Newt Purcell has known Butler County since he was a boy, and the people of that county have known him throughout this period as an upright and straight-forward citizen, one who had gained his position in life by hard struggle and conscientious effort, and who is equal to duties that have devolved upon him. For a number of years he had been connected with the sheriff’s office, and is now serving his second term as sheriff.
Mr. Purcell was born in James County, Tennessee, December 25, 1876, a son of Samuel E. and Mary (Kimbrough) Purcell, both natives of the same state. Newt was a child of five years when his parents left Tennessee and first came to Kansas. They located in Butler County, south of Augusta, but remained only two years. Conditions in all parts of Kansas were then somewhat discouraging, and the Purcell family decided they would fare better in Tennessee. However, in 1885 they were again on the road to the west. This time they came across the country in a prairie schooner drawn by a team of mules. Their objective point was Western Kansas. They traveled in their prairie schooner over miles and miles of country, visited several counties, and that long journey had remained fresh in Sheriff Purcell’s mind to the present day. They found no suitable location in the western counties and finally returned to Butler County, again locating near Augusta. The first few years here represented a hard struggle for existence. On coming to Butler County Mr. Purcell’s mother was sick, and his father had only $6 in cash to meet the numerous demands upon his purse. His father became a farmer, and after long and persistent work acquired a reasonable degree of success.
During these years Newt Purcell was being trained in the hard school of experience. He grew up on the farm near Augusta, and attended the district schools when there was no special need for his services at home. At the age of eighteen he left home and entered the service of the Santa Fe Railroad Company in a bridge construction gang. Not long afterward he was locomotive fireman on that road, with a run between Newton and Dodge City. He continued firing the locomotive for three years. A hard worker always, Mr. Purcell learned the value of a dollar early in life and had a keen eye to the future. While railroading he invested his surplus capital in lands and bought property near Augusta from time to time. This land is now valuable oil producing property.
In 1904 Mr. Purcell retired from the railroad to engage in farming and stockraising on his place. He continued one of the prosperous men in the vicinity of Augusta until 1910, when he was appointed under sheriff by Sheriff Moss. After four years in that position he was elected sheriff in 1914. Mr. Purcell had a fine balance of the qualities which make the capable executive officer of the law. He had courage in abundance, is determined, and zealous in the performance of his duty. His first term was so satisfactory to the people of Butler County that they showed their appreciation by re-electing him on November 7, 1916.
Mr. Purcell married March 28, 1895, Miss Birdie Cease, of Augusta, Kansas. She died January 19, 1896, leaving an infant son, Henry Newton Purcell. This son fell from a windmill and met accidental death August 12, 1901. On September 16, 1900, Sheriff Purcell married Miss Marian LaVanche Forgy. Mrs. Purcell was born at El Dorado, and her parents were early settlers in Butler County, coming from Pennsylvania. Mr. and Mrs. Purcell have two children: Icy Irene and Garland Newton, both of whom are now students in the El Dorado School.
Sheriff Purcell is well known in social and fraternal circles. He is a Thirty-Second Degree Scottish Rite Mason, a member of the Mystic Shrine, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, the Modern Woodmen of America and the Anti-Horse Thief Association. He and his wife are members of the Christian Church.
In politics he is a Republican. He grew up in the atmosphere of that party and in many ways had taken an active part in party councils in Butler County. During his seven years past experience in the sheriff’s office he had won the reputation of doing his duty faithfully and fearlessly. As a result of the rapid industrial development of Butler County, due to the exploitation of its oil and gas fields, much additional work both of a civil and criminal nature had devolved upon the sheriff’s office. He is making and had made a record second to none among the officials who have held that position in the past.