Washington County Sheriffs: A history in pictures

WASHINGTON COUNTY – A piece of Washington County’s law enforcement history is once again on display after years of being misplaced.

In 1984, local organization Daughters of Washington County SheriffÂ’s Association donated framed photographs of each sheriff in the countyÂ’s history to the Washington County SheriffÂ’s Office.

These photos hung in the former county courthouse until its demolition in 2015. They were then placed in storage for safe keeping during construction of the new courthouse but were misplaced during the move once the existing courthouse was complete.

The photos were found four years later, a little worse for wear after being displayed for many years and then being packed away for an extended period. Not wanting to see that part of the countyÂ’s history lost, Sheriff Kevin Crews decided to have the photos refurbished and make a second set. 

Today, a set of the photos hang in both the courthouse and at the sheriffÂ’s office. Crews says he is pleased to have them preserved. 

“Being able to come to the sheriffÂ’s office or the courthouse and see our lawmen dating back to the beginning is something that many places cannot claim,” said Sheriff Crews. “I am thrilled to have been able to bring a piece of living history to the citizens of Washington County.” 

Washington County was founded in 1825 but did not have an official law enforcement system established until 1858 when George F. Gainer became the first sheriff of Washington County, an office he held until 1860. 

The official position was left vacant until 1865 when E.R. Melvin took office, serving until 1869. Melvin was followed by William D. Owens who maintained law and order in 1869 until 1872. 

George W. Cook entered office in 1872 until 1875, but for unclear reasons, Washington County did not have a sheriff for the next 11 years until 1886 when S.W. Davis took the oath in 1885 and served until 1886. 

Since then, Washington County has had a sitting sheriff, they are as follows: Thomas Y. Watts, 1886-1893; Charles G. Allen, 1893-1901 and 1904-1913,  J.A. McKeithan, 1901-1904; Henry M. Farrior, 1913-1921, 1925 – 1933, and 1941 – 1945; G.W. Johnson, 1921 – 1925; John P. Harrell, 1933-1941; Dan L. Brock, 1945-1953; George Watts Jr., 1953-1965; Bryant Thurman, 1965-1973; Theron Cook, 1973-1977; Fred Peel, 1977-1993 and 1997- 2004; Danny Hasty, 1993-1996; Bobby Haddock, 2004-2017 and Kevin Crews, 2017 to present. 

Crews states each sheriff had their own brand of law enforcement, but in the end their common goal was and remains to serve and protect the citizens of Washington County.