Current Adair County Sheriff:
Jeff Vandewater

Adair County Sheriff’s Past and Present
Present Adair County Sheriff Staff

Adair County was created January 15, 1851 by an act of the 3rd General Assembly. Adair County was named for General John Adair a General in the war of 1812. The county seat was located in Summerset in 1855 with the first courthouse being built in 1856.

The courthouse contained the offices of Clerk of Court and Sheriff. The year that the first county jail was built is not certain but it is believed to have been in 1855 or 1856 and also was located in Summerset. The county jail contained the offices of Treasurer, Auditor and Recorder. In June of 1857 the town of Summerset changed its name to present day Fontanelle. The first Sheriff of Adair County was Abner Root who was elected to office in January of 1854. In the spring of 1864 a long standing neighborhood feud resulted in the murder of a solider home on furlough. The murderer was arrested and placed in the county jail in Fontanelle. Relatives of the dead man battered down the jail door against the earnest protest of Sheriff John Shreves proceeded to take the prisoner from the jail, hang him from a tree and riddled his body with bullets. Efforts were made to bring the mob to justice but no testimony could be secured against them. Between 1865 and 1874 three votes were brought up trying to move the county seat to Greenfield. The vote of 1874 finally was in favor of the move, but the vote was appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court. On March 22, 1875 about 250 men with 75 wagons not wanting to wait out the appeal process went to Fontanelle and removed the records and furniture from the courthouse and jail. Sheriff C.B. Hunt strongly opposed these proceedings but was powerless against the group. Judge Mitchell issued a court order and ordered the sheriff to see that all items were returned to Fontanelle. Sheriff Hunt attempted to carry out the order but the order was snatched from his hands and destroyed. On March 23, 1875 General N.B. Baker the State Adjutant General succeeded in getting the items returned to Fontanelle. In June 1875 the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the election and announced Greenfield as the legal county seat. Records indicate that there was no formal county jail between 1875 and 1903 as prisoners were taken to other counties for safekeeping. The present Adair County Jail in Greenfield was built in 1903 at a cost of $11,990.00. The two-story jail building contained seven living rooms for the sheriff or jail employees in the front part of the building and six steel cells for prisoners in the rear of the building. The carpentry, plumbing and heating were considered state-of-the-art for the time. This jail facility is still in use today. Prior to October of 1978 the Sheriffs’ Office and dispatch center was located in the courthouse. In October of 1978 the living quarters at the jail were remodeled into offices and a communications center and the Sheriffs’ Office was moved to the jail building.