Our History  

The Chatham County Sheriff’s Department is one of the oldest law enforcement agencies in the United States having been established in 1732.  The title of Sheriff was not adopted until 1788.  Up until this time the position was known as a Bailiff and later Provost.  The Office of the Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer in the county and must be elected every four years. 

At one time, there were separate sheriffs for Superior, State, and Magistrate court.  In 1985 all three sheriff’s departments were combined to form the Department we have today. 

The Office of the Sheriff is mandated by law to perform certain functions for the County.  One of which is to maintain the County Detention Center.  The Sheriff is also mandated to execute all warrants, civil processes, subpoenas, and writs delivered to him by the courts.  The Chatham County Sheriff's Department currently provides this service Recorders, Magistrate, State, Probate, and Superior Courts.

The Corrections Bureau of the Chatham County Sheriff's Department, and its inmate population, has significantly evolved over the past 30 years.   For 90 years the jail was located on Habersham Street next to the Police Department.  Its capacity was approximately 300 inmates and averaged about 270 inmates daily. 

In 1978 the jail was moved to Montgomery Street next to the Chatham County Judicial Complex.  This facility had an inmate capacity of 381 inmates.  Unfortunately, this facility was not large enough and as a result we were soon exceeding our capacity.  As a result, that facility was placed under a federal court order that set a maximum amount of inmates allowed.  It became necessary to expand our capacity to satisfy the court order.  In 1988 the Chatham County Detention Center opened off of Chatham Parkway and in 1989 it became necessary to expand that facility to handle the volume of inmates we were receiving.  We moved into the Chatham County Sheriff’s Complex in 1993 and the Detention Center was tied in to make up the 5 unit facility.


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Previous Sheriffs  

NAME TITLE SERVED
Peter Gordon Bailiff 1732-1734
Thomas Causton Bailiff 1735-1738
Henry Parker Bailiff 1739
Thomas Christie Bailiff 1740
Henry Parker Bailiff 1741-1751
Samuel Mercer Bailiff 1752
William Pussell Bailiff 1753
Alexander Kellet Provost 1754-1756
William Knox Provost 1757
Alexander Kellet Provost 1758
William Knox Provost 1759-1760
Matthew Roche Provost 1761-1770
Samuel Smith Provost 1771-1772
Lewis Johnston Provost 1773-1777
John Martin Provost 1778-1780
Lewis Johnston Provost 1781
James Fields Provost 1782
Edward Lloyd Provost 1783-1787
Samuel Elbert Sheriff 1788
Edward Lloyd Sheriff 1789-1795
Thomas Norton Sheriff 1796-1797
Richard Wall Sheriff 1798-1799
Ben Wall Sheriff 1800-1801
Thomas Norton Sheriff 1802-1803
Peter Shick Sheriff 1804-1806
Thomas Robertson Sheriff 1807-1808
John Eppinger Sheriff 1809-1811
Green H. Dukes Sheriff 1812-1813
John B. Norris Sheriff 1814-1815
Adam Cope Sheriff 1816-1817
George L. Cope Sheriff 1818-1819
Issac D'Lyon Sheriff 1820-1826
George Millen Sheriff 1827-1829
John J. Dews Sheriff 1830-1831
George Millen Sheriff 1832-1833
John J. Dews Sheriff 1834-1835
Adam Cope Sheriff 1836-1837
William Herb Sheriff 1838-1839
Elisha Wylly Sheriff 1840-1841
John E. Davis Sheriff 1842-1843
George Wylly Sheriff 1844-1845
Elisha Wylly Sheriff 1846-1847
W.W. Cates Sheriff 1848-1849
E.M. Pendergrast Sheriff 1850-1851
John Devanny Sheriff 1852-1853
Alexander Thomas Sheriff 1854-1855
Benjamin L. Cole Sheriff 1856
Warren Russell Sheriff 1857-1858
Benjamin L. Cole Sheriff 1859-1868
James Dooner Sheriff 1869-1870
George Barthelmess Sheriff 1871-1872
John T. Ronan Sheriff 1873-1899
Thomas J. Sweeney Sheriff 1900
John Schwartz Sheriff 1901-1906
Thos. F. Screven Sheriff 1907-1912
Merritt W. Dixon Sheriff 1913-1931
Lucius K. Meldrim Sheriff 1932-1937
Wilkes S. MacFeeley Sheriff 1937-1948
William H. Harris Sheriff 1949-1960
Carl A. Griffin Sheriff 1960-1984
Walter Mitchell Sheriff 1984-1992
Al St Lawrence Sheriff 1992-