When Benny Kirk visited the Sheriff’s Office in Elkton a few years ago, he paused to look over a series of photographs hanging on the wall. These weren’t mug shots from recent arrests or some of the most wanted criminals that caught his attention. They were aging images of men who served the county as its chief law enforcement officer over time. A bunch of them were there, all except one. It was his great-grandfather Cecil Kirk, who was elected to the position in 1905.
Having noticed the gap, Benny was on a mission to supply a photo of his relative so he contacted another family member, Sally McKee. As a genealogist and volunteer with the county historical society, the Rising Sun resident is a wealth of information and she helped out. Not only did the family historian have photos and documents, but also the appointing commission. Once the image was copied, Sheriff Barry Janney added this long ago public servant to the “Sheriff’s Wall.
As a candidate with Cecil’s minority Republican Party, the popular farmer was elected to public office three times. Before his criminal justice stint, he served as a delegate in the legislature and after doing time at the jail, he took on the responsibilities of the Clerk of the Court.
It was a Friday in December 1905 that the Principio area farmer moved to Elkton with his wife, Alice, and an infant, settling into the commodious apartment the county provided for its chief lawman. It was on the second floor of the jail. This old lockup built for chicken and horse thieves, drunkards, unruly types, cold-blooded murderers, and evildoers was going to be home for this young family.
Curtis Davis Kirk, Benny’s father, was just over one year old when the family started living with criminals and undesirable types of all classes. The next spring (1906) Sally’s mother Anna May was born in the lockup. Some years after the family returned to farming, Anna May walked into Colora school one morning dressed in blue. “Oh we have a little bluebird,” someone remarked. “No I’m a jailbird,” her mother uncharacteristically responded, Sally recently recalled. Another child, Cecil Dare, was born after the lawman finished his term.
To take care of his many duties, including enforcing the law, keeping criminals behind bars, and serving the courts, he had one deputy. Myron Miller filled that roll, the Rising Sun newspaper, the Midland Journal, reported. By-the-way, the paper also noted that he was the first sheriff from the Rising Sun area since 1857. That around-the-clock responsibility was a lot for two men in a county of 25,000 people for they would often have 20 criminals behind bars.
These jobs were usually family affairs, in those days. While the sheriff and his deputy took care of law enforcement activities, the responsibility for looking after the jail in those days often fell to the wife, when the men were away. She was often helped by a trusted prison, a trusty. And Alice, his wife, probably cooked two meals a day for this gang of jailbirds.
During his first two-year term, dangerous police work was sometime required. Five days after taking on the job, he got a Sunday evening call to rush to Chesapeake City as a disturbance was going on. He brought his man back to Elkton, to appear before a magistrate the next day. The next month, the officer got a Sunday night call to rush to Cowentown to help a Pinkerton Detective and Railroad Officer capture a forger.
In 1907, he received an urgent telegram from Baltimore advising that a gang of armed desperadoes had practically taken charge of a northbound P. B. & W. freight train. A conductor managed to throw off a note at a signal tower, alerting the operator to flash a message to Elkton, the Midland Journal reported. As he hastily rounded up and swore in a posse, a dozen citizens, to help, another urgent telegram arrived, this one from Perryville. The gang shot and robbed two hobos, forcing them to jump from the moving cars.
When the freight stopped for a signal at the Elkton tower, the robbers took flight as they were outnumbered and outgunned by revolvers and shotguns. With shots ringing out the sheriff’s posse captured all of them,, lodging the dangerous types in the county pen.
The 75-year-old Cecil County political leader, lawman, and successful farmer passed away in 1944. He was survived by his wife, Alice, one daughters Mrs. Paul McKee (Sally’s mother) and two sons Curtis (Benny’s father), and Cecil Jr. of Colora. He was buried in Hopewell Cemetery. Now thanks to the efforts of the family, his photo has been added to the Sheriff’s wall at the agency’s Elkton headquarters.