Sheriff Jacob Bell

1906-19Newspaper article dated December 16, 1909 (Holmes County Farmer)

Nothing has occurred in recent years that stirred this community to a higher pitch of excitement than when it was announced last Thursday morning that Sheriff Jacob Bell, one of the most fearless as well as most efficient officers that the county has ever had, had been shot and mortally wounded by Ordel E. Boley, of near Big Prairie. The first message came at about 7:30 Thursday morning saying that the Sheriff was badly wounded and requested that the Sheriff's son, Theodore, Marshal Albertson and Dr. R.C. Wise be hurried to the scene as rapidly as possible. Wm. N. Crow was secured and as soon as his automobile could be gotten in readiness, the parties were taken to the home of Roy Lee, a mile south of Big Prairie and about fifteen miles from Millersburg, where the shooting occurred. The Sheriff had breathed his last, however before they arrived. He lived a little more than an hour after being shot. He met his death in an endeavor to arrest Boley, who a few days previous had escaped from the Massillon State Hospital where he had been taken on a lunacy charge. The facts leading up to the shooting are about as follows:

Boley had been about Big Prairie for a day or two and on Wednesday evening went to a church where services were being held, and soon created a disturbance. The people of that locality had known him for years and as he had threatened many of them at various times, were deathly afraid of him, and in a few minutes all had fled from the church. Boley before being taken to the Massillon Hospital, some three weeks previous had become the possessor of a sixteen caliber single barrel shotgun which he had secreted somewhere in that neighborhood and on Wednesday evening had secured the gun and a box of 25 loaded shells. He made many threats and especially against those who had been instrumental in having him sent to Massillon, and threatened to shoot any officer who might come after him, which threat he carried into effect.

The Massillon Hospital authorities were telephoned to, and asked to come and get him. Later on Wednesday evening he went to the home of Roy Lee where he stayed all night. About 10 o'clock Sheriff Bell received a telephone message that Boley was threatening trouble and was requested by the Massillon Hospital authorities to go after him. Mr. Bell secured a team and with Charles Carnahan as driver arrived at Big Prairie at about 2 o'clock Thursday morning. They waited until about 7 o'clock when they drove to the Lee farm. Sheriff Bell went into the house and Carnahan remained on the outside going around the side of the building. In the meantime Boley had taken a bucket and gone out a rear door of the house to a spring a short distance away for some water carrying his gun with him. Sheriff Bell was at the rear door on the inside and saw Boley approaching. When near the building Boley saw Carnahan at the side of the house and pointing his gun at him, asked him what he was doing there. By this time the Sheriff had thrown open the door and ran for Boley who was but a few feet away, who upon seeing the Sheriff whom he knew, started to run with Bell in close pursuit. After running a short distance he suddenly turned and fired, the point of the gun being not over three feet from the officer, the entire charge entering the right breast near the nipple, making a ghastly hole three inches in diameter. The charge did knock the brave officer down who made a grab for Boley who had turned and was running. Lee and Carnahan ran to the Sheriff whose first words were when he threw back his coat "My what a hole; I am done for." He went into the Lee house practically without assistance and ordered that his son Theodore, Marshal Albertson and Dr. Wise be telephoned for at once which was done and Dr. Hanna of Big Prairie was immediately called; but it was of no avail. The shot was fatal and in a little more than an hour, the end came. Mr. Bell was conscious to the end and dictated all pertaining to his business and official affairs and gave directions as to what should be done. That effort alone showed the wonderful nerve and courage of the man, and he passed away conscious of the fact hat the end came while in the discharge of his sworn duty to the public. Undertaker W. F. Cary went to the Lee home and brought the body of the dead Sheriff to Millersburg Thursday afternoon.

Immediately after the shooting Boley started across the country in the direction of Paint Valley. The news of the affair spread rapidly and as soon as Marshal John Albertson arrived several posses were organized and went in pursuit of Boley. About noon officers from the State Hospital arrived and aided in the search. Telephones were used over that end of the county and while Boley was heard of and seen by several people, by the time the pursuers were notified and arrived in that locality he would be somewhere else. The search had to be conducted with the greatest care as it was well known that Boley was armed and would shoot to kill, and being partially demented was a most dangerous man. Thus, the hunt kept up during the day and when darkness came Thursday night, Boley was still at large although it was pretty definitely known that he was hiding somewhere in the vicinity of Big Prairie. Being acquainted with every foot of the ground in that section -all the woods, ravines and thickets-he had a great advantage over his pursuers. He used smart tactics. Sometimes he would be seen running in one direction and a posse start to head him off, when he would back track and in a short time be heard from a mile in the opposite direction.

There was great excitement throughout that section, many farmers and their families fearing for their lives., and there was not much sleep in many households Thursday night, as it was not known where or when the maniac desperado might appear and take another life. Sometime during Thursday night he returned to the Lee home, but did not get into the house. He was seen by Lee and another man who were inside the house which was in darkness and when he called to the Lee family to let him in they kept quiet and pretended not to hear him, fearing for their own safety. The bloodstained bedding on which the dying sheriff had lain was hanging out in the yard and Boley carried it a short distance away and made a bonfire of it. We are informed that he also carried some wood and piled it against one side of the house evidently with the intention of setting fire to the building. He did not set fire to it however, but soon left.

