By DERRICK K. BABBS
For the Ford County Record
I just love the facts! I have a long list of names of people who served their community in some capacity, like the town mayors, church ministers, war veterans, former fire chiefs and county sheriffs. I take that person’s name and find out who that person was and their influence on the community. I’ve always believed these people should be remembered for their service and not forgotten in time.
In February 2015, when the discussion about the old sheriff’s residence in Paxton being repaired was brought up, I started thinking, ‘Who has served as sheriff for this county from its beginning in 1859 to present?’
Sadly, no one knew all the names.
But with time and a lot of researching, I believe we have found all of them ...
(1) Howard Case was elected as the county’s first sheriff. He was born and raised in New York, where he once served as a United States marshall. In the 1850s he moved his family to the naked prairie which is now called Ford County. Case would serve as county sheriff for just one year, then became the town marshal for Paxton. He passed away at his house on College Hill in 1874 and is buried in the Prospect Cemetery in Paxton.
(2) James D. Hall came to the area in February 1852 from Ohio, settling in Henderson’s Grove. In 1860, he was elected sheriff of Ford County and served a term of two years in that office. After office, he engaged in the grain trade in Paxton. Mr. Hall died of cancer on Jan. 9, 1903, and is buried in Paxton’s Glen Cemetery.
(3) Edward L. Gill was elected twice to the office, first serving from 1862 to 1864 and again from 1870 to 1874. He was a native of Virginia and was born 1829, locating in the new county of Ford in 1859. During his second term in the 1870s, the sheriff’s residence and the jail were built at 259 W. State St. in Paxton. He became the first sheriff to live at the residence with his family in 1872. Before the jail, the prisoners were held in the basement of the courthouse. Many residents at the time thought the sheriff’s residence and jail were uncalled for. They believed the system in place was working, so they didn’t want it changed. They compared the surrounding counties’ budgets, saying in the local paper that Gill was overspending. After sheriff, Gill worked as a brick manufacturer and an auctioneer. He died on July 15, 1902, and was laid to rest in the Glen Cemetery.
(4) William Snyder served as Ford County sheriff from 1864 to 1866. In the 1860 census, he was living in Drummer Township. Sadly, no other information has been found on him at this time.
(5) Mark A. Parsons was a Piper City resident when he was put into office for one year, in 1866. Born in Vermont, he first came to Bureau County, Ill., then in 1856 to what is now Brenton Township. He became Piper City’s second permanent resident. Later in the 1870s, he was the hotel keeper in Piper City and township assessor. Mark passed away at his home in Piper City on May 20, 1899, and was buried in Brenton Cemetery.
(6) Thomas Evans Barnhouse was born in Virginia in 1830. He served in the Civil War as a Union private for the 8th Illinois Infantry Regiment. After his service, he was elected sheriff from 1866 to 1868. In the 1880s to 1900s he moved around the state of Colorado, working as a photographer and raising stock. In the 1910 census he was living in Thurston County, Wash., at the age of 79. In July 8, 1911, he died in the Soldier’s Home in Orting, Wash. His body was returned to Thurston County, and he was buried in Rainier Cemetery.
(7) Squire L. Edgar came to Ford County from his native Ohio, where he was born on Aug. 18, 1821. He served in the war against the state, as a Union farrier and private in the 10th Illinois Cavalry Regiment. He served from 1868 to 1870 as county sheriff. After his two-year term he returned to Ohio and died on Nov. 13, 1899. He was buried in Old Maplewood Cemetery in North Baltimore, Ohio.
(8) Samuel Burt Lyman would become the first sheriff of the county to deal with not just one murder, but three. Three murders would happen during his service. Lyman was born Nov. 20, 1833, in Hampshire County in Massachusetts and came to Illinois where he served as a private in the 65th Illinois Infantry (Scotch Regiment) during the rebellion. After four years of service, he then entered the detective service of the government. He served eight years as Ford County sheriff, being elected in 1874 and leaving office in 1882. On Oct. 7, 1875, Willis Conn from Rantoul murdered his uncle Robert A. Miller of Wall Township. On Dec. 19, 1878, Maik Borowirk murdered his step-father, Joseph Borowirk of Sullivant Township. The third murder was in McLean County but was moved to the Ford County Courthouse for trial. It was on April 26, 1880, when Abram Gent Hendryx killed Henry Stovenour and Frank Bailey of Padua Township. In 1894, Samuel died from heart trouble in Minnesota and was buried there.
(9) James Wilson Ramsay was the county’s ninth sheriff. Very little information was known about him until recent information was sent to me by Pat Tavenner. Ramsay was born Jan. 8, 1847, in Adams County in Ohio. By 1860 he and his family were living in Hudson Township in McLean County in Illinois. Mr. Ramsay served in the 145th Illinois Infantry during the Civil War and would later be a member of the GAR in Paxton. In 1870, he and his family were living in Brenton Towhship near Piper City, where he worked as a farmer. The growing family moved to Paxton by 1880 when Mr. Wilson was employed as a deputy sheriff and a farmer. He served as Ford County sheriff from 1882 to 1886.
