Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sheriff's Wife Gets a Shock

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sheriff's Wife Gets a Shock

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Jo McTammany, County Line columnist

On a Tuesday evening in May 1894, a shot rang out through the still night in Green Cove Springs, and Alice Peeler's life changed forever.

It was a little before then when a frantic knocking on the door was heard for the first time. Surely she had retired for the evening, what with five children -- stair-stepped from 6 months to 10 years -- to wrangle all day, as well as the church and social work her position as wife of Clay County's sheriff required.

She married Josephus Peeler in March 1882, hooked her wagon to this fast-rising star in Clay County business and politics and never regretted a minute of it. The man she married was a prosperous farmer and Green Cove Springs merchant. They lived in town and certainly a future elected county office was on the horizon. His father, William, had served as a legislator, a county clerk and judge. Young Josephus was rooted in the community, successful and popular. He was being groomed for bigger things.

In 1889, Josephus was elected sheriff and perhaps her feelings were a little mixed at the honor. After all, Clay County was still a dangerous and rugged place and the sheriff was right at the front lines. Daytime in the town itself was the picture of civilization. Come the weekend, though, when a powerful thirst for whiskey and action brought young cowboys, field hands and miscellaneous anonymous strangers into town to socialize, it turned into a different place.

The pretense of law and order pretty much ended at the city limits. When venturing much further out, men and women were armed. They were also willing to shoot. Knowing that an earlier sheriff, Clay Wright, turned up missing under suspicious circumstance did nothing to relieve her mind.

Josephus was hardly back in the house from answering the first call that night before pounding was heard on the front door again. …

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