Frederick County Sheriff's Office
This is the Frederick Sheriff's Office preliminary effort at documenting some of the history associated with the Sheriff's Office. Local resident Doug Loy, a past employee of the Sheriff's Office and local history enthusiast is assisting the Sheriff's Office with this endeavor. This page provides information regarding the evolution of the law enforcement in Frederick County. The List of Sheriffs Page provides a list of all Sheriffs, either elected or appointed, in Frederick County. Since this is a preliminary effort, some information contained in these pages may be incomplete. With this in mind, we welcome input from citizens who can provide missing details or direct us to likely locations for the information.
The Sheriff began as an early form of English Law- Enforcement. During the Anglo-Saxon period, the basic units of society in England were groups of ten families, which were called tithing. This group was lead by an elected leader known as a tithingman. Each group of ten tithingmen (Representing One Hundred Families), was another elected official who held the title of "Reeve". These men had the powers of both the police and the judge. The next Socio-Political unit up was the Shire, which we know as a "County". The Shire was headed by an appointee of the crown and was known as a "Shire-reeve".
The Shire-reeve/ Sheriff basically was the entire local government himself, exercising Judicial authority and collecting taxes. In time, the Shire-reeve was relieved of his responsibilities and only had to be concerned with maintenance of law and order.
When a citizen had a crime committed against him, or knew of an offense, it was his obligation to raise a, "hue and cry", and citizens in the area were compelled to assist in the pursuit of the fleeing felon. The Shire-reeve accorded the group with the position of "posse comitatus" (Power of the County), with the help of the tithingmen the posse would bring the felon to justice.
A few centuries later a new form of Law- Enforcement began when officers were employed to assist the Shire-reeve to enforce laws of the country. These Officers were known as,"comes stabuli", or constable.
Around the thirteenth century the position of "Bailiff" evolved. He was responsible for maintaining a night watch inside the locked gates of the city. The Bailiff was a paid position, male who was over the age of sixteen and generally was untrained for their jobs.
Landholders, who were known as sergeants because they acquired their land through military service and were often called upon to assist the bailiff in his duties as their city would grow in size.
Frederick County became organized by the appointment of a "Court" of gentlemen justices who then were responsible for administrative, legislative and judicial functions in their counties. By English law, court members were usually appointed for life by the Governor, who in turn was appointed by the King. This system was to insure allegiance to the King by the leading citizens who gained dominance of their local society.
The office seekers or office holders were not held to "Partisan Identification" because the governing body, the county court, was a self-perpetuating group. The original members were selected by the Governor; the court would then appoint new members to fill vacancies as they occurred. The Clerk of the Court, Sheriff, Commissioner of the Revenue, and Treasurer are appointed by this court.
The Virginia Constitution of 1850 decided that County Court members would be elected from Magisterial Districts. The County Clerk was elected to a six-year term, Sheriff to a two-year term.
The Virginia Constitution of 1851 introduced us to popular elections of local officials. Even at this time, party politics was not involved in local elections. Prominent citizens were the office seekers in the county and did not see any reason to identify themselves with any national party.
In 1870, Virginia adopted the Underwood Constitution, the form of government that Frederick County uses today.
The Union Military had occupied Frederick County after the surrendering of the Civil War. It controlled the government by removing those office holders that the army did not feel serve in their best interest. When the Union army left in 1876 after the national elections, sentiments against the Republican Party (a.k.a. Federalist & Whigs) was so strong, those running for local races ran as Democrats. This Democratic Party prevailed for a hundred years, even in the Sheriffs races, as we know today.
In early Frederick County, the Sheriff was so highly regarded, his word was all that was needed to convict. His responsibilities was to be in charge of elections by deciding who was qualified to vote, when the polls would open and close, and he would vote in the case of a tie. To vote in early years, one must have been a white male, 21 years old, own 100 acres of unsettled property or 25 acres of property with a house for one year. The sheriff opened the polls on Election Day by reading the Governors Writ ordering the election. To vote, when someone's name was called, they would step forward, and in the presence of the sheriff, justices of the peace, the candidates, and his friends and neighbors, they would announce who they were voting for. The candidate, who would receive the vote, would step forward and bow before the voter, and the County Clerk would document the name of the supporter. The voter would hear people cheering from those who concurred with the vote he cast while others unhappily would give catcalls.
From the beginning, the Sheriff of Frederick County has been responsible for the local jail. The first jail was a twelve-foot square log building with a pillory, stocks and a whipping post that was located about at the same location of Rouss City Hall. This Jail was constructed in 1745 and was replaced a number of times at the same location before a fire finally destroyed it in 1843, forcing the construction of a brick two story jail to be built at 317 South Cameron St., Winchester in 1845. This jail was built to hold forty inmates.
Due to the constant increase in inmate population, the old jail was remodeled in 1907 and an addition was built in 1947 to accommodate the growth of inmates.
In 1990 Frederick County, Winchester, Clarke County opened a Regional Jail on Fort Collier Road, which is located in Frederick County. This jail's budget would be financially shared by the three jurisdictions and managed by a Jail Administrator, which would relieve the Sheriff of this long held responsibility.
On December 8, 1997 a $4.5 million Northwestern Regional Juvenile Detention Center opened right next to the Regional Jail. This 19,550 Sq. Ft. facilities budget is shared by area Jurisdictions of Frederick, Clarke, Warren, Shenandoah, and Page Counties, along with the City of Winchester.
The first appointed Sheriff and many others to follow had a tremendous job on his hands. Not only was he to collect taxes, serve as bailiff in court, conduct criminal investigations and deal with civil matters. The Sheriff at that time was solely responsible for the well-being of those inmates who was turned over to him, to serve time in the local jail for criminal activities. The Sheriff was obligated to confine the convicted inmate in a safe and humane manner as required by the law of that time. He was to make certain that the criminal was fed meals, and received medical attention as needed.