After 1886, Ramsay served on the county board of supervisors.
After he served on the county board of supervisors. Mr. Ramsay and his family moved to Hancock County in Iowa by 1895. He would live in Iowa and be engaged as a tax collector until his death on Feb. 2, 1929. He was buried in the Concord Cemetery in Garner, Iowa.
He and his wife are buried in Concord Cemetery in Garner, Iowa.
During his time as sheriff, a fourth murder occurred in the county near Trickel’s Grove on Sept. 30, 1883. A man by the name of James Ryan attacked Abram Thorp, killing him with several blows to the head.
(10) Benjamin Franklin Mason became the first and only sheriff in the county to hang a prisoner. Benjamin was born June 15, 1833, in Oswego County in New York. When the war broke out, he left his home and family, enlisting twice during the Civil War — first as a private in the New York 24th Infantry. He was present during the second battle of Bull Run. The regiment was discharged May 29, 1863. He would re-enlist in October as a private in the 24th New York Cavalry, but was soon promoted to quartermaster-sergeant. A blacksmith by trade, he moved to the area in 1869. He served as sheriff twice, first from 1886 to 1890 and then from 1894 to 1898. His most famous case came in 1896 when a German by the name of Frederick Hollman murdered a woman near Sibley. Hollman was convicted of the murder and was sentenced to hang, and he was executed May 14, 1897, in the county jail. Mason would continue living in Paxton after office. On Nov. 2, 1904, he died and was buried in Glen Cemetery in Paxton.
(11) James R. Rezner was born on June 22, 1837, in Monroe County in Tennessee, where he lived until he was 17. He then went to Henderson County in Illinois, where he remained until the breaking out of the Civil War. Joining the federal army as a private for the 11th Illinois Cavalry, he was made a 1st lieutenant at the Battle of Shiloh. He was made a prisoner at the Battle of Lexington, but paroled after 20 days. On Dec. 28, 1864, he was wounded in the right hip and was discharged from active duty. In 1871 Mr. Rezner moved to Brenton Township near Piper City, where he purchased land and began farming. He was elected as county sheriff, serving a four-year term from 1890 to 1894, becoming the last Civil War veteran to serve in the office. At the end of his term, he moved to Birch Tree in Missouri, where he resided until his death on Feb. 6, 1916. He was buried at Oak Forest Cemetery in Birch Tree, Mo.
(12) Timothy Ross was a native of Pennsylvania, where he was born on Oct. 18, 1846. Mr. Ross was raised by an uncle after his parents died when he was a young boy. At the age of 20 he moved to the Gibson City, entering the grain business in 1873, becoming one of the dealers first in the village. In 1898 he was the choice of Ford County voters for sheriff. He served until 1902, and four years later he was honored by his election as treasurer of the county. After the passing of his wife in 1929, he lived with his children. On Dec. 6, 1931, at his daughter’s house in Paxton, Mr. Ross died. He was entombed at the mausoleum in Glen Cemetery.
(13) Thomas Hubert Crowe was born Nov. 8, 1852, in West Virginia. Mr. Crowe lived in Illinois since 1856, first in McLean County, then moving to a farm near Gibson City in 1876. For the last 20 years of his life, he resided in Paxton. He served as sheriff from 1902 to 1906 and one term as county treasurer. Thomas died at his residence on East Center Street in Paxton. He was buried in Drummer Township Cemetery in Gibson City. In 1942, his son Charles C. Crowe would carry on his name by also being elected sheriff of Ford County.
(14) John H. Nelson was Swedish born on Jan. 24, 1853, and was reared in his native country. He then came to America at the age of 19, locating in the Paxton area where his older brothers had settled. Starting from nothing, he worked as a farm laborer before becoming a successful businessman in a livery and stock buying business with his brother. Later he entered politics, serving first as Ford County sheriff from 1906 to 1910, then later as county treasurer. He also served the city of Paxton as postmaster for one term, relinquishing the position in 1918. John had been making his home with his daughter in Oklahoma City for several years until his health began to fail. He then moved to the Masonic Home Hospital in Sullivan, Ill., where he passed away on Nov. 1, 1926. His remains were returned to Paxton and entombed at the mausoleum in Glen Cemetery, Paxton.
(15) Michael Bristle came to Ford County on March 4, 1875, from Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was born on Feb. 2, 1858. He began farming in Lyman and Wall townships until 1896. At this time, he moved to Melvin to engage in the grocery business. Two years later he sold his store and accepted a position as village marshall at Melvin. In 1910 he was elected sheriff of Ford County. Inl 1914, at the end of his term, he and his family returned to Melvin. Mr. Bristle lived in Melvin from 1914 to 1928, until moving to Gibson City. He died there on Oct. 27, 1946, and was buried in the Melvin Cemetery.
