front cover art by William Sawicki

The following account is from the Clinton County Sesquicentennial book released in 1980. It was written by Kenneth S. Power (1909-1997), who was born in Clinton County, practiced law in Frankfort, and was Mayor of Frankfort from 1955-1959.

His father, Dan Power, had also been Mayor, and before that Sheriff, which is told of below.

My Clinton County

by Kenneth S. Power

I was born in Scircleville and shortly thereafter moved to a farm northeast of Frankfort. My only recollection of that place was that I had a horse I called my own, and when Dad would drive him I would throw rocks at him. This seemed very funny until one day I got him, and then I am told the game ended abruptly.

We then moved to the Morris Farm three and one-half miles east on the Kelly Road, where I spent my boyhood from 1913 to 1923; with 320 acres to roam it was a good upbringing. As I grew a little older, I got the job as water boy for the threshing ring, which consisted of some 15 to 20 farmers who helped one another. In addition to that I trapped for muskrats and so always had some money on hand. The farm life at that time was rather primitive by today’s standards. It consisted of early rising in the morning, first going out to help milk cows, then back to carry in water and wood, and clean up. My sister, Evelyn, and I did the dishes for what was usually about a dozen people. Each session we had about half a dozen fights of which I think I won most of them, and then my sister, Aletha, walloped me. By that time the horse-drawn school hack was on hand and we were taken off to school.

In the fall of 1922 Dad was elected Sheriff and we moved into the old County Jail and I then began to enjoy city living. I contrast today’s operation of the various elected offices and remember that the Sheriff served all Court papers, most of which are now mailed; Mother cooked for the prisoners at 20 cents a meal; and when the jail was vacant I got the job of cleaning it and all of us acted as turnkey. Probably the outstanding actions my father had as Sheriff were his solving of the Gladden murder case and the capture of Dan Morgan and two other bank robbers north of town. They had hidden their burglar tools in a culvert there and Dad went out with a small posse and lay in wait until they got all their tools in their possession, whereupon he stepped out and gave the command, “Hands up in the name of the law.” Morgan immediately shot at him, Dad returned the favor, and Morgan fell. Dad thought he had killed him, but it turned out that Morgan had stepped into the side ditch, which probably accounted for both of them missing. There was some fear that their criminal friends might attempt to free them, and so at age 14 I would stand watch outside from midnight until daylight to report any strange actions. Dad would sleep a little bit, and then about 11 o’clock drive the county roads in places where women had a lot of chickens for sale, or a farmer had livestock that might tempt the criminal. Dad caught quite a few of them; they were convicted and sent to prison.

During my early teens I delivered papers and mowed lawns for my money, and it was a glorious time in my life. Beginning at age 10 I got to drive the horse and buggy from the farm into town to bring my sisters and cousin to school. In the latter part of my school here, most of us had no money to spend, but we would all stand around and talk on Bon Merritt’s corner. Frankfort was a Saturday night town, and the people came to town in droves. As the young people circled endlessly around the Square, on each corner was a hand controlled traffic policeman.

Frankfort had wonderful basketball teams under Everett Case, and when we went to the state tournaments we always went by interurban. When the team returned victorious in 1925, they stopped the interurban in the middle of Main Street opposite the Court House for a wild celebration. During the summer on Saturday nights and sometimes Sunday, Karl Kraft’s band played and drew crowds every time.

I finally got into law school in 1929 and very nearly starved; there was no money nor work, and I would hitch-hike home to fill up on week ends and take sandwiches back with me. Times were terribly hard; however, I still remember so fondly the good meals we had in Clinton County.

Then along came World War II, by which time I was married to the beautiful Virginia Cristy and was the father of three daughters. I volunteered for the Navy, asking for sea duty, and made five trips to the Mediterranean, some of which were quite exciting.

Upon returning I became active in community affairs and finally became president of the Chamber of Commerce at which time the Peter-Paul Company agreed to come to Frankfort. The railroads, which probably supported about 25 percent of Frankfort, were fading away, and it was necessary that new industry be found to replace that loss. We started a Land Trust effort at that time, and upon being elected Mayor I made a few trips to New York to find out what might help obtain new industries. I contacted the Fantus Factory Locating Service and eventually they located National Seal here. The Chamber of Commerce has done remarkably well in locating other new industries on the land purchased with funds from the Land Trust.

These thoughts were assembled May 11, 1980, Mother’s Day. A 70-year-old man’s eyes grow misty as he remembers.

One thought on ““My Clinton County” by Kenneth S. Power: Farm Life and Crime Fighting in early 1900s Clinton County

  1. I am Ronald Clidence my Great Grandmother was Elizabeth Emmaline Power Lewis married to Albert Lewis. Sam Lewis was their son,my Grandfather.Do you have any memories of Sam and Mable you would like to share?I’m so glad to run across your article. A Pat Biery of Clinton County sent me the article about Dan Power staking out the three crooks. My parents Harold and Lena Clidence have passed away but at one time I believe they retained lawyer services from the Power offices.Dad owned and run the Twin Gables in Frankfort in the fifties across from Goodwin’s Funeral. Is this book available on Amazon?

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