A short time passed, and as more people moved into the Winchester area, more were being sent to jail to do their time for wrongdoing. The Sheriff was overworked with all of his duties and needed Assistance with performing his law-enforcement. The governor authorized the Sheriff to appoint Under Sheriffs to assist him.
The Sheriff who was the "Chief Jailer" of the county jail soon delegated the authority of running the jail to one of his Under Sheriffs, and that person would be titled as a jailer. He like the Sheriff was responsible for Security, Custody and Control of the inmate, however the Jailer still must leave final decisions to the Sheriff. Like all areas, the population in Frederick County increased. Not only did the population increase in Frederick County, but also in the jail. The Jailer needed some help to maintain security in the jail. The Sheriff was able to obtain more personnel to work the jail thanks to the Governor. They would work under the direction of the Jailer. The title of the jailer was changed to "Head Jailer or Chief Jailer" and his subordinates were then titled as Jailers. The Chief Jailer would report to the Sheriff to keep him informed of the day-to-day operations of the Jail. In today's society, the title of Jailer has been changed to Corrections Officer due to the extensive training and knowledge that is now required due to the changing of laws that gave more rights to the Inmate than what was afford to him in the past. With changing the management from the Direction of the Sheriff to a Regional Jail Concept where several jurisdictions shares the cost's, the Chief Jailer no longer exists and now is managed by an Administrator who is selected by a jail board which consists of person's from each jurisdiction.
Frederick County had the first courthouse constructed west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Capt. John Hardin of the Militia (Seventh Frederick County Sheriff) built the forty-foot square log structure, which fronted Boscawen Street in 1744.
Upon the destruction of the old Market House, and leveling of Koonrod's (Conrad's) Hill, Cameron St. was built in 1821. Cameron Street prior to this time was farther west than it appears today. Cameron Street crossed through what is now City Hall Plaza, between the old County Courthouse and the County Jail (Now Rouss's City Hall). Koonrod's (Conrad's) Hill (present site of the Joint Frederick/Winchester Judicial Center) was named after the family whose house once stood on this hill.
The old courthouse became insecure, and unsafe. This forced a remodeling to be done in 1827. The inside walls was plastered while the outside was boarded. The entrance front was changed to the west side facing Loudoun Street as it does today. After the circulation of a petition on June 9, 1834, a two story brick, forty by fifty foot courthouse was built in the same location to replace the original log building. A prominent area merchant, James Brooking chaired the building committee to raise funds to construct the approximate $16,500.00 building, which was obtained by levies or taxes, and designed by a Baltimore, Maryland Architect Robert Cary Long. Brooking also served as a Justice in the county court.
In 1840, with the addition of a tower, the county courthouse as we know today was completed.
In July 1984, upon the completion of construction of a $6.7 million, 81,000 square foot Joint Judicial Center which is owned and maintained by the City of Winchester, Frederick County, the old courthouse was no longer being used for the Judicial Process as it had done for so many years before. The circuit court had not met in the old courthouse since January 1963 and the general district court moved out in 1984 upon completion of the Judicial Center.
Upon the courts moving to the Joint Judicial Center, the old courthouse was converted to be the meeting room of the Board of Supervisors. In 1996, upon the completion of the Frederick County Administration building at 7 North Kent Street (next door to the Joint Judicial Center), the Board of Supervisors moved to this new facility. The courthouse was then being used to house a museum.
Among the judges who sat on the bench of the old courthouse was Henry St. George Tucker who was later Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, Richard Parker who gained fame as the sitting judge over the trial of Abolitionist John Browns trial in Charlestown, (West) Virginia and consequently sent Brown to his death.
On November 11, 1743, the first step was taken towards bringing justice to Frederick County by the appointment of, "Gentlemen Justices". Morgan Morgan, Benjamin Borden, Thomas Chester, David Vance, Andrew Campbell, Marquis Calmes, George Hoge, Lewis Neill, William McMachen, Meredith Helms, John White, Thomas Little. Also, the appointment of the First Sheriff- Thomas Rutherford, First Clerk-James Wood, First County Surveyor- George Hume. All were appointed by The Honorable Sir William Gooch, Governor of Virginia. Governor Gooch selected people who he felt would be loyal to the King of England.
The court of "Gentlemen Justices" granted James Porteus, John Steerman, George Johnston and John Newport to Practice Law. James Porteus was appointed as "Kings Attorney" (Later titled Commonwealths Attorney) or the prosecutor. One Justice could hear minor Civil or Criminal Offenses, but the entire court heard more serious charges. Juries were utilized during this time and appeals were directed to the "General Court" in Jamestown (Later Richmond).
Most of the Gentlemen Justices were not Lawyers and received no pay. The Clerk of the Court normally kept the Justice's up with the law. The early Clerk was considered the chief administrator of the county, and like today, they recorded deeds and probated wills.
Due to the increased number of disputes and appeals to Richmond, it became necessary to appoint trained judges to travel around the "Circuit" to hear the appeals and a local Law Professor Henry Saint George Tucker was one of these Judges. Changes in the constitution made changes in the court system by electing members from magisterial districts.
The court was to elect one of his or her own to act as a presiding judge. The electorate would elect their clerk to a six-year term and the Sheriff to a two years term. After the Civil war, many of the administrative duties that the court was once responsible for was turned over to an elected Board of Supervisors which allowed the courts to do their job hearing criminal and civil cases.
The "Gentlemen Justices" system came to an end in 1902 when the state made a new constitution ending a system that has been in existence since 1634.
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