled the trigger of his 44 British Bull Dog, fatally injuring Ramsey.

Nafus then shot McGinnis, injuring him slightly.  McGinnis turned to his left, shooting Nafus in the side and wounding him seriously.

McGinnis then turned and aimed at Blous, who drew his revolver and shot McGinnis in the forehead.  McGinnis died shortly after 9 a.m. June 29, 1889.

William B. Ramsey was born in Ohio March 1, 1844 and came to Lucas County in 1855.  He was a veteran of the Civil War, having enlisted in the 3rd Iowa Cavalry.

His first wife was the daughter of William Skidmore.  They had three children.  His second wife was the daughter of O.S. Frazier.  They had four children the eldest being 14 years of age.  Ramsey was buried in Liberty Township June 30, 1889.

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Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...
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