The first Sheriff of Appanoose County, Andrew Jackson Perjue, was elected Sheriff in 1846. Known as “Uncle Jack” Perjue, he was one of the first persons to settle in Appanoose County, arriving in May of 1843, shortly after the county was turned over to settlement by treaty with the Indians. His jurisdiction went to the Missouri River since the counties to the west were not yet organized.
Shortly after taking office in 1846, Perjue received a warrant from Illinois for a man named Kane, who was believed traveling west with a band of Mormons.
Perjue, armed with a rifle and pistol, started out on his horse to look for the Mormons. He finally caught up with the Mormons near Greenfield, were Kane was arrested. After having a Mormon blacksmith make a pair of handcuffs, Kane was returned to the nearest jail in Keosauqua.
Soon after being placed in the jail, Kane escaped, making his way back to the Mormons.
Upon hearing of Kane’s escape, Perjue started off in search of him again. Perjue located the Mormon camp, but before Kane could be arrested, a fight broke out in another part of the camp with Kane firing a gun, killing a Mormon woman in a tent.
The Mormons refused to give custody of Kane to Perjue, agreeing to hold “Drum Head Court” on Kane, and if found not guilty, would hand Kane over to Perjue.
Kane was found guilty, taken to a river, where he was placed in a kneeling position, with his hands tied behind and his ankles bound and was thrown through a hold that had been cut in the ice, to die under the ice.
With a growing family, and not wanting to be away from home, Perjue resigned after being re-elected and Thomas Wilson was appointed to fill his term in 1850.
The death penalty has been carried out by two Sheriffs of Appanoose County.
The first hanging was by Sheriff William Ferren on August 13, 1858, when William Hinkle, on a change of venue from Davis County, was hanged near Orleans, in eastern Appanoose County, after being found guilty of poisoning his wife. Present for the hanging was a crowd of 10,000 people. When the trap fell, the weight of Hinkle broke the rope and a second rope was obtained by which the death penalty was successfully carried out.
The second hanging was by Sheriff John G. Clark on July 29, 1910, when John Junkin, on a change of venue from Wapello County, was hanged at the Iowa State Penitentiary at Ft. Madison, Iowa . Junkin had been found guilty of murdering Clara Rosen of Ottumwa, Iowa.
Other Sheriffs granted permission to be at the Junkin execution were William Jackson, Wapello County; William Griffin, Monroe County; G.P. Johannessen, Davis County; James Glover, Wayne County; and Bart Kenworthy, Adair County.
Sheriff Henry Harrison Wright was a veteran of the Civil War, having served at Shiloh, Vicksburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea with the Sixth Iowa infantry. After leaving the army, Wright was appointed Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard by Governor F.M. Drake and served two years. General Wright wrote a manuscript entitled, “History of the Sixth Iowa Infantry”, which was published in 1923 by the State Historical Society of Iowa.
Earl “Red” Gaughenbaugh served as sheriff from 1923 through 1930. He was Sheriff during the turbulent Ku Klux Klan period of 1923-1925. He was also Sheriff during the 1927 coal miner’s strike which aroused considerable feeling. Gaughenbaugh had brought in a young army of special officers to preserve order, tear gas was used and union officials were jailed. He was also known for his aggressive enforcement of the bootlegging laws.
Paul Willard Thomas served as Sheriff from 1959 through 1964. On May 22, 1962, a bomb-damaged Continental Airlines Boeing 707 crashed just south of the Iowa border in Missouri, killing thirty-seven passengers and a crew of eight. Sheriff Thomas, his Deputy, Harry M. Robertson, and the Appanoose County Sheriff’s Posse, along with other local law enforcement, located the airplane in a farm field. It was later determined that a crash victim, Thomas Doty, 34, of Kansas City had bought dynamite and about $300,000 worth of insurance payable to his wife before the flight. The crash served as part of the inspiration for the book and movie, “Airport”.
Sheriff Thomas and his officer also became involved in the manhunt for Gayno Gilbert Smith, who had killed fiver members of the McBeth family on May 27, 1962, in Keokuk County. Smith’s car was located abandoned near Unionville, Iowa, and Smith was captured several days later in a barn near Lake Wapello in Davis County.
Harry Morrison Robertson served as Sheriff from 1965 through 1972. On July 31, 1971, during his term, one of the largest events to occur in Appanoose County happened when President Richard M. Nixon was present to dedicate the Rathbun Dam. Sheriff Roberson, his office and then Centerville Police Chief, Gerald E. Banks, helped provide security for the event which drew a crowd of 30,000.
The first Appanoose County Jail was build around 1855, and served until around 1865 when a horse thief escaped. It was decided it was no longer secure enough to hold prisoners. For several years thereafter, prisoners were sent to Ottumwa for safe-keeping.
The second Appanoose County Jail was completed in 1872, costing about $10,000. It contained living quarters for the jailer or Sheriff. The last Sheriff to live in the jail was Sheriff Harry M. Robertson, who left office in 1972.
The present Appanoose County Jail was completed in December of 1974, and is located in the Appanoose County-City of Centerville Law Enforcement Center. The Law Enforcement Center houses the Sheriff’s Office, Centerville Police Department and the Communication Center. A special thanks to Gary D. Craver for the research and preparation of the above information.
1846 – 1850: Andrew J. Perjue
1850 – 1851: Thomas Wilson
1851 – 1855: George W. Swearingen
1855 – 1857: James Ewing
1857 – 1860: William Ferren
1860-1865: John Banks
1866 – 1873: Henry H. Wright
1874 – 1875: John M. Elgin
1876 – 1881: Benjamin F. Sinknitter
1882 – 1885: William S. Gay
1886 – 1889: Samuel Jennings
1890 – 1891: Milton B. Maring
1892-1895: William Bray
1896-1897: Benjamin F. Silknitter
1898-1901: George E. Climie
1902-1906: William P. Davis
1907-1910: John G. Clark
1911-1914: Lee M. Dawis
1915-1916: John W. Brown
1917-1922: George Elgin
1923-1930: Earl “Red” Gaughenbaugh
1931-1938: Roscoe C. Wales
1939-1946: Jack Bailey
1947-1958: Arthur “Zeke” Morlan
1959-1964: Paul W. Thomas
1965-1972: Harry M. Robertson
1973-1980: D. Montelle Morrow
1981-1984: Ronald R. Powell
1985-2000: Gerald E. Bannks
2001- Present: Gary D. Anderson