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Sheriff Joe Thralls

                                          Wellington, Sumner County, Kansas.
Joe Thralls, who served as Sheriff of Sumner County, was mentioned often during the time he was in office. He was a good friend of Sheriff A. T. Shenneman, one of the best Sheriffs that Cowley County ever had.
I could spend all day looking for Thralls, but I think some glimpses into this man can more easily be given by excerpts from the Sheriff A. T. Shenneman file.
Items pertaining to Shenneman and Thralls.
                              Shenneman Taking Glass to Cherokee Authorities.
Winfield Courier, September 14, 1882.
Sheriff Shenneman left for the Cherokee Nation, Monday, with Dick Glass, the noted negro murderer and criminal. Governor St. John issued a requisition for his delivery to the Cherokee authorities. Sheriff Shenneman will secure the reward of six hundred dollars.
                     Desperado, Dick Glass, Escapes from Shenneman & Thralls.
Arkansas City Traveler, September 20, 1882. The notorious desperado, Glass, escaped from Sheriff Shenne­man last week while he was taking him to the Territory. He was hand-cuffed and hobbled, but succeeded in breaking a link in his hobble chain, and when the buggy stopped to camp at night, he jumped and ran, making good his escape almost before the officers knew it. He is regarded as one of the most desperate characters in the Territory, and a reward of $500 is offered for him by the chief of the Cherokee nation.
Winfield Courier, September 21, 1882. Last week as Sheriff Shenneman and Joe Thralls, Sheriff of Sumner County, were taking Dick Glass through the Territory, overland to the Cherokee Nation, he jumped from the wagon and escaped.
It was their third night out, and just as they drove up to a ranch to put up, Glass sprang from the wagon and rushed for a thick patch of underbrush near the road. It was about nine o’clock and very dark. The prisoner was shackled hand and foot and, as the sheriffs thought, perfectly secure. He was sitting between them, and his actions were so quick that he was two rods away before they got their revolvers on him. They fired twice each, but failed to bring him down; and nothing more was heard of him. He left a part of the shackles in the wagon and an examination showed that he had filed them nearly in two between the jams before leaving the jail, and had, by rubbing his feet together, broken them apart. It was also found upon examination that Quarles and Vanmeter, the two in jail here now, also had their shackles filed and the three were to have made a grand rush for liberty on the self-same night that Glass was taken away. Glass has accomplished a feat that few men would care to attempt. The chances were desperate, but the man was equal to the attempt, and escaped from two of the shrewdest and bravest officers in this or any other state.
 Sheriff Shenneman feels badly over losing the prisoner and the six hundred dollar reward which he was to get. the jail, used by prisoners in sawing off irons. It was made of the tongue to a jews harp.
                     Sheriffs Thralls and Shenneman Search for Gang in Territory.

Winfield Courier, October 12, 1882. Some two weeks ago Sheriff Thralls of Wellington got information that eight of the murderers and cutthroats which raided Caldwell and killed Maher, were in a camp in the Territory near the Pan Handle. He got Sheriff Shenneman and some others and went out there, hunted up the camp, and surrounded it. They found none of the gang, but became convinced that one of them had been there.
                         Report Received at Caldwell that Shenneman Was Dead.
The Caldwell Commercial, Thursday, January 25, 1883. The route agent on the regular passenger yesterday, brought the report that Sheriff Shenneman, of Cowley County, had been fatally shot on Tuesday afternoon. . . .
“Sheriff Shenneman was one of the most efficient officers in the west, and with our Sheriff Thralls, made a team terrible to all classes of evil doers and outlaws. We trust the report regarding his dangerous condition is exaggerated, and that he may live to do more efficient work in holding in check the lawless element.”
               More Information Concerning Movements of Cobb Before Hanging.
Winfield Courier, Thursday, February 1, 1883.
The night of the shooting young Cobb was kept in jail here. The next afternoon he was taken to Sedgwick County and confined in the Wichita jail.
Thursday morning the Sheriff of Jefferson County, accompanied by a farmer who lived near Cobb and knew him well, arrived and identified the prisoner. Cobb feigned not to know his old neighbor, and still stuck to his cowboy story.
The people of Wichita were greatly excited, and said that he should never go in any other direction than to Cowley County.
Saturday morning he was placed in a carriage and, in charge of Sheriffs Thralls and Watt and Deputy Taylor, was brought to Winfield overland.
                  Cobb Returned to Winfield Saturday Morning, January 27, 1883.
News was received here that he had left Wichita in a carriage and parties on the train going north passed them between Mulvane and Udall. This news greatly excited the people. In the evening about two hundred determined men gathered at the crossing and boarded the incoming train, thinking that perhaps he might have been put aboard at some way station, but he was not found. They then repaired to the city and placed squads at each bridge and on streets surround-ing the jail.
The carriage with the prisoner arrived at about eleven o’clock, but came by the ford and escaped the pickets. They drove to the crossing of Fuller Street and Eleventh Avenue and Taylor was sent over to the jail to see how the land lay. He arrived just after a squad had been searching the jail in quest of the prisoner, and returned with the news that it was certain death to put him there. Sheriff Thralls and Watt then took the prisoner out of the carriage and started south on foot with him, while Taylor was left to take the team out into the country. In going out of town he ran across a squad of vigilanters who brought him into town. Then occurred a scene that beggars description. From all parts of town men came running, wild with excitement. They formed in a dense mass around the Deputy, clamoring to know what had been done with the prisoner. As the crowd surged to and fro, it seemed as if the very air was ladened with cries of vengeance. Soon someone cried, “the Brettun,” and to a man the crowd started in a run for the hotel. Here they found the door barred, but one of their number went inside and looked in Sheriff Douglass’ room, and found nothing. The crowd then returned to Taylor and demanded vociferously that he tell where the murderer was.