(16) Thomas Augustus Flora was born Aug. 21, 1852, near Carthage, Ky., where he spent the early years of his life. Following his marriage, he came to Illinois with his family in 1870, locating in Roberts. In 1884 the family returned to Kentucky, where they resided until 1896 when they moved to Paxton. Mr. Flora was a carpenter by trade and followed this vocation in Paxton for a number of years. He also served the city of Paxton as chief of police for 12 years and later was elected as sheriff of Ford County from 1914 to 1918. Following this, he was successful in being selected as treasurer for the county for a term of four years. Mr. Flora’s passing occurred March 7, 1932, at the home of his daughter in Chicago. His funeral was held at the home of his son, Mayor Ray W. Flora of Paxton, at 225 E. Pells St. in Paxton. He was buried in Paxton’s Glen Cemetery.
(17) Albert Theodore Carlson was born in the Farmersville community on May 27, 1875, to Swedish immigrants. One of 10 children in his family, he spent most of his life in this region. For many years he operated a livery barn in Paxton, and from 1918 to 1922 he was sheriff of Ford County. In 1925 he took a position at the Urbana police force. In the 1930 census he was back in Paxton, living at 455 Pells St. (it doesn’t say East or West). In 1940 he was working as an attendant at the Manteno State Hospital. On Nov. 17, 1946, he passed in an ambulance ride to the hospital in Chicago. His body was returned to Paxton and he was buried in Glen Cemetery.
(18) Frank Imbrie Curtis was a fearless and highly honored sheriff of this county. Mr. Curtis was born on July 16, 1976, in Cuba, Mo. He later came to Illinois, locating in Peoria and later Mt. Vernon. As a young man he took a position at a poultry company, becoming district manager for a number of years, after which he was appointed chief of police of Paxton. He served in this capacity until he was appointed deputy sheriff by A.T. Carlson. In 1922, he was elected sheriff and appointed his son, Harry I. Curtis, as his deputy. On Sept. 19, 1926, Frank claimed national notoriety when he stopped the progress of three noted diamond robbers, who sped through Paxton, following a half-million-dollar holdup in Champaign. Sheriff Curtis and his men shot holes in the tires of the bandit car, and the criminals were forced to abandon it a few miles north of Paxton. For his splendid work, Curtis received an honor from the Illinois Bankers’ Association and the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association in Springfield. Sadly, in December 1926 he ended his career due to illness and would pass on Nov. 15, 1927, at his home on West Ottawa Street. He was age 51. He was buried in Glen Cemetery, Paxton.
(19) Harry Imbrie Curtis was born in Peoria on April 20, 1901. His childhood was spent in the Paxton community, where his father, Frank I. Curtis, also served as county sheriff. Harry would serve an 18 1/2-year career in Ford County law enforcement, first working for his father as a county sheriff’s deputy. He next would be elected county sheriff, serving from 1926 to 1930. He then worked as deputy under Sheriff Harry Reehl. He would be elected a second time as sheriff in 1934, a position which he held until 1938, when he once again became a deputy under Sheriff Reehl.
Mr. Curtis would deal with three murder cases during his time as county sheriff. The first was on March 17, 1930, when Otto Trickle shot Lee Johnson on Summer Street in Paxton. Johnson would die March 18 from his wounds. The second was on Aug. 24, 1935, when Oscar Rick, a car salesman, was shot and stabbed by Martin and Margaret Young. The final murder case was on May 22, 1937, when Matthew Coffey shot Helen Natterstad and fatally wounded her mother, Sigrid Natterstad.
In 1941, he would take a job with the Illinois State Police, moving to Springfield. He would end his career as chief of the state police in 1952, remaining in Springfield until his death. He died Aug. 22, 1969, from cancer in Springfield Memorial Hospital. He was buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield.
(20) Harry Kessler Reehl was elected twice as sheriff, first serving from 1930 to 1934 and then serving from1938 to 1942. Born in Buckley on May 8, 1882, he came to Paxton in 1930 and was elected to office in 1931.
On Aug. 3, 1931, Sheriff Reehl would investigate a murder case when a Chanute airman by the name of Earl D. Frost killed a fellow airman, George Yeator, during a fight west of Paxton.
In 1934, he ended his term as sheriff and would became deputy to Sheriff Harry Curtis until 1939, when he was re-elected for his second term. In 1942 he retired from law enforcement and became a tool and hardware salesman.
On Sept. 1, 1947, Reehl would die at his home in Paxton following a long illness. He was buried in the Melvin Cemetery.
