By Larry D. Ball
Elected for two-year phrases, frontier sheriffs have been the crucial peace-keepers in counties that have been frequently higher than New England states. As officials of the courtroom, they defended settlers and guarded their estate from the ever present violence at the frontier. Their tasks ranged from monitoring down stagecoach robbers and serving court docket warrants to locking up drunks and quelling family disputes.The truth in their activity embraced such mandane tasks as being penitentiary keepers, tax creditors, quarantine inspectors, court-appointed executioners, and dogcatchers.
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Extra resources for Desert Lawmen: The High Sheriffs of New Mexico and Arizona 1846-1912
Andrew J. Moore, Sheriff of Yavapai County in the late 1860s, posted a $30,000 bond as ex officio collector. The tendency was always toward higher amounts as property values in both territories appreciated. In 1903, Sheriff Andrew Laird of Grant County, New Mexico, was required to post a $100,000 bond. George Curry posted the same amount in Lincoln County. He was pleasantly surprised when the man whom he had just defeated in the 1892 elections signed his bond. 5 22 / Organization of the Sheriffs Office To acquire the necessary sureties at the beginning of a term did not guarantee the sheriff's security throughout his term.
12 The selection of efficient and trustworthy subordinates was key to a successful administration. Official personnel normally included a chief deputy, office deputy, active field deputies, and a jailor. In counties of lesser means, the sheriff combined the functions of several subordinates into one man. A clerk or cashier was sometimes necessary if much money flowed through the office. The sheriff also commissioned trusted individuals as special deputies to serve intermittently. The Arizona shrievalty included an undersheriff rather than a chief deputy.
43 The modern reader of Wild West literature or patron of the Hollywood screen is led to believe that the "office55 of sheriff did not exist on the frontier. Instead, the typical western story focuses on one man, the sheriff, who stalks through the script and concludes the adventure with a climactic gunfight. Such episodic popular literature grossly distorts the truth. In fact, the pioneer sheriffalties of Arizona and New Mexico territories followed the standard organization and procedures of such offices in the East.
Desert Lawmen: The High Sheriffs of New Mexico and Arizona 1846-1912 by Larry D. Ball