1890,  Browse By Era,  Browse by Subject,  Genealogy Department,  Victorian

Sarah J. Ames

The excerpt below is about a Mrs. A. T. Ames who was elected as Deputy Sheriff in Belvidere, Boone County Illinois. After a quick search of the 1880 and 1900 census I found Albert T Ames, Sheriff in 1880 for the aforesaid location. He was born in New York and his wife, Sarah J., was born in Canada – her father being born in Ireland and mother in England. According to the 1900 census the only son they seem to have had was an adopted son {at least adopted son to Albert} being Earl I Ames, born 1871 in Canada. His father was born in Germany and mother in Canada.

Here is an excerpt from an article published in Godey’s Magazine in 1896 –

Several women in recent times have been deputy sheriffs. Mrs. Albert T. Ames {Sarah}, of Belvidere, Boone County, Illinois, held a similar position, having been her husband’s deputy. She went out of office last January…In this connection the following extract from a letter of Mrs. Ames will be of interest:
I will give you a couple of instances where combat might, have been expected, and no strength was required. Once a very large man broke jail in the afternoon, during a severe thunder-storm. I was alone at the jail when it occurred. He was a few rods ahead of me when I discovered him. I had no time to arm myself, or even put on my lint, as he was making for a large cornfield and I knew it would make us an all night hunt did he succeed in reaching it. We both ran our liveliest. I being much lighter, gained on him, and when I finally reached him I wondered if he would turn, and with one blow from his big strong arm, knock me over. He looked at me with murder in his eye. I said, ” Aleck, is this the way you treat a woman who is trying to help your case? Now, get back into jail with you as soon as you can, and I will try and not let the public get hold of this to injure your case.”

He went without a word, and gave me the tools he effected his escape with. His run (he being very fleshy) made him severely ill, and when my husband came hurriedly home, having just heard of the escape, he found me busy trying to ease the poor fellow’s pain.

Now, here is where I think a woman shows a superiority to man. My husband said, “Let him suffer; he is not deserving of your kindness,” but I felt it might be a turning-point in that poor man’s life. I had made him think I was his friend and had gained my point by so doing, and I further carried it out by getting a jail sentence for him, while he expected to be sent to prison — first, because he deserved it, and again he thought, belonging to the colored race, he could not expect mercy.

Again, we had a murderer who had been sentenced to hang and who had succeeded in getting a new trial granted, who one Sunday morning, during my husband’s absence and before I was up, attacked another prisoner. My girl rushed to my room, with the announcement that Panton the murderer was killing a man. I had no time to do more than put a skirt over my night robe, and with revolver in hand, I rushed in. His back was toward the jail door; he had the other prisoner down and was choking him. The man was black in the face. I fully expected to have a desperate struggle, and expected he would attempt to get my weapon, when I should have shot him. I took hold of him by his shirt-collar and jerked him from off his victim. He turned and his face grew white with fright. He had not heard me enter the jail, he was so violently mad, and on looking up and beholding my dishevelled hair and white waist (he told one of the prisoners), he thought it was a ghost. I ordered him to his cell and he went without a word, and was ever afterward as quiet as possible. So what promised at first to be an exciting experience proved a tame affair.