Adair County was organized on January 29, 1841 and named after Kentucky Governor and Senator John Adair. Adair County is located in northeast part of Missouri. In 2010, the US Census showed that Adair County contained 25,607. Since 2010 Kirksville, the biggest town in the County, has had multiple new businesses open and expand so the Kirksville population and economy are constantly growing.
History of Adair
On February 10, 1841, Missouri Governor Thomas Reynolds appointed Adair Counties very first Sheriff. Reynolds chose Isaac Eby to fill the position. Eby would be given multiple duties that Sheriff’s today do not have including collecting taxes. Eby would hold the position of Adair County’s first Sheriff until 1844.
In 1855, W.H. Sheeks would take the office of Sheriff defeating John Adkins who served from 1851-1854. Sheriff Sheeks would eventually convince the county to build an actual jail in 1855, as they had been housing detainees in a log structure since Adair Counties inception. Once the small brick building was finished, residents of Adair County were in awe of what they thought to be a escape-proof facility. The residents were correct until 1873 when several detainees escaped. After the break out, it became a common occurrence for the detainees to escape as the people in charge allowed the condition of the facility to decline.
On April 12, 1865, the Courthouse that was built in 1843, caught fire. Many thought that is was intentional but it was never proven. The land that the old court house sat on became a park and the County of Adair sat without an actual courthouse for over 30 years. In 1897 voters would finally approve for funds to be collected to build a new courthouse on the square. This building has had several changes and upgrade but is still the functioning courthouse we know today.
Approximately 8 years later in 1905, voters would approve for a new Sheriff’s residence and jail to be built. In that time period, wives of Sheriff’s were expected to live in the Sheriff’s residence, clean the jail, doing the detainees laundry and cook their food. This jail also had issues with individuals escaping so the Sheriff at the time John T. Curry, had extra bars and steel partitions added. The ultimately could not support the added weight and it began to sag causing the bars to warp over time. By 1950 the extra security measures actually had the opposite effect, making it easier for detainees to escape. The Sheriff who served from 1949 to 1956, G.E. Grossnickle, said that the only cell that would properly latch is the padded cell. All other cells required chains and padlocks to be properly secure. Grossnickle’s successor, Olin Johnson who would serve 1957-1964, said that the jails condition was so bad that they had to use old tobacco cans to cover rat holes. Sheriff Leon Coy would be forced to close the jails doors for the final time in 1973.
Adair County voters would approve to build a new jail in the mid 1970’s. The same building is used to house detainees today but it did receive a major rebuild in 2003 under Sheriff Leonard Clark. In 2021 the Adair County Jail is a 64 bed facility that houses over 1,000 inmates a year.
Sheriffs of Adair County
Sheriff Eldon Grissom—2021-Current
Sheriff Robert Hardwick—2009-2020
Sheriff Leonard Clark—2001-2008
Sheriff Randy Forquer—1985-2000
Sheriff James Kemp—1977-1984
Sheriff Leon McCoy—1965-1976
Sheriff Olin E. (Swede) Johnson—1957-1964
Sheriff G.E. (Shag) Grossnickle—1949-1956
Sheriff Alex Brown—1945-1948
Sheriff Robert Love Jr.—1941-1944
Sheriff Arthur Floyd—1937-1940
Sheriff Charles Novinger—1933-1936
Sheriff Joseph Winslow—1929-1932
Sheriff Marion Shoop—1925-1928
Sheriff Emery Waddell—1921-1924
Sheriff Marion Shoop—1917-1920
Sheriff Samuel Willis—1913-1916
Sheriff George Williams—1909-1912
Sheriff John Curry—1905-1908
Sheriff Charles Roberts—1901-1904
Sheriff Robert Blackledge 1897-1900
Sheriff George Rupe—1893-1897
Sheriff E.A. Polley—1891-1892
Sheriff George Williams—1889-1890
Sheriff J.H. Kinnear—1885-1888
Sheriff John Shaver—1881-1884
Sheriff Phillip Smith—1877-1880
Sheriff J.D. Miller—1873-1876
Sheriff A.J. Knight—1871-1872
Sheriff Edwin Darrow—1867-1870
Sheriff John Owenby—1863-1864
Sheriff Andrew Beatty—1859-1862
Sheriff W.H. Sheeks—1855-1858
Sheriff John Adkins—1851-1854
Sheriff Isham Dodson—1847-1850
Sheriff Preston Mulanix—1845-1846
Sheriff Isaac Eby—1841-1844