Archived news reports can help augment genealogical research, but should come embedded with a caveat emptor warning regarding editorial errors. That, I learned long ago. And don't intend to ever forget.
In the search for details on the life of murdered immigration officer Marshall Jackson of Winnipeg, I was elated to discover the local newspaper during the years he had lived in North Dakota is now part of the Chronicling America collection of the U.S. Library of Congress. Still, I made sure to proceed cautiously in case of any potential editorial hazards.
My goal in checking each mention of Marshall Jackson's name in the North Dakota newspapers in the Chronicling America collection was to see whether the memorial comments printed in Winnipeg following his passing were indeed accurate. In particular, the Manitoba Free Press had mentioned that "Marsh" had once served as Sheriff in Fargo, North Dakota.
Already, I was discovering that that report was not entirely correct. Fargo was located in Cass County, while we have already seen that, at least in the 1900 census, Marshall Jackson was serving as constable in the town of Neche in Pembina County to the north.
While Cass County isn't Pembina County—and constable doesn't equal sheriff—I thought there might still be some truth to the matter, so I trawled through the many references to Marshall Jackson found in the Chronicling America collection to see what I could find.
Right away, I found a mention of some activity of interest. From The Pioneer Express, Pembina's newspaper, on August 24, 1900:
Marshal Jackson of Neche was in the city on Wednesday evening and made us a pleasant call. Mr. Jackson was on his way to Drayton and expected to make several calls on his way. He informs us that he expects to be a candidate for the office of sheriff before the republican county convention, and from present prospects confidently expects the nomination. Mr. Jackson's record as a police officer and constable is of the best and proves him to be a faithful and efficient officer worthy of promotion.
While the slant on that article slides farther toward editorial spin than news reporting, it does show us that Marsh at least intended to run for sheriff.
A second such insertion in the same newspaper—this time on September 7—shows the man was busy pursuing his political dream.
Marshal Jackson of Neche was in town last week talking politics to some of the boys. "Marsh" is spoken of as a likely candidate for sheriff on the republican ticket.
Sure enough, in a column of convention reports gathered in the September 19 edition of the Grand Forks Daily Herald, one day after the republican county convention in Neche, Marshall Jackson's name appeared among those who had been nominated. It was now official: he was running for sheriff.
Now it was time to get to work. As election day drew near, Marsh did seem to be out there, connecting with prospective voters, according to mentions like this one in The Pioneer Express on October 19:
Marshall Jackson and J.W. Harvey have been canvassing this district and apparently are well pleased with prospects. They are both good fellows and deserve a popular vote.
It may have been too early for such confidence. The local newspaper began printing the list of candidates for all offices in late October. Marsh was running against Democrat candidate F.J. Farrow. From what I can glean from other editions of The Pioneer Express, Farrow appeared to be the incumbent.
As it turned out, Marshall Jackson couldn't generate enough support among the voters by the time of the November election. The tally—not printed in the Express until November 9—showed our man gleaning a total of 1,412 votes. His opponent, Sheriff Farrow, came in at 1,759. I'll let you do the math.
Still, there's one thing I've noticed about researching ancestors and others who once served in law enforcement careers: you can find a lot of mentions of their name in the local paper. Considering I received five pages worth of hits at Chronicling America for Marshall Jackson's name—within the limited time frame of his few years in the Dakota Territory and new state of North Dakota—it appeared there was a lot more to learn about his career as constable than in his brief run for sheriff.