Stratton served as Allegan Sheriff from 1893 to 1896. At that time, the Allegan jail was standing not far from where the current jail museum is located. Joseph Stratton was a respected citizen of Allegan County. He was a dedicated, skilled lawman who served the county well but his term was not without controversy.
In 1894 a gang of masked bandits stopped a slow moving train. They robbed the passengers before taking off on horseback. Sheriff Stratton was notified by telegraph of the robbery. He and his deputies went off in search of the desperados. They eventually came upon a disreputable group of guys hovering around a campfire and held them. Several hours later, after some investigation, Stratton was convinced the men weren’t involved and let them go. His search continued.
What Stratton didn’t know is that because the train was also a mail train, a U.S. Federal Marshal and the well-known Pinkerton Detective Agency had gotten involved in the investigation. It is believed that Stratton, unknowingly, arrested the U.S. Marshal when he found the man nosing around the evidence.