Winnebago County Sheriff

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Sheriff John Taylor

vintage sheriff badge1End of Watch: Tuesday, November 11, 1856

Biographical Info
Age:
31
Tour of Duty: 4 years
Badge Number: Not available

Incident Details
Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: Tuesday, November 11, 1856
Weapon Used: Handgun; Pistol
Suspect Info: Executed in 1857

Tuesday, November 11, 1856, John F. Taylor, sheriff of Winnebago County, was instantly killed by Alfred Countryman. On that day Alfred and John Countryman came to Rockford from Ogle County with some cattle, which they offered for sale at such low prices as to arouse suspicion. The cattle were sold for a sum below their market value.

The purchasers delayed payment until notice had been given the sheriff, and papers made out for the apprehension of the brothers which occurred about nine o’ clock in the morning. They were then arrested on suspicion; and before they were taken to jail Sheriff Taylor searched them for concealed weapons. He found pistol balls in Alfred’s pockets, and upon inquiring for his revolver the prisoner replied that he had none. Sheriff Taylor, assisted by Constable Thompson, then started with the prisoners for the jail. Just as they reached the steps Alfred Countryman broke away from the sheriff, leaped over the fence on Elm Street, and ran down that street, with the sheriff in pursuit. At the next corner, near the livery stable of Hall & Reynolds, the sheriff has nearly overtaken Countryman, and was about to seize him, when the latter drew a pistol which he had concealed, and fired. The sheriff staggered a few paces and fell. His only words were: “I’m shot; catch him”.

Countryman ran to the woods north of Kent’s Creek, with hundreds of infuriated citizens in pursuit. John Platt was the first to overtake him. He took his pistol from him, and, with assistance, secured his arrest. Amid threats of lynching, the prisoner was placed in jail and securely ironed. Samuel I. Church, the sheriff-elect, briefly addressed the crowd and assured them that the prisoner was secure.

Sheriff Taylor was thirty-one years on age, and left a wife, and a son a year and a half old. He was an excellent officer, and was held in high respect by the community. The funeral was held Thursday on the public square adjoining the jail, under the charge of the Masonic fraternity. The board of supervisors were in attendance in a body. The discourse was preached by Rev. W.F. Stewart.

---from Past and Present of City of Rockford and Winnebago County Illinois, Charles A Church and H.H. Waldo, 1905

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