Austin County Sheriff
History and Austin County
The Colonial Capital of Texas
Site of Stephen F. Austin's "Old 300 Colony"
Home of the Bellville Brahmas, Sealy Tigers, and Wallis (Brazos) Cougars.
History of the Office of Sheriff
The Office of the Sheriff is the oldest law enforcement office known within the English common-law system. Some historians date the Office the Sheriff to ancient Roman times
There is no law enforcement authority in Anglo-American law as ancient as that of the County Sheriff. Today, as in the past, the County Sheriff is a peace officer entrusted with the maintenance of law and order and the preservation of peace for all.
Around 700 A.D., the Anglo-Saxons, living in largely rural areas, organized for self defense by forming self-government in groups of ten families. Such groups, called "tuns", formed the source for the word "town." These "tuns" formed further groups of ten, or one hundred families, and elected their own chief called a gerefa. This term was later shortened to the word "reeve."
The groups of hundreds then banded together and formed shires, the forerunners of the modern-day county. The sixteen ancient counties in central England still carry the shire name, such as Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Cheshire, Nottinghamshire, and so on. As the principal person in each shire was called a reeve, the title shire reeve gradually ran together into a single word. The shire-reeve, or sheriff, was the chief law enforcement officer of each shire by the year 1000 A.D.
After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, when Saxon King Harold was defeated by the Normans, the latter, not trusting the local governments, centralized their power. Their authority was consolidated under the king and his appointees, one of the principals of which was the sheriff. One of the sheriff's new duties was that of tax collector. Set in the late 1100s, the legendary story of Robin Hood accurately reflects the Saxon attitudes toward the Norman nobility. It was in this climate that the Magna Carta was forced upon King John. The power of the sheriff in 1215 is evident from the mention of the term seven times in the Magna Carta. The document is addressed to King John and his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciaries, foresters, sheriffs, reeves, ministers, all bailiffs and faithful subjects. The next mention states that if any heir of the baron shall have been committed in warship to the sheriff, and the heir commits destruction, he will make amends.
Another reference to the sheriff in the Magna Carta states that if anyone holding a late fee to a baron shall die, and the sheriff has a summons for the debt due, it shall be lawful for the sheriff to seize the chattels of the deceased to the extent of the value of the debt assessed by worthy men. This appears to be the forerunner of modern-day replevin and seizure laws entrusted to the Office of the Sheriff by State Statutes.
From the Magna Carta through the colonization of America, duties of the Sheriff in England consisted of executing writs, precepts and warrants, as well as apprehending law violators. During this period, the sheriff was the leading law enforcer and tax collector in the English country. The sheriff had financial responsibility to the king if the county citizens did not pay the fines as the taxes demanded.
During the colonization of America, the sheriff became an integral part of our government. American sheriffs undertook the English responsibilities of law enforcement and tax collection, as well as new responsibilities such as chief executive officer of the county and overseeing jails. The duties of serving criminal and civil process, summoning juries, executing judgments and conducting judicial sales soon evolved. The term "high sheriff" was used to distinguish the sheriff from deputies, assistants or undersheriffs.
Sheriffs of Austin County
01 Jan 2013