Soon a crowd went again to the jail and searched it from top to bottom, then the Courthouse and outbuildings. The search being fruitless, they returned exasperated, and for a few moments it looked as if Taylor would be roughly used. He was finally compelled to tell where he had left the Sheriffs with the prisoner, and a rush was made for that part of town—Taylor being carried along to show the exact spot. Soon a vigorous search of barns and outbuildings in the vicinity was made, which was kept up the balance of the night.
[Note: The next part of Courier report does not make sense. Perhaps it was written before Cobb was hung in an attempt to persuade citizens he was not in Winfield. MAW]
During this time Sheriffs Thralls and Watt, with the prisoner, had traveled out the Badger Creek road to William Dunn’s, where they brought up at two o’clock. Here they tried to get a conveyance to go to Douglass, but could not. They then went on and soon found a team, in which Sheriff Watt took the prisoner again to Wichita by way of Douglass, where he now is, and will probably remain for some time. Sheriff Thralls returned to town and remained to the funeral.
                              Cobb’s Father Requests Proper Burial for His Son.
Winfield Courier, February 1, 1883. A gentleman received a letter from Cobb’s father last week in which he said he heard the boy was hung, and seemed satisfied with the rumor, only wanting his body to be interred decently. His family is highly connected, and it has been rumored that he is a nephew of ex-Congressman Cobb.
                                                         The Dead at Rest!
Winfield Courier, Thursday, February 1, 1883.
                        Sheriff Shenneman Buried Sunday Afternoon, January 28, 1883.
                                           Thousands Assisted in the Ceremonies.
                                          Three Special Trains from Other Towns.
The burial services and interment of Sheriff Shenneman, last Sunday, were the most impressive and imposing ever yet held within the borders of our county. The arrangements were in the hands of the Masonic fraternity, and the services were held at the Baptist Church at 1:30 p.m.
Early in the morning the farmers from the surrounding country began pouring in; and at eleven o’clock a special train from Arkansas City, bearing the Masonic fraternity of that place and a large number of citizens, arrived. This was followed by another special from Newton and Wichita, and soon another from Wellington. By twelve o’clock the streets and hotels were thronged with people; many gathered here and there in little knots, talking over the terrible occurrences of the past week. Most noticeable among these groups were the Sheriffs who had come in from other counties to pay a last tribute to their brave comrade who had fallen in the line of duty. There was Sheriff Thralls, of Sumner, with whom Sheriff Shenneman had traveled thousands of miles, and through many dangerous ways in pursuit of criminals, and between whom there existed a personal friendship as strong as brotherhood. Also Sheriff Shadley, of Montgomery, who has the reputation of having handled more desperate criminals than any other officer in the State, and who captured Tom Quarles. Sheriff Watts, of Sedgwick, was precluded from being present by having the prisoner in charge. Sheriff Douglass, of Butler, was present; also Sheriff Thompson, of Elk, Sheriff Boyd, of Chautauqua, and Sheriff of             .

At half-past twelve the church began filling, and before one o’clock every seat, except those reserved for the Fraternity, was filled, and the corridors, vestibules, and aisles were crowded. At half-past one the coffin was carried up the aisle to the foot of the pulpit by six sheriffs, who acted as pall-bearers, and escorted by the Masonic Fraternities of Arkansas City, Wellington, Mulvane, Dexter, and Winfield, and the Select Knights of United Workmen.
The services were opened by a grand anthem from the choir, followed by Scriptural reading by Rev. Jones, and prayer by Rev. Friedley. Rev. Platter then delivered the funeral address. His manner was intensely earnest, and the immense audience seemed waiting to catch every word as it fell from his lips. He referred to the universal desire for vengeance on the murderer, and likened it to a higher law, which demanded that each should suffer for his own sins. He then referred to the kind and generous spirit of the dead Sheriff; how he would go almost any length, and imperil his own life, to save even the most hardened criminal from harm, and himself from shedding human blood; and how almost his last request was to protect his murderer from violence. The minister then put the question squarely to the people: Should they emulate the spirit and desire of their dead friend, or allow the spirit of vengeance to overcome them and resort to violence toward his murderer? The effect of the discourse was powerful; and strong men, who had gone there determined that, as soon as their honored friend was laid beneath the sod, his murderer should expiate the crime with his life, went away feeling that it was better to let the law takes its course.
At the conclusion of Rev. Platter’s discourse, Rev. Canfield made a few remarks, and was followed by a prayer from Rev. Bicknell, Editor of the Chicago Advocate. Rev. Cairns made the closing prayer, after which the choir rendered that beautiful song, “In the Sweet Bye and Bye.” People then filed past the coffin and took a last look at the familiar features of the dead officer.
The procession was then formed, with the Masonic order leading. It was over a mile in length. At the grave the beautiful Masonic burial ceremonies were observed, and the mortal remains of Sheriff Shenneman were consigned to their final resting place amid the silent grief of a multitude of friends and kindred.
Winfield Courier, February 8, 1883. The funeral of Sheriff Shenneman was the largest in the history of the state. Six sheriffs constituted the pall-bearers. An extra train left here Sunday morning and returned in the evening. Wichita Beacon.


Cowley County Historical Society Museum