"History of Lincoln, Oneida, and Vilas Counties Wisconsin"

Compiled by George O.Jones, Norman S. McVean and Others. Printed in 1924 by H.C.Cooper. Jr. & Co., Minneapoli-Winona MN. ill. 787 pages. The first two hundred pages are history of the three counties, the remainder of the book is biographies.


Radcliffe, John formerly sheriff of Vilas County, in the performance of the duties of which office he was shot to death by a criminal he was endeavoring to apprehend, was born in Liverpool, England, July 11, 1850. He was six year old when he came to the United States with his parents, who settled on a farm at Bancroft, Portage County, Wis. There he secured a common school education. He was married at the age of 21 to Caroline RICH, who died shortly after. Following his marriage he taught in Portage County schools for a period of five years. In 1875, at Bancroft, he married Annie M. RAGAN, and of which union seven children were born, of whom six were living at the time of Mr. RADCLIFFE'S death, namely, Jonas, Amos, William, Arthur, Grace and Ruby. About 1888 the RADCLIFFES removed from Bancroft to Minocqua, where Mr. RADCLIFFE operated a sawmill; he also taught two terms in the Minocqua schools and in that place the family spent about five years. When Vilas County was formed in 1893 John RADCLIFFE moved to Eagle River as deputy county clerk to T. L. LOUGHLIN. He was deputy register of deeds 1895-96; clerk of court 1897-98; county clerk 1899-1900; supervisor of assessments 1900-10, and was elected sheriff in the fall of 1910. He was also chairman of the town of Eagle River at the time the state granted the town a charter to build the dam at Otter Rapids. It was about 4 p.m. on Thursday, July 6, 1911, that Sheriff RADCLIFFE was shot at Conover by Tony IMPERIO, an Italian white slaver whom he had placed under arrest and was endeavoring to search for weapons; he died 23 hours later. His deputy, John E. HANSON, was also wounded but not seriously, while G. L. CARTER, another deputy, narrowly escaped a bullet. Sheriff RADCLIFFE had received a message from Sheriff CROFOOT of Rhinelander asking him to arrest Tony IMPERIO and another Italian named, or called, Philip ROBERTS. These two had arrived in Eagle River, accompanied by another man, had secured a rig to take them to Conover and were driven to that village by a man named Olmstead. The intention of the two men was to catch the train at Conover, get across the state line and so escape. It was while the two Italians were drinking ginger ale in a place kept by Henry STEINMETS, while waiting for the train, that they were arrested. When the officers began searching them for weapons, Imperio breaking loose, drew a revolver and opened fire. Deputy HANSON was shot in both legs and then Sheriff RADCLIFFE received a bullet through his right lung. The Italians escaped temporarily, but a large posse was called out in pursuit and after wandering about in the woods and brush for two days, they were finally captured on Saturday morning near the Reed school house two miles to the south and east of Conover, and were taken to the jail at Wausau. John RADCLIFFE was a man of sterling qualities who was never known to flinch from a duty imposed upon him. All who knew him knew that he was an honest, true and good man, and there were few men in the community who had more friends among the better element of society. He was an active worker in the Episcopal Church. His funeral was held from the Lyceum Opera House on Tuesday, July 11. The building, with a seating capacity of over 400, was crowded to standing room by his friends and neighbors. Rt. Rev. Bishop WELLER, a long-time friends to Mr. RADCLIFFE, delivered an eloquent eulogy coming direct from his heart that left few dry eyes in the assembly. The beautiful service for the burial of the dead was given by Bishop WELLER, assisted by Father SAMWELL. The funeral and burial were under the direction of the local Masonic order. Mr. RADCLIFFE being a Mason and Woodman, those orders marched in two formations. Big delegations attended from Rhinelander, Arbor Vitae, Minocqua and many other places. Six brothers and sisters also attended the burial of their relative. Thus passed from the community one of its best and most honored citizens, one whose memory shall long survive.

Transcribed by Susan Swanson, from pages 405-406 (with picture), History of Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas Counties Wisconsin; Compiled by George O. Jones, Norman S. McVean and Others 1924, H. C. Cooper, Jr. & Co

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