By Richard O Jones
For the Butler County Historical Society
A few weeks ago, I was toasting the last episode of the television series “Justified,” based on characters by the crime writer Elmore Leonard. The hero is a federal marshal, Raylan Givens, and in the seven year run of the show, he became my favorite TV tough guy.
A day or two later, I was looking something up in Stephen D. Cone’s Biographical and Historical Sketches: A Narrative of Hamilton and Its Residents (1896) , and stumbled upon a passage reminding me that Hamilton had its own tough guy marshal back in the day, a slave chaser named John C. Elliott.
His earliest claim to fame was as the man who most likely killed the founding Mormon prophet Joseph Smith while his tribe was making its way West. Having been expelled from Ohio and Missouri, the Mormons founded the city of Nauvoo in Illinois in 1839. By 1844, the city had grown to over 15,000, bigger than Chicago at the time, and Smith’s popularity was such that he decided to make a run for the Presidency of the United States.