Jesse Hargreave Healey
First Sheriff of Henry County, Indiana
This letter appeared in the New Castle Courier August, 1880
In fulfillment of a promise I made last week to do my part toward rescuing from oblivion some of the names conspicuous in the early settlement of the county. I have selected the name, which heads this column not because he was the most prominent in the list of names, but because of my more intimate knowledge of his history. As I write this the long list of the dead, whose names I gave you last week, rise up before me like a picture gallery, and I see clearly each one as he appeared in life before joining the 'innumerable throng' who preceded him to the land 'from which no traveler returns.'
Early life however humble, Is a lesson which may be profitably studied. Sometimes it is an example, and sometimes a lesson. It is customary and allowable to delineate the best traits in character, just as the skillful artist conceals blemishes in his portraits, the exhibition, which might offend the eye. The weakness of human nature is so well known that no good could result from reviewing in reminiscences like those I propose to write, a collection of what may as well be outlived. I shall leave the dark side of the picture to be drawn by others, where it exists in any case, but to Jesse Healey I can safely say there was no dark side A more upright, conscientious man, both as an officer and a citizen I have never known.
Born in North Carolina in the year 1794, son of Hugh and Sophia Hargreave Healy. He immigrated to the State of Indiana in the year 1813, settling near Richmond, but in the spring of 1821 he removed to Henry county where he spent the remainder of his life, until his death on 25 Feb 1856.
The State of Indiana was then five years old and by an act of her legislature, which then convened in Corydon, the Court of Henry county was organized. Thomas R. Stafford and Elisha Long were made Associate Judges. Rene Julian made Clerk and Jesse Healey, Sheriff. He then proceeded to open the Court and discharge such duties as devolve upon an officer in an infant county where everything else existed except people, business, commerce and money. The first named settlers had to be invited to settle and improve the rich lands in which the county abounded, and their industry must create the other.
I was just old enough to remember Hugh Healey the father of Jesse, who had served through the Revolutionary war and died here on August 31, 1824. The fact is impressed on my memory because there were then quite a number living here who had served during that war and they buried their comrades and fired the usual salute over his grave, a thing that a boy would not easily forget.
The term of the Sheriff's office was then as now, two years, and having served his time, Healey retired and was succeeded by Ezekiel Leavell in 1825. He then worked on a farm during the Summer and taught school in the Winter and was a good teacher and well up in the branches. He professed to teach until August, 1829, when he the Legislature having created the office of Probate Judge, he was chosen to fill that place and discharged the duties for the full term of seven years, and was succeeded by Judge Samuel Hoover. Two years after retiring from the office of Probate Judge, 1838, he was chosen a member of the legislature and served his constituents faithfully until about the close of the session, when, yielding to a custom then perhaps more common than it is now, he got intoxicated. His friends were much surprised and mortified and remonstrated at the impropriety of his conduct, but he justified it on the grounds that while he had been elected mainly by the Whig party, to which he belonged, quite a number of Democrats had voted for him and he could not represent them without becoming intoxicated. It was the knowledge of this, however, that defeated him the following year, 1839, for the same place. Col. Ralph Berkshire was, that year, elected over him by one vote having Robert M. Cooper as his colleague. Healey then resumed his business of farming and teaching school until 1849, when he again elected Sheriff of this county, and served two years, and being succeeded by Joshua Johnson, because the Whig party no longer had a majority of the votes. It would be impossible to discharge the duties of that office better than Judge Healey did. If a Sheriff will follow the commands of his writ strictly, he will never make a mistake, and this he did. Where trouble arises with these officers, it is because they have made no effort to execute the writ as commanded, or set up their own judgment against the law and the order of the Court.
In order to show the great increase in the revenue of the county, I will add, that I have heard Healey say, that in 1824, he was ex-officio tax collector of this county, and having collected the State tax of that year, which amounted to $112.00, he took the money and walked to Corydon, the Capitol, and paid it into the State Treasury. At the present rate of compensation, there would have been little left after paying the Treasurer's mileage on that sort of journey.
The office of Sheriff was the last place of public trust which he held, and the emoluments enabled him to purchase a small tract of land east of Spiceland, in this county, on which he resided until his death, which occurred on February 25, 1856, his wife Sarah (Bundy) Healey passed away on July 7, 1871. Both are buried in the Lick Branch Baptist church cemetery in Prairie Township in this county, beloved and respected by all who knew them.
No man ever had warmer friends and fewer enemies than the subject of this sketch, and few have lived a more upright and blameless life.