Jackson County’s first law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty was a 24-year old deputy sheriff who was shot by an outlaw less than two years after Florida became part of the United States.
John T.J. Trippe, a deputy to Sheriff William M. Loftin, died on September 19, 1825. No county records survive to explain what happened to him, but the Pensacola Gazette noted the following month that, “His death is believed to be the result of a wound he received from a ruffian about 18 months since, but which apparently, had long since healed.” (1)
Infection was not well understood in those days and it was common for people with wounds to suffer illness or death even though the injury might appear to have healed over. This often happened to soldiers and others – such as law enforcement officers – who were shot in the line of duty.
The mortuary notice dated the incident in which Trippe was wounded to around January 1823. Jackson County was then only five months old and extended from the Alabama line to the Gulf of Mexico. The Choctawhatchee River was its western border and from there it extended all the way east to the Suwannee River. Marianna did not yet exist, a site for a permanent county seat had not been selected and the sheriff, William Loftin, lived on St. Andrew Bay in what is now Panama City.
The county’s officials were still appointed by the governor in 1823 and their meeting place, pending further instructions from the Legislative Council, was at the “Big Spring of the Chipola,” a landmark known today as Blue Springs (or Jackson Blue Spring).
The newspaper eulogized the 24-year old deputy sheriff:
That Society should be deprived of an amiable and interesting young man, in the flower and spring of life, is a matter of deep regret, even when occasioned by the ordinary dispensations of an overruling and just Providence, but when such an event is produced by the hand of an assassin, it creates feelings too poignant for common expression. He sustained the relations of son and brother in a manner that endeared him to his family, while living and will not be forgotten, now he is no more. In fact, his death will long be deplored by all who knew him, for so long as fraternal regard shall be cherished, so long as filial affection shall be respected, so long as an ardent attachment to friends shall be valued, * so long as a high minded, honorable and gentlemanly course through life is regarded in society, so long will the name of Mr. Trippe live in the memory of his friends, and so long will they mourn over their sad bereavement.(2)
Most of Jackson County’s earliest records were destroyed when the courthouse burned on November 30, 1848, and nothing more is known at present about the incident in which Deputy Sheriff Trippe was wounded.
From early land records, it is known that he lived within the modern limits of Jackson County. The Trippe family settled along the north side of Waddell’s Mill Pond during the early 1820s. It was an area of rich farmland with good water and a nearby grist and saw mill.
Trippe’s name is not yet included on Jackson County’s Officer Memorial which honors those who gave their lives for their fellow county citizens. Hopefully further research will uncover enough information for it to be added. You can learn about others who have given their lives in the line of duty by visiting the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department’s Officer Memorial page at http://jcsheriff.com/memorial.html.
You can also stop by the Sheriff’s Department at 4012 Lafayette St, Marianna, FL 32446 and pay respects at the stone memorial which stands outside near the front doors. Use this map if you need directions:
(1) Mortuary Notice, Pensacola Gazette, October 22, 1825, Page 3.