History

Jefferson County was organized December 8, 1818 when Missouri was still a territory.  In those early days, the county’s settlers, who came from as far away as France, Germany, Canada and Ireland, lived without the conveniences of roads, stores, post offices, and blacksmith shops.  None, however, lived without one gun and at least one dog, considered “indispensables.”

The first session of court was held March 22, 1819.  It was then that Andrew Scott, commissioned as the first sheriff of Jefferson County, assumed the duties of his office.  Jefferson County’s first Census in 1820 showed the sheriff was responsible for protecting a population of 1,832.  At the same session, Herculaneum was named county seat.  In 1820, land was donated to the county and a small log jail was built in the town.  Instead of building a courthouse, the court authorized payment of $6 to John Finley, coroner and acting sheriff, for use of his house.  The first murder trial that took place in that “courthouse” was that of Pierre Auguste Labaume, who was indicted and tried in March 1825 while Joseph Boring was serving as sheriff.  The jurors returned a verdict of “Not guilty” and $227.75 in court costs were charged against the state.

In 1839 an act of the legislature ordered the county seat to be moved to Hillsboro, which was more centrally located, and $3,800 was appropriated for construction of a courthouse.  The building was completed in April 1840. In 1841, a jail was built nearby at a cost of $1,500.

A case in the early 1850s revealed the mindset of that era.  John, a slave, killed “Free Jack,” a free colored man, and was indicted for murder.  He pled “guilty,” whereupon the court ordered that Sheriff James McColloch carry out the sentence of 39 stripes on his bare back.  Jack, the free Negro, represented no value while John, the slave, did and his execution for the crime would have been the destruction of “property.”

The county’s first reported rape took place in 1862 when James Edmonds and James Bridgeman went to a house where Mrs. Mary Massey; her daughter, Margaret; and other women were staying.  Edmonds first threatened to shoot the women and when his comrade told him to leave them alone, Edmonds shot and kill him.  Edmonds then forced the 12-year-old daughter to accompany him from the house and kept her out about three hours.  The following day, Edmonds was arrested and charged.  In January, he was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged by the neck by Sheriff Jerome “J.B.” Dover until he was “Dead! Dead! Dead!”

Following the hanging, carried out on an old oak tree, the sheriff submitted the following report: “This execution came to hand March 3, 1863, and I executed the same on the 6th day of March 1863, by taking the body of the within named James Edmonds, and hanging him with a rope by the neck until he was dead! dead!! dead!!! and buried him near the Hillsboro graveyard, on the day above written, and this execution is returned satisfied in full. [Signed] Jerome B. Dover, sheriff.”

By 1863, when the population had grown to more than 10,000, it became necessary to construct new county buildings.  In July 1865, the 40-foot-by-60-foot, two story courthouse and two story, six-cell jail with jailer’s residence was completed at a cost of $16,500.73.  A fireproof addition east of the courthouse was built in 1892 with a second-story connecting walkway.  Then in the mid-1950s the county repaired, modernized and enlarged the courthouse even further at a cost of just under $300,000.  Thomas E. Mirgain, who joined the sheriff’s office in 1951, said the first police car radios were installed in 1956.  That same year, Mirgain, who served 28 years before retiring as a major in 1979, established the county’s first fingerprinting system.

He said things were different in those days.  “Prisoners respected you, did what you said.  A prisoner never tried to lay a hand on me during all that time,” he said, adding that while he was never forced to shoot a prisoner, he did fire warning shots over their heads.

There are two recorded escapes from the county jail.  The first was in 1965 when a prisoner cut through a bar in his cell, soaped himself down and slipped through.  Inmates then summoned Conrad Pillen, the lone officer on duty, and struck him from behind.  Inmates who chose not to flee perhaps saved Pillen’s life by administering first aid.  Eight others escaped.  Five were apprehended within a day; the remaining three were caught the following Saturday.  The second escape was in 1993 when a single prisoner, Kevin Hahn, escaped but was apprehended the same day.

Until the late 1960’s the sheriff’s office didn’t have a sufficient number of deputies to handle large events or disasters so men and women with the Civil Defense Auxiliary Police units stepped in and, using their own vehicles and being equipped with a Citizen Band radio, assisted whenever and wherever they were needed.

Although 49 different sheriffs have served in Jefferson County, only one position was filled by a woman.  After Sheriff Leo Church died while in office, his wife, Helen Church, was appointed to finish the one year remaining on his term.  To date, Walter “Buck” Buerger, who was sheriff from 1965 to 1992, served the longest term.  Sheriff Oliver “Glenn” Boyer, who ended his term on December 31, 2016, served for 24 years.

During Sheriff Boyer’s tenure, the sheriff’s office went through numerous changes.  A renovation of the jail increased housing from 116 beds to 334.  New communication and computer technology moved the office into the 21st century.  Under Sheriff Boyer’s guidance, in March 2005, the agency was awarded accreditation by the Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, an international independent accrediting authority recognizing professional excellence through commitment from all levels.  In March 2014 the sheriff’s office received its third re-accreditation.

Two centuries after it was established, the sheriff’s office now serves a population of more than 224,000.  Sheriff Dave Marshak was elected and took office on January 1, 2017 and continues the tradition of improving the sheriff’s office through advancements in training, equipment and technology.

Former Sheriffs

Sheriff Dave Marshak 2017-Present
Sheriff Oliver "Glen" Boyer 1992-2016
Sheriff Walter "Buck" Buerger 1965-1992
Sheriff A.R. McKee 1961-1964
Sheriff Helen Church 1960-1961
Sheriff Leo Church 1953-1960
Sheriff Amos Lee 1949-1952
Sheriff Bryan Moss 1945-1948
Sheriff Amos Lee 1941-1944
Sheriff A.R. McKee 1937-1940
Sheriff T.E. Lanham 1933-1936
Sheriff Carl Clark 1929-1932
Sheriff Ray Williams 1925-1928
Sheriff Raymond Brady 1921-1924
Sheriff Frank Clark 1918-1920
Sheriff Harry Dahl 1913-1917
Sheriff John Bechler 1909-1912
Sheriff Henry Dahl 1907-1908
Sheriff Thornton Hensley 1903-1906
Sheriff William Long 1899-1902
Sheriff Oscar Ogle 1895-1898
Sheriff Edward Maupin 1889-1894
Sheriff George W. McFrey 1886-1888
Sheriff Henry Hurtgen 1884-1886
Sheriff John L. Weaver 1882-1884
Sheriff Thomas J. Jones 1878-1882
Sheriff John Williams 1876-1878
Sheriff Benton "T.B." Moss 1872-1876
Sheriff John Williams 1870-1872
Sheriff Fred Luchtemeyer 1868-1870
Sheriff John Williams 1866-1868
Sheriff Charles "C.C." Fletcher 1864-1866
Sheriff Jerome "J.B." Dover 1862-1864
Sheriff Oscar Dover 1858-1862
Sheriff Augustin Wiley 1854-1858
Sheriff James McColloch 1850-1854
Sheriff Gabriel "G.J." Johnson 1849-1850
Sheriff Joseph A. Hammon 1848-1849
Sheriff John Hammond 1844-1848
Sheriff Mark Moss 1841-1844
Sheriff John Hammond 1840-1841
Sheriff James McChristian 1834-1840
Sheriff Ammon Knighten 1830-1834
Sheriff Gabriel "G.J." Johnston 1829-1830
Sheriff Issac Roberts 1828-1829
Sheriff William Ellis 1826-1828
Sheriff Joseph Boring 1822-1826
Sheriff George Hammond 1819-1822
Sheriff Andrew Scott 1819