(21) Charles Clyde Crowe was born June 2, 1892, near Elliott, a son of former sheriff Thomas H. Crowe. He was the chief of police in Gibson City from 1931 until 1942 and was elected sheriff of Ford County on the Republican ticket in 1942. He served four years as county sheriff and was a deputy under sheriffs Harry Curtis, Harry Reehl, Harry Allen and Fred Kemp. He returned to the Gibson City police force for seven years and also served as a special deputy sheriff.
Crowe died at the age of 65 at his home in Gibson City on Dec. 13, 1957. He now lies in Drummer Township Cemetery in Gibson City.
(22) Loran Harry Allen was born Oct. 3, 1894, in Stonington. He owned Allen Trucking Company and worked as a plant guard in Wilmington and Paxton. From 1943 to 1945 he was a sergeant with the Illinois State Police. He became chief deputy for the Ford County Sheriff’s Department in 1945. A year later he was elected Ford County sheriff, serving from 1946 to 1950. Later he served as a probation officer. Allen passed away at the Paxton Hospital on Nov. 9, 1984. He was buried in Glen Cemetery, Paxton.
(23) Fred Reser Kemp was the only Ford County sheriff to be elected to office three times. He first served as sheriff from 1950 to 1954, then from 1958 to 1962 and finally from 1966 to 1970.
He was born on May 7, 1907, in Loda, where he remained until his adulthood. Mr. Kemp graduated from Loda High School and served with the Seabees in the Aleutian Islands during World War II. He began his law enforcement career in 1946 as an Illinois state policeman at Pontiac, where he remained until 1949. At the time, he resigned for a successful bid to become Ford County sheriff. He remained working in the sheriff’s office as sheriff or chief deputy sheriff for 23 years, until his retirement in 1974. From 1974 to 1976, Mr. Kemp was court bailiff and served on the Ford County Merit Board. From 1976 to 1978, he was a member of the Ford County Board. In 1967, Mr. Kemp was also president of the Illinois Sheriff’s Association.
On Feb. 19, 1981, Kemp died at Mercy Hospital in Urbana. He was laid to rest in Glen Cemetery, Paxton.
(24) Raymond Hugo Burkland was a lifelong native of Paxton. He was born March 20, 1921, at Paxton. He attended Paxton schools, then Millikin University in Decatur. During World War II, he served with the Army Air Corps for three years. He was stationed overseas in North Africa and was a prisoner of war for a year in Germany, receiving the Purple Heart after he release. Burklund served as sheriff from 1954 to 1958, becoming the Paxton postmaster the following year. He would serve as postmaster until his death at the age of 45. He died from a heart condition. He died at Paxton Community Hospital on March 14, 1967, and was buried in Glen Cemetery, Paxton.
(25) Harold Freidrick "Buck" Hustedt served the longest as sheriff — from 1962 to 1966 and again from 1970 to 1982. Mr. Hustedt was born Oct. 25, 1920, in rural Gilman. He served his country for more than three years during World War II in the U.S. Marine Corps. Hustedt was a city policeman in Paxton for two years before being appointed chief deputy sheriff in 1959 by Fred R. Kemp. In 1962, he was elected county sheriff and served in that role until 1966. Then, he would serve once again as chief deputy sheriff for Fred R. Kemp. In 1970 he would be re-elected as county sheriff and serve until 1982. Mr. Hustedt died on July 14, 2000, at the Gibson City Hospital. He was buried in Glen Cemetery in Paxton.
(26) Lloyd Alfred Falck was the last sheriff to live in the original sheriff’s residence in Paxton. He was born May 11, 1935, in Fairbury. He graduated from Melvin-Sibley High School. He attended the University of Illinois in the veterinary program until he was called to service in the Army, where he served as a medic. Mr. Falck served as an Illinois state trooper for 21 years and sheriff of Ford County from 1982 to 1990. He died March 4, 2012, at the Gibson City Hospital and was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Sibley.
(27) Ralph Eugene Henson was born July 30, 1935, in Champaign. Henson was sheriff for two elected terms, from 1990 to 1998. The county board appointed him interim sheriff in June 2000 to replace Rodney Webb, who served as sheriff for 25 days. (Webb had been named to the post after George Jeffrey Bond was removed as sheriff). When the county board learned it could appoint an interim sheriff to serve until the November 2000 election, it unanimously chose Henson from among four candidates. He served until November, when William Kean was elected to the post. Mr. Henson would pass away on March 18, 2001 at his home in Paxton. He was buried at Paxton’s Glen Cemetery.
(28) George Jeffrey Bond, who remains alive, served as sheriff from 1998 to 2000.
(29) William D. Kean, who remains alive, served as sheriff from 2000 to 2006.
(30) Mark R. Doran is presently sheriff, having been first elected in 2006.
Derrick K. Babbs is creator of the free Facebook site "The Ford County, Illinois Heritage."