The Elk County Sheriff
From the Severy Record, Aug 29, 1890
Courtesy of Marcia Moore of the Elk County Forum

Last Friday morning Sheriff Richolson, of Howard, arrived in our city bright and early on the lookout for an escaped prisoner. He said that a young man who was held on a charge of house burglary had been helping around the court house yard when he took French leave, and he wanted him.


Not finding the prisoner occupying the best rooms at the Hotel Clifton, the worthy sheriff repaired to the Severyite office and ordered a few "dogers" printed offiering a reward of $25 for the capture of his man. All day Friday the sheriff waited and watched for "something to turn up."

Fall River, as if by magic, seemed to come to the assistance of the fast despairing sheriff. A poor tramp - only a tramp - had been foraging in that town, and in order to entertain him properly, the citizens told him that the law of Kansas was such that anyone caught stealing a ride on the railroad would be sent to the poor farm and made to work hard for thirty days. This so frightened the tramp that he concluded that he would return to St. Louis from whence he came; so, finding a box car on the siding, he asked one of his friends which way it was going, and being informed that it was to be sent east, he thought he would take his chance of the poor farm and steal a ride. While waiting for the car to be moved, he fell asleep, and Friday evening when the shades of darkness had fallen, the train came along and took him west.

Arriving at Severy, he thought he would get out of his berth and ascertain where he was going, but no sooner had he alighted than the quick eye of the Elk County Sheriff spied him and, assisted by the man who had piloted the prisoner, Mr. Messick, he started on a run for the tramp. The poor tramp, thinking the "cops" were after him, and remembering only the "thirty days on the poor farm," started to run, and almost immediately came up "co-smack" against a barbed wire fence. The two limbs of the law ran up within thirty or forty feet when Messick shouted, "Halt!" at the same time firing two shots at the poor wretch struggling with the wire. At last the wire gave away, and the friendly cornfield "swallowed up" the tramp.

The sheriff returned to our city and secured all the lanterns he could find (and a man to carry each lantern) and pulled for the cornfield again. After looking the field over several times, (not failing to occasionally stop and turn a big clod over to see if he could find "tracks,") the chase was abandoned. Saturday, feeling so positive that the escaped prisoner and the poor tramp were one and the same, he told our boys that he would give them $35 if they would capture the tramp. George Mock and Willie Davis, two of Severy's bravest young men, took a buggy and started in quest of the tramp, and after a day's drive, succeeded in capturing him, and returning to Severy, they at once notified the sheriff of the fact. The sheriff came, and after looking at the tramp, declared he was not the man wanted, and the following dialogue (as near as our informant can remember) took place:

Tramp: I am the man you were shooting at.
Richolson: I never shot at you! I couldn't get my gun off.
Tramp: Well, your man there did.
Richolson: Yes, and if I could have got my gun off, I would have killed you, damn you! I wish my gun had have gone off - you needed killing anyway. I've a damned good notion to hang you up here and beat your brains out with a club.

After allowing the Elk County official to abuse and frighten the tramp until they took pity on him, the boys who made the capture interfered and told him they would hear no more in their presence, and that they wanted the reward as promised. Here the sheriff, so our informant said, forgot his religion and refused to pay the $35, and getting the tramp out to one side, gave him $10 to leave town, thus beating our boys out of their hard earned money, and then "beat a sneak for Howard." Our informant thinks that unless the Elk County sheriff sends our boys the $35 due them, the "pearly gates" will certainly be cklosed against him. Our advice to the sheriff is to "pay up," or perhaps the next time assistance is wanted, no lanterns can be found.

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