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Guilford County Sheriff's Office

History

The office of the sheriff has been a very important part of the society, economy, and polity of North Carolina from the very beginnings of the state. The sheriff was once called the Provost Marshal, but the name was changed early in North Carolina's history with the reorganization of the colonial government in 1739. The Civil Process handbook for Sheriff's states: "No other officer in the colony exercised such complete and absolute executive and administrative powers as the sheriff."

He was both the executive officer of the county court and the representative of the crown in the county just as the English sheriff was in England. The full power posse comitatus was his as a peace officer of the county. He was also a very important fiscal officer as the collecter of taxes for the colony, the county, and the parish. He was responsible for holding the elections of members of the legislature and the local vestries and through this exercised great influence over elections and the legislature. In most counties, he acted as vendee master, conducting public sales, and possessed important powers in connection with that office. All of these powers made the office of sheriff a position of great importance and one highly sought after and prized in colonial North Carolina.

In 1767, North Carolina was divided into six Judicial Districts: Wilmington, New Bern, Edenton, Halifax, Hillsborough and Salisbury. County courts were established in every county then "in esse" at the same time.  The sheriff had a very active role as the executive officer of the court. He and his crier opened court with a call for silence and attention and then called each action as it appeared on the docket. He submitted the names of the men summoned for service on the grand and petit juries when ordered to do so. In criminal actions, he had in his custody or under bond the defendants in the actions and suits before the court. If the defendant was in his custody or in jail he brought him before the court at the proper time to answer as the case required. The sheriff summoned the witnesses for the cases pending prior to the opening of court. During and after the court session the sheriff served the court's orders and writs, levied executions, proclaimed acquittals and supervised the infliction of punishments: the stocks and pillory, whippings, brandings, cropping of ears and hangings.

Though Guilford County was formed in 1771 and began conducting court business during this time no County Court Minutes exist for the period from 1771 to 1781. Some scant records are available through The Colonial Records of North Carolina, land records and a few other sources but much of the history of law enforcement in Guilford County in the 1770's possibly including the identities of up to four sheriff may be lost forever.

The search for the eighteenth century sheriffs of Guilford County County, especially those who served during the 1770's was painstaking and time consuming. Much of the original research had to be scrapped after it was discovered that most of the published materials regarding sheriffs and the dates they served including a couple of highly regarded histories of the county were inaccurate. Except for the dates of service for two sheriffs which I have noted within the text all information contained herein is from original historical documents and has wherever possible been verified by the use of two or more sources. The search for the missing sheriffs continue.

By Susan Vicent Pons, Former Guilford County Sheriff's Deputy, 1990

Former Sheriff's of Guilford

1986-1994 Walter A. Burch
1982-1986 James L. Proffitt
1966-1982 Paul H. Gibson
1962-1966 Clayton H. Jones
1945-1962 John E. Walters
1942-1945 John C. Story
1932-1942 Joe S. Phipps
1912-1932 David B. Stafford
1906-1912 Burgess E. Jones
1900-1906 James F. Jordan
1898-1900 Joel Henry Gilmer
1894-1898 Joseph A. Hoskins
1890-1894 John W. Cook
1888-1890 Joseph A. Hoskins
1884-1888 Oliver C. Wheeler
1881-1884 Joel Henry Gilmer
1880-1881 James Cunningham
1865-1880 Robert M. Stafford
1859-1865 Caleb A. Boon
1846-1859 Walter Winbourne
1825-1846 James Doak
1820-1825 William Armfield
1818-1820 Abner Hanner
1816-1818 William Dickey
1813-1816 James Dunning
1812-1813 Simeon Geren
1808-1812 James Dunning
1797-1808 Abner Weatherly
1796-1797 John Haley
1795-1796 Za Za D. Bradsher
1794-1795 John Paisley
1793-1794 James Coots
1790-1793 John H. Spruce
1789-1790 Joseph Hoskins
1786-1789 Hance Hamilton
1784-1786 James Hunter
1783-1784 Jon Gillaspie
1781-1783 Daniel Gillaspie
1778-1780 John Hamilton
1777-1778 James Brown
177?-177? Henry Reed
1775-1776 John Tate
1772-1773 John Odeneal
1771-1772 William Moore

Vine LInk

Crime Stoppers

COMMUNICATIONS

Dial 911 for EMERGENCIES ONLY

NON EMERGENCIES: (336) 373-2222

PATROL OFFICES
District 1 - (336) 641-2300
District 2 - (336) 641-2680
District 3 - (336) 641-6691

DETENTION CENTERS
Greensboro - (336) 641-2700
High Point - (336) 641-7900

LEGAL PROCESS
Greensboro - (336) 641-3735
High Point - (336) 641-7907

ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICES
400 West Washington St
Greensboro, NC 27402

Greensboro: (336) 641-3694
High Point: (336) 641-3694
Fax: (336) 641-6729