Peter R. DeFazio
SHERIFF

Dennis Skosnik
CHIEF DEPUTY

Allegheny County
Sheriff's Office

436 Grant Street / Room 111 Courthouse
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15219

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HISTORY

The history of the Office of Sheriff is really a history of man's self-government. 

While some historians maintain that the Office of Sheriff derives from either the Roman proconsul, or the Arab Sharif, (nobleman), it is generally accepted that the Office goes back historically to Anglo-Saxon England, (A.D. 500-1066). 

Under Anglo-Saxon rule it was the duty of the citizens themselves to see that the law was not broken, and if it was, to catch the offenders.  All of the males in the community between the ages 12 and 60 were responsible for this duty.  They were organized in groups of about ten families, and each group was called a "tything":  At their head was a "thythingman."  Each member of the tything was held responsible for the good behavior of the others.  Ten tythings were led by a "reeve." 

Under Alfred the Great, (A.D. 871-901), reeves began to be combined, forming "shires" or counties.  Each shire was led by a reeve. 

For minor offenses, people accused of crimes were brought before the local "folk moot."  More serious cases went to the "Shire Court" which came under the "shire reeve," (meaning "keeper and chief of his county"), who came to be known as the Sheriff. 

In A.D. 1116, King Henry I established a new penal code.  While the Crown reserved to itself the power to punish for violations of the penal code, it delegated to the Sheriff the power to investigate and arrest. 

When settlers left England to colonize the New World, they took with them many of their governmental forms.  When the first counties were established in Virginia in 1634, the office of Sheriff in America began. 

By the time of the American Revolution, all of the colonies had Sheriffs.  When the American frontier began to move westward, so did the Sheriff.  The 19th century was the golden age of the American Sheriff, with characters like Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, and Texas John Slaughter becoming a colorful part of American history. 
Today, the office of Sheriff is found in every state in the Union.  The Office of Sheriff was brought to the colony which would become the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by Dutch and English colonists before the time of William Penn.  The Office was constitutionally mandated by all five of Pennsylvania's Constitutions, in 1776, 1790, 1838, 1873 and 1967. 
 
Today, the Sheriff, like all law enforcement officers, is faced with unprecedented challenges. But if history is a guide, there is little question that the Office of Sheriff will adapt, grow, and change to meet the needs of modern law enforcement. 
 
The Office of Sheriff is an integral part of the American law enforcement system; a descendant of an ancient and honorable tradition. 

ALLEGHENY COUNTY SHERIFFS - 1789 TO DATE
 (Allegheny County Established In 1788)
 
SHERIFF
FROM
TO
 
SHERIFF
FROM
TO
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
James Morrison
1789
1792
 
John H. Hare
1873
1875
Samuel Ewalt
1792
1795
 
Richard H. Fife
1876
1878
James Sample
1795
1798
 
T. H. Hunter
1879
1882
Ephraim Jones
1798
1801
 
William McCallin
1882
1884
William Wusthoff
1801
1804
 
Joseph H. Gray
1884
1888
William McCandless
1804
1809
 
A. McCandless
1888
1890
William Woods
1809
1810
 
Wm. H. McCleary
1890
1894
William Wusthoff
1810
1813
 
James F. Richards
1894
1896
William Woods
1813
1816
 
Harvey A. Lowry
1896
1900
L. Stewart
1816
1819
 
Wm. C. McKinley
1900
1904
Morgan Neville
1819
1822
 
James W. Dickson
1904
1906
L. Stewart
1822
1825
 
Addison Gumbert
1906
1910
William Leckey
1825
1828
 
Judd H. Bruff
1910
1914
W. Caven
1828
1831
 
George Richards
1914
1918
W. Leckey
1831
1834
 
Wm. S. Haddock
1918
1922
Elijah Trovillo
1834
1837
 
Robert Woodside
1922
1926
Andrew Bayne
1837
1840
 
Robert H. Braun
1926
1930
Benjamin Weaver
1840
1843
 
Robert S. Cain*
1930
1932
Elijah Trovillo
1843
1846
 
Frank I. Gollmar*
1932
1938
John Forsyth
1846
1850
 
John Heinz
1938
1942
Carter Curtis
1850
1852
 
Robert Corbett**
1942
1944
William Magill
1852
1856
 
J. Montgomery**
1944
1945
Rody Patterson
1856
1857
 
Walter Monahan***
1946
1951
James L. Grahm
1857
1861
 
Wm. D. McClelland***
1951
1951
Harry Woods
1861
1863
 
Thomas Whitten
1952
1954
John H. Stewart
1864
1867
 
William H. Davis
1954
1970
Samuel Cluley
1867
1870
 
Eugene L. Coon
1970
1997
H. S. Fleming
1870
1873
 
Peter R. DeFazio
1998
Present
   
* Robert S. Cain served from December, 1930 to January, 1932, and was succeeded by Frank I. Gollmar who served by appointment until 1934 when he was elected for a full term. He completed the full term in 1938. 
** Robert Corbett was elected in 1942 and then was elected to Congress in 1944. John Montgomery was appointed by the Governor in 1944 and served until 1946. 

*** Walter C. Monahan, (the first Allegheny County Sheriff to succeed himself under an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution), died on September 19, 1951. The Coroner, William D. McClelland, acted as Sheriff from September of 1951 until December of 1951, when Thomas E. Whitten was appointed by the Governor on December 28, 1951. 

 

1789 - Present

"Today, the Sheriff, like all law enforcement officers, is faced with unprecedented challenges. But if history is a guide, there is little question that the Office of Sheriff will adapt, grow, and change to meet the needs of modern law enforcement.  "


 

 
 

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Send comments and questions to: gcarr@county.allegheny.pa.us