Marshal Albertson returned to Millersburg Thursday night where a warrant was sworn out charging Boley with murder and placed in the officer's hand and early Friday morning accompanied by Marshal-elect Wm. Hoover and J.S. Jackson left for Big Prairie arriving in that locality by daylight. A big posse, well armed, was organized and soon took up the desperado's trail. Among the members of the scouting party were Capt. Eddy and Capt. Miller of Shreve, both members of the military company to which Boley at one time belonged and who were well acquainted with him. They were armed with regular Army rifles and both are expert shots. Marshal Albertson gave orders that unless Boley surrendered he must be brought in even if it was necessary to shoot him. During the forenoon it was believed that more than a hundred armed men were scouring the country. About noon he was seen by parties who knew him to enter a barn near Big Prairie, and in a short time the barn was surrounded. Marshal Albertson volunteered to enter the building. He entered the lower story and after and after a search climbed into the haymow. Every part of the building was thoroughly searched but the outlaw had again escaped his pursuers. He showed in his repeated escapes from his pursuers the same cunning that he had shown in getting away from the Massillon Hospital, from which he escaped three times. When he became hungry he would stop at some out-of-the-way farm house and at the point of the gun compel the women to give him something to eat. To show that he was getting tired and hard pushed-when he first started out he was wearing two overcoats, both of these he had thrown away Friday afternoon and they were found by the scouting party. Later in the day he entered a farm house and compelled the woman of the house to give him another coat. After escaping from the barn he again crossed into Wayne County and headed toward Shreve. The chase was becoming so hot that he was obliged to throw away his gun and depend on his revolver alone. When near Shreve, about 4 o'clock, he ran into a member of the searching party named Wood and pulled his revolver. Wood fired first, shooting Boley in the left arm, making only a flesh wound. William Hoover of Millersburg, armed with a 22-caliber repeating rifle, came up just as the shot was fired by Wood and called on Boley to throw up his hands and on failure to do so shot three times at his legs being off a distance of nearly a hundred yards, but failed to hit him. Boley kept advancing with his revolver pointed at Wood when Hoover's fourth shot hit him in the stomach. The maniac fell mortally wounded and the strenuous chase of two days was ended. Hoover and others of the party ran to him and his first words were: "You have shot me." Hoover said: "Do you know what you did? You killed our Sheriff." To which Boley replied that he did not know that he had killed him. He was carried to Shreve and taken to the office of Dr. Paul where his wound was dressed and preparations made to remove him to a Wooster Hospital, but he died about an hour after being shot. Boley was 39 years old and weighed in the neighborhood of 175 pounds. He was generally considered a dangerous man and had been in trouble more than once.

The Wooster News in referring to the matter says: "At Big Prairie there is a strong sentiment against the alleged lax methods in existence at the hospital in regard to escaped patients. The claim is made that no effort was made to arrest Boley until Big Prairie citizens demanded it Wednesday evening. Brave Sheriff Bell met his fate while doing a favor for the hospital. Officials never receive any reward for arresting escaped patients, and at the same time it is not compulsory for them to do so. Insane patients are of course the most dangerous kind with which to deal and Big Prairie residents loudly condemn the hospital authorities for permitting Boley to be at large as long as they did." "Boley dead is better off than if the Marshall's bullet had not been fatal. His desperate fight showed that he was a dangerous man and his cold-blooded murder of the Sheriff demonstrated that he was determined to resist arrest at any cost. Alive, even in the hospital he had a chance to escape and as he had sworn to kill five men in addition to his one victim the lives of these men would always have been in jeopardy. He was thrice released from the asylum, thought to be cured, and each time insanity recurred. It is not probable that he would ever have been cured and his death is in reality the best ending the chase could possibly have had. While the wound Boley received when Marshal Hoover shot him was a bad one there is no question but the terrible exposure the insane man subjected himself to while fleeing from the posse had much to do with his death. the man was exhausted and unable to keep up his flight. Had he been wounded in the same manner Thursday evening he might have rallied, but worn out from the long chase his vital organs failed to struggle against the rifle ball's wound. The wound, Dr. Paul stated, was a bad one but not necessarily fatal and exhaustion as much as anything else caused his death."

The public are indebted to Marshal Albertson, William Hoover and everyone who risked their lives in running down this desperado, for heavily armed as he was, there was no telling what instant he might step from a hiding place and add another life or two to the death roll.

Jacob Bell was born in Knox township, Holmes County, February 27, 1860 and has been a resident of the county all his life. He was a son of Samuel and Mary Bell, both natives of Pennsylvania. He received his education in the public schools of Knox township. On January 1, 1883 he was united in marriage to Miss Sarah Smithhisler, who with one son and two daughters, survive him, and who have the heart felt sympathy of all in their sad bereavement. Politically Mr. Bell was a thorough Democrat and held several political positions while residing in Knox township. In 1905 he was elected Sheriff of Holmes County and entered upon his duties as such officer Jan. 1, 1908 to Jan 1, 1909. He was re-elected to his second term in 1908 which began Jan. 1, 1909. As an officer he was prompt in the discharge of every duty, courteous and obliging and one of the most accommodating officials the county ever had. His last official act was ample evidence of his courage and he was absolutely fearless. He was a useful citizen in this community and his loss will be keenly felt. Of strong convictions, he was a staunch friend and made many friends as was evidenced by the great number who came out last Saturday to pay their last sad tribute of respect. He was a member of a number of fraternal orders, among them being the Masons, Knights of Pythias and Odd Fellows. On April 15, 1906 with his wife he was received into the fellowship of the Lutheran Church. The funeral occurred from his late residence last Saturday afternoon, services being conducted by Rev. W. P. Rilling, after which he was laid to his final rest under the ritualistic ceremonies of the Masonic fraternity. Interment in Oak Hill Cemetery.