Howard County was created January 23, 1816 by an act
of the General Assembly of the Territory of Missouri.
It was taken from St. Louis and St. Charles counties
and was the ninth county in the territory to be established.
Howard County was named after Benjamin Howard of Kentucky
who was appointed by President Madison in 1809 to be
the governor of the Louisiana Territory before it became the
Missouri Territory in 1812. He resigned this position in order
to fight in the war of 1812 and died in St. Louis in 1814.
At its conception, Howard County had a landmass of about
22,000 square miles from which more than 30 counties and partial counties, some extending into Iowa, were birthed.
This is why Howard County received the nickname "Mother
of Counties". By an act of the Missouri Legislature, approved
February 16, 1825, Howard County was reduced to
463 square miles. It is now 471 square miles due to change in
the course of the river.
When Governor William Clark appointed Nicholas
Burckhartt as the county's first sheriff in 1816, the county
still encompassed 22,000 square miles. Upon admission of
Missouri into the Union in 1821, Burckhartt was elected
to the same office. He was also one of the delegates in the
convention that framed the state constitution of Missouri
in 1820. When his second term as sheriff expired, he was
elected to the state senate and was about to be elected for a
second term when he died in 1834.
By law, the sheriff's office is to be located in the county
seat. When Howard County was first formed, Hannah Cole's
Fort was designated as the temporary county seat until the
commission, appointed to that task, located an appropriate
permanent site. In 1817, the town of Franklin was selected.
However, it had to be moved to higher ground because of
flooding of the Missouri River. It was then relocated to Fayette
in 1823 where it remains today.
Howard County's old jail is still standing and is located at
203 E. Morrison in Fayette. In fact, it is among those buildings
in the city listed on the National Register of Historic
Places. According to an old newspaper article, the jail wasbuilt and ready for occupancy in the spring of 1894, when
George Crigler was sheriff.. Ten prisoners that were being
held in the Cooper County Jail were to be its first occupants.
When the jail opened, it could house approximately 15 men,
but included no provisions for women. And although it was
built with gallows, no hangings were ever reported.
It was typical of the county jails in the late 19th century
to also include a residence for the sheriff and his family
and Howard County was no different. The first sheriff to
live in the jail was George C. Crigler, who served from 1891
to 1894. The last sheriff to occupy the residence was Randy
Yaeger, who served from 1981 to 1998. He lived there two
years while serving as a deputy under Hardin Dougherty
and from 1980 to 1991 as sheriff. The jail residence was occupied
throughout most of the years but, eventually those
who held office chose not to live there.
Thanks to the citizens of Howard County, who agreed
with the special advisory board and the Howard County
Commission that a new jail was needed, a bond issue was
passed in 2002. The new jail was built adjacent to its predecessor
on Mulberry Street and features a modern security
system; space to house female prisoners; a recreation room
for the prisoners; and a sally port to provide a safer transfer
of prisoners. The new facility also includes much-needed
office space for the sheriffs and deputies that, up until this point, were located in the courthouse.
When the new jail was completed, the old one, which had
served Howard County 100 years, was closed. This took
place during Sheriff Charlie Polson's time in office. Later, the jail was sold on Ebay and the buyer, a man from California,
had it restored.
While much has changed throughout the history of the
office of sheriff in Howard County, there are elements of the
office that remain the same the sheriff is an elected official
who is answerable to the people of the county; he has arrest
powers; he has the authority to serve and execute civil and
criminal process; he has the responsibility of overseeing the
jail; and he is still sworn to protect and serve the citizens of
the county and guard their constitutional rights.
The sheriff should never forget that the office of sheriff is
more than a job it is a calling to be a "minister of God"
(Romans 13:4), to honor and serve.
Sources: Information about the old and new Howard County Jails taken from an article written by Jim
Steele; old picture of Howard County Jail also provided by Jim Steele. Special thanks to Milly Haggard for her
assistance with the history of Missouri; the Howard County Library in their assistance in locating information;
Harold Kerr for his inexhaustible patience in finding information; and Jim Steele for his invaluable help with