The reputation of onetime Daviess County Sheriff William F. Flint was tarnished by an unexplained theft of over $16,000 — plus $2,000 in tax money for the county’s School Fund — in 1871. Were the Flint brothers victims of circumstance or unconvicted robbers? The truth may never be known.
The Flint Brothers came to Daviess County in 1841 with their parents, the Rev. and Mrs. George Flint. William F. Flint was the oldest child and Thomas J. (Tom) Flint was the second son. There were four other boys and two sisters in the family.
Bill and Tom Flint became school teachers in Daviess County. Both became Union infantry officers during the Civil War, commanding mostly Daviess County men. Both then became county officeholders in November, 1868, Bill as Sheriff and Tom as treasurer. In 1870, Tom became sheriff replacing Bill in that office.
Bill Flint was named after his grandfather, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War. He was elected Lt. Colonel of the 33rd Regiment E.S.M. in 1862, the same unit commanded later by Samuel Cox while “Bloody Bill” Anderson was killed. Two months before the Battle of Westport (Aug. 1864), Bill commanded Company F of the 43rd Reg. M.V.I. comprised of Daviess County men. Tom was an officer in that same unit. Both served until June 30, 1865, with Bill as captain and Tom as 2nd Lt.
Bill was Daviess County sheriff when Capt. John Sheets was murdered during the 1869 robbery of the Daviess County Savings Association, allegedly by outlaws Frank and Jesse James. Bill married Mary Ford; the family, with seven children, lived in Gallatin in 1869.
On March 4, 1871, when Tom was taking over as sheriff, Bill was reportedly robbed while in Kansas City. Bill and Tom were on their way to deliver the 1870 tax money payable at Jefferson City, totalling $16,780. Bill also had $2,000 in Daviess County School Funds when he was hit on the head and robbed near the Gillis House Hotel. All the money was reportedly taken from under Bill’s shirt after the disabling blow to his head, from which Bill recovered. Tom was not with Bill at that place and time.
Kansas City Police did not find the money nor the robbers. One newspaper report hinted that the robbery was staged, and questioned if the robbery, as described, ever took place. The state funds did not have to be replaced because of a law waiving liability for funds lost to robbers. Since Bill should not have had the school funds with him, however, he was required to replace the money and pay the court costs. The total $3,000 was settled in September, 1873.
The hint of suspicion was compounded when the Daviess County Court demanded that Tom Flint have his bonding increased to $240,000. This indicated a lack of trust in Tom as sheriff. After the 1872 election, Tom’s accounts were found to be over $9,000 short, and Tom was unable to explain the shortage. He sold all that he had, and his bondsman had to pay part of the final settlement totalling $13,500. This was settled in February, 1874.
Col. William F. Flint died in 1892 and his cemetery stone lays unattended in the north Coffey Cemetery.
Prepared by